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We the Living

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  26,036 ratings  ·  1,365 reviews
Ayn Rand's first published novel, a timeless story that explores the struggles of the individual against the state in Soviet Russia.

First published in 1936, We the Living portrays the impact of the Russian Revolution on three human beings who demand the right to live their own lives and pursue their own happiness. It tells of a young woman’s passionate love, held like a fo
Paperback, 60th Anniversary Edition, 464 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Signet (first published 1936)
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Rainbow Albrecht The way I see it, she really did like him, ideological differences notwithstanding, even though she had him Friend Zoned for a while. As for why she d…moreThe way I see it, she really did like him, ideological differences notwithstanding, even though she had him Friend Zoned for a while. As for why she didn't just pick one, it seems she had some polyamorous tendencies, as Rand herself did in real life. Anyway, things got complicated.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  26,036 ratings  ·  1,365 reviews

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May 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Here's the thing: this book is fucking awesome. I'm a big fan of this theme - the whole "individual vs. the state" story. I think most of the books I've read in this vein were descended from "1984", but this is without doubt my favorite execution of the familiar thematic focus. This book was just so evocative for me; it did an incredible job of capturing the crushing force of living under a sociopolitical regime that cares not for the wants or needs of the individual. I found something incredibl ...more
Kendra Kettelhut
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book. My soul has never been so pained by a novel. Very few books affect me like this one did. I cannot explain other than it was so beautifully horrific. I knew very little about Communism or what the USSR was like. It caused so much anger and frustration in me, but the pain comes from the truths that it enlightens about humanity. We are creatures of pain and suffering and joy and and triumph. And no matter what pain we are dealt...we still have the capacity within ourselve ...more
Richard Houchin
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you ever want to acquire a keen appreciation for food, read any story about the USSR. History or fiction, doesn't matter. Mildewed millet and one loaf of bread a month is enough to break anyone!

We The Living is an illustration of the loneliness that seems the unavoidable consequence of any who possess an Objectivist viewpoint.

One passage in the book made me laugh in appreciation for how true it rang in my life. Kira says,
"Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never un
Mike (the Paladin)
Ayn Rand is/was an interesting, intelligent woman. This is her first novel. If you're reading it simply for the novel then skip the introduction. If on the other hand you are interested in Ms. Rand's thought processes then by all means read the introduction. This is (of course) a newer edition (as the book was written in 1925. Ms. Rand wants us to understand that this is not a novel about the Soviet Union but a novel (in her words) of "man against the state".

While I am not a "student" or followe
Rebecca McNutt
A fiction novel almost a century old at this point, I think has become more relevant and important than ever in an era seeing a resurgence in socialism, government power, censorship and collectivism. What place the individual has in a world where this value is downplayed not only serves as an intriguing consideration in fiction, but also a terrible tragedy when individualism and joy are suppressed in the name of order and authority. We the Living, not only based in truth but a powerful story of ...more
Marija Andreeva
Fountainhead was the first book from Ayn Rand that I read. I found it deeply inspirational, book that pushed me to think outside the box. And it talked about one of my favorite subjects, individualism. I thought, Oh my God, what a book. I felt even emotionally exhausted, but in a good way. Then I read Anthem, which I thought was good, but not as Fountainhead. I felt as if Fountainhead was the standard of measuring her work. I didn't think anything can surpass it. But, oh boy I was wrong.

I haven
May 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Playas
Erotica at its best. We the Living is about a young lady with a brilliant mind and a ferocious appetite for sex. The book begins with Kira, a hot little harlot who might have been working at a strip joint (if they weren't so damn bourgeois!), as she seeks to find a nightlife for herself in her newly Soviet city of Petrograd. Posing as a prostitute in a red light district, she quickly forms her first life-long sexual bond with the first guy who comes along. He happens to be a philosopher, and tha ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, not-for-me
If you liked Ayn Rand’s other books, you’d like this one too.

If you like her politics and enjoy her writing, then this is a must-read because it’s practically an autobiography.

If none of the above applies, then this would be an unpleasant experience.

Moved to
Debbie Zapata
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
Sometimes you should read the introductions before you start a book, and other times you should just jump in to the story. This particular anniversary edition of Rand's first novel (originally published in 1936) has an introduction with a major spoiler regarding a choice the main character Kira makes in her life, a choice that is the heart of the book. Even though I skipped the rest of the cursed intro, I was annoyed at knowing that detail. I prefer to discover such things on my own.

Oh, well. T
Patrick Peterson
I liked this book the best of Ayn Rand's three big fiction books, as a novel.
Perhaps it was because it was so very autobiographical in some ways of her time in St. Petersburg/Petrograd after the Russian Revolution. The gritty realism of how unjust and desperate such a system, the Soviet Socialist system was becoming, appeals to my love of historical realism.

The passionate love affairs and beliefs of the conflicting characters were very vividly drawn. Even though I have not read it fully in over
Lorrie Savoy
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it
This book disturbs me and I don't quite know how to respond to it. On the one hand, the reality of Soviet Russia in the 1920's is haunting; the descriptions of food (or the lack of it) stayed with me, making me reflect on and enjoy my own meals while I was reading it and for a few days after. I also feel that it would work as a companion piece for 1984 because the tensions between the sordid details of daily life and the hypocrisy of the political system are clearly seen in both books. Rand's p ...more
Dec 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Part VIII of a multi-part review series.

Anti-communists in early Soviet Russia very astonishingly come to bad end.

Introduced by Peikoff, who claims that Rand’s first novel was, instead of this one, almost “set in an airship orbiting the earth” (v) which would’ve been kinda cool, except now we have Against the Day, which likely would’ve embarrassed Rand’s hypothetical effort as much as Solzhenitsyn humiliates this one.

Rand’s own forward contains the normal cacogogic posturing. For instance:

Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Where to start? How to explain why I like it so very much?

I like Ayn Rand's style of writing. Her language is strong, clear and not in the least subtle. I think I could recognize it in the future. The reader observes what the characters do. Very little introspection. The plot fits the language and the behavior of the characters. Strong, determined people - no not people, just one character, but she is the central character. Kira is her name. This book is autobiographical, but only in the sense t
Oct 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Instantly as visceral as her more popular later work, Rand's first novel set in early 20th-century communist Russia can really stir you up -- that is, if you support her views on individualism and passion for life, which I do. Like her other novels, the characters are boldly drawn archetypes, strong and obvious, minus extraneous detail that could be distracting from the philosophical ideal overlaying the plot. While Rand experienced first-hand much of the life in Russia she portrays in We the Li ...more
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it
It's funny because this book usually only gets 5 stars or a 1 star, and here I am giving it a three star.
I'll come up with a coherent review in the morning. Overall it was a good classic. Exhausting. But good.
Leo Robertson
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Really wish this woman would've let me read her book but jeesus can she ever not write!!
Paragraph of clothing description.
Weird disorganised mess of characters.
What a stranger was thinking the protagonist was thinking, for some reason. So much "had been" and "were done" passiveness sucks the energy out of everything.
Interesting bit of dialogue.
Really bad bit of dialogue.
Who was that? Where are we?
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
In the foreword that she wrote for the 1959 edition of her own novel "We the Living", Ayn Rand wrote, "I had not reread this novel as a whole, since the time of its first publication in 1936, until a few months ago. I had not expected to be as proud of it as I am." Well, I'm glad that Rand is so proud of her own first novel. As for me, I am less than impressed.

The novel takes place between 1922 and 1926, during the turbulent years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Most histories and novels that I
Lois Keller
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm going to kind of branch out here and do a different review and talk just what I felt strongly about in this book. If you would like a brief summary, wikipedia does an excellent job.
Anyways, this book was one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. The scene between Irina and Sascha broke my heart - it's one of the moments where, in typical Rand fashion, she weaves her characters into such real but horrendously tragic situations you just weep. I would recommend this book to
Benjamin Marcher
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-russia
Socialism is always bad.
Jack Gardner
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really don't know that there is much I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said. We The Living is the most tragic of Ayn Rand's novels and possibly the most under appreciated.

While it is clearly an early effort for her - her use of English is occasionally off and her style is not consistent throughout the novel - the story line is the most (I hate to use this word, but I can't think of a better way to put it) realistic of all her novels. There are no amazing machines or amazing
The one great benefit of reading We the Living is that it encapsulates pretty exactly what Rand spends many hundreds more pages doing in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead: mainly, hating on the collective, venerating capitalism, and (God help us all) describing how free-thinking women shouldn't be slaves to anyone except their capitalist sexual partners.

I find Rand's philosophy beyond problematic, but to my mind We the Living helps explain just how she arrived at the ideas she entertained and
Oct 07, 2008 rated it liked it
This book helped clear up some of Rand's religious philosophy. At one point, the Heroin asks a friend if he believes in God. When the friend answers no, she says that was the right answer, because if you believe in God then you don't believe in life. She goes on to explain that when people believe in God they believe in something higher than themselves that they can never achieve, and she doesn't want to believe that there is something she can never achieve. I found her reason for being an athei ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
It reads like a Russian novel. Kira the beautiful young woman, Leo the dark handsome lover and Andrei the Communist disciple and lover of Kira. Kira and Leo are on the outer of the post revolution Russia with chequered family pasts and a belief in individual freedom. They struggle against a system that has no interest in people like them. There are inevitable deaths. Slowly the communist honeymoon ends and the return to a system that runs unofficially through the black market, black mail, corrup ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Damned
This is the worst novel ever written by the worst writer and thinker of all time: Ayn Rand. Hateful, pointless ramblings of a bitter speedfreak. Read Animal Farm for a fictional allegorical account of the Russian Revolution or non-fiction books. Avoid this bile like the hateful puke it is.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most depressing books I've read in my life. It is set in Soviet Russia, right after the revolution, and describes in detail the horror that the people experienced under this regime. It's not the kind of horror of physical torture or death (although those existed as well, as everyone knows), but the horror of everyday life stripped of all freedom and hope, the horror of the human spirit crushed and forced to simply exist in order to toil and serve some grand collective. All thi ...more
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
WOW...that's all that comes to mind! A book about life, death, love, struggle and hope when you have NOTHING to live for, to hope just can't stop reading until the very last word and once you're done, you can't wrap your head around it. A must read so you can appreciate how lucky you are...
Shanta Shastri
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mind blowing. Heartbreaking. Uncovers all effects when an impossible and irrational ideal is adapted by a country. The Communism.
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gr9
Warning: minor spoilers are spread throughout this review. Read at your own risk.

I liked this book because of the unique setting and characters (a relatively poor woman living in communist Russia) but there were some factors (that I believe are common in most older books) that I have little desire to overlook. Some of them I quite enjoyed reading, but I will state them as plainly as I could so that you can decide for yourself whether or not you wish to read this book.

Little detail is given about
Rohit Tandekar
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of Ayn Rand's and it's fair to say that I'd already decided that I'd rate this highly even before I read it. Now whether that in itself (or this review) is fair or not is another matter altogether.

Based in the early 1900s, this book is about the birth of Soviet Russia and how the lives of three central characters is affected by the collective spirit of the proletarian society. Two bourgeois (Kira Argounova and Leo Kovalensky) and a communist (Andrei Taganov) are embroiled in a love tr
Marts  (Thinker)
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
First published in 1936, the novel ‘We the Living’ by Ayn Rand is, as stated in the preface, ‘the closest she would ever come to writing an autobiography’. The novel follows three years in the life of a young girl, her family, and acquaintances, all of which must face the varied hardships of a post-revolutionary Russia.
Now Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) was born, raised and educated in Russia. She came from a bourgeois family and in Saint Petersburg (later referred to on separate oc
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Alisa Rosenbaum was born in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg to a prosperous Jewish family. When the Bolsheviks requisitioned the pharmacy owned by her father, Fronz, the Rosenbaums fled to the Crimea. Alisa returned to the city (renamed Leningrad) to attend the university, but in 1926 relatives who had already settled in America offered her the chance of joining them there. With money from the sa ...more

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“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want--you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don't know. I've forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn't matter, so long as you move.” 146 likes
“She smiled. She knew she was dying. But it did not matter any longer. She had known something which no human words could ever tell and she knew it now. She had been awaiting it and she felt it, as if it had been, as if she had lived it. Life had been, if only because she had known it could be, and she felt it now as a hymn without sound, deep under the little whole that dripped red drops into the snow, deeper than that from which the red drops came. A moment or an eternity- did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist. She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible.” 89 likes
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