Thursday, April 20, 2006

Review: We The living by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's We The Living is a novel set in Russia right after the revolution ended and explores the lifes and times of primarily three individuals: Kira, the female who wants to be an engineer and is passionately in love with Leo, the son of former Army General and the immistakable Andrei, who has risen from streets to become a formidable communist. To complete the cast is Victor, Kira's cousin, who does the needful to shed his bourgeois past and rise through the ranks, Pyerov and Sonia, who in their own way use communism to become richer and powerful, and other members of Kira's family. The novel dwells on how revolution alters not only their daily lifes, morals, ambitions but also reveals their base and basic human character. It is a tale of falsified hopes, broken dreams, corruption, love, and of the struggle of someone to survive a political system that is of utmost dislike to him/her.

Perhaps as the first book to come out of communist Russia, We The Living has gained more respect than it merits on basis of just literary qualities. Like all her heroes and heroines, Rand's prime suspects here are three idealists who seek to justify their different means for their selfish ends. The love triangle between Andrei, Leo and Kira is stifling reminder of how some people try to lead a dual life, hoping they can let two people be happily in love with them. Kira, who Rand wishes to potray as the martyr in her superhuman effort to be true to her individualistic ideals, and whose character is the reason for calling this novel as primarily as war of an individual against the state, fails to impress me. While the novel is a great treatize on how and why communist Russia squandered the dreams of early revolutionaries, Kira fails to impress. Her convictions are full of contradictions, as are her means and methods of achieving them. If I really want someone to read about communist Russia, I'd ask them to pick Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. If Ayn Rand's Objectivism or Invidualism is your ideal, stop after reading Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Kira's love is flawed for it lacks the honesty and fidelity that one must show towards one she cherishes. Her ideals are made ridiculous by the manner in which she sheds them for survival. Andrei is the unlikely hero, who is victim of his own idealogy, victim of treachery by both the women and the country that he tried to love and save. Leo is a failed ideal, and his character, throughout the novel does not tell me why Kira loved him so. There are other people in the novel, and Rand seeks to potray their state as the consequence of communism. Agreed, the state that supressed personal freedom and right for personal profit, must have broken the spirit of one and many. As a grim reminder of how social catastropes can alter family life, We The Living stands strong. As a ideological entity, I find it uninspiring. Fountainhead rules any day.

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