We the Living
By Ayn Rand
Read by Mary Woods
An Unabridged Audio Recording on CD
Blackstone Audiobooks, 2010
Genre: Fiction, Literature
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - February 9, 2010
This novel is a tragedy where good people are badly hurt. The theme is the individual against the state or, more specifically, how the totalitarian state of Russia in the years following the 1917 Communist revolution destroys a girl, Kira, the man she loves who also loves her, Leo, and a man who loves her who she does not love, Andrei. It is also the story of the conflict between quite a few people, especially these three. Kira agrees to sleep with Andrei in order to save Leo's life. Andrei knows nothing about Leo's problems and is convinced that Kira loves him.
What mars this otherwise well-written novel is Ayn Rand's attempt to portray her characters as the embodiment of her philosophy. Despite her attempt, the characters do not reflect Rand's philosophy of "rational self interest." Kira is portrayed at the outset of the novel as self-assured, totally independent and interested only in becoming an engineer. However, as soon as she meets Leo, she falls head over heels in love with him and obeys his every command as a slave. True, the revolution destroys her. But, so, too, does love. Leo, the man she loves, seems to be a caricature. He, too, starts self assured and interested in his goals, and he, unlike Kira, never changes in this way. But though he clearly loves Kira, he treats her badly because of his self-interest. The word "ordered" is associated with him frequently. His "rational self interest" destroys the cares that love demands of the one who is loved. Only, Andrei, who Rand calls "the villain" in her The Art of Fiction, acts with true "rational self interest." He is also interested in his own development. However, he treats Kira with sensitivity.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.