Friday, February 26, 2010

We the Living

Ayn Rand's We the Living was on my reading list for 2010. It's the first novel Ayn Rand wrote, and I think people presumed it was autobiographical, because she said about it:

"It is as near to an autobiography as I will ever write. The plot is invented, the background is not... The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values, were and are."

The background is heartbreaking. Post-revolution Petrograd (and doesn't the very name conjure dreariness, famine, fear, and hatred?), later renamed Leningrad after Lenin's death, does not appear as the cultural and political center of Russia, as it was when it was Saint Petersburg. Life there for Kira and her family, labeled Bourgeosie because her father had been a factory owner, is nearly impossible. Those in power don't allow those who were previously in power to work, to buy things, to live. It's a scary portrait of a totalitarian state, and one that gave me much consternation as I imagined that it would be terribly easy for similar events to happen again - here.

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead remain my favorite novels by Ayn Rand, but We the Living is a good, shorter novel to read and ponder.

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