Fool: At Andrei's grave you had wondered if you had killed Andrei Taganov. Did you kill Andrei, Kira?
Kira: Yes, I think I killed Andrei…I was definitely an accomplice to his murder.
Fool:What was Andrei Taganov to you?
Kira: Just a friend.
Fool: And you were just Andrei's friend, too?
Kira: No, I was Andrei's love, his life, his only one, and his highest reverence.
Fool: Kira, you killed your friend, who held you in his highest reverence and to whom you were his life? Why?
Kira: So Leo could live.
Fool: Leo Kovalensky? What gave you the right to destroy Andrei's life to save Leo's?
Kira: I loved Leo. Do you understand, what Leo meant for me, what I wanted for Leo, who is my highest reverence? Andrei didn't mean…I couldn't have saved Leo if…
Fool: Yes, I understand what Leo meant for you, and what Andrei didn't mean for you. What I do not understand is why?
Kira: Why I held Leo in my highest reverence? Why I loved Leo and not Andrei…
|We The Living|
|"We the Living" is an intriguing narrative that revolves around the lives of three people - Kira, Andrei, and Leo - in the immediate aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Kira is deeply antagonistic to the ideals of the nascent communist state. Andrei is an equally idealistic protagonist for the state. The friendship between Kira and Andrei, that lasts lifelong despite the ideological gulf that separated them, is a testament to the complexity of human relationships painted in the story. Nothing describes it better than Kira's own words: |
...you see, if we had souls, which we haven't, and if our souls met - yours and mine - they'd fight to death. But after they had torn each other to pieces, to the very bottom, they'd see that they had the same root...You see, you and I, we believe in life.In an absurd, chance encounter, Kira meets Leo Kovalensky on a dark night in a seedy neighborhood. She finds Leo to be an extremely attractive man, with a free spirit only to be matched by her own. It's love at first sight for Kira, and she unflinchingly throws herself at Leo. Leo, who initially takes her to be a prostitute, is also strongly attracted to her, and soon they start living togther.
Andrei's affection and respect for Kira knows of no bounds, and is slowly transformed into love, while he progressively becomes disillusioned with his ideals and the Party. In a Nietzchesque reversal of values, Kira, desperate for money to treat Leo, who had contracted turberculosis, agrees to become Andrei's mistress. This relationship between Andrei and Kira persists even after Leo had been healed, and Kira no longer needed the money.Kira keeps her relationships with Andrei and Leo secret from one another.
Leo, unable to face the severity of life in Communist Russia, starts an illegal trade. Andrei, tipped off by a colleague, soon arrests Leo. In the process, Andrei discovers the nature of relationship between Kira and Leo. In the climactic confrontation between Kira and Andrei, and their subsequent reconciliation, they realize not only what they had destroyed, but also what was left that would endure with them for ever.
The story ends in a tragedy for all the three. With the release of Leo at his behest, Andrei looses his position in the Party, and shortly thereafter, commits suicide. Leo, having lost any moral sense that he may have left, leaves Kira to begin a new life as a gigolo. After Leo's departure, Kira makes a final attempt to cross the border. When she is almost in sight of freedom, she is shot dead by a border guard.
Kira: I…I don't know why…
Fool: Do you know why Andrei held you in his highest reverence?
Kira: Yes, I think I know…for my ideals, convictions, and values, perhaps?
Fool: But wasn't he against all those? Didn't he loathe your ideals, just as you loathed his?
Kira: Yes, but stripped of all those ideals - his and mine - we shared a common root - a belief, an unshakable belief in life. I was his life, his only one.
Fool: But he was not your life, and you didn't hold him in your highest reverence?
Kira: No, I wonder why I did not.
Fool: Did Leo share your belief in life, too?
Kira: I do not know. We never talked about it. Andrei was the only one with whom I could think and talk about my thoughts.
Fool: What is it, then, that bound you to Leo?
Kira: Nothing... I don't know… perhaps as Leo said, I... "just liked to sleep with him, like all other females"?
Fool: Kira, I wouldn't be surprised, if you were like the hundred and fifty million people you fought against. But you, with your ideas, your convictions, and your values, presuming the right to rob Andrei's life to pay for Leo's, just because you liked sleeping with Leo?
Kira: But I think Andrei understood why, he knew. He wouldn't have done what he did for me - and for Leo - if he had not known.
Fool: Ha, that makes the puzzle a little more complicated, does it not?
Kira: What do you think? Why did I love Leo, revere him more than anyone else?
Fool: Kira, the last time you saw Andrei, when you ran after him in the snow, without a coat, without a care about what Leo might think, you were going to tell Andrei something that you couldn't tell him in Leo's presence. What did you want to tell him?
Kira: I was afraid of losing Andrei…for ever. I was afraid that I would never see him alive again. I couldn't bear the thought of losing him. Andrei was everything I thought Leo was, Leo could have been. I didn't see it so clearly until then, what might have been between Andrei and me, but it was too late. I wanted Andrei to know that.
Fool: Is that what Andrei meant, when he said, "If we don't say anything - and just leave it to… to our silence, knowing that we both understand, and that we still have that much in common?"
Kira: Yes, I think Andrei knew, and I knew that Andrei knew. That was our common understanding. It's still not clear to me though, how I could have been so wrong about Leo, about what I thought we were for each other.
Fool: There are two kinds of people in this world, Kira. There are these few men and women who are passionate about what they think, what they do, and whom they love. The Kiras, Andreis, Irinas, and Sashas, the sublime amongst us. Then there are the others - the masses. To quote you, "…millions of dull, shriveled, stagnant souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, who eat and sleep and chew helplessly the words others put into their brains…" They are the trivia of the human race, the Victors, Pavels, Antoninas, and Leos.
Fool: Yes, Kira, Leo too. Remember Irina's sketch of Leo - "standing erect, full figure, and naked" - and what she said to Leo - "That's the state that fits you best," she had explained. "And don't tell me that my imagination has flattered you - because it hasn't. Clothes hide nothing from a - well, yes, an artist."
Kira: Irina, perceptive, as she has always been!
Fool: Every once in a while, a sublime meets a trivial, amongst the other trivia, in a dark street. In that fleeting moment, after a quick exchange of glances, a few words spoken that meant nothing to the voices that spoke them, a fluttering of the butterfly, and the sublime, embracing the trivial passionately, plunges into an abyss that we call love. The sublime, for once, does not stop to think or question; all its ideals, convictions, and values are submerged by a quick surge of hormones, never to surface again to question the object of its love, its passion.
Kira: That's a very dark picture of love that you paint. Haven't you ever given thought to love?
Fool: I'd echo what you said to Victor, "No, I haven't. And I never will. And I don't like the word." Remember that?
Kira: Yes, but love cannot be...
Fool: Yes, Kira, it's an accident. Like all other accidents in life, it defies an explanation. More often than not, you are condemned to live loving that, which you should never have set your eyes upon in the first place. What has been merely an accident, then becomes your life, your highest reverence, because you are the passionate one! To have that, you'd throw all your ideals to the wind, and even claim the right to break another man's life! That his life is the most sacred thing that he has, which, as you once said, "must not be touched by any collective, by any number of millions", would mean nothing to you. Blinded by your passion, Kira, you, who is revered for your ideals and values, would then choose to break Andrei's life to mend Leo's!