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Notes (1) on We the Living


Detail from
Study for the Head of Leda (c.1505 - 1507), a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. Source: Wikipedia. Reference: Kira and Andrei make love beneath a painting of Leda and the Swan in Part Two, Chapter 1.

Following notes on We the Living are by no means complete, definitive or comprehensive. They are being presented just in case they may be of help for those interested in further study of the novel.


Chapter Synopsis of We the Living

CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Kira Argounova: a girl with aristocratic background in Soviet Russia (based on Ayn Rand)

Leo: Kira’s lover

Andrei Taganov: Kira’s other lover

Minor Characters
Alexander Dimitrievitch Argounov, Galina Petrovna, Lydia Argounova, a handsome soldier at the station [Chapter 2, p. 22], Vasili Ivanovitch Dunaev, Maria Petrovna, Victor Dunaev, Irina Dunaev, Acia Dunaev, the official who fills the Labour Book [Chapter 3], Comrade Sonia, Pavel Syerov, Vava Milovskaia, the man who buys the antique clock from Vasili [Chapter 6, p.77], a former bookkeeper who offers to sell soap [Chapter 7 and 9], the saccharine patron  [Chapter 9], a sailor who looks at one of Kira’s breasts [Chapter 10, p.113], Stepan Timoshenko, Karp Karpovitch Morozov, Kolya Smiatkin, the meek, elderly tenant [Chapter 13], Marina (or Marisha) Lavrova, Tina, the female delegate of the British Trade Union with glittering legs [Chapter 15], a wealthy customer who finds Kira too expensive [Chapter 16, p.215], a powerful official of Petrograd [Chapter 16, p. 216], a couple who makes love over the sacks of flour and potatoes [Chapter 16, p.217], Sasha Chernov, Antonina Pavlovna, Glieb Ilyitch Lavrov, G.P.U. superior who taunts Andrei for keeping an aristocratic mistress [Chapter 9], Ivan Ivanov.

Plot Summary

Part One, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Part Two, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Part One

Chapter 1

The Argounova family is traveling by rail to Petrograd (formerly Petersberg and later Leningrad) in 1922. The family consists of Alexander Dimitrievitch Argounov, the former owner of a textile factory, his wife Galina Petrovna and their two daughters Lydia, 28, and Kira (based on Ayn Rand), 18. The Russian Revolution of five years ago, which deprived the Argounov family of its assets has also played havoc on the city which is now poverty-stricken and over-crowded.

Chapter 2

In Petrograd, on their way to their relatives’ home, Kira gets the attention of men and smiles at a handsome soldier at the station who notices that she “wore a light suit and no brassier [p.22].”

They visit the house of Vasili Ivanovitch Dunaev, formerly the furrier to the Czar, who is married to Galina’s sister Maria Petrovna and has a grown-up son Victor and two daughters, Irina, 18, and Acia, 8. When Victor’s eyes meet Kira she turns in her chair, and his eyes stop on her legs. When Lydia protests that Kira is wearing too short a skirt, she replies, “I never notice what I wear [p.30].”

Vasili, who is sure that European intervention will reverse the Revolution, finds it beneath his dignity to work for the “Red State” (the Soviet Russia) and therefore the family is living on the scant rations. Irina is studying drawing and Kira surprises her family be revealing that she had been planning to study engineering since she was ten. “It’s the only profession for which I don’t have to learn any lies,” she says. “Steel is steel [p.33].”

Chapter 3

Kira acquires a “Labor Book”. With each entry filled by the official, we are told a little more about her, for instance, “Height: Medium” is followed by a narrative about her body which was “slender, too slender, and when she moved with a sharp, swift, geometrical precision, people were conscious of the movement alone, not of the body. Yet through any garment she wore, the unseen presence of her body made her look undressed… [p.35]”

Likewise, “Family Position: Single” is followed by a narrative about how she was different. For instance, once in the days of the Czar when Galina took her daughters to see a sad play, “Lydia sobbed over the plight of the humble, kindly peasants cringing under a whip, while Kira sat tense, erect, eyes dark in ecstasy, watching the whip cracking expertly in the hand of a tall, young overseer [39].”

Occupation: Student” leads us to learning that “from somewhere in the aristocratic Middle Ages, Kira had inherited the conviction that labor and effort were ignoble [p.41].”

Chapter 4

The Argounovs find a dingy apartment. Alexander has opened a textile store and Kira has been admitted to the Technological Institute.

One evening, when she goes out with her cousin Victor, he makes an advance towards her, whispering and pleading. He is rebuffed and insists on going back alone.

She looses her way and finds herself in the red light district where a tall and handsome man mistakes him for a prostitute. She plays the role until they reach a park where, upon learning that she is “a respectable little girl [p.56],” the young man says that he has never had a prostitute either, and promises to meet her again in a month’s time at the same place. His name is Leo and it is obvious that he is running away from the G.P.U., the Soviet police.

Chapter 5

Alexander is being charged exorbitantly for the maintenance of the Argounova apartment because he comes under the category of “private trader.”

At the Technical Institute, Kira meets many new people including Comrade Sonia and Pavel Syerov, both belonging to the working class.

At the election of the Students’ Council she finds her cousin Victor being praised for converting to Bolshevism and getting elected. She doesn’t vote for him. Listening to the Soviet anthem “Internationale,” she comments to her neighbor that she likes its music but not the word. A man with gray eyes “that looked like the eyes of a tamed tiger [p.65]” grasps her hand, wheels her around and warns her to be careful.

Later, at the home of the Dunaev family, she learns that Vasili has kept a large amount of the currency of the Czar’s days (now forbidden) so that he could return an old debt to a Swedish firm when the Soviet State is finished. She is also introduced to Vava Milovskaia, a female acquaintance of Victor.

On her way to the Institute one morning, she meets “the tamed tiger” again, who “quickly, masterfully [p.71]” grasps her arm and stops her from falling when her feet slip. After he is gone, she learns that he is from the G.P.U.

Chapter 6

Kira meets Leo for a second time, and he promises to see her again at the same place a month later.

At the Alexandrovsky Market, where she has come to buy a used briefcase, she finds her uncle Vasili selling his antique clock and when a customer offers fifty million rubles for it (not enough for buying ten pounds of bread), Kira suddenly pretends that she’s also a customer and has offered sixty million, at which the customer quickly agrees to pay seventy-five. “Why, child, where did you learn that? [p.77]” Her uncle asks her after the customer is gone, and she laughs, saying, “One can learn anything—in an emergency [p.77].”

One day she finds “the tamed tiger” at the Institute and accepts his offer to escort her home. His name is Andrei Taganov and when he takes her arm she gives him permission by closing her eyes and nodding. They discuss their views about life and she whispers, “Comrade Taganov, how much you have to learn! [p.80]”

Chapter 7

Alexander’s textile store fails due to excessive taxes. A former bookkeeper offers to sell soap for him if he could manufacture it at home.

At the Institute, Sonia advises Kira not to hope that Andrei would get physical with her, adding that she is saying it as “one who knows. [p.85]” When Kira is shocked at this remark, Sonia laughs and says, “Oh, a little proletarian vulgarity won’t hurt you! [p.85]”

Galina and Lydia are shocked when they hear that Kira is going to opera with a Communist but Galina tries to act proletarian when Andrei arrives to pick his date. At the opera they meet Sonia and Pavel. After returning home, Kira remembers regretfully that Andrei “had said nothing about her new dress [p.89].”

Once, as she is coming out of the Institute, Leo suddenly meets her, saying that he couldn’t stay away from her and “his kiss felt like a wound [p.91].” He says that he loves her and she replies, “Leo, I love you…I love you… I love you… [p.91]” He says he’ll meet her again after a week at their old place, the park.

Chapter 8

At the Institute the next day, Pavel interrogates Kira about Leo and doesn’t accept her reply that she doesn’t know him. The interrogation is cut short by the sudden appearance of Andrei, who dismisses Kira.

We learn that Andrei was born in 1896, his father was a factory worker in the days of the Czar and was sent to Siberia for participating in Bolshevik conspiracy in 1905. He never came back and Andrei grew up to become a revolutionary himself, risking his life in the revolutions of 1917 and in subsequent battles. Pavel was his childhood friend, a partner in most of these expeditions and a born opportunist.

Chapter 9

The soap doesn’t sell and Galina finds a patron who sells saccharine. Argounova family finds employment by filling crystals in glass tubes and tablets in card boxes at home.

Maria is visiting them and Alexander is away when Andrei pays a visit to see Kira alone. They go to the bedroom, where Andrei tells her that she doesn’t need to worry about Pavel. Kira tells her that she doesn’t believe in souls but if they existed, the souls of Kira and Andrei would have had the same roots. She is an atheist because God “is one’s highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life [p.107].”

When she meets Leo, he tells her that he is going away to Germany for good. Kira runs away with him, and on the boat she starts stripping at his command, “as if his eyes were holding her on a leash… She did not think of the code of her parents’ world. But that code came back once, for an instant, when she saw her skirt on the floor [pp.112-13].” Then Leo tears her off the ground and has sex with her (it is her first time), “her lips parted as in a snarl [p.113].”

Chapter 10

“When Kira awakened, Leo’s head was resting on her one breast; a sailor was looking at the other [p.113].” They are caught by a G.P.U. official, Stepan Timoshenko, who lets Kira go home but asks her to meet him in the afternoon. She learns that Leo’s surname is Kovalensky, returns home and tells her family that she was at Irina’s and didn’t notice the time until it was too late to return.

She later meets Timoshenko at the Petrograd Headquarters of the G.P.U. and learns that Leo’s father was a decorated officer who lost both eyes in military service during the Great War but was later shot by the Soviets for giving shelter to counter-revolutionaries. Since Timoshenko once served under him, he is now willing to bail out Leo and advises Kira, “When you get him back, keep your claws on him. If you haven’t any—grow some [p.118].”

On the fourth day, Leo comes straight to Kira’s home where “His glance brought a warm, wistful smile to Lydia’s lips; it always did that to women; yet there was nothing in his eyes except that when he glanced at a woman his eyes told her that he was a man and she was a woman and he remembered it [p.120].” He takes Kira away “with the gesture of an owner [p.120]” and in the silver and gray bedroom of Leo’s apartment, they make love again—“he threw her across the bed [p.121].”

In the morning, Kira goes back to her family and tells them, “Certainly, I’ve slept with him [p.121].” She gets thrown out and takes her things to Leo’s apartment, who holds her while “she looked up into his face and felt as if she were a priestess, her soul lost in the corners of a god’s arrogant mouth; as if she were a priestess and a sacrificial offering, both and beyond both, shameless in her laughter, choking, something rising within her, too hard to bear [p.123].”

When Leo reminds her of the hard times they are facing, she says, “We’ll fight it, Leo. Together. We’ll fight all of it. The country. The century. The millions [p.123].”

Chapter 11

Kira tells Leo that he shouldn’t look at her while she is cooking (apparently due to her feudal pride) but happily takes care of the house. He studies history and philosophy at the University and does some translation work for Gossizdat (the State Publishing House). Her mother was a countess of an ancient name and he grew up as a dexterous playboy who could quote Spinoza and Nietzsche to male friends and Oscar Wilde to women. His reaction to the Revolution had been “a slow, contemptuous smile, and a swift gait, and in his hand a lost whip he had been born to carry [p.128].”

Kira resumes her relations with the Dunaev family, and her cousin Irina upon visiting their home draws a nude drawing of Leo from imagination. “That’s the sate that fits you best,” she says. “Clothes hide nothing from a—well, yes, an artist [p.132].”

Kira makes exceptions for Andrei (“Communists awakened fear in her, a fear of her own degradation if she associated, talked or even looked at them [p.132]”) but she smiles timidly and trustingly at Andrei, saying that she’s happy. He smiles warmly but doesn’t ask why she’s happy and she doesn’t tell. She knows that he won’t find out since he doesn’t call at her home, thinking it would make her family uneasy. He takes her to watch Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty. On returning home she asks Leo, “Have you been lonely? [p.135]” And “his warm lips gathered the cold spring rain off hers [p.135].” It is spring 1923.

Chapter 12

When Kira learns from Irina that the Argounova family is starving, she sends them her ration of bread. Irina doesn’t follow her instruction not to tell them that it’s from Kira, and the estrangement between Kira and her family comes to an end.

Looking for illegal bread at a railway station, Kira and Leo spot an ugly-looking “speculator” (supplier of illegal commodities) with vertical nostrils, who turns in an innocent woman to the G.P.U. in order to save his own skin.

Victor’s female friend Vava throws in a party, since her father is a gynecologist who makes extra money through illegal uses of his profession. Kira invites Andrei to the party without telling him that he would be paired with Lydia, although she tells him that Leo Kovalensky would be there as well—“she was a little tired of the deception, a little bewildered that it had gone so far [p.139].”

At the party, Leo and Andrei don’t get along very well. Lydia plays the piano, the guests dance, and Vava and Kira take turns in teaching Andrei to dance. Vava regrets that he isn’t interested in her while Kira presses “her head to his breast [p.146]” and her eyes flash up at him “one swift glance, like a spark [p.146]”. He feels her slender body and looks down her cleavage but doesn’t look down again. A particularly confused guest at the party is Kolya Smiatkin, vice-secretary of a club library without any pay.

In the late hours, when mattresses are brought for guests to sleep discreetly, Andrei takes Kira away to the balcony and she says she’s angry at him because this is the second time he hasn’t noticed her best dress. Leo takes her back to the drawing room and draws her down on the mattress by his side.

Chapter 13

In the summer, Leo and Kira visit the country. Galina takes up a job to teach sewing at a school for workers’ children. Next year, by the orders of the “Gilotdel”, Leo and Kira have to give away one of three rooms of their apartment to a new tenant, a meek, elderly little man. Then Leo gets fired from his job at the Gossizdat when he refuses to do voluntary work. He can’t find another employment.

Chapter 14

Leo and Kira do some manual labor when they can find it. On another occasion they go to watch an American movie and find it badly interpolated by the censors.

Victor visits them unexpectedly. Later, Marina (or Marisha) Lavrova, a female member of the Communist Union of Youth (the Komsomol) arrives with an order for them from the Glotdel to give her the drawing room. This leaves them only with one room, the silver and gray bedroom, so they take the matters to the authorities but don’t succeed.

Marisha regularly receives male visitors, including Victor (obviously his unexpected visit had been for the purpose of finding out if Leo and Kira have a spare room). Soon, Marisha gets pregnant by one of her friends and asks Kira, “Citizen Argounova, what do you use to keep from having children? [p.172]” She is asking what should be done, and Kira says she doesn’t know. Marisha gets an abortion and asks Kira not to tell Victor. Both Marisha and Vava are running after him.

One night, Acia makes an emergency phone call to Kira. Upon reaching the Dunaev home, Kira finds Maria in throes of death, her eyes “wide with a horror beyond all human dignity [p.177].” She dies after howling for help.

Kira goes out to have tea with Andrei and says, “You may claim the right to kill, as all fighters do. But no one before you has ever thought of forbidding life to those still living. [p.178]” Andrei panics upon noticing that she has been starving, orders her plenty of food, gets her a small job and presses a roll of bills into her hand which she accepts because Leo needs them.

Chapter 15

Kira has a busy routine as she starts working at the “House of Peasants” but she is reported on the Wall Newspaper as “lacking in social spirit [pp.185-6].” At the office, a young girl Tina relates how one of her lovers came upon her while another one was already in her room in his underwear and she got away by coming up with a clever excuse.

At a delegation of the British Trade Unions, Kira envies the glittering legs of a female delegate and suddenly wants to be carried away to her world, “which was now here, close, within hearing of a cry for help [p.190].” At night she has to attend the meeting of the Marxist Club. When she returns home, Leo puts his arms around her and whispers, “Oh, yes, yes, Kira. Tonight. Please! [p.195]” Despite the comfort of his embrace she is suddenly seized with “revulsion for his soft, hungry lips, because something in her, or of her, or around her was too unworthy of him [p.196].”

On a Sunday evening, after saving money for many months, they go to Bejadere, a comic European operetta and Kira cries at seeing this view of happy life abroad.

Chapter 16

As a result of the “Purge”, Kira and Leo get expelled from the Institute and the University respectively. Irina also gets expelled but Victor saves himself by joining the Communist Party. Kira goes to the country with Andrei—“He caught her and they rolled down together, a whirl of legs, arms and mud… [p.206]”

Vava finds Victor with Marisha in a compromising position in the apartment. Later, she is herself found in the arms of Leo, “their lips locked together [p.208].” Vava leaves when Kira surprises them, Kira doesn’t get angry because Leo had received a bad medical report earlier that day, and it turns out that he has incipient tuberculosis.

Despite her best effort, Kira fails to provide for Leo’s admission to a sanatorium. Andrei is also voiding him for some unknown reason, and in her desperation she tries to attract a wealthy customer around the street but he finds her demand too high: “For one night? Why, your sisters don’t make that in a whole career! [p.215]”

One of Petrograd’s most powerful officials tells her, “One hundred thousand workers died in the civil war. Why—in the face of the Union of Soviet Republic—can’t one aristocrat die? [p.216]”

Kira makes up a new logic. “Because: On a sack of flour in the basement, a man tore a woman’s pants off, and bit into her throat, and they rolled, moaning, over the sacks of flour and potatoes…[p.217]” [and other such things…] “—Leo Kovalensky was sentenced to death [p.217].”

Chapter 17

Kira goes to Andrei’s home—a modest house on a modest street. He tells her that he was avoiding her since he realized that he was in love with her. In order to get money from him for the treatment of Leo, she feigns that she has also been in love with him, “and she felt his hands and his mouth, and she wondered whether this was joy or torture to him and how strong his arms were [p.221].”

She tells Leo that she has received money from an uncle and sends him away to a sanatorium in Crimea.

Part Two

Chapter 1

After a short history of Petrograd, city which was not born but created—with the power of whip (“An implacable emperor commanded into being the city and the ground under the city [p.226])”—we find Andrei in the abandoned wing of a palace which the Party couldn’t use (he is economizing) and Kira lets him make love to her in a room which has a painting of Leda and the swan. Leo is coming back tonight (Andrei still doesn’t know about Kira’s relationship).

Chapter 2

Train from the Crimea is late, Kira kills time at Irina’s place, where Victor gives a hint about the gossips going around about her in the Party circles, and Irina is found taking interest in Sasha Chernov, apparently a counter-revolutionary.

Kira has found the job of lecturer and excursion guide in the Museum of the Revolution, where she is called when needed. Leo returns with a healthy body but weak spirits, referring to himself as a gigolo and Kira tries to cheer him up, “Her head slid slowly to his breast, to his knees, to his feet [p.249].”

Chapter 3

Leo is visited by Antonina Pavlovna, a loud woman of cheap tastes, who had been his neighbor at the sanatorium. She is interested in Ancient Egypt, theosophy, mysticism and political economy, and says, “You men are strange creatures. To understand you is a whole science in itself and the first duty of every real woman [p.253].” She reassures Kira that she hasn’t been physical with Leo but after she leaves, Kira protests, “Nothing of that type should even look at you [p.255].”

Kira’s family pays a visit just when Kira was sneaking out to meet Andrei, telling Leo that she had promised to visit her family! She handles the situation, and Galina is found to have adapted to the Revolution very well.

When Kira is finally able to meet Andrei, she asks him to take her to the expensive restaurant at the roof of the European Hotel. She tries to throw some cold water on him by saying, “Andrei, when you told me you loved me, for the first time, you were hungry. I wanted to satisfy that hunger [p.265].” He laughs and says that women like her don’t love “only” like that, they are “What temples are, and military marches, and… [p.266]”

Chapter 4

Antonina Pavlovna has brought her friend Karp Karpovitch Morozov, the ugly man with vertical nostrils (see Chapter 12), who has now risen to be a wealthy smuggler from a mere speculator. When Kira arrives home, she finds Leo accepting an offer to open a store in his name with Morozov’s money to serve as a distribution point for smuggled goods. Kira fails to prevent Leo, and later Morozov meets his partner, Pavel, to tell him that the deal is on.

Pavel gets drunk in a party which rather looks like a communal sex gala and gets laid by Sonia.

Chapter 5

Leo has become extravagant since he opened the shop. Victor is marrying Marisha because her poor father Glieb Ilyitch Lavrov is a veteran of the revolution and she because Victor is from the gentry, and when at their wedding party Andrei sees Kira with Leo he is still unable to guess their relationship but suggests that she should stay away from Leo.

Lavrov voices his disenchantment with the revolution, Leo gets drunk and Andrei offers to drop Kira, stopping at his place on the way apparently for having sex. Later that night, Kira makes love to Leo as well, “pressing his face, white as marble, to the black velvet of her dress.” [p.294]

Chapter 6

Victor is treating Marisha badly, while Irina is engaged to Sasha—“Irina stood by the window, in Sasha’s arms, his lips on hers [p.298].” Vava has married Kolya and been disowned by her father for that reason. She is now living in poor circumstances. Sonia gets pregnant and forces Pavel to marry her.

Timoshenko pays a visit to Andrei and voices his dissatisfaction with the revolution.

Chapter 7

Kira is fascinated by an under-construction building and when she returns home, Leo makes love to her with “a contemptuous tenderness [p.312]”—just as she wants, not like a lover but like “a slave owner” [p.312].

Sasha’s gang of counter-revolutionaries is busted and he takes refuge at Irina’s place while Galina is away to sell her old wedding robe to her daughter. Later, Kira visits Andrei, who sits at her feet, his face “buried in her knees [p.319].” With his lips in her hand he whispers that she is his “highest reverence [p.320].”

Marisha guesses Sasha’s presence in Irina’s bedroom but remains sympathetic. Victor gets a clue and reports it to the Party.

Chapter 8

Irina, Sasha and Vasili are arrested. Vasili is released in three days but Irina and Sasha are sentenced to ten years in Siberia, from where their chances of returning alive are next to none. She asks as her last wish to get married to Sasha, and Vasili tries to get them assigned to the same place in Siberia but fails. On Kira’s request, Andrei tries too, but his G.P.U. superior taunts him about keeping an aristocratic mistress and refuses. Leo tries to persuade Pavel but is rebuffed. Victor forbids Marisha to use her connections in this regards and refuses his father when approached by him. Vasili leaves the house, taking little Acia with him.

Kira meets Irina for the last time in prison. After that, Irina and Sasha are sent away.

Chapter 9

Victor gets a big job on a hydroelectric project in the Volkhovstroy and seldom sees Marisha, who tries to kill time with her parents in their room in Leo’s apartment.

Andrei proposes to Kira and also suggests that they go abroad for good. She likes the idea of going abroad but cannot marry Andrei and forbids him to ask why. He complies and then proceed to make love by the fire: “He was bending her backward, so that the locks of her hair, tumbling down, looked red in the glow of the fire… [p.344]”

Morozov calls him after she returns and she goes to his place to find Leo drunk in the company of Antonina after they both had stolen and spent the money Morozov had kept aside for an urgent payment to Pavol. She brings him back with some difficulty and he promises to save money for going abroad. His “arrogant smile [p.350]” leads Kira to bury her head on his shoulder, saying, “Leo…Leo…Leo… {p.350]”

Chapter 10

Morozov is avoiding Pavel who is desperate for his money, so Pavel goes to his apartment and when he doesn’t find an answer, he writes a threatening note and slides it under the door. Morozov goes to the roof of the European Hotel to collect money from acquaintances and succeeds in that but he is spotted by Timoshenko who makes him stay and listen to his endless outburst against the revolution he had once supported. Pavel’s letter slips when Morozov tries to take out a handkerchief and it is picked up by Timoshenko who quickly understands the secret. The next morning, Morozov reads in the newspaper about the suicide of Timoshenko and also that no paper except his Party card were found on his body. He is relieved but we find that before taking his life, Timoshenko had sent the letter to Andrei with a note.

Chapter 11

Andrei completes his investigations and meets Kira. The night before with Leo had been “a night such as her first one in the gray and silver room she had shared with Leo for over three years [p.365].” For that reason she avoids sex with Andrei on this occasion as it “seemed a sacrilege because she did desire it and did not wish to desire it tonight [p.366].”

She asks Andrei to take her to a motion picture, and afterwards he tells her to stay away form Leo, since he has a case against him. She begs him to drop this case but is too terrified to tell him what Leo means to her. Afterwards, she informs Leo and he quickly removes all illegal stuff from his store.

Chapter 12

Authorities plan to make a well-publicized affair of Leo’s trial but to burry the evidence against Pavel and Morozov, both of whom are employees of the State. When Andrei comes to arrest Leo, he recognizes Kira’s dresses in the wardrobe and asks Leo whose were they. “My mistress’s [p.381],” Leo answers. Kira arrives, “and it was not a woman’s voice, it was not a female’s voice, it was the ferocious howl of an animal in mortal agony [p.382]”. Leo kisses her before being taken away by Andrei—“It was a long kiss [p.383].”

Chapter 13

Kira visits Andrei while he is sitting on a box near the fireplace in his apartment, and tells him that she won’t let him keep his memories. “Well, look at me! I’m only a whore and you’re the one who made the first payment! [p.385]” After making a long speech in which she tells him that he meant nothing to him except the money she received from him, she suddenly stops on the phrase “my highest reverence” and says, “Oh, Andrei, Andrei, what have I done to you?” He is feeling sufficiently guilty to promise her that he’ll see to it that no harm comes to Leo and then he makes a speech against the proletariat that night.

Chapter 14

Andrei tells Pavel that two camera copies of the letter he wrote to Morozov (which was sent to Andrei by Timoshenko) are safe with his friends and they will be sent to Moscow unless Pavel uses his Party connections for getting Leo acquitted. The trick works, and Leo returns. Andrei also visits the couple and tells them that there are no photostats of Pavel’s letter but he doesn’t know that, and in case something happens to Andrei they can still use this bluff to protect themselves—“A truck thundered in the street below and the window panes trembled in the silence [p.404].” Leo is ungrateful and says, “Do you think Lazarus was grateful when Christ brought him back from the gave—if He did? No more than I am to you, I think [p.404].”

Andrei is transferred from the G.P.U. to the job of librarian in the suburb Lesnoe. Instead of going there, he burns the relics of Kira, including a black chiffon nightgown, which shudders in fire, “and a corner of the hem curled up, and a thin blue flame shot out of a fold at the neckline [p.410].” Then Andrei shoots himself.

Chapter 15

Andrei’s funeral procession is grand, and he is laid to rest in the Field of Victims of the Revolution in Petrograd: “Glory Eternal to the Victims of the Revolution / Andrei Taganov / 1896-1925 [p.421]” Kira has attended the funeral: “She wondered whether she had killed him, or the revolution had, or both [p.421].”

Chapter 16

When Kira returns, Leo looks down at her “with the arrogantly contemptuous look she worshipped [p.422]” and says, “You little bitch [p.422]!” Pavel has told him about Kira and Andrei and he now asks her if she had been Andrei’s mistress. She admits. “All the time I was away? [p.422]” “Yes [422].” “And all the time since I came back? [p.422]” “Yes… [p.422]”

Even before knowing about Kira and Andrei, Leo had agreed to Antonina’s offer of going away with her as a lover, since she was willing to pay. He now informs Kira: “She has the money and she wants me. Just a business deal [p.424].”

After moving out to her parents’ home, Kira applies for a passport to traveling abroad. Leo sees her one last time before he leaves. When her request for passport is refused, she starts planning for an escape through the Latvian borders. She also meets Vaisli, who is selling saccharine after leaving Victor.

Chapter 17

Hoping that her mother’s white wedding gown will prevent her from being detected on the white snow at night, Kira tries to escape. Ivan Ivanov, a guard at the border, suspects a rat and fires. She is hit. Then “she smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible [p.446].”


Source: Personal Notes of Khurram Ali Shafique

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