Rubashov now has paper, pencil, soap and a towel, and he can order cigarettes and food from the canteen. The snow has been cleared from the courtyard for the prisoners to exercise: Hare-lip always looks up at Rubashov’s window. Rubashov often looks down at them, relieved not to recognize anyone.
Since his first interrogation, Rubashov’s lifestyle has gradually improved. This is a sign that Ivanov’s strategy of allowing Rubashov to logically work through his situation is currently prevailing over Gletkin’s.
Rubashov has always prided himself on his self-awareness, harboring no illusions about what he calls the “first person singular” and its impulses. Now, however, he begins to learn more about this phenomenon—about how monologues are actually dialogues between two elements of his own mind, including one speaking partner who’s entirely unfamiliar to him. He knows he won’t agree to Ivanov’s proposal, so he wants to spend the little time he has left alive thinking through other problems. He’s interested, for instance, in Ivanov’s personality. They were both molded by the beliefs and trajectory of the Party: they both thought the same way. He puts himself in Ivanov’s position and sees that his old friend is just as sincere, or as little sincere, with him as Rubashov himself was towards Richard or Little Loewy.
Rubashov uses his time alone to think through one of the major tensions plaguing his thoughts: the relationship between the individual and the collective, and the very nature of the individual. According to Party ideology, the individual is an illusion, valuable only to the extent that he or she submits to the will of the group (that is, the Party leadership). Again, Rubashov also tries to imagine his way into Ivanov’s mind, realizing that Rubashov too was perhaps earnest, but perhaps equally cynical, regarding Little Loewy.
Meanwhile, Rubashov’s “first-person singular” remains silent, composed of disconnected parts: the hands of the Pietà, Little Loewy’s cats, something Arlova had once said, and so on. He dubs this half of his interior dialogue the “grammatical fiction,” which seems to begin just where logical thinking ends. Indeed, even though he has only a few weeks left to live, he’s ambushed by it and spends an entire day in a day-dream about Arlova, who, he knows, was shot.
What Rubasohv calls his “first-person singular” has to do with his thoughts and memories that don’t seem to fit into an overarching ideology or collective goal. These thoughts also have nothing to do with the logical thinking on which he prides himself. Rubashov can’t stop himself from dwelling on these idiosyncratic details.
Rubashov remembers breathing in the smell of his Trade Delegation office, along with that of Arlova’s large, well-formed body, curved over her notebook as he dictated. She was slow and passive, and had a calming effect on Rubashov. No. 1 had taken the rare step of giving him, an International man, this bureaucratic job. He felt initially out of touch: he knew how to play the game of the bourgeois world, but at the Trade Delegation he had trouble understanding what was expected of him. He felt like all his underlings treated him with exaggerated, indulgent tolerance. Arlova was least irritating to him.
Another memory transports Rubsahov back to the time before his arrest, and, once again, what is at stake is Rubashov’s initially unwavering commitment to Party ideology regardless of how he must act. Rubashov lingers over the details of Arlova’s body: indeed, throughout the book, private, erotic details seem to suggest an oblique refutation to official ways of seeing the world.
One day Rubashov asked, while dictating, why Arlova never said anything. She sleepily replied that she would henceforth repeat the last word of each sentence. Rubashov pictures the curve of her neck, which was what he usually saw in the office. When he was young, women had always been comrades for Rubashov, intellectual partners. One day Rubashov, surprising himself, put his hands on Arlova’s shoulders and asked her to go out with him. She nodded silently. Later that night, she told him that he’d always be able to do what he liked with her: when he asked why, astonished, she didn’t answer.
Arlova is the first woman toward whom Rubashov feels drawn sexually, which contrasts to his prior experience of women as comrades in pursuit of revolutionary goals. This is not entirely a romantic story: it’s clear that Rubashov’s important position in the Party creates a difference of power between him and Arlova, such that she wouldn’t be able to deny him even if she wanted to.
From then on, during the day Arlova would sit bent over the desk, and at night would lie silhouetted against Rubashov’s bedroom curtain. Once in awhile he would add sarcastic asides and jokes to his dictation: she never smiled, and once she said he shouldn’t say such things in front of other people. This was during the second great opposition trial, when photographs and portraits were again disappearing. The staff all spoke to each other stiffly, politely, using stock phrases. The libraries were thinned out, and the works on foreign trade and currency were disappearing from the office shelves, as well as contemporary philosophy, pamphlets about birth control, treatises on trade unionism, and so on. Old histories and memoirs were replaced with new.
These initial scenes are portrayed as part of Rubashov’s one great love affair, even though it’s easy for a reader to see that, for Arlova, the situation may not have been as straightforward. At the same time, the purges are beginning (a reference to Stalin’s dismantling of his opposition and the beginnings of the famous show trials), such that no one knows whom to trust and who might betray them. The very history of the country, as well as what passes for truth, was being dismantled as well.
An order also came from “above” to appoint a librarian, and Arlova was chosen. Then, at one meeting, she was attacked: someone complained that No. 1’s most important speeches couldn’t be found at the library, which still contained oppositional works. These speeches all concluded that the Party’s biggest duty was to be watchful. Arlova said calmly that she’d followed every instruction, and had no evil intent: the meeting ended with the decision to give her a “serious warning.” Rubashov began to feel uneasy, and he stopped making snide comments while dictating, or putting his hands on her shoulders at work.
Throughout this reminiscence, Arlova is portrayed as cool-headed and calm: unlike Richard, for instance, she doesn’t grow hysterical and she seems to accept the situation that, through no fault of her own, has condemned her. Now Rubashov, sensing that Arlova may be falling out of favor, chooses the pragmatic approach, slowly distancing himself so as not to be associated with her.
After a week, Arlova stopped coming to Rubashov’s apartment, saying that she had a migraine. He didn’t press her further. She only came one more time: all night he had the feeling that she was waiting for him to say something—she kept lying awake, eyes open, in the dark. The next day the Secretary told him that Arlova’s brother and sister-and-law were arrested “over there.” A few minutes later she arrived to work: Rubashov kept thinking uneasily that “over there” the condemned were shot through the neck. At the next meeting of the Party cell Arlova was dismissed from her librarian post, then, a little later, recalled.
While “Over There” usually refers to the Soviet Union for those who are abroad, here it seems to refer to a more remote area of the country, perhaps Siberia. Although Rubashov does feel uneasy about Arlova’s predicament (not completely cold and unfeeling, as he was with Richard), he can’t say anything or to try to lobby for Arlova’s innocence, because he knows it wouldn’t help his own case.