We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Posted June 10, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

We by Yevgeny ZamyatinTitle: We (Goodreads)
Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin
Translator: Clarence Brown
Published: Penguin, 1921
Pages: 226
Genres: Classic, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote his seminal dystopian novel We (1921) based on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the first World War. The book ended influencing dystopian authors like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. This book not only influenced the dystopian genre but could also be the influence towards the post-apocalyptic genre as this was set in a world where all was wiped out but “0.2% of the earth’s population”.  The book is set in ‘One State’ which has been organised to be a workers’ paradise; everything has to work like clockwork and everything is based on logic and mathematics. This society is heavily surveillanced, has martial law and is heavily censored; a totalitarian world.

The protagonist, D-503, is an engineer who begins writing a journal (much like in 1984) to document Integral, the spaceship being built to invade other planets. D-503 is under constant surveillance by the Bureau of Guardians (the secret police) as is everyone else. He is assigned a lover O-90, but ends up having an uncontrollable attraction to I-330. This leads to nightmares and furthermore into what could be considered a mental illness. I-330 reveals to D-503 a world that was previously unknown to him. Will he hang onto hope or will reason get the better of him?

We was an impressive novel; not only with the themes that it explores but also with the technology and the simple fact that it was years and years ahead of its time. While some say We was released in 1920 and others 1921, there is no denying that, because of the subject matter, this was an impressive piece of literature. If it wasn’t for this book we may never of been able to enjoy Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952). By today’s standards this book would be overlooked but something innovative and so complex to be written so long ago makes this worth a read.

0 responses to “We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

  1. I read this book last year and was glad to have found it.  It’s not as popular as some of the books it influenced.  But I’m glad I read it first and read Brave New World after.  I plan to read 1984 soon too so then I can come full circle.  Glad you got a chance to read it!

  2. Terri Rens

    Please forgive me, but this comment has very little to do with your review. Good luck for your 200 Classics Club selection, I look forward to reading your thoughts. I see you’re going to read The Picture of Dorian Gray, that is on my list too. 

  3. foreverbrokentree

    I made the ‘mistake’ of reading these in the wrong order; starting with Brave New World, then 1984 and ending with We. It probably doesn’t matter all that much, but I could clearly see the influence We had on the other two. It’s a shame it’s not as famous as they are.

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