We – Yevgeny Zamyatin
As the very happy Reader of the „Happy Reader“ magazine I finally managed to read the book of the upcoming edition beforehand, so I can happily participate in the online and offline book discussion.
The dystopian novel was on my reading list anyway as it counts as sort of a precessor of Aldous Huxely’s „Brave New World“ or George Orwell’s „1984“ and having read the novel now, I can totally relate to that.
„Isn’t it clear that individual consciousness ist just sickness?“
The story takes place in the future within a united totalitarian state. The urban city almost entirely constructed of glass so everything is constantly under surveillance and everybody lives a strongly reglemented life where people are numbers instead of having a name. The state is governed by the „Benefactor“ and the „Guardians“ and surrounded by a huge wall that protects the people in the city from nature outside of the city and the wood people that live there.
“The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom.”
The narrator is D-503 a mathematican and constructor of the space ship „Integral“ that the state is planning to use to colonize and integrate our planets. When D-503 illicitly falls in love with the mysterious I-330 his well-defined mathematical world descends into chaos. He starts to dream, misses work and the assigned walks and also starts to neglect his other lover 0-90 and his friend R-13 a state poet.
A doctor diagnoses him with having developed a soul and if it not have been that he is vital for building the spaceship, he would have been deemed uncurable and hence terminated. Out of love to I-330 he agrees to sabotage the Integral Project…
The language is quite sparse, with a lot of mathematical-technical words and references to Taylorism.
Many of the names and numbers in „We“ are allusions to personal experiences of Zamyatin or to culture and literature. Auditorium 112 for example refers back to the prison cell 112 where Zamyatin was inprisoned twice.
In light of the increasingly dogmatic Soviet government of the time, Zamyatin seems to make the point that it would seem to be impossible to remove all the rebels against a system. Zamyatin even says this through I-330: „There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite.“
„We“ was the first book that was banned by the Soviet censorship bureau in 1921. Zamyatin’s influence in the literary world declined further throughout the 1920s and he was eventually allowed to emigrate to Paris in 1931 (in contrast to his writer colleague Mikhail Bulgakov who applied for emigration for years and was never allowed to either publish or leave)
The novel was first published in English in 1924, readers in the Soviet Union had to wait for its publication until 1988, when glasnot resulted in the book being available alongside George Orwell’s „1984“.
The ZDF adapted the book for television in 1982 under the title of „Wir“:
There is also a short film called „The Glass Fortress“ by the french director Alain Bourrett:
I can highly recommend „We“ it really is a dystopian classic that still sounds fresh and unfortunately current, even though the Soviet Union has long disappeared.
What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?