In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier-and whatever alien species are to be found there-will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.
One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful I-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery-or rediscovery-of inner spaceand that disease the ancients called the soul.
A page-turning SF adventure, a masterpiece of wit and black humor that accurately predicted the horrors of Stalinism, We is the classic dystopian novel. Its message of hope and warning is as timely at the end of the twentieth century as it was at the beginning.
"we is one of the great novels of the twentieth century."( Irving Howe)
"One of the best!"( New York Review of Books)
"As the first major anti-utopian fantasyhas its own peculiar wryness and grace, sharper than the pamphleteering of 1984 or thephilosophical scheme of Brave New World, its celebrated descendants."( Kirkus Reviews)
"Fantastic."( The New York Times)
About the Author
Yevgeny Zamyatin was born in Russia in 1884. Arrested during the abortive 1905 revolution, he was exiled twice from St. Petersburg, then given amnesty in 1913. We, composed in 1920 and 1921, elicited attacks from party-line critics and writers. In 1929, the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers launched an all-out attack against him. Denied the right to publish his work, he requested permission to leave Russia, which Stalin granted in 1931. Zamyatin went to Paris, where he died in 1937.
Mirra Ginsburg is a distinguished translator of Russian and Yiddish works by such well-known authors as Mikhail Bulgakov, Isaac Babel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Editor and translator of three anthologies of Soviet science fiction, she has also edited and translated A Soviet Heretic: Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and History of Soviet Literature by Vera Alexandrova.
Read an Excerpt
The Wisest of Lines
I shall simply copy, word for word, the proclamation that appeared today in the One State Gazette:
The building of the Integral will be completed in one hundred and twenty days. The great historic hour when the first Integral will soar into cosmic space is drawing near. One thousand years ago your heroic ancestors subdued the entire terrestrial globe to the power of the One State. Yours will be a still more glorious feat: you will integrate the infinite equation of the universe with the aid of the fire-breathing, electric glass Integral. You will subjugate the unknown beings on other planets, who may still be living in the primitive condition of freedom, to the beneficent yoke of reason. If they fail to understand that we bring them mathematically infallible happiness, it will be our duty to compel them to be happy. But before resorting to arms, we shall try the power of words.
In the name of the Benefactor, therefore, we proclaim to all the numbers of the One State:
Everyone who feels capable of doing so must compose tracts, odes, manifestoes, Poems, or other works extolling the beauty and the grandeur of the One
This will be the first cargo to be carried by the In
Long live the One State, long live the numbers,
long live the Benefactor!
I write this, and I feel: my cheeks are burning. Yes, to integrate the grandiose cosmic equation. Yes, to unbend the wild, primitive curve and straighten it to a tangent-an asymptote a straight line. For the line of the One State is thestraight line. The great, divine, exact, wise straight linethe wisest of all lines.
1, D-503, Builder of the Integral, am only one of the mathematicians of the One State. My pen, accustomed to figures, does not know how to create the music of assonances and rhymes. I shall merely attempt to record what I see and think, Or, to be more exact, what we think (precisely so-we, and let this We be the title of MY record) . But since this record will be a derivative of our life, of the mathematically Perfect life of the One State, will it not be, of itself, and regardless of my will or skill, a poem? it will. I believe, I know it
I write this, and my cheeks are burning- This must be similar to what a woman feels when she first senses within herself the pulse of a new, still tiny, still blind little human being. It is 1, and at the same time, not 1. And for many long months it will be necessary to nourish it with my own life, my own blood, then tear it painfully from myself and lay it at the feet of the One State.
But I am ready, like every one, or almost every one, of us. I am ready.
Spring. From beyond the Green Wall, from the wild, invisible plains, the wind brings yellow honey pollen of some unknown flowers. The sweet pollen dries your lips, and every minute you pass your tongue over them. The Ups of all the women you see must be sweet (of the men, too, of course). This interferes to some extent with the flow of logical thought.
But the sky! Blue, unblemished by a single cloud. (How wild the tastes of the ancients, whose poets could be inspired by those absurd, disorderly, stupidly tumbling piles of vapor!) I Iove I am certain I can safely say, we love-only such a sterile, immaculate sky. On days like this the whole world is cast of the same impregnable, eternal glass as the Green Wall, as all our buildings. On days like this you see the bluest depth of things, their hitherto unknown, astonishing equations-you see them even in the most familiar everyday objects.
Take, for instance, this. In the morning I was at the dock where the Integral is being built, and suddenly I saw: the lathes; the regulator spheres rotating with dosed eyes, utterly oblivious of all; the cranks flashing, swinging left and right; the balance beam proudly swaying its shoulders; the bit of the slotting machine dancing up and down in time to unheard music. Suddenly I saw the whole beauty of this grandiose mechanical ballet, flooded with pale blue sunlight.
And then, to myself: Why is this beautiful? Why is dance beautiful? Answer: because it is unfree motion, because the whole profound meaning of dance lies precisely in absolute, esthetic subordination, in ideal unfreedom. And if it is true that our forebears abandoned themselves to dance at the most exalted moments of their lives (religious mysteries, military parades), it means only one thing: the instinct of unfreedom is organically inherent in man from time immemorial, and we, in our present life, are only consciously....
I will have to finish later: the annunciator clicked. I looked up: 0-90, of course. In half a minute she'll be here, for our daily walk.
Dear O! It always seems to me that she looks exactly like her name: about ten centimeters shorter than the Maternal Norm, and therefore carved in the round, all of her, with that pink O, her mouth, open to meet every word I say. And also, that round, plump fold on her wrist, like a baby's.
When she came in, the flywheel of logic was still humming at full swing within me, and I began, by sheer force of inertia, to speak to her about the formula I had just established, which encompassed everything dance, machines, and all of us.
"Marvelous, isn't it?" I asked.
"Yes, marvelous." O-90 smiled rosily at me. "It's spring."
Well, wouldn't you know: spring ... She talks ,about spring. Women ... I fell silent.
Downstairs, the avenue was full. In such weathers the...
Table of Contents
Introduction: Zamyatin and the Rooster
Notes to Introduction
Suggestions for Further Reading
WE Record 1
The Wisest of Lines
An Epic Poem
Savage with Barometer
Rulers of the World
Pleasant and Useful Function
Henbane and Lily of the Valley
The Irrational Root
Iambs and Trochees
No, I Can't...
Skip the Contents
Limitation of Infinity
Reflections on Poetry
An Absolutely Inane Occurrence
My Fate to Burn Forever
Wounds and Plaster
A Sullen Glare
Over the Parapet
An Author's Duty
The Most Difficult Love
Everything Tends to Perfection
I Am a Microbe
Dissolution of a Crystal
Limit of Function
Cross It All Out
Descent from Heaven
History's Greatest Catastrophe
End of the Known
The World Exists
No Contents - Can't
Entropy and Energy
Opaque Part of the Body
Threads on the Face
The Final Number
Wouldn't It Be Better?
The Great Operation
I Have Forgiven Everything
A Train Wreck
I Do Not Believe
The Human Chip
(No Time for Contents, Last Note)
Those on Leave
A Sunny Night
In a Hoop
The Christian God
About My Mother
(I Don't Know What Goes Here, Maybe Just: A Cigarette Butt)
I Am Certain
What People are Saying About This
"One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century." -Irving Howe
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Like a refreshing breath of air, I chanced upon We as I was drowning in all the trashy sci-fi that has been filling shelves as of late. To say it simply, We is the best science fiction novel I have ever read (and I have read my fair share). It has, in its 203 pages, a story of a simple man who worships his government with a wild abandon, until the day when he contracts an awful and uniquely human condition. We is a prime, perhaps the greatest, example of a Dystopian novel: it in many ways sets the groundwork for ALL dystopian stories to come. In it we read elements of famous books to come, such as Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. But. but there is something more, different, indescribable about We that Zamyatin could never have planned: a magic that resides in between the words. That being said, We is also one of the most exclusionary books I have read as well. While I fully believe that this book has never achieved the popularity and success that it should have, shared by 1984 and Brave New World, I can truly understand why: We is written as the journal of a mathematical genius, and his view of nature as "some big equation, yet to be solved" leaks heavily into his journal entries and this, coupled with his conflicting ideas about himself and his surroundings, does not make a welcoming environment for the everyday reader. I highly recommend this book, but only to those hardcore sci-fi buffs and intellectual book-club readers that can wade through it. If it can be tolerated, or better yet appreciated for what it is, then We could be your next favorite-book.
Yevgeny Zamyatin has a very interesting history himself. Being a part of Russian Intelligentsia, he was a strong proponent of Russian revolutionary movement and a believer in "change" that was about to follow. While in England, he heard that the change is about to happen and Yevgeny rushed back, so that he could be part the movement to overthrow Czarist regime and create what he thought would have been a workers' paradise. Fast forward a bit and he started to realize that the change that he himself helped create was not at all what it was claiming to be and reality of that change created despot and despair. While the publishing and the media was not yet completely taken over by the new regime, he was able to publish and write several essays, but then further realizing that the regime is changing even more so, he was banned and even arrested for his ideological free voice. If you liked "Brave New World" and "1984", you will love this or actually the other way around. "We" was published before the other two and there are so many items here that were borrowed by Huxley and Orwell, it is not even a question of if, but obvious what and which portions were. Zamyatin creates a One State society in his novel "We", where everyone and everything is for Benefactor's sake and for the "happiness" of the citizens. The wall around the city doesn't just protect those from outside getting in, but also for those inside for being "happy". Here we see strong resemblances of the same picture perfect anti Utopian "Utopia" as in "Brave New World". We see rationing and partnership assignments, if you will, just like in Huxley's novel, and many parts, which I am sure Huxley decided to "borrow" from "We". Also, there are many examples of despot and punishment, social behavior and work related previsions as we see in "1984" later. My guess is as such. Since Soviet Union was not big on world copyright laws, and the fact that some of Zamyatin's works were not officially published until 1980s and even 90s, that both Huxley and Orwell had an opportunity to reviewing those works. Lesser in popularity of all three of those anti Utopian novels, "We" however does present a great example, interesting and clever plot on the society that is "great" in theory, but not so in reality. Zamyatin is a great visionary and this book, scary enough, could have been a road map for despots to use. "Freedom or happiness, but if you are free, you can't be happy" - We, Zamyatin. Also, the numerous examples of how "chaotic" the free world is and was, in what "We" refers to as in ancients' way of life. Freedom caused crime and war according to One State and Benefactor. It seems that by associating freedom with all the "evil" in the world, the Benefactor and Guardians are able to create this "perfect" happy world that is not free, but "happy". Overall, I really enjoyed reading this first of the three great anti Utopian novels. It is a wonderful example of both fiction and the author's reality, how utopia only exists in theory, but in reality people do want and do strive for freedom to make their own decision and their own choices. Zamyatin's life, is a perfect example of to be careful of what you wish for and out of the three, he is the only author who actually wrote his work while living in completely despotic society. Highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys this genre.
I really won't get into it here. "We" is a book that you have to read to understand why I feel this way. If you remember reading dystopian novels in high school, I can guarantee that your teacher missed this jewel. A precursor and inspiration to 1984 and Brave New World, this book makes Ayn Rand's Anthem look like a kids book. (not to mention that I believe that her book is a blatant rip of the subject book.) Zamyatin's genius truly shines in this short but well thought out piece of anti-Stalinist writing, that transcends (as all good books do) time and space.
We is such a perfect novel that to sum it in such a small area such as this would be a great injustice to the magnitude of this novel's quality. Simply put: We is, hands down, one of the single greatest works of literature ever written.
WE is a true classic and an extraordinary novel in many senses. It was the inspiration behind George Orwell¿s book 1984, and other subsequent books of the utopian/dystopian sub-genre, such as UNION MOUJIK, BRAVE NEW WORLD. The age-old conflict between individual self and the collective being that man has grappled with in our efforts to become more human is treated beautifully in thus book. What is peculiar about it is that the author never allowed politics to dominate. Overall, the Utopian-Fantasy is a recommended read.
This book scares me.Though its ending and the ending to 1984 are very similar, and I knew this before reading We, the ending of We terrified me, while the ending of 1984 simply made me sad.I think this is because Zamiatin presents a world where one cannot be fully human. Everything in the society he paints is done for a purpose, done toward explanation, integration, quantification. Even art, here poetry, is subjected to further serve the United State; there is no free human endeavor. While mathematics and science can both be free endeavor, when they are used as a means rather than an end in and of themselves, they become constrained, even slavish.What also worries me about this book is the contrast it makes between the civilized, technologically advanced, ordered society of d-503, and the disordered, naturalistic, "barbaric" society beyond the Green Wall. Aldous Huxley makes a similar contrast in Brave New World (which he later apologizes for, thankfully), between the world of soma and instant gratification and the world of the savage, as does George Orwell (to a less obvious extent) in 1984 with the proles and the Party members. This recurring contrast seems to imply that it is impossible to be fully human in advanced society, and that one must throw oneself back to nature and technological regression in order to be human. This is entirely unsatisfactory for someone living in modern society (and in fact almost entirely incapable of "escaping").This book, quite honestly, changed my life; it affected me that much. It also encouraged me to articulate my thoughts and concerns about modern society, which was very beneficial. I highly recommend this book (and apologize for this novel of a review).
As others have said already, if you like 1984, Brave New World, Anthem, or Utopia, you'll like this one too.
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is an early dystopian novel, possibly one of the earliest and certainly an inspiration for George Orwell's 1984. In fact, I was surprised how closely the plot of 1984 follows the plot of We.D-503 is our narrator and the head of the great Integral project of OneState. In OneState people are given numbers rather than names and every hour of the day has an allocated activity. As a background to D-503's narration, the Integral is being developed, something like a spaceship or rocket that will be able to fly to other planets so that the inhabitants of those planets can also share in the beauty that is OneState. OneState, it seems, has decided that it is best for humanity to have happiness rather than freedom. In fact, it believes that happiness lies in having no freedom. D-503 starts off as an enthusiastic supporter of OneState but when he meets and becomes enthralled by the rebellious female I-330, he becomes more and more confused about what he believes. The novel is described as a prose poem and I have to confess that I felt like I struggled with the prose at times. I read the 1993 translation by Clarence Brown, published by Penguin Classics but I found a couple of reviews that preferred the 2006 translation by Natasha Randall so this may partly have been due to the translation I was reading. I think there is probably a lot more to this short novel than I picked up on from my slightly rushed first read. Zamyatin uses a lot of mathematical imagery that I would like to think about more deeply on a reread. I think 1984 would probably get my vote for the better book but We is certainly worth reading if you want to understand the background to Orwell's book."I shall attempt nothing more than to note down what I see, what I think - or, to be more exact, what we think (that's right: we, and let this WE be the title of these records). But this, surely, will be a derivative of our life, of the mathematically perfect life of OneState, and if that is so, then won't this be, of its own accord, whatever I may wish, an epic?"
Excelent piece of early science fiction, without the sexism that permeates much of the genre.Please read this.
Futuristic - Socialist distopian novel, written in journal format from the perspective of an engineer of the One State. Reminiscent of Orwell's 1984 and Ayn Rand's Anthem.The book is good, but I can't quite tell how much my opinion is colored by the knowledge that WE is the first Sci-Fi Distopian novel ever published. The Sci-Fi aspects are very pure, a bit unfocused, very raw. What I didn't particularly care for is the relationship between the main character, D-503, and his love interest. He's completely wrapped around her finger, we aren't given a very clear idea of whether the feelings are truly reciprocal. The romance is not very well played out, but then D spends an entire chapter describing a feeling of internal struggle as his personal "square-root of -1".Over all, WE is a quick and entertaining read, recommended for anyone interested in dispotian sci-fi classics.
This book is the great-grandaddy of all dystopian lit. 1984 is ALMOST a complete rip-off (though it is definitely good on it's own) of this book. If you liked 1984, you will without a doubt like We.
This is a fun read - a future world where everything people do is meaningful and with purpose, nothing is done for what we perceive as fun. The hero named D-503 tells us most of what we need to know, thinking his notes will reach a race in outer space, send in a space ship he helped build. Everything is straight and clear, ruled mathematically by a totalitarian government. People live in glass houses, nothing is secret, nothing needs to be secret. Until D-503 meets I-330, a woman with an agenda.It is quite an amazing little book, written before 1921 it still seems fresh and up to date, the world in there still seems futuristic, although a tad closer now than it might have been then - I do not know much about Russia but I think a bit of knowledge about the political situation at the time of writing the novel would have giving me another, deeper level to discover. But even though, it's a darn good book!
Written in 1921, We foresaw Stalinism & the communist tendency to see people in statistical terms. Obviously a huge influence on Orwell & Huxley. It shows a great psychological understanding of living under totalitarianism. Stylistically it is interesting & part of the Russian avant garde of the time, but towards the end of the novel it becomes rather hyperbolic, which reduces the impact of the conclusion a little (a conclusion Orwell clearly remembered & learnt from).
If you love dysytopian science fiction, this book you really should read.
Interesting book, especially as Orwell based much of his '1984' on it. Quite an easy read in terms of the writing style but rather hard to follow at times - perhaps due to the translation from the original Russian or because it's a prose poem. Worth reading if you enjoyed Orwell's classic.
This is one of those amazing books that took a lot of hunting but well worth it. I've leant it out to a few people now and they've all felt the same - disturbing.
An amazing book; its political dimensions outweigh its sci-fi aspects, and the story certainly seems to prefigure Orwell's "1984" in interesting ways.
This a really interesting book that should be required reading for fans of 1984 and Brave New World (and that's pretty much all of us, right?). It is a powerful depiction of a dystopian future in which individuality has been eliminated, and people are numbers (there are no "I"s, just "We"). The language is very direct, and there are humorous moments to break the bleak tone. I found interesting echoes of Dostoevsky, especially in the impulsive romantic entanglements that drive much of the storyline. In retrospect it is astonishing how many aspects of the totalitarian Soviet regime are predicted accurately in this book written so soon after the Bolshevik revolution.
This book preceded and heavily influenced both 1984 and Brave New World. People have no names, just letters and numbers. They plan on going on to other planets to compel others to adopt their mathematically-minded happiness. Emotions aren¿t allowed. They live in glass apartments. Everything `human¿ is discouraged. But. . . a rebel faction is present in and outside `the wall.¿ Will those inside the wall learn to be truly human?Side note: A few weeks ago I saw the movie Equilibrium starring Christian Bale, and it surely had to be influenced by this novel. If you¿re interested in the dystopian genre, it¿s a must-see.
Although it came before the others, Zamyatin's dystopian fiction sits somewhere between "Brave New World" and "1984." The British works were both, arguably, more accessible texts, and better received at the time of their publication; Russian interference blocked Zamyatin's work from a wider audience for a long period.Personally, I found "We" hard going. It was a rewarding read, but the prose too clouded in obfuscations to be truly enjoyable; I feel that a simpler, more direct style of writing would have better suited the story.
The blurb on the back says this inspired Orwell's '1984', and the family resemblance is striking. Both as a novel and as a scathing critique of Stalinism, this is a brilliant book. I was gripped from start to finish, although I thought the opening chapters were the best. It's a really quick read, only a couple of hundred pages. Highly recommended.
I read this because I heard somewhere that George Orwell read this before writing 1984 and I was intrigued. I enjoyed it, and you can see how it influenced Orwell, but it just didn't have the same impact on me that 1984 did, when I read it the first time at 15. Maybe this is because I had no idea when I read it what to expect from 1984 and I found the book incredibly disturbing. But I also think that the characters in 1984 strike closer to the bone - they're more believable, and consequently, the story becomes more shocking. Whilst reading "We", all the characters seemed like cartoons for me (an effect, partly, of the way Zamyatin has his central character describe everyone and also of his writing style, which, I hasten to add, I did like) and consequently, less disturbing. However, this remains an enjoyable book as well as being very amusing. It is also, if nothing else, interesting as a predecessor to 1984 and in it's parallels and extrapolations from the communist Russia of the time.
Unlike the bleak environment that Orwell portrays, We is colorful and wonderous, full of enthusiasm for the New World Order - in parallel to the hopes and desires of the new Soviet Union - but at what cost taht belief?
I love dystopian literature, i love russian literature. I love this book (surprised?) This book was a precursor to 1984, written in the nascient stages of the USSR. A wonderful book.
A Russian masterpiece about a utopian society and those willing to rebel against it.