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)
|Waking Lion Press
|6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)
About the Author
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 ContentsWe Introduction: Zamyatin and the Rooster
Notes to Introduction
Suggestions for Further Reading
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