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We Paperback – August 1, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Zamyatin’s] intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism—human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself—makes [We] superior to Huxley’s [Brave New World].”—George Orwell

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Twentieth Century Classics (August 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185850
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on May 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Yevgeny Zamyatin, translator Clarence Brown tells us, had an enormous influence on George Orwell's seminal dystopian novel "1984." "We," written in 1924 as the turmoil of the Bolshevik revolution was in its final stages, definitely shares several similarities with Orwell's bleak novel. Most notable is the relationship between Zamyatin's protagonist, D-503, with a corrupting woman, a relationship that mirrors Orwell's Winston and Julia. But where Orwell was British, Zamyatin was Russian and writing in a time and place where dystopian visions were quickly becoming a reality. The author of "We" eventually left Russia forever (he actually wrote to Uncle Joe Stalin requesting permission to leave! What a brave soul!) and "We" did not appear in print in the Soviet Union until 1988. It is not difficult to see why: "We" is deeply subversive to totalitarian forms of government.
Zamyatin's novel, described in the Penguin edition as a "great prose poem," takes place in the twenty-sixth century in a geographical place unknown to the reader. The narrator of the story, the previously mentioned D-503, is writing down his experiences as part of a grand scheme to launch a rocket ship into outer space. D-503 is the chief mathematician of this project, named INTEGRAL, and the goal of the mission is to find life on other planets in order to bring them "elevation" through totalitarian government. The narrator's journal will accompany the rocket ship along with poems, letters, and other propaganda singing the praises of "OneState," which is the moniker of the ruling apparatus in D-503's world. OneState, with the mysterious "Benefactor" at the helm, rules with an iron fist through an intricate web of time management principles based on Frederick Winslow Taylor's contributions to the industrial revolution.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "the_drone" on November 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm writing this note just to alert readers that this large-print, hardcover edition of Zamiatin's We is not the translation by Mirra Ginsburg. I bought this book thinking it was Ginsburg's modern translation; she also translated his stories and essays, both great books. This particular edition actually uses the very first translation from Russian into English, by Gregory Zilboorg, published originally in 1924. This is the version Huxley, Orwell and Rand actually read; this is the version that influenced their respective dystopias: Brave New World, 1984 and Anthem. I have no means to compare this edition to Ginsburg's, but so far it appears to be just as readable. The question is: is it complete? In any case, the book itself is nice: a large-print, hardcover edition.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on July 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was written in 1920 and immediately banned by the Soviet authorities. (This was four years before Lenin's death and the start of Stalin's ascent to power. The Trotskyite idea that the pre-Stalinist Soviet Union was a free socialist Utopia, which permitted freedom of thought and artistic expression, is a myth).

It is, of course, easy to see why the book fell foul of the Leninist regime. The Soviets might not have taken offence at a dystopian novel if it had been set in a reactionary capitalist society like the one featured in Jack London's "The Iron Heel". "We", however, is set several centuries in the future in a totalitarian state known as OneState. (The preferred rendition of the translator Clarence Brown). OneState is an immense city state, cut off from the outside world by a glass wall. It is ruled by an all-powerful dictator known as the Benefactor, with the aid of a secret police known as the Guardians. Citizens are known as "Numbers"; they do not have personal names but rather a series of numbers preceded by a letter (consonants for men, vowels for women). Thus the hero of the story is known as D-503 and the heroine I-330. Their lives are controlled by a Table of Hours which dictates what every Number should be doing at any given time; certain hours are for work, others for sleep, others for recreation. (The Table is based upon the theories of the American management expert Frederick Winslow Taylor, which suggests Zamyatin's satire may have been targeted at capitalism as well as Soviet Communism). All buildings are made of glass to allow the regime more easily to monitor the activities of their occupants. Political dissent and disobedience to orders are punishable by death.

The state ideology is a form of perverted rationalism.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Christopher D. Helmkamp on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Zamyatin's WE, like Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984, is a classic science-fiction novel that unmasks the chilling realities of the erosion of individuality. What makes Zamyatin's account more compelling, however, is that he wrote the novel from within the fledgeling Socialist state of 1920's Russia (it wasn't even published there until 1988). Therefore, Zamyatin can lay claim to a firsthand understanding of the fallacies of the Soviet collective unlike the eccentric British intellectuals Orwell and Huxley. Although Zamyatin's language, at times, is a bit peculiar by nature, this Twentieth Century Classics translation is perhaps the easiest to understand, as the translator shied away from word use that would not register smoothly in the mind of a contemporary English reader. If you have read Brave New World or 1984, you will certainly want to compliment them by reading this excellent masterpiece in 20th century European literature!
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