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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: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

182 of 194 people found the following review helpful By B. Alcat on August 9, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) wrote "We" in 1920, in an URSS that was just beginning to show its true nature. He was able to observe at first hand the consequences of the expansion of the State and the Party, and the corresponding erosion of the value of the individual. The author called "We" his "most jesting and most serious work", and I think the reader will be able to appreciate both aspects of this peculiar book.

This novel takes place in the future, where the One State is ruled by the great Benefactor, and separated from the rest of the world by a Great Wall, that doesn't allow the outside world to "contaminate" it. The citizens of the One State aren't persons but merely numbers. They have almost no privacy, due to the fact that most things are made of a material similar to glass but much more resistant. In any case that isn't a problem, because as everybody does the same things at the same time, nobody has much to hide.

The One State begins to build a spaceship, the "Integral", that will be used to conquer other worlds and show them to be happy, in the way the citizens of the One State are happy. But how exactly are they happy?. Well, they have a rational happiness that can be mathematically proved. To mantain that happiness, they must always follow some rules. For example, there is no place for spontaneity in the One State. Imagination is considered a disease, and all art and poetry must be at the service of the State. The function of poetry is clear: "Today, poetry is no longer the idle, impudent whistling of a nightingale; poetry is civic service, poetry is useful".
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88 of 95 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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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) on May 21, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel (the edition I read was a translation from the Russian by Mirra Ginsberg in 1972) is an excellent satire by Yevgeny Zamiatin (or, Zamyatin). Reading it, I find it remarkable that Zamiatin was not sent to Siberia or executed in one of the many purges occurring in the Soviet Union at that time. Apparently, the book was never published in the Soviet Union. It appeared first in English in 1924 (and obviously had a major influence in the development of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four") and then in Czech in 1927. The Soviet authorities began to put pressure on the author through the Writers' Union and, probably due to the help of Maxim Gorky, Zamiatin was allowed to leave for Paris in 1931 (he died in Paris in 1937). The story is an extrapolation of a totalitarian world. The population of Earth that have survived a 200-years war find themselves members of a single state (the One State) where imagination is considered a disease. In this society the individual does not count, only the multitude. The central character is D-503 (all the inhabitants are numbers in this State), a mathematician who is building a space ship to bring their "perfect" world and culture to others. The whole novel consists of D-503's journal. However, D-503 soon meets I-330, a woman who shows him that there are numbers in the One State that feel that the State is in error and are striving for a new revolution. He begins to have strong feelings for her. He thinks he is ill but he can't help himself. And, he must keep his feelings hidden from the Guardians, the One State's "protectors." What a terrific "read." I highly recommend it (as well as "1984" and "Brave New World"). As can be seen in the comments by the other reviewers, "We" is a great book to discuss: with respect to politics, history, science fiction, or literature.
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