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We Paperback – 1 Jan 1978

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (1 Jan. 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553125389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553125382
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.7 x 1.5 cm

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 103 reviews
182 of 194 people found the following review helpful
"Everyone" and "I", a single "We" ... 9 Aug. 2004
By B. Alcat - Published on
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".

As if that weren't enough, almost all activities are organized according to the Table of Hours: "Every morning, with six-wheeled precision, at the same hour and the same moment, we -millions of us- get up as one. At the same hour, in million-headed unison, we start work; and in million-headed unison we end it. And, fused into a single million-handed body, at the same second, designated by the Table, we lift our spoons to our mouths."

That main character in "We" is D-503, an important mathematician who is also a faithful follower of the great Benefactor, and a key participant in the building of the "Integral". He starts to write a journal, to allow other less fortunate societies to learn from the way things are done in the One State. This novel is that journal...

D-503 believes, at the beginning of this book, that the state of things in the One State is wonderful, and considers himself fortunate for being able to live in such enlightened times, where "¨everyone¨ and ¨I¨ are a single ¨We¨". But the unexpected happens when he starts to "fall in love" (an alien concept) with a number that has strange ideas, I-330. She makes D-503 start to question everything he had until then given for granted, and due to her he starts to develop a dangerous illness: a soul. As a consequence of that, D-503 cannot feel anymore as part of the whole, of "We", he cannot be merely a part of the whole...

D-503's inner turmoil is shown to us throughout the pages of his journal, and it is rather heartbreaking how much he suffers when he can't return to his previous state of certitude. If at the beginning of the story he was consistently logical, and used a lot of mathematical metaphores, as chapters go by the reader begins to notice a certain incoherence. That inconsistency probably has to do with the fact that D-503 no longer understands himself, because he has been deprived of certitudes that he considered essential in defining himself ("I have long ceased to understand who ¨They¨ are, who are ¨We¨ "). Before, he didn't exist as anything else that as a part of the State. After I-330's pernicious influence, he begins to suspect that things might not be so simple.

There are many themes present in "We", for example love, obsession, betrayal, freedom, the purpose of art and poetry, different kinds of revolutions, perfection, chaos... I haven't told you about many other interesting things I deem worth commenting about this book, but I think you will take greater advantage if you read "We" by yourself.

Zamyatin's book is a good science-fiction novel AND a dystopia. One of the many meaning of dystopia is a work that describes a state of things that is possible but not ideal. Its value lays, in my opinion, not in the likelihood that what it tells us will eventually happen, but rather in the fact that by deforming or satirizing reality it allows the reader to see it from another perspective. From my point of view, this novel is a classic, and has the distinct advantage of being both entertaining and easy to read. If you can, read it soon!!. I highly recommend it :)

Belen Alcat
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
"Only the unsubduable can be loved" 22 May 1999
By R. D. Allison ( - Published on
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.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Join D-503 on his journey into "illness" 28 April 2004
By Nathaniel Grublet - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Other reviewers have had plenty to say about the significance of this book to political and literary history. As an English teacher who regularly teaches an elective in Dystopian Literature, I can't help but agree with their comments.
However, something has been lost in many of the reviews that I've read here. Much of our difficulty in reading and understanding We arises from Zamyatin's ability to effectively adopt his main character's voice and concerns. It is a product of his literary success, not of any clumsiness or mistakes.
We is written in an eccentric voice: the voice of a mathematician and scientist of the twenty-sixth century, D-503, who is gradually confronted with the irrationality of his own self. As the book opens, he is self-assured and composed. He dazzles us with his mathematical metaphors for the beauty of OneState and his praise for its hyperrational society.
As the book progresses, however, D-503 becomes gradually more confused, conflicted, and, in his own words, "ill." He begins to enjoy irrational things (like "ancient" music), to want irrational things (like sex outside of the prescribed Sex Days), and to avoid rational behaviors (like turning in I-330 when he realizes what she is up to).
Since We is written in the first person, it only makes sense that as D-503 struggles to understand what is happening to him, we too should struggle. The simple, mathematical prose with which D-503 opens the book gives way to an increasingly confused jumble of thoughts. Zamyatin intentionally includes us in D-503's psychological journey. Not until the last chapter, when D-503's conflict is resolved, is clarity of voice reestablished.
Following someone's deepest internal struggles, by examining both what is said and what is left unsaid, is one of our most challenging reading experiences. That difficulty, however, doesn't betray Zamyatin's weakness as an author but rather his sensitivity to the character he created.
As a work of literature, We doesn't need to be defended. For those who are willing to invest the time, D-503 is anything but flat. He comes alive as a character caught between a society he admires and his own irrational urges. Whether you have read 1984, Brave New World, or any other dystopias, We is well worth your reading and rereading.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
More than a simple satire of the Soviet Union 4 Feb. 2001
By Milos Begovic - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Evgeni Zamyatin's novel "We" is often compared to Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World", and rightly so, since it is a strong influence on both (though Huxley of course denied it). "We" is a terrifying vision of a future, in which all aspects of life have been rationally mechanized, according to the best tradition of Taylorism. The residents of OneState have no freedom; instead they have infinite, mathematically proved happiness. "Those two in Paradise were given a choice: freedom without happiness, or happiness without freedom. The fools chose freedom. But we brought them back the chains," says R-13, one of the OneState's chief poets.
This nightmarish vision sheds light on the present, as well. Not necessarily, as is often stated, on the terror of one Stalin. The book was written well before the establishment of the Soviet state, and on an impulse that had long before prompted Zamyatin to write in a similar vein. An earlier novella of his, "Islanders", as well as many of his short stories and plays, all have the same philosophical purpose behind them: to show that the contemporary (at the time) trends in European society, culture and art are leading to a destruction of the individual will and a horrible mechanization of life. A recurrent theme in Zamyatin is the escape from overly-civilized cities, to the freedom of the countryside and of the nature itself. Zamyatin felt, and I would gladly argue that he was absolutely correct, that the modern European civilization gradually limits the scope of the individual's understanding of the world and draws him into a sort of slavery of the spirit.
I recommend "We" to everyone. For the depth of its philosophical stance, for its brilliant structure and wonderful language, this book is clearly superior to either "1984" or "Brave New World", though it is, unfortunately, not nearly as widely recognized.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Chilling and underrated dystopia 2 Aug. 2004
By Anyechka - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This little-known and stream-of-consciousness dystopia is actually called 'Yedinoye Gosudarstvo' in the original Russian (which can be translated as 'One State,' 'Single State,' or 'United State'). Calling it 'We' is more eye-catching and more fully gets across what all the book's about. This book is also very similar to 'Brave New World'; I wrote a paper in my Modern Russian Lit class, when we read this book, about those similarities.

The book is told in the form of D-503's notes, notes he originally began taking on government orders to write or create something celebrating OneState once his precious creation, the spaceship INTEGRAL, blasts off into space and colonises other worlds and brainwashes them with their own brand of totalitarianism and forced conformity. Since he is a mathematician, he intends it to be a mathematical poem, until he meets I-330. Up till then, he had been in love with the sweet O-90 (who looks like her name, a round little O-shaped woman who still has baby fat on her), whom he and his best friend R-13 have been sexually sharing for at least three years, though O-90 doesn't feel any love for R-13 when they're together. At first he is repelled and horrified by I-330's nonconformist ways, like wearing forbidden clothing, smoking, drinking, lying to authorities, hanging out in the Ancient House a lot, going behind the Green Wall (which is like the "savage reservation" in BNW), and being very sexually liberated. As time goes on she gets to him more and more, though he never stops supporting OneState and the Benefactor. He even starts to go along with her plan to lock up the factory workers when they're at lunch so they can use the INTEGRAL for good instead of evil, and begins to have dreams and an imagination, things which had been stamped out for hundreds of years. D-503 also resists getting a new imagination-removing operation done on the day that everyone was supposed to get it done.

This is probably the most un-Russian Russian book I can think of; there is no mention of where they are in Russia, obviously no one has Russian names or any names at all apart from numbers and letters (women have vowels, men have consonants), there's no Russian food, history, or culture mentioned, nothing which would tell the reader that this was a Russian novel apart from the writer's name and the original language. The closest we get to Russian aspects are the old woman who guards the Ancient House and U, the guardian of D-503's house and who has a bizarre, laughable, and decidedly nonmutual crush on him; one might say they are like stereotypical old Russian grandmother-figures. There is also a bust of Pushkin in the Ancient House and a brief discussion on him. And it doesn't really matter where this takes place; there is no identifying national culture here because individuality has been crushed and the masses have surrendered to a collective state which controls every single part of one's life, right down to how many bites to take when chewing a morsel of food or what one has to do at nearly every single second of the day.
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