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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everyone" and "I", a single "We" ...
Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) wrote "We" in 1920, in an URSS that was just beginning to show its true nature. He has able to observe at first hand the consequences of the expansion of the State and the Party, and the corresponding diminution 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...
Published on 17 Aug. 2004 by M. B. Alcat

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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic of sorts
'We' is a classic Sci-Fi dystopian novel, in which an alternative future is constructed from elements of the present (for Zamyatin this was immediately post-revolutionary USSR). It is one of the earliest examples of this type of writing and, as the blurb points out, a huge influence on more well known works such as '1984' and 'Brave New World'. The story centres around an...
Published on 28 July 2004 by Depressaholic


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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everyone" and "I", a single "We" ..., 17 Aug. 2004
This review is from: We (Mass Market Paperback)
Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) wrote "We" in 1920, in an URSS that was just beginning to show its true nature. He has able to observe at first hand the consequences of the expansion of the State and the Party, and the corresponding diminution 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 all do the same things at the same time, so they don't have 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 all...
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 the definition of his self ("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 in this book, but I think you will take greater advantage of reading "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 things from other perspective.
From my point of view, this novel is a classic, and it has the distinct advantage of being both entertaining and easy to read. If you can, read it soon!!. I highly recommend it :)
Belen Alcat
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am he as you are he as you are me, 8 Aug. 2005
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Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We (School & Library Binding)
and we are all together.
These lyrics by the Beatles provide some flavor of the atmosphere of the futuristic society found in Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian classic "WE". Written in the fledgling Soviet Union in 1920 "WE" had a direct influence n Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ayn Rand's Anthem. In fact, Rand's Anthem tracks "WE" so closely both as to plot and character development that one cannot help but think that Zamyatin's influence on Rand was significant, to say the least.
Zamyatin was born in 1884 and studied naval engineering as a young man. Like many young Russian intellectuals Zamyatin was something of a revolutionary. He was arrested and exiled more than once by the Tsar's secret police for revolutionary activities. During the First World War Zamyatin, by now a naval enginner was sent to England were he supervised the construction of icebreakers for the Russian navy. He returned to Russia upon the outbreak of the October 1917 revolution. Zamyatin turned to writing full time after the revolution. Although a Bolshevik, Zamyatin chafed at the increasing censorship the Bolshevik's imposed on artists and writers. In fact, WE was the first novel to be banned by the newly formed literary censorship board, GLAVLIT. WE was not officially published in Russia or the USSR until 1988. Not able to earn a living as a writer in the USSR, Zamyatin applied for an exit visa. Zamyatin was granted an exit visa and he emigrated to Paris, were he died a sick and poverty stricken man in 1937.
WE takes place in the twenty-sixth century a time in which a totalitarian regime has created an extremely regimented society where individual expression simply does not exist. All remnants of individuality have been stripped from its inhabitants including their names. Their names have been replaced with an alpha-numeric system. People are not coupled. Rather, each individual is assigned three friends with whom they can have intimate relations on a rigid schedule established by the state. Those scheduled assignations are the only times the shades in a citizen's glass houses can be closed. Apart from those hourly intervals everyone's life is monitored by the state. As in Orwell's 1984 language has been turned on its head. Freedom means unhappiness and conformity and the submission of individual will to the state means happiness.
D-503 is a mathematician. He is busily engaged working on the construction of a spaceship, the Integral, which will carry the wonderful benefits of "The One State" to those living on distant planets. He keeps a diary to provide a record of his feelings in the weeks before the launch. But into his perfectly well-structured life walks I-330. She evokes in D-503 feelings which he has long suppressed or never knew he had. He falls in love, can't sleep, and starts breaking rules and generally acting like most of us do today. But I-330 is a heretic, an individual who smokes, drinks, loves carnal knowledge and seeks nothing more but the dissolution of the One State. The next thing you know D-503 finds himself on the side of revolution. As the book reaches it climactic moments questions as to the failure or success of the revolution are answered.
WE was a fascinating book to read. Some of the language is a bit dated and Zamyatin's 1921 idea of what the future might look like has been outstripped by the reality of 20th-century developments. However, the underlying themes of conformity v. freedom and "the state" v the individual still have great contemporary significance that keeps WE as fresh as it was when originally written.
Some have said that WE represented Zamyatin's attack on the oppression of the Soviet system. I would have to disagree. The book was written in 1920 well before the Soviet regime consolidated enough power to be considered a totalitarian society. Further, even though WE contains some reference to the damage caused by regimes such as the fledgling USSR it also contains reference (looking back from the 26th-century) to societal ills caused by both capitalism and organized religion. As such, Zamyatin believed in equal opportunity when it came to instruments of oppression.
At the end of the day it seems that what Zamyatin valued most in society were those people will to play the role of heretic. It certainly was a trait he valued in artists. As he noted in an essay written in 1919:
True literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics.
Zamyatin was a heretic, a dreamer, and a rebel. WE is a worthy monument to a person who believed that the individual was more important than the state without regard to whether that state had `all life's answers'. WE should be enjoyed by anyone who has read and liked H.G. Wells (who influenced Zamyatin), Huxly, or Orwell. This is a book worth reading.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic of sorts, 28 July 2004
This review is from: We (Mass Market Paperback)
'We' is a classic Sci-Fi dystopian novel, in which an alternative future is constructed from elements of the present (for Zamyatin this was immediately post-revolutionary USSR). It is one of the earliest examples of this type of writing and, as the blurb points out, a huge influence on more well known works such as '1984' and 'Brave New World'. The story centres around an engineer (D-503) who is loyal to the society he lives in and is responsible for building the 'Integral', a spacecraft designed to carry society's message to other civilizations. Gradually he becomes exposed to an underground movement, disaffected with the society, and he, in turn, begins to question the values he has taken for granted. Civil unrest begins to sprout, and D-503 begins to question whether building the integral is the right thing to do.
The fact that this book didn't blow me away is perhaps due to my own reading prejudices as any huge failing with the book. The 'future dystopia' literature seems rather tired and repetitive to me, and the fact that 'We' can claim to be one of the originals doesn't help to distinguish it from the others I have come across. I have never been a big Sci-Fi fan, partly because I have often found that good writing has been sacrificed for convoluted storytelling and clever twists. 'We' suffers from this a little bit, and I didn't think that the writing was particularly subtle or easy to read (though I don't know whether this is due to Zamyatin or his translator). When Zamyatin is trying to explain something common to his society but unknown in ours, his introductions are clumsy and forced. Again, this is a hurdle to all Sci-Fi writers, but one that he fails to overcome neatly. All these things detracted from the book for me.
Having said all that, I did enjoy reading it, and think that anyone predisposed to this sort of literature will not be disappointed. I have read 'Brave New World' a couple of times, and 'We' seems to me to be almost as good. I'm not convinced that this book is for everyone, but likewise I wouldn't advise anyone against reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: We (Mass Market Paperback)
Amazing book. One of my favourites...
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We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (Hardcover - May 1972)
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