We Yevgeny Zamyatin
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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 :)
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. At any given time of the day, millions perform the same functions at the same time. The only exceptions are sexual relations and a few hours of free time that D-503 hopes will one day be regimented as well. All of these activities take place behind the Green Wall, a barrier of glass that effectively separates the city from the countryside.
If you think Huxley and Orwell are bleak, Zamyatin's novel beats them hands down. The introduction to this version of "We" tries to stress that the book does have its humorous moments, but I found very little amusement in this story. People with numbers instead of names, uniforms as the only allowed apparel, the worship of technology not as a means of getting things done but as an example of desirable conformity, and death penalties for unplanned pregnancies all contributed to my sense of utter dread about the author's vision. This is a sad, dark tale about a possible future with little optimism. Zamyatin does include the obligatory revolutionary group, called MEPHI, personified in the form of a woman named I-330, who drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes, and wears forbidden clothing on occasion. After a few encounters with I-330, D-503 becomes aware that he is suffering a "sickness," the symptoms of which are dreams and the discovery that he suddenly has a "soul." Regrettably, any hope offered by MEPHI and I-330 dissolves when the state takes the repressive measure of developing an operation that uses X-rays to melt imagination out of people's heads. By the time the conclusion of the story rolls around, hope is as distant as a ship on the horizon.
"We" is an unusual read. Things really start to take off when D-503 encounters the corrupt I-330. His awakening is often confusing to the reader. The ramblings of this mathematician make one wonder if he is really experiencing events or hallucinating them. I decided on the former because if his mind was not used to experiencing life outside of OneState it would follow that new sensations might produce a sense of bewilderment. It was enjoyable to see how the world came alive when D-503 experiences a bevy of colors and emotions; he starts to shout out his feelings, he cries, and he even daydreams on the job. While this sensory overload makes for difficult reading at times, it also makes for an engaging story.
Without this Russian pioneer's groundbreaking work, the dystopian genre may never have gotten off the ground. Zamyatin's "We" is not an easy book to read and understand, but it is an essential work that I should have read years ago instead of allowing it to languish on my bookshelf. Moreover, the author makes his narrator a cheerful advocate of OneState's authoritarian rule, a viewpoint that other dystopian novels fail to do and which makes "We" even more of a unique read. For fans of utopian and anti-utopian literature, Yevgeny Zamyatin's book is time well spent.
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.