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We (1920)

by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,913180997 (3.85)1 / 444
Set in the twenty-sixth century A.D., Yevgeny Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than sixty years' suppression.… (more)
  1. 271
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (soylentgreen23, roby72, timoroso, MEStaton, 2810michael)
    timoroso: Zamyatin's "We" was not just a precursor of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" but the work Orwell took as a model for his own book.
  2. 250
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (tehran)
    tehran: Brave New World was largely inspired by Zamyatin's We.
  3. 60
    Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia by Alexander Bogdanov (leigonj)
    leigonj: As We (1920) is anti-communist Russian science fiction, Red Star (1908) is pro-communist Russian science fiction. They are equally superb.
  4. 30
    Aelita by Alexei Tolstoy (DuneSherban)
    DuneSherban: While thematically distinct from We, Aelita shares its problematic view of early Soviet society, and can also be read as a discourse on totalitarian society, revolution and Bolshevism (published originally in 1923).
  5. 30
    Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson (hippietrail)
    hippietrail: an even earlier dystopia novel from 1908
  6. 30
    This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (myshelves, VictoriaPL)
    myshelves: Dystopian novel.
  7. 00
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (sturlington)
  8. 00
    Kallocain by Karin Boye (Oct326, catherinedarley)
  9. 00
    Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin (2810michael)
  10. 213
    Anthem by Ayn Rand (myshelves)
    myshelves: Dystopian novel. Wikipedia says: "Ayn Rand's Anthem (1938) has several major similarities to We, although it is stylistically and thematically different."
Walls (3)
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» See also 444 mentions

English (170)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (177)
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
I never heard of it before. Reading it felt like what I imagine reading Necromancer must be like to a cyberpunk fan who's read 100s of modern cyberpunk novels. ( )
1 vote TeaTimeCoder | Mar 28, 2021 |
Harrow book club. Banned by Bolsheviks, precursor of 1984 and Aldous Huxley. Rather hard going to read. No wish to read anything else he has written. ( )
  simbaandjessie | Mar 10, 2021 |
This book was written between 1920 and 1921 but not published until 1924 – in English. The USSR authorities may have seen it as a commentary on themselves. I wonder why. To be fair, it’s hardly subtle. But this is the 1920s, and science fiction didn’t do subtle in those days. The idea of a unifying state state can hardly be said to be Zamyatin’s invention – insects beat him to it, for one thing – but certainly We influenced a number of later works, and even arguably created an entire subgenre. The problem with said subgenre, however, is that it magnifies the fears and sensibilities of the writer, without actually making any kind of cohesive argument either for or against the society described in the book. David Karp’s One is a good example: most Americans will read it as a dystopia, most Europeans with read it as a utopia. We‘s United State is a state regimented to the nth degree, to such an extent the plot is pretty much narrator D-503 discovering he has a “soul” and the changes in perspective and sensibility that wreaks on him. It’s triggered by his relationship with a woman who clearly is not a typical state drone, and even on occasion dresses up in “old-fashioned” clothing like dresses. Unfortunately, the book is all a bit over-wrought, with excessive use of ellipses, and references to “ancient times” that are clearly the time of writing, as if there were no history between the novel’s present and the 1920s. I can see how it’s a seminal and influential work, but it’s not an enjoyable read and I’d sooner stick to works without such fevered prose. Most certainly an historical document, and important in that respect, but don’t read it for pleasure. ( )
  iansales | Feb 9, 2021 |
In de categorie Dystopie / Dystopia zijn er een aantal klassiekers, waaronder [b:Nineteen Eighty-Four|185900|Nineteen Eighty-Four|George Orwell|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1525186948l/185900._SY75_.jpg|153313] van [a:George Orwell|3706|George Orwell|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1588856560p2/3706.jpg] (zie m'n review hier), [b:Brave New World|3180338|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1551151249l/3180338._SY75_.jpg|3204877] van [a:Aldous Huxley|3487|Aldous Huxley|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1547138835p2/3487.jpg] (zie m'n review hier) en [b:Utopia|23350565|Utopia|Thomas More|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1412924403l/23350565._SY75_.jpg|2798280] van [a:Thomas More|3063220|Thomas More|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1253971140p2/3063220.jpg] (zie m'n review hier). Deze laatste en 'Wij' van Jevgeni Zamjatin heb ik op dezelfde dag gekocht, maar uiteraard lees je dergelijke verhalen niet na elkaar. Dit is eveneens het geval voor de eerste twee genoemde.

Van 'Wij' wordt gezegd dat het de voorloper is, een inspiratiebron voor Orwells en Huxley's respectievelijke werken. Het werd niet alleen vroeger gepubliceerd, je herkent er uiteraard enkele kerningrediënten in: de Staat bepaalt alles, de mens heeft geen eigen vrijheid, moet leven volgens een streng gereguleerd schema, hij mag zich niet onderscheiden van de ander, hij is deel van het grote geheel (de eenheid), ... En o wee mocht hij andere ideeën erop nahouden en een eigen weg willen bewandelen.

In 'Wij', dat zich in de verre toekomst afspeelt, is zoveel mogelijk van de oude wereld, zoals wij die vandaag, sinds enkele eeuwen kennen, niet meer. Oude gebruiken, oude manieren van leven, werken, vrije tijd, en dergelijke zijn vervangen door een strak tijdsschema: Elk uur, of quasi elk moment van de dag, ligt vast. Om uur x staat iedereen (de massa, althans) op, om uur y gaat iedereen eten, om uur a en b (telkens tweemaal per dag) kan de burger bepalen wat hij gedurende die 2 uurtjes doet. De meesten laten hun primaire lusten botvieren (middels een systeem van bonnetjes, waarbij polygamie niet vreemd is), maar sommigen kunnen zich ook nuttig bezighouden voor de Staat, mochten zij daarvoor opteren. Bij het voorgaande botvieren worden de rolgordijnen dan neergelaten en dat alleen al is een signaal over wat er daarachter plaatsvindt.

Er zijn geen ondoorzichtige muren: alles is van glas of kristal, zelfs het stadion (of amfitheater) met z'n 60 concentrische cirkels en rijen. Niemand heeft geheimen voor elkaar, althans buiten de vrijetijdsuren. Alles moet ook geregistreerd zijn. Er zijn genoeg instanties die er ook op toezien dat het systeem goed draait. O wee als je geen ziektebriefje hebt, bijvoorbeeld. D-503 (hoofdpersonage) is bouwmeester van de Integraal, een ruimtetuig om andere planeten te veroveren en daar dezelfde soort leefregels te installeren. De maatschappij in 'Wij' is dan ook volledig op logica en wiskunde gebaseerd. En de Grote Weldoener is God, of eerder, hun god. God zoals in de oude religies bestaat niet meer, al het oude (zelfs de natuur) wordt aanzien als onvolmaakt, chaotisch, enz... Hoezo, men is gehersenspoeld?

Uiteraard is hier ook sprake van rebellen, net zoals in Orwells en Huxley's werken. Niemand heeft een eigennaam, echter, wel een letter of een combinatie van cijfers en letters: D-503 (hoofdpersonage) die verliefd is op I-330, die er ook een relatie met R-13 op nahoudt. Dan is er nog S. (man), O. (een vrouw die gevoelens heeft voor D-503; hij enigszins ook voor haar), Ü (die niet mooi beschreven wordt in het verhaal; D-503 voelt niet veel voor haar, dat blijkt uit zijn bewoordingen).

D-503 voelt dus veel voor I-330, maar dat mag eigenlijk niet zo tot uiting komen. D-503 begint dus meer voor zichzelf te denken, zijn plichten aan de Staat te verwaarlozen en men is daarmee niet opgezet. Een ziel of fantasie mag je niet hebben; da's heiligschennis, bij manier van spreken. Daar worden korte metten mee gemaakt. En D-503 zal het geweten hebben, zoals de personages in '1984' en 'Brave New World'.

I-330 en anderen weten dat er een betere wereld buiten de muren van de stad is: de oude wereld, met al zijn pracht en chaos en dies meer. En men tracht dus om de boel te belazeren eens de bouw van de Integraal af is. Maar niet alles verloopt volgens plan.

'Wij' is spannend geschreven, de Nederlandse vertaling liet toe snel door het boek te raken, maar ook het verhaal levendig genoeg te laten overkomen. Al na de eerste 40-50 pagina's had ik nog weinig zin om door te lezen, omdat de beschreven wereld en leefregels me serieus deden walgen. Daarna werd het leesplezier (bij gebrek aan een beter woord) wat minder, maar kwam het door de band genomen toch nog goed. Het is op zich een aanrader, omdat het een beeld geeft van hoe erg communisme kán zijn (zie ook Mores 'Utopia', bijvoorbeeld) en hoe erg het moet geweest zijn in het Rusland van de vroege 20ste eeuw. Orwells en Huxley's boeken vond ik, persoonlijk, iets beter, iets "aantrekkelijker" om lezen. ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
Sometimes a book's reputation builds up a mystique that makes us avoid it completely. Naturally, such books are different for different people. We was such a book for me. I had actually bought a copy back in July 2014, but looking at the name of the bookstore, I realize I was on holiday, and probably overly optimistic. It sat on a shelf for three years, then moved half way across the country and sat on another shelf for another three years, still in pristine condition.

Then along came the Reading Globally Russians Write the Revolution quarter. If there was ever a time to read it, it was now. What was I afraid of? The answer lies partly in the very first sentence of Bruce Sterling's introduction: "Yevgeny Zamyatin has a sound claim to the invention of the science fiction dystopia." In the next paragraph he says "Written with radical invention, deliberate verbal obscurity and cunning political intent, We is a rather hard book to read..."

Happily, although science fiction dystopias are about the farthest thing from my usual reading, I found the protagonist, D-503, strangely sympathetic. Writing hundreds of years in the future, committed to the even further future the One State will create elsewhere, D-503 is the engineer and project manager in charge of building the Integral, a mighty space ship intended to conquer new worlds, to bring their inhabitants "...the mathematically perfect life of the One State."

This is a world where reason is paramount. Happiness, and so freedom, is only possible through reason. Spontaneity, being unreasoned, is non-freedom and must be suppressed. Everything is prescribed and all actions have an allotted time in each unit's schedule, be it eating, walking, work, or sex.

D-503 unwisely ponders how life could have been lived in the freedom of the old days, for instance the twentieth century, when people lived "...without the scheduled walks, without the precise regulation of mealtimes, getting up and going to bed whenever it occurred to them". He frets over the atavistic hair on his knuckles. He worries about the irrationality behind the idea of √-1. He wonders about the Green Wall enclosing the One State; green from the uncontrolled chaos of vegetation on the other side of its glass. Strange creatures appear there from time to time, but best not to think about them either. Best not to think at all in any contemplative way. When D-503 wrote in his diary, he realized this, trailing off his thoughts each time with a "..."

We was written in 1920 - 21 at a time when the idea of a new Soviet Man was being idealized and promulgated. New efficiency models were being tried out in new and rebuilt factories, following the chaos of war and revolution. Zamyatin was an engineer with an interest in language. His satire of this new world, expressed through the symbolism of mathematics, sound, and colour, was suspect. Forbidden to publish in the Soviet Union, it was not until 1988 that his book appeared there officially. Various copies made it out though, influencing George Orwell, and possibly Aldous Huxley. Zamyatin himself was arrested for the fourth time in 1922. He was allowed to leave the country in 1931, but died a few years later in poverty in Paris. Although he wrote essays, satire and plays, [We] was his only novel. Among other firsts, it was the first book to be banned by the Soviet censors.
  SassyLassy | Dec 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (146 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zamyatin, YevgenyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brown, ClarenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterman, AdrianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chwast, SeymourCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drohla, GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
香男里, 川端Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenny, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guerney, Bernard GuilbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lo Gatto, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mills, RussellCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Randall, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reschke, ThomasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Russell, KitIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siegel, HaroldCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sillitoe, AlanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zilboorg, GregoryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am merely copying out here, word for word, what was printed today in the State Gazette: In 120 days from now the building of the INTEGRAL will be finished.
Quotations
The effect of that woman on me was as unpleasant as a displaced irrational number that has accidentally crept into an equation.
There is no final revolution.  Revolutions are infinite.
I do not want anyone to want for me--I want to want for myself.
I shall attempt nothing more than to note down what I see, what I think - or, to be more exact, what we think (that's right: we, and let this WE be the title of these records). But this, surely, will be a derivative of our life, of the mathematically perfect life of OneState, and if that is so, then won't this be, of its own accord, whatever I may wish, an epic?
A human being is like a novel: until the last page you don't know how it will end. Or it wouldn't be worth reading...."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Set in the twenty-sixth century A.D., Yevgeny Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than sixty years' suppression.

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The first dystopia ever, it started asking uncomfortable questions about individuals, collectives, revolutions, progress — and the collectives’ rights to individuals’ souls in the name of revolutions and progress.
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