We (novel)

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We (Мы, 1920; English translation 1924) is a novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin. The title is the Russian first person plural pronoun, transliterated phonetically as "My". It was written in response to the author's personal experiences with the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, as well as his life in the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, and work in the Tyne shipyards (1916-17), where he observed the rationalisation of labour on a large scale.

We is a futuristic dystopic satire, generally considered to be the grandfather of the genre. It takes the totalitarian and conformative aspects of modern industrial society to an extreme conclusion, depicting a state that believes that free will is the cause of unhappiness, and that citizens' lives should be controlled with mathematical precision (among many other innovations, Zamyatin's future vision includes houses, and indeed everything else, made of glass or other transparent materials, so that everyone is constantly visible).

The story is told in the diary of the protagonist, called "D-503", in which he describes his work building a spaceship, "The Integral", whose purpose is to seek out and convert any extraterrestrial civilizations to the happiness that the One State has discovered, and his misadventures with a resistance group that seeks to do away with the Benefactor (a type of leader on which Big Brother would later be modeled) and his regime. The numbers of the main characters - O-90, D-503 and I-330 - are almost certainly derived from the specification of the Saint Alexander Nevsky, Zamyatin's favourite icebreaker, whose drawings he claimed to have signed with his own special stamp.

The novel was the first work banned by Glavlit, the new Soviet censorship bureau, in 1921, though the initial draft dates to 1919. In fact, a good deal of the basis of the novel is present in Zamyatin's novella 'Islanders', begun in Newcastle in 1916. Zamyatin's literary position deteriorated throughout the 1920s, and he was eventually allowed to emigrate to Paris in 1931, probably after the intercession of Maxim Gorki. The novel was published in English in 1924, but the first publication in Russia had to wait until 1988, when it appeared alongside George Orwell's '1984'.

Orwell was familiar with We, having read it in French and reviewed it in 1946; it influenced his Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ayn Rand's Anthem.

See also


fr:Nous Autres de:Wir_(Roman)

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