We by Zamiatin

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We by Zamiatin

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ag. 7, 2008, 1:30 pm

I've been slowly going through a nice collection published in 1960 called An Anthology of Russian Literature in the Soviet Period from Gorki to Pasternak. Some very interesting stories by a few authors I'd never heard of.

The anthology also contains Yevgeny Zamiatin's sci fi/distopia novel We, which I'm finding quite interesting.

I was wondering whether anyone here had any thoughts on this novel and/or had any suggestions for additional works by Zamiatin. (I see the touchstone spells his name Zamyatin, but the book I'm reading has the first spelling.)


ag. 8, 2008, 7:44 am

I read We a few years ago, but don't remember much about it, other than that it felt somewhat like reading Rand's Anthem. Memory, though, may be clouding it all. Haven't read any of his other works.

ag. 8, 2008, 8:02 am

While I enjoyed We, I enjoyed the short stories in Zamiatin's collection The Dragon, and Other Stories more. I recommend this book.

The Zamyatin/Zamiatin distinction arises because of different ways of transliterating Russian into English. I think "Zamiatin" is the Library of Congress version.

ag. 8, 2008, 8:27 am

I read it last week - my review is on this website. Interesting, but I had some problems with the writing style.


ag. 11, 2008, 12:42 pm

I finished We over the weekend. John, I think I enjoyed the writing style a bit more than you did (although I do know what you mean). There were patches I had to work to get myself through, but mostly I enjoyed the hallucinatory nature of the narrative and the details he choses to share.

ag. 11, 2008, 1:06 pm

I thought We was really amazing literature. The writing style could be challenging but having never read it in Russian I think it's hard for me to judge. It is definitely not a casual read but it's incredibly moving.

Editat: ag. 11, 2008, 4:52 pm

This has been on my TBR list for some time. Based on this feedback I'll move it up in the queue--hopefully to enjoy but at the very least as a member of the 'canon' of Russian Lit. Thanks for the review john257.

forgot to mention I just started the Unabridged version of the Gulag Archipelago so probably 2009 for 'We'!

ag. 12, 2008, 12:11 pm

#7 - I read the unabridged Gulag Archipelago in three volumes (volumes 1 and 2 a few months apart, then a few years before I read volume 3). It's worth it and I usually get on with Solzhenitsyn's writing, except that I gave up on Cancer ward recently.

set. 6, 2008, 2:45 pm

I completely concur with #6. I found We far more compelling than the two better known dystopias its most often compared to, 1984 & Brave New World.

oct. 2, 2009, 2:22 pm

Dystopias tend to be dull and I think my opinion of We suffers because I read 1984 and Brave New World first.

ag. 11, 2011, 4:34 am

Can anyone recommend a good English translation of We please? There appear to be translations by Clarence Brown (whose translations I have not enjoyed) published by Penguin and Hugh Aplin in Hesperus. Any thoughts?

ag. 11, 2011, 8:54 pm

>11 chrisharpe: I've heard the Mirra Ginsburg translation is considered one of the best.

ag. 15, 2011, 6:25 pm

To put We in part of its context, I'd recommend looking to the early machine poetry of Alexei Gastev, as well as the cultural policies of groups such as Prolet'kult. Zamiatin was talking, often, about the contemporary obsession with re-making man, with the machine religion -what else can it be called?- that he saw as increasingly popular, and threatening, among his contemporaries.

When I first read it, a few years ago, I don't suppose I 'got' it. After I'd read Gastev, and others, it seemed very witty as well as paranoid. I imagine it to be a hyper-literal imagining of the Bolshevik utopia. So mechanised, so regulated, that the world is awkward and naive, and that, ultimately, it cannot produce art (!).

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