Before Brave New World...
Before 1984...There was...
In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier -- and whatever alien species are to be found there -- will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.
One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful 1-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery -- or rediscovery -- of inner space...and that disease the ancients called the soul.
A page-turning SF adventure, a masterpiece of wit and black humor that accurately predicted the horrors of Stalinism, We is the classic dystopian novel. Its message of hope and warning is as timely at the end of the twentieth century as it was at the beginning....Continua
I am no one to contradict people the calibre of Ursula K. LeGuin and George Orwell, for whom this is a sf masterpiece. I'm Just a woman that tried to read this book and for its whole length was on the brim of throwing it out the window. Or falling asleep. Or not understanding what goes on. By the way, I do like dystopian sf, so really, it must be me- I cannot comprehend this (pseudo) masterpiece....Continua
Zamyatin’s We takes me a long, long time to finish. It’s a difficult, but very rewarding read. When reading We, I am constantly reminded of other modernist works, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier in particular since both novel share with this impressionistic aesthetic. Both D-503 and John Dowell, as first-person narrator to the story, tend to describe things according to the impressions, which usually involve the narrators’ use of grotesque metaphors, such as the gill of U. Impressions, however, are fragmented in nature, and at times even the narrator half withholds important details and gives readers no more than the impression. Even the language is sometimes fragmentary and elliptic. Such modernist aesthetic increases the difficulty in reading. There are indeed moments when I am screaming in my heart: “WTF D-503 is talking about!!” That said, I still admire We a lot, and this novel is very well-written and highly sophisticated. Everything Zamyatin does in We conveys successfully the sentiment of a troubled and ambivalent protagonist. It is no surprise that We is considered the best among classical dystopias. In fact, as an archetypal dystopia, Zamyatin’s We contains all the seeds which still continue to grow and flourish in many latter dystopian works.
By the way, I recommend Robert Russell’s commentary to this novel. It solves many puzzles for me and provides a lot of useful and interesting stuffs!...Continua
"We" was considered a must read by Orwell and this should say everything about it!! And yes if you read already Orwell master pieces you will surely find a lot of common things but beware this book was written before :)
--- Storyline ---
The book starts with a futuristic scenaio of post-war (over 200years) in which everything is perfect as only mathematic can be and the solution to all problems is found in the mathematic precision of all acts but with no possibility to choice... would you be able to bear this cost?? Also after discovering the other side??
The book was first published in English in 1924. It had actually been written in 1920-21. This is a new translation from the (restored) 1988 Russian text.
The book is written in a diary form to "an unknown reader"and is divided in 40 "records" (short chapters). Each record has three subtitles, not always easily associable with the content. They reminded me of some of the titles of Ballard's chapters in his more experimental works.
The story in set in the future. After a 200-year-war between the Country and the City, a new system – ONESTATE - has been estabilished. A system based on rationality and order, with the object of making (and keeping) people happy. According to the new creed, freedom has been substituted with happyness.
The war broke out for food problem. The problem of hunger was anyway solved with the invention of petroleum food that saved the lives of the 0,2 of the world's population who could survive and live in this state of "bliss".
This "brave new world" is surrounded by a wall that protects it from the wilderness beyond.People are called Numbers. The title WE refers to the fact that people feel just like one. Individualism doesn't seem to exist in such a modern perfect society.
The protagonist is D-503, an engineer responsible for building the rocket THE INTEGRAL that will have to take their culture to other worlds . He has a "girlfriend" (love is banned from this words, though. Only sexual encounters – stated in the Table of Sex Days- are allowed ), O-90. The consonant defines male numbers, while the vowel defines female ones.
In the first records D-503 writes about the lifestyle of the people that live in ONESTATE: they all wear uniforms and live in glass houses, so that everyone can be controlled and can control the neighbours (except during the Sex Hour, when blinds can be lowered); twice a day, from 4 to 5 pm and from 9 to 10 pm, each number has the so called Personal Hours, as fixed by the table of Hours; the principle of "taylorism" is applied to all the fields of life; ONESTATE is ruled by the Benefactor, an awe inspiring figure that oversees the whole society; he is helped in this by the Bureau of the Guardians ; now and then the Numbers become willingly spectators of a macabre show, the so-called General Meeting: it is a public execution of those who plot against the regime of ONESTATE. The victim is positioned under a glass bell from which, little by little, air is pumped out . The Number "vanishes" and doesn't exist anymore.
One day, he sees a woman (I-330) who attracts his attention. He doesn't know what is so special about her. It is an ambiguous feeling: he both feels attracted and also repelled by her. In her company is a disquieting "S-shaped male Number" (is he one of the Guardians?). Intrigued by the woman, he accepts to follow her on a trip to an area near the Green Wall , where the Ancient House lies. I-330 takes him around the rooms of the old house and through forbidden experiences as smoking, drinking, wearing old-fashioned clothes, all belonging to a remote (and to be forgotten) past.
After discovering this "elsewhere", D-503 seems to be developing a sort of double personality. Something grows inside of him, a sort of new awareness that now and then becomes conscious.
On a unusual foggy day, after a further furtive visit to the house with I-330, he experiences an even weirder situation: once inside one of the rooms of the House, she disappears, apparently behind a wardrobe. D-503 is left puzzled. He starts asking himself whether this was a dream or reality.
A visit to the doctor confirms that something is really wrong with him: in the words of the doctor: "You're in a bad shape. It looks like you're devolping a soul."
He goes to the House again, alone this time. Lost among the rooms, falls down in a sort of hole and finds himself in a tunnel. After walking in the dark, he finally manages to meet first some people, then I-330 again. The scene is narrated as it was a nightmare, after which he wakes up again inside the Ancient House.
Meanwhile his relationship with O-90 isn't going that well. The girl feels abandoned and suggests splitting. Not before asking him to give her a child. She will then be ready to go to the Benefactor (to be sentenced to death, if that is her destinty). She just wants to feel a child grow inside her, even if only for a few days. He consents and they make love for a last time.
D-503 feels more and more unsettled, physically and psychologically. An indistinct desease which reaveals his problems with the double inside him, the soul he is developing, the nightmares and dreams that are haunting his nights.
In these "feverish" conditions he takes part to the parade of the "Day of Unanimity", a rally which celebrates the "WE" spirit against the devilish "I" spirit that some people may decide to favour. It ends with the annual re-election of the Benefactos. While the parade is taking place, the Guardians pick those who try to rebel against the "Oneness" spirit by showing their personal ideas which contrast with the ones of ONESTATE. But something starts going wrong : there are people who vote against the leader, graffiti with the words MEPHI (a revolutionary group?) appear on the wall of the city, a feeling of general instability spread among the Numbers. The government decides therefore to intervene: all people will have to undergo an operation (sort of lobotomy) which will eradicate the disease of imagination from their sick minds.
On another excursion with I-330, D-503 discovers a different reality beyond the Green wall, a natural world peopled by primitives who ride horses and live in woods. It's here that she reveals her plan: they will have to take over the INTEGRAL and fly the rebels over here! A new revolution will start. Later on, during a conversation, the theme of revolution is dealt with again. She maintains that the number of revolution is infinite while he seems to believe in what the Benefactor says, that theirs was the final revolution for a better world.
Back home, D-503,more and more confused, is visited by U, a woman who works as a caretaker in the building where he lives. She is the one who usually hands him the pink tickets with the Number for the sexual encounters and is secretly in love with him. She is protective, treats him like a child, and also will also save him from a raid of the Guardians. Love, therefore, plays an important role in the novel. The love stories are all unsettling and unpredictable. Love is a force that can neither be controlled nor completey repressed, even if suffering seems to be its only outcome.
Finally the day of the launch of the INTEGRAL has arrived. After taking off, the conspirators that have sneaked on board take place on the spaceship next to D-503. The attempt is anyway destined to fail. As a matter of fact, the ONESTATE forces seem to have been informed before about the possibility of a hijacking.
D-503 suspects of U, who has always shown interest in his diary. He even plans to kill her, but , at the very last moment, will refrain from it. Her love from him even prevented her from denouncing I-303 in fear he would then despise her forever.
The plot discovered, D-503 is taken to the Benefactor where he admits his guilt. After an attempt to escape, helped by the S-shaped Number, he is finally captured and taken to the auditorium for the GREAT OPERATON.
After the lobotomy, he tells the Benefactor all "about the enemies of happiness". I-330 is executed, along with the other conspirators, in the Machine of the Benefactor. The effects of the revolt are still presents n the street but, in D-503's last words, "I' m certain we'll win. Because reason has to win."