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Thursday, September 25, 2014

We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Cover detail from the Penguin Classics edition of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Book Review
We (1924)
by Yevgeny Zamyatin

 We was a tough get- had to request it from the UCSD library, and the version that showed up was a 2006(!) translation with a foreword by the writer Bruce Sterling.  We holds the double distinction of being the first dystopian novel- a genre that is currently enjoying a huge wave of popularity due to franchise level hits like The Hunger Games.  For many years, We was known only via a version published in Czechoslovakia.  That edition made it to London, where it was likely read by both George Orwell (1984) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World.)

  The foreword and translator's introduction point out that Zamyatin was a player in the literary circle of Maxim Gorky, one of the few Russian writers to make it through the revolution with the approval of the new government. Unlike Gorky, Zamyatin put forward a book that was easy to read as a critique of the incipient totalitarianism of the Communist regime.

  We has many of the features that define the dystopian novel: A world where rationalism has won out over feelings, an all seeing government that brooks no dissent, characters with  numbers instead of names, a male/female relationship that breaks down the boundary of the state: It's all there.  It's an obvious pick for people who are obsessed with The Hunger Games and want to win dystopian fan points, also for fans of early science fiction andddd of course it's a must for Russian Literature buffs. 

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