Yevgeny Zamyatin

Translated from Russian by Hugh Aplin

Modern Voices, Hesperus Press Limited, 2009

We is a dystopian novel originally written in the 1920’s and banned in the Soviet Union for over 60 years (it wasn’t published in Russia until 1988). It was recommended to the Board by another blogger, erikleo , after Jack reviewed 1984.  It is set 1000 years in the future and all individualism has been eradicated. The entire globe is known as One State and people live in a purely mathematical and logical society, under a dome called the Green Wall,  which separates society from nature. People have no names, only numbers. Men’s numbers begin with consonants and women’s with vowels. The only privacy allowed is when couples are ‘with each other’. Every moment of every day is regulated. They are totally self-contained, not having to depend of the world outside their domed city for food and water. There is no ‘I’; only “We”.

Main Characters

D-503, the constructor of The Integral, a space-bound vehicle that will carry the message of the One State to other civilizations in the universe. At the behest of the Benefactor (the one person in charge) to all citizens, he decides to write a Conspectus, or diary, of his life to show how happy he is. As narrator he introduces the reader to his world.

O-90, D-503’s friend and some-time sexual partner, describes her as “ten centimeters or shorter than the Maternal Norm – and as a result all roundly smoothed off” {pg 6} and “composed wholly of circles, with the child’s little crease on her arm… .” {pg 8} O-90 desires most of all to become a mother.

I-330, a new woman in D-503’s life, describers her as “slim, sharp, persistently supple, like a whip” [pg 8}. D-503 becomes obsessed with her and loses himself to her.

Secondary Characters

R-13, childhood friend of D-503 and poet, lover of both O-90 and I-330

S-4711, from the Bureau of Guardians (think secret police), always dogging D-503’s footsteps and every move.

Overall impression of the book – it is not an easy read. Maybe because the original book was in Russian and the book’s flow is dependent upon its translator. Maybe because the narrator sees everything in terms of logic and mathematics. Maybe because the author wanted it so. Maybe because it was written in the 1920’s and the grammar/language/syntax of that day is different than that of today’s books. Maybe its too poetic. Maybe it just didn’t fit in my head!

I really liked the story – very cool concept – a “perfect” society based on logic, not emotions.  But as in the other dystopian novels I’ve read recently, there is a rebellion that is squashed and allegiance to the tyrant-society reigns. Being a freedom-minded cat I find stories like this depressing. Why do I keep reading them? One other thing,  if you expected a scholarly discussion of this classic novel – or any other we  read and review – you’re looking in the wrong place! We read for fun and pleasure, not to dissect the meaning behind the words.

Rating: 3 out of 5 paws because of the hard read – but 4 paws, grading the story only!

jack 071115aaReviewer: Jack

Here’s a favorite quote and sample of the writing I found to be a “hard read.”

“But isn’t it clear: bliss and envy are the numerator and denominator of the fraction called happiness.  . . .  It’s clear: there are no longer any reasons for envy, the denominator of the fraction of happiness has been reduced to zero – the fraction is turned into magnificent infinity.  . . .  The great force of logic cleanses everything it touches.”   (Pg 21)

Banned Book Info

This book hasn’t been banned in the U.S. as far as I could find. But a banned book – even if in another country – is still wrong.

“We was the first work banned by Goskomizdat, the new Soviet censorship bureau, in 1921, though the initial draft dates to 1919. 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 Gorky.

The novel was first published in English in 1924 by E. P. Dutton in New York in a translation by Gregory Zilboorg, but its first publication in the Soviet Union had to wait until 1988, when glasnost resulted in it appearing alongside George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, We and Brave New World were published together in a combined edition. ” (Wikipedia)

 Other covers (because we love cover artwork!!)


3 thoughts on “We

    • Sabina Ayne October 20, 2015 / 8:08 pm

      Phoebus/Catkins, if you would ever like to be a guest book reviewer, please let us know. We would be happy to have you. Only two rules: your choice of book and the review has to be G or PG rated!!We are a family blog!Tell your human thanks for recommending the book to us. We appreciate it.


      • erikleo October 21, 2015 / 4:16 am

        I have read a funny book by someone called Dostoyevsky about a Crocodile. If I write a review I will let you know! Phoebus.


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