Yevgeny Zamyatin
We.
Modern Library, 240 pages, $12.95

reviewed by Emily Ghods

Yevgeny Zamyatin was first imprisoned in 1906 in Czarist Russia, only to find himself again in the same hallway of the same prison eighteen years later, this time—with a twist!—at the hands of the Bolsheviks whom he’d only recently saluted in October 1917. Out of this turmoil, Zamyatin wrote We, his dystopia of “mathematically infallible happiness.” Zamyatin knew that something was rotting in the state of Russia; he told the world, and he did so before both Orwell and Huxley.

In such a state and state of mind, Zamyatin penciled out the formula for the perfect man in the perfect world: “when the freedom = 0, he doesn’t commit a crime.” Man as barcode is the workable theme: a measurable quantity, not a quality, of living.

 

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