Yevgeny Zamyatin

True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics. -- Yevgeny Zamyatin

There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite. -- Yevgeny Zamyatin

Russian novelist Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937) wrote We (1921), a chilling futuristic novel, which preceded both Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel, like all the works of Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin, was banned, and he was eventually exiled from Russia. He died in exile in Paris.

Zamyatin was born in Lebedyan, two hundred miles south of Moscow. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest and schoolmaster, and his mother a musician. He studied naval engineering in St Petersburg from 1902 until 1908, during which time he joined the Bolsheviks. He was arrested during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and exiled, but returned to St Petersburg where he lived illegally before moving to Finland in 1906 to finish his studies.

On his return to Russia, he began to write fiction. He was arrested and exiled a second time in 1911, but granted an amnesty in 1913.

After graduating as a naval engineer, he worked professionally at home and abroad. In 1916 he was sent to England to supervise the construction of icebreakers at the shipyards at Wallsend, not far from Newcastle upon Tyne. He wrote The Islanders, satirizing English life, and its pendant A Fisher of Men, both published after his return to Russia in late 1917.

Zamyatin supported the October Revolution, but opposed the system of censorship under the Bolsheviks. His works were increasingly critical of the regime. For the regime, the last straw was publication of We. All his works were banned and he was exiled from Russia.

We is told through the eyes of D-503. D-503 lives in the One State, a perfect world, only like Communist Russia, the state is not as perfect as the state would like its citizens to believe.

D-503 falls in with a resistance movement, the Mephi, who show him the world as it really is, show him there is an existence outside the glass city of One State.

D-503 starts to think for himself, a dangerous concept in any society.

We was not officially published in Russia until 1988, part of the policy of glasnost, under which saw also the publication of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

We contains literary allusions to Dostoevsky, particularly Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov. There are also numerous Biblical references.

George Orwell believed that We was to have influenced Aldous Huxley in his writing of Brave New World (1932) and said of Brave New World, it "must be partly derived from" We. This Huxley emphatically denied and in a 1962 letter, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World long before he had heard of We.

George Orwell is believed to have been heavily influenced by We. He began to write Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) some eight months after he read We in a French translation and wrote a review of it.

In writing the Player Piano (1952), Kurt Vonnegut said that he "cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Eugene Zamiatin's We."

Literature ~ Aldous Huxley ~ George Orwell
(c) Keith Parkins 2007 -- December 2007 rev 0