Monthly Archives: February 2012

Yevgeny Zamyatin – ‘We’ (Trans. by Natasha Randall)


It’s hard to believe that this is a book that was written in 1921 and came out  first in English in 1924, as it was banned in Soviet Russia. We  reads like it could have been written any time in the last fifty years. But that a book written in Soviet Russia four years after the Bolshevik Revolution should be able to predict the nature of nation-states of the 20th century so accurately, is astonishing.

In the evening, later, I found out they had taken three ciphers off with them. However, as with all occurrences, no  one would talk about it aloud (the instructive influence of our invisible, ever-present Guardians). Conversation, for the most part, concerned the rapid fall of the barometer and the change of weather.

The book begins at an unknown time and place introducing the central character D-503, the Builder of the Integral, and one of the mathematicians of the One State. People’s names have been replaced by numbers, called ‘ciphers’ in this translation. D-503 narrates the sequence of events as diary entries, or a kind of log kept by the Builder, building a sort of spaceship for the One State. In the very first record, D-503 tells us that these records exist to keep the facts, tell us — the readers — the truth, tell us what the people of the One State think. And this makes D-503 acknowledge something:

As I write this: I feel my cheeks burn. I suppose this resembles what a woman experiences when she first hears a new pulse within her — the pulse of a tiny, unseeing, mini-being. This text is me; and simultaneously not me. And it will feed for many months on my sap, my blood, and then, in anguish, it will be ripped from my self and placed at the foot of the One State. Read the rest of this entry