Tuesday, February 07, 2012


We. Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Mirra Ginsburg. 1921/1972*. HarperCollins. 233 pages.

I shall simply copy, word for word, the proclamation that appeared today in the One State Gazette... 

We is a dystopian novel. I've been wanting to read it for almost as long as I've been blogging.

What did I think of We?

I found the novel interesting but not necessarily comprehensible. I struggled to make sense of this one. (I think I followed about a third of it.) I'm sure I missed much of what was going on simply because I was trying to make sense of this world, this society. Could the problem--for me--be this society's emphasis on math and logic?

The narrator of We is a state mathematician named D-503. (I did figure out that men have a consonant and an odd number; women have a vowel and an even number). Everything is calculated and precise and governed or regulated. Even intimate relationships. D-503 has two registered partners--O-90 and I330. O-90 desperately wants a child, a dream that isn't likely to come true. And I330 is a big, big tease who manipulates men in oh-so-many ways. Perhaps because D-503 cannot understand her at all, cannot predict anything about her, she fascinates him, enslaves him.

So one of D-503's projects is working on the spaceship, Integral. One State has plans to conquer the universe. Perhaps because of what he does, I-330 sees an opportunity to use him to get what she wants...
A human being is like a novel: until the last page you don't know how it will end. Or it wouldn't be worth reading... (162)

Read We
  • If you are looking for a literary quality to your science fiction
  • If you enjoy a challenge as you read; if you enjoy complexity
  • If you are looking to read a science fiction classic
  • If you are interested in Russian literature from this time period
*It was first translated into English (according to Wikipedia) in 1924, this translation by Mirra Ginsburg was done in 1972. 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Bob said...

I wonder how much translation helps in the novels accessibility. I listened to the Audiobook version of We based on the 1988 Translation by Clarence Brown. I first read We as a teenager back in the 80's and I'm not sure which translation I read, but I found I was able to follow the audiobook version I listened to much better than my initial reading. I credited it with me being older and wiser, but perhaps it was the translation.

I really did enjoy your review. I found it on The Stainless Steel Droppings SF challenge.