Sunday, January 08, 2017


We. Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Clarence Brown. 1924/1993. 225 pages. [Source: Bought]

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

Premise/plot: The Russian novel, We, consists of journal entries of D-503, the chief architect of the rocket ship Integral. Is he a reliable narrator? Maybe. At the very least his sanity is touch and go. And perhaps he's sanest when he's sickest? Readers meet a handful of characters--all designated by letters and numbers--as the plot moves forward to the testing of the ship.

This dystopian novel features a love triangle of sorts. One thing I know for certain is O-90 loves, loves, loves D-503. He doesn't seem to feel the same about her, though she is familiar and comfortable to be around on designated sexual days--sex requires pink coupons. He becomes obsessed with I-330. Obsessed is the right word in my opinion. He finds her mysterious, unpredictable, illogical, nonconformist. He doesn't stand a chance of ever understanding her, yet he can't help risking everything for more glimpses of her. I-330 remains a mystery to me honestly.

Without a doubt, this is a political book. But without D-503 being so physically drawn to I-330 I'm not sure he would have become as interested in her politics. But. I-330 is so much more than 'just a woman.' 

Does D-503 develop a soul through the course of the novel? That is what may be happening. He has become comfortable with the idea of being a unique individual, of forsaking logic for love and jealousy. He has begun thinking independently of the One State. And he's started bending rules and going his own way.

My thoughts: Well, it's certainly an atmospheric read with thorough world-building. The narrative style is distinct and difficult. The world is so foreign to readers--to me--that while engaging at times it is also confusing. The last third of the novel in particular. D-503 stumbles across a big life-changing secret and he discusses it with at least two or three people; but his journal entries are so cryptic to me that I don't know what it is.

Favorite quotes:
  • A man must think, at least a little. It helps. (11)
  • The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom. (35)
  • There is only one truth, and one true way; this truth is two times two, and the true way--four. (67)
  • There are clay ideas, and there are ideas forever carved of gold or of our precious glass. (115)
  • A human being is like a novel; until the last page you don't know how it will end. (162)
  • Revolutions are infinite. (174)
  • Children are the only bold philosophers. (175)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ruthiella said...

Great review. I read this book earlier this year, just for "fun". I actually used something else for the Read a Russian Classic Category. I agree with you that this was a confusing read at times. Was maybe the big secret the planned sabotage of the rocket?

Carol said...

I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who found this book difficult to read. I really started enjoying it about 3/4 of the way through. O was definitely the easiest person to relate to.