Nenia Campbell's Reviews > We

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
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Mar 06, 14

bookshelves: no-u-topia, subtitles
Read from March 05 to 06, 2012

This is one odd little book. And it is a little book - just barely 100 pages. You can totally tell that the author is Russian. Elements of the revolution are everywhere - the book takes place in a dystopian society that is gated off from the rest of the irrational world. The whole is more important than the parts that comprise it. To emphasize this, humans are nameless, given serial numbers and nothing more. The main character freaks out in one of his math classes because he can't comprehend the idea of the square root of negative one, an irrational number that can be used to solve equations: in fact, it becomes symbolic for everything that sets him on edge. Anything that doesn't belong to the society. Anything that is...irrational.

Unlike many of the other books I give 1-stars, this one did not piss me off or have me detesting the author. In fact, Mr. Zamyatin seems like a pretty interesting dude and I can't help but wonder if the translator is partly to blame for the stilted flowery language that makes this book an unbearably longer version of Flatland. It was boring, and a lot of the math stuff went over my head.

I wanted to read this because it's one of the first dystopian novels out there, preceding even Ayn Rand. I think 1984 and Brave New World borrowed a lot of the concepts from this book. It's worth reading just to see how it contributed to the genre.

Also, there's a lot of philosophy in here, too.

To kill one individual, that is, to diminish the total sum of human lives by fifty years, was criminal. But to diminish the sum of human lives by fifty million years was not considered criminal. Isn't that absurd? (13).

**You see what I mean about the language?

And here's a precious little parable the author invokes to show how foolish we capitalists are, waiting around for other people to do stuff for us. Stuff like research. Lazy peon scientists. What do we pay them for? To think? No, dammit. RESULTS.

Our archeologists have recently dug up a certain twentieth-century book in which the ironic author tells the story of a savage and a barometer. The savage noticed that every time the barometer indicated 'rain,' it actually rained. And since he wanted it to rain, he picked out exactly enough mercury from the column to leave it at 'rain...' You are laughing. But does it not seem to you that the European of that period was even more ridiculous? Like the savage, the European wanted 'rain' - rain with a capital letter, algebraic rain. But all he did was stand before the barometer like a limp wet hen. The savage, at least, had more courage and energy and logic, if only primitive logic. He had been able to discover that there was a connection between effect and cause (16).

It probably also didn't help that the used copy I bought smelled disconcertingly of pee.
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Anna  (Bananas!) Ewww, of pee? That was a disconcerting last sentence. :)

Nenia Campbell Anna (Bananas!) wrote: "Ewww, of pee? That was a disconcerting last sentence. :)"

I try my best. ;)

Anna  (Bananas!) Kudos for reading the whole thing amidst that smell.

Nenia Campbell Anna (Bananas!) wrote: "Kudos for reading the whole thing amidst that smell."


drowningmermaid In a way, it's your basic male ennui novel, but the backdrop is so hyperbolic and bizarre that some scenes really stayed with me.

I remember the clear walls and "Down with the Imagination."

Nenia Campbell That makes sense.

Anna Matsuyama Did you borrow help-we-are-being-repressed
from Monty Python?

Nenia Campbell I did!

Anna Matsuyama Cool :)

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