Petal Howell
Petal Howell asked:

Is it just me or did the unfinished sentences in the dialogue and disjointed nature of the prose absolutely diminish how great this book could have been? I know it's a classic, but I wonder if the original fluidity and essence of the story could have been lost in translation...

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Sal The book is written in a dry manner on purpose. Our narrator is a mathematician, focused on logic, on numbers, on empirical data. The entire world of a "soul," of feeling, of disregard for the's all abstraction. There's nothing empirical about what he's experiencing, and he's not much of a poet. Look at the way he loses his mind after having his first dream.

The disjointed, unfinished thoughts are a brilliant way of describing experiences a narrator has no idea how to describe. There is no empirical data for him to utilize in his sentences, and he's far from the world of poetics or free description.

Aside from all of his logic, this is an adult who has only known a self-censored world, and in his disrupted sentences you see how ingrained his sense of society is. It's the sort of thing one would do without fully realizing it. He tries to battle through, but even when he might have the right words, his indoctrination breaks his line of rational thought.
Gleb Even in original version(Russian) sentences are unfinished, I belive in this way author wanted to show unfinished thoughts of protagonist.
Brad No. Complete sentences and fluid prose would have ruined the book. Sorry, but you are completely wrong. If you think in complete sentences, then more power to you, but I know I don't.

Here is a guy who has been pretty much comfortable all his life. Suddenly he is experiencing all these shocks to his system. Love! Hate! Fear! Anger! And you think he's going to write like Tolstoy or Steinbeck or something? Really? A mathematician (as has been pointed out)? No, he wouldn't, and that's why (among other reasons) the novel is so good.
Paroles I read it in my native Russian and I didn't find it's style dry or unfinished, but rather extremely expessive and poetic. And like poetry, some passages actually need to be read aloud to make sense.
Dale I agree. Towards the end of the novel, I was getting tired of the constant cut offs and "..." I didn't find it necessary half the time. Even in dialogue it seemed awkward to me.

Also, I thought the word "transparent" was overused. This could definitely be due to translation. Not a big deal, but another minor annoyance to the unfinished sentences.
Maria Rozhina I have read this book in russian many times. And I don't feel something is diminished. Yeah, the book is written in a little bit "dry" manner, maybe because Zamyatin was an engineer, but I really enjoyed it and its language. I also wonder if smth has been lost in translation but maybe it's just a matter of taste.
Joel Scinicariello No. This was intentional. In this society, people can be punished for the things they say. Therefore, the characters in this society have become accustomed to speaking in a manner in which thoughts and sentences have to be unfinished and left up to the imagination of the person being spoken to. I thought this added to the ambiance of the novel, not diminished it.
Lauren Haas I felt like the unfinished sentence technique was overused, too.
Beth Yes! It was quite disruptive at the beginning although now that I am ¾ through the book, I am finding myself skimming over the ellipses or filling in what I imagine the rest of the sentence would be.
Celestial Teapot I read a Croato-Serbian, or Serbo-Croatian (whichever way you need it to be - 19 was before this language was "reinvented" as 2 languages), over 30 years ago; I don't remember any problems with "the flow of the prose". My major memory is a "realisation"that it is a plagiat of "1984" - until you see (checking publishing date again and again) that it is, much more shockingly, the other way around...
John Not just you, I agree entirely! I believe that if the author truly had something more to say he would have said it. Imagine how awesome it could have been if he were able to give a more thorough dialogue to D-503! Surely D-503 did not think in ellipses, he was intelligent, a mathematician! A number who certainly could have been expanded with a full dialogue. I read the ellipses as if they were short cuts, as if he were writing in a hurry.
Cba I felt the same way. Really annoying! I don't care if he's supposed to be a mathematician. The choppy (non)sentences and the incessant ellipses come across as lazy writing and lazy character development. Totally worth reading, but a damn shame.
Elmir it is supposed to be modernist writing. That why. It is not 19th century russian literature. I also read some parts in russian. There is no big problem in translation
Joseph Jupille It is not just you.
lauren raddatz I think it was meant to parallel his increasingly irrational state of mind. As the narrative progressed, we see more unfinished sentences and less clarity than we did at the start. It's definitely intentional and not a result of translation.
Joshua Zeidner yep why I gave it 4 stars. the translation was difficult.
Wojciech First I also had problem with this, then I realized how ingenious it is - it's like in real world, sentences are not finished, people are not talking like Shakespearean characters, with long and fluid sentences, real sentences are unfinished, imperfect.
Charles Pehlivanian The poster is correct, the prose is dreadful, disjointed, probably compounded by poor translation. Hard to tell what was lost in translation, but here's a clue - if it's science fiction, it's probably poorly written. No exception here.
Anna it most certainly could! The original version might have shown you just how fluid, poetic and metaphorical his language was. It was clear that the poet and the mathematician had a battle inside his head and his heart -- the same dissonance was experienced by his main hero -- but, apart from the hero of 'We', the poetic side of Zamyatin has finally taken over the logical and emotionless one, as he fled USSR and wrote such a beautiful novel, brimmed with lyricism :)
Robin Card Which translation did you read: the 2009 one or an older one? I prefer the older ones, but you may prefer the 2009 translation by Natasha Randal
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