Set in the 26th century A.D., Yevgeny Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than 60 years' suppression.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
"One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century." (Irving Howe)
WE tells the story of the "One State," a sanitized, regimented world in which the individuals ("numbers"...nobody has a name) live sanitized, regimented lives. Rocket scientist D305 lives his clockwork life as expected until he meets and falls in love with the revolutionary I330.
WE is one of the earliest examples of dystopian literature---you can see elements of WE in 1984 (Orwell), Brave New World (Huxley), Anthem (Rand), Player Piano (Vonnegut) and many others.
The story is presented as D305's personal journal. The prose is a bit dated---it was written around 1920 and has very flowery internal narration and not a lot of dialog, and I started to find it getting tedious, until we got close to the end.
The audio book starts with a fairly long and involved history of WE and its publication (and the various translations). Usually, I find such intros boring and low-value, but in this case, I found it helpful.
Grover Gardner's narration is quite good...he doesn't really add anything to the story but he doesn't take anything away, either.
[Footnote: According to Wikipedia, Aldous Huxley denied having read WE before writing Brave New World, but Orwell definitely cited it as a source for 1984.] Of course, all have different themes and draw different conclusions.
Zamyatin's We is a dystopian sci-fi story set in the 26th century. Written in the early 1920's the author projected what he expected was the logical extension of the then emerging and evolving Bolshevik revolution in his native country. In this future, the totalitarian state, Onestate, is absolute. People have letter/number names and wear specific colored uniforms. Their days and nights are regimented with even pregnancies tightly controlled, all under the guiding hand of the Benefactor. Onestate is located inside a walled region surrounded by primitive savages. Clearly, We served as the inspiration for Orwell's 1984, but is actually even bleaker and more dystopic than big brother.
The main character, D503, is working on a rocket ship, the Integral, that will search out intelligent life and spread the totalitarian word. D503 is co-opted by I330 who is a woman with nefarious plans to overthrow the government. D503 slowly loses his sense of reality, while the Onestate machine grinds ahead with plans to "treat" people to eliminate imagination as a final solution to total population control. Clearly, Zamyatin outlines in great details his fears and nightmares with the changing social and political events in his native land.
The narration is excellent, as is typical for Gardner with superb pacing, tone, and range of voices. While We may not be the first dystopic, future vision, he certainly set the standard for this genre for decades.
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