we (by zamyatin)

I don’t recall where I saw the recommendation, but someone or something had strongly suggested that I read “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin. I put it on my wish list, Gloria gave it to me for my birthday, and I read it last week. It was good, although I’m not sure what to make of it, in the end.

If often struck me as somewhere between 1984 and Notes from Underground, with bits of Memoirs Found in a Bathtub and generic Kafka writing mixed in. It was worth the read, but as I said, I’m not sure what to make of it.

The book is in the form of a journal kept by a mathematician. He is an engineer in the One State, a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where much or all of humanity has been reduced to a single ten million person city, enclosed in a wall and run by strict rules of logic. There is nearly no sense of anyone being in charge, exactly, although there is a form of secret police. Society is run by The Benefactor, who may or may not exist as an actual person. It seems, at first, that he is more an idea than a man, but later this becomes less clear.

The mathematician falls in love with a subversive woman, and eventually is diagnosed with having developed a soul. He’s told not to worry, as an operation was recently invented to remove it.

I’m not sure if the story is just a work of fantasy, or a reaction against Lenin’s Soviet Union, or a warning against the dangers of something or other. Unsure of how to read it, I just took it as fiction and enjoyed it. With more context, maybe it would be more interesting. As I was able to enjoy it, it was still a good read.

Written on August 26, 2007
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