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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin, Евгений Замятин, Clarence Brown Zamyatin's masterfully written dystopian masterpiece predated (and likely inspired) the popular Western books that explored the similar themes - Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. ............Written in 1920, before the Soviet Union even existed, it predicted the Stalin and Brezhnev eras with terrifying foresight. Evgeniy Zamyatin did not share the fascination with the new State and the glory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. “The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom.” With his novel, Zamyatin disagrees. No wonder it was banned in the Soviet Union until late 1980s - since one of his characters brings up the ultimate blasphemy: "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite." At that time, during the birth of the "new world order" that emphasized the good of the State over the good of individual "cogs in the machine", the beauty of uniformity of unity over individual variations, Zamyatin described the hollowness that replacing soul and love with cold reason and logic and individuals with "numbers" would bring. In this world everything is rationalized, de-individualized, regimented, and oppressively safe. Even the leader, the "Benefactor", is little but a slave to the State. “Now I no longer live in our clear, rational world; I live in the ancient nightmare world, the world of square roots of minus one.” Zamyatin's characters try to go against the great tide, try to resist the State. As a result, at least for a short while, his protagonist gets diagnosed with a serious medical condition - developing a soul. But, fittingly for a dystopia, there is no happy ending - just a reader's faint hope that for some of them not all is lost. ------------------------------I read this book in its original Russian, so I really cannot comment on the quality of translation. In Russian, the writing is superb and the narrative voice is unique and fascinating - exaltingly, sickeningly cheerful at the beginning and growing more and more confused as the story progresses. I can only hope that the translations managed to capture at least some of that. 5 stars.