A massively influential and probably the first dystopian science fiction novel. Written in Soviet Russia in 1921, banned, smuggled out of the country to E P Dutton who published it in the USA. Extremely scarce and hard to find.
About the book:
We (Russian: Мы) is a dystopian novel by Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, completed in 1921. The novel was first published in 1924 by E. P. Dutton in New York in an English translation by Gregory Zilboorg. The novel describes a world of harmony and conformity within a united totalitarian state.
We is set in the future. D-503, a spacecraft engineer, lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which assists mass surveillance. The structure of the state is Panopticon-like. Furthermore, life is scientifically managed F. W. Taylor-style. People march in step with each other and are uniformed. There is no way of referring to people save by their given numbers. The society is run strictly by logic or reason as the primary justification for the laws or the construct of the society. The individual’s behaviour is based on logic by way of formulas and equations outlined by the One State.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Zamyatin edited several journals, lectured on writing, and edited Russian translations. Zamyatin originally supported the October Revolution, but opposed the increasing use of censorship which followed.
His works became increasingly satirical and critical toward the Soviet state. Although he supported them before they came to power he slowly came to disagree more and more with their policies, particularly those regarding censorship of the arts. In his 1921 essay “I Am Afraid,” Zamyatin wrote: “True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics.” This attitude made his position increasingly difficult as the 1920s wore on. In 1923, Zamyatin arranged for the manuscript of his novel We to be smuggled to E.P. Dutton and Company in New York City. After being translated into English by Gregory Zilboorg, the novel was published in 1924.
Then, in 1927, Zamyatin went much further. He smuggled the original Russian text to Marc Lvovich Slonim (1894–1976), then editor of a Russian émigré journal and publishing house based in Prague. To the fury of the State, copies of the Slonim edition began being smuggled back to the USSR and secretly passed from hand to hand. Zamyatin’s dealing with Western publishers triggered a mass offensive by the Soviet State against him. As a result, he was blacklisted from publishing anything in his homeland.
The first publication of We in the Soviet Union had to wait until 1988, when glasnost resulted in it appearing alongside George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, We and Brave New World were published together in a combined edition.
In 1994, the novel received a Prometheus Award in the “Hall of Fame” category.