‘We know George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, at least by reputation, and we’ve heard both references tossed around with alarming frequency this past year. Before these watershed dystopian novels, published over a decade apart (1949 and 1932, respectively), came an earlier book, one truly “most relevant to our time,” writes Michael Brendan Dougherty: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, written in 1923 and set “1,000 years after a revolution that brought the One State into power.” The novel had a significant influence on Orwell’s more famous political dystopia. And we have a good sense of Orwell’s indebtedness to the Russian writer.’
The exhilarating dystopian novel that inspired George Orwell’s 1984 and foreshadowed the worst excesses of Soviet Russia
Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We is a powerfully inventive vision that has influenced writers from George Orwell to Ayn Rand. In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful ‘Benefactor’, the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity – until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul. Set in the twenty-sixth century AD, We is the classic dystopian novel and was the forerunner of works such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It was suppressed for many years in Russia and remains a resounding cry for individual freedom, yet is also a powerful, exciting and vivid work of science fiction. Clarence Brown’s brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than sixty years’ suppression.