“We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin combines science fiction and classical literature. In 1921, Zamyatin, a Russian native, asked the question “what would happen if Communism succeeded?” Zamyatin’s answer was numerically ordered humans living and controlled in the ‘One State.’ Zamyatin also made history by writing the first science fiction novel.
“We” is a futuristic novel that follows D-503, a brilliant engineer that had just built a rocket and his journey as he comes to terms with his diagnosis of the worst illness in the One State: a soul. D-503’s soul allows him to see his community as the oppressive, brain-washing society that it is.
The One State was a communist wonderland, where all citizens lived in literal glass houses and everyone received the same amount of food and clothes and intimate loving as everyone else, all given to the people by the ever-vigilant Benefactor. The best part of the One State: no one questions authority.
D-503 fell victim to the dangerous emotion of love with an intoxicating woman, I-330, who seduced him and introduced him to a group of rebels who had been fighting in the shadows to take down the One State. Now, D-503 has to choose between submitting to the life and civilization that he’s always known or striving for freedom.
Even if the reader is not a huge fan of science fiction literature, “We” is such an amazing piece of literary genius that it should be on everybody’s to-read list this holiday season.
An astonishing fact about “We” is that Zamyatin wrote it when Communism was still new and no one knew whether it would fail or succeed, or what it would turn into—perhaps Zamyatin’s One State. Almost immediately after its publication, “We” was declared the first novel to be banned by the Soviet censorship board. In an act of defiance, Zamyatin had his work illegally sent to Western Europe for publication, which resulted in Zamyatin’s exile from Russia after the Soviets found out.
Zamyatin wrote in a letter to Joseph Stalin, “True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics.”
Along with his impressive predictions, the reader will be sure to find Zamyatin’s characters both foreign and familiar and his storyline completely intoxicating. Zamyatin’s “We” would be the perfect holiday gift for science fiction fans and literature lovers alike.