Thread: Literary We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
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Old 11-20-2012, 09:09 PM   #10
Hamlet53
Noli Me Tangere
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So I just completed the book this afternoon. It was a difficult read for me at times as I often was not sure exactly what the author was trying to say, that is in terms of what real events or thoughts he was trying to describe. Then also I believe he was always trying to create the atmosphere of precise sharp edged glass and perfect mathematical order, and that was what was important not necessarily the meaning of the words.

I also found the ending, the “operation” that everyone so willing submitted to, the most horrifying aspect of the novel. In many ways more depressing and harsh then the ending of 1984 by George Orwell. Not only is the resistance to the state discovered and rooted out, but all hope of any future resistance permanently removed. Chilling thought though. How about the real use of lobotomy in our real world? Or even Prozac? It did raise one question in my mind though and that is why the torture of I-330 at the end? I mean why would that be necessary when the operation could have turned her into another cog in the state without thought of rebellion or aspiration?

I guess I disagree with Caleb and Paola in that I thought in that D-503's attraction to I-330 did have a great deal to do with sexual attraction as well as his sense that she was different.

I really grew curious about the historical context of this novel and of the author himself, especially with respect to the influence this book might have had on Aldous Huxley in writing A Brave New World and on George Orwell in writing 1984. I found this quote from the Wikipedia article on We:

Quote:
George Orwell averred that Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) must be partly derived from We.[10] However, in a 1962 letter to Christopher Collins, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World as a reaction to H.G. Wells' utopias long before he had heard of We.[11] According to We translator Natasha Randall, Orwell believed that Huxley was lying.[12] Kurt Vonnegut said that in writing Player Piano (1952) he "cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We."[13]

Fellow Russian author Ayn Rand's Anthem (1938) has many significant similarities to We (detailed here), although it is stylistically and thematically different.[14]

George Orwell began Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) some eight months after he read We in a French translation and wrote a review of it.[15] Orwell is reported as "saying that he was taking it as the model for his next novel."[16] Brown writes that for Orwell and certain others, We "appears to have been the crucial literary experience."[17] Shane states that "Zamyatin's influence on Orwell is beyond dispute".[18] Russell, in an overview of the criticism of We, concludes that "1984 shares so many features with We that there can be no doubt about its general debt to it", however there is a minority of critics who view the similarities between We and 1984 as "entirely superficial". Further, Russell finds "that Orwell's novel is both bleaker and more topical than Zamyatin's, lacking entirely that ironic humour that pervades the Russian work."[11]
Personally I found that while I could see inspirations for A Brave New World in We, it is obvious to me that 1984 was really a reworking of it.

I have to comment on one other thing, and that related to two of the items among the many where the book refers to mathematics. There is mention of the Taylor Series several times as well as mention of the United State society being based on the ideas of Taylor. So I was confused during reading the novel. What did 17th Century English mathematician Brook Taylor who developed the Taylor Series have to do with this vision of society? The Wikipedia article on We made clear that if was a different Taylor being referred to, Frederick Taylor a late 19th to early 20th Century American mechanical engineer who was a leader of the Efficiency Movement.

The other item that bothered me slightly was the author referring to the “irrational √-1.” As any one with some knowledge of mathematics knows √-1 is an imaginary (or paired with a real number complex) number, not an irrational number. Then again perhaps the author meant irrational here not in the meaning so taken in mathematics, but just an irrational idea or thought?




Quote:
Originally Posted by paola View Post
actually, I've found a link - the writeout is here and the whole programme here (it was back in 2004 though: doesn't time fly )


yes, precisely: though once you put it so starkly I start feeling I may have been too harsh. The Operation is horrifying indeed, though you may argue that we do willingly submit to milder forms of it still today, whenever we subscribe to anything that does the thinking for us (ok, yes,I am thinking religion), or simply suspend the thinking (e.g. drugs).

Thanks for that information Paola. North Korea seems to be about as close as one can find in the world today to the sort of fictional society in We,
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