Thread: Literary We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
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Old 11-25-2012, 11:08 AM   #17
issybird
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This is the problem with getting to the thread late; other posters have already commented much more congently and with more insight than I. I'll note especial points of agreement, not limited to these, in regard to the hard to believe lack of repercussions for D- earlier in the story and the difficulty in understanding the basis of D-'s mathematical and logical justification for United State. I also thought the action was a little jumpy. I wonder if later translations might tell a smoother story?

While I don't think the book is an entire success, I'm very glad to have read it and Orwell's fallen in my estimation. 1984 was never my favorite of his books (nor Animal Farm), but I didn’t know he had ripped off another work. I know there are only so many original plots, but the similarities are too great for me to credit Orwell with an original, much less seminal, work.

While it was hard to credit that a scientist would swallow the gobbledygook that passed for reason and mathematics, I suppose the point was both that it had an inherent appeal to him and that it was a concrete example of what Orwell would term doublethink.

One aspect I really liked was that while the original theory, as implied by D-‘s journal, was that resistance was limited and entirely aberrant, but once it became more widespread it was obvious that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The images of the hysterical crowd trying to escape being herded to the operation and the open and frenzied sexual couplings showed that the state based on logic had no solid grounding.

Riffing a bit, the operation makes me wonder what was the point? We see in today’s society that there’s no limit to greed (just how well does one have to live, how many toys does one need to own), but the driving force behind the United State is sheer power. Yet once you’ve turned the populace into lobotomized automatons, surely that’s the end of the raw exercise of power. What next?
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