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Old 12-01-2012, 07:25 PM   #31
caleb72
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Well I thought the use of "O" and "I" were much as you say ff. There is something quite aggressive and disruptive (even masculine) about "I" where as "O" is appears much more feminine. So I think those letters were chosen very deliberately for each woman. More interesting is "U" I think - what do you make of the disconnected circle? That she is somehow unhinged? She seemed a bit unbalanced to me.

Going back to vowels vs consonants, I guess we need to take this in the context of the Russian alphabet rather than the English alphabet. In Cyrillic we actually have 11 vowels and 20 consonants but 33 characters because of the existence of two pronunciation signs. I don't know enough about this alphabet to say anything terribly educated about it, but I guess we should consider this when talking about the whole vowel/consonant thing.

What I was mentioning earlier was based on pronunciation. Vowels are usually open sounds whereas consonants usually involve the clipped sounds of the mouth or tongue creating a closure. Oh - if only I remembered my brief linguistic training I could say that much more precisely but hopefully my meaning is clear. It could be the consonant sound might somewhat approximate the phallic or penetrative nature of man whereas the open vowel sound might approximate the open or penetrated aspect of woman.
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Old 12-01-2012, 09:34 PM   #32
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This discussion about the possible meaning of the Latin letters selected for the names pf the various characters has been a combination of thought provoking and amusing. Perhaps as Caleb suggests it is possible to read too much into given the translation from the Russian Cyrillic. There is also this piece of information from the Wikipedia entry for WE:



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Many of the names and numbers in We are allusions to personal experiences of Zamyatin or to culture and literature. For example, "Auditorium 112" refers to cell number 112, where Zamyatin was twice imprisoned[26] and the name of S-4711 is a reference to the Eau de Cologne number 4711.[27]
The St. Alexander Nevsky, which was renamed Lenin after the Russian Revolution.

Zamyatin, who worked as a naval architect,[28] refers to the specifications of the icebreaker St. Alexander Nevsky.

The numbers [. . .] of the chief characters in WE are taken directly from the specifications of Zamyatin's favourite icebreaker, the Saint Alexander Nevsky, yard no. A/W 905, round tonnage 3300, where 0–90 and I-330 appropriately divide the hapless D-503 [. . .] Yu-10 could easily derive from the Swan Hunter yard numbers of no fewer than three of Zamyatin's major icebreakers – 1012, 1020, 1021 [. . .]. R-13 can be found here too, as well as in the yard number of Sviatogor A/W 904.[29][30]

There are literary allusions to Dostoyevsky, particularly Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov, and to The Bible.[31]

Many comparisons to The Bible exist in We. There are similarities between Genesis Chapters 1–4 and We, where the One State is considered Paradise, D-503 is Adam, and I-330 is Eve. The snake in this piece is S-4711, who is described as having a bent and twisted form, with a "double-curved body" (he is a double agent). References to Mephistopheles (in the Mephi) are seen as allusions to Satan and his rebellion against Heaven in the Bible.[citation needed] The novel itself could be considered a criticism of organised religion given this interpretation.[31] However, Zamyatin, apparently in line with Dostoyevsky, made the novel a criticism of the excesses of a deterministic, atheistic (Godless) society.[32]

The novel uses mathematical concepts symbolically. The spaceship which D-503 is supervising the construction of is called the Integral, which he hopes will "integrate the grandiose cosmic equation". D-503 also mentions that he is profoundly disturbed by the concept of the square root of −1—which is the basis for imaginary numbers (imagination being deprecated by the One State). Zamyatin's point, probably in light of the increasingly dogmatic Soviet government of the time, would seem to be that it is impossible to remove all the rebels against a system, and he even says this through I-330: "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite."[33]
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:13 PM   #33
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I read the 2006 Modern Library edition. It was translated by Natasha S. Russell and in her introduction she says the following:

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Of particular interest to language fiends, and to this translator, is Zamyatin’s relationship to the sounds of words. He told the artist Yuri Annenkov of the qualities he ascribes to certain sounds and letters. L is pale, cold, light blue, liquid, light. R is loud, bright, red, hot, fast. N is tender, snow, sky, night. D or T is stifling, grave, foggy, obscuring, stagnant. M is kind, soft, motherly, sea-like. A is wide, distant, ocean, misty mirage, breadth of scope. O is high, deep, sea-like, bosom. I is close, low, pressing.
The information quoted by Hamlet53 from Wikipedia appears to be sourced from this same introduction.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:11 PM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caleb72 View Post
Going back to vowels vs consonants, I guess we need to take this in the context of the Russian alphabet rather than the English alphabet. In Cyrillic we actually have 11 vowels and 20 consonants but 33 characters because of the existence of two pronunciation signs. I don't know enough about this alphabet to say anything terribly educated about it, but I guess we should consider this when talking about the whole vowel/consonant thing.
Thank you for this. When I looked at proportions, I considered the possibility that the Cyrillic alphabet was sufficiently different from the Roman alphabet to alter my approximation, and stupidly rejected it. That'll larn me to theorize in the absence of sufficient information. Or not. At two to one, I don't think it matters and the issue is one of the physical significance of the vowels and fantasyfan is persuasive. OTOH, I think Zamyatin goes too far in his representation of the letters; when the author has to spell it out to you it doesn't work, IMO, although I'm grateful to Hamlet and Bookworm_Girl for expanding on it. The work shouldn't need that kind of interpretation. But it's a trivial matter; sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and all that.
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Old 12-02-2012, 08:27 PM   #35
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So true. I tend to stubbornly not read the appropriate surrounding material to fully comprehend a work such as this. I like to get out of it what I can initially without too much external interference.

Of course, the reason why I don't read the surrounding material after I've completed reading is because I'm horrendously lazy and I've already gone on to my next book.
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:48 PM   #36
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