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.
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a naval architect by profession and a writer by nature. His favorite idea was the absolute freedom of the human personality to create, to imagine, to love, to make mistakes, and to change the world. This made him a highly inconvenient citizen of two despotisms, the tsarist and the Communist, both of which exiled him, the first for a year, the latter forever. He wrote short stories, plays, and essays, but his masterpiece is We, written in 1920-21 and soon thereafter translated into most of the languages of the world. It first appeared in Russia only in 1988. It is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-utopia; a great prose poem on the fate that might befall all of us if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. George Orwell, the author of 1984, acknowledged his debt to Zamyatin. The other great English dystopia of our time, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, was evidently written out of the same impulse, though without direct knowledge of Zamyatin’s We. View titles by Yevgeny Zamyatin
We Introduction: Zamyatin and the Rooster
Notes to Introduction
Suggestions for Further Reading
WERecord 1
Announcement
The Wisest of Lines
An Epic Poem
Record 2
Ballet
Harmony Squared
X
Record 3
Jacket
Wall
The Table
Record 4
Savage with Barometer
Epilepsy
If
Record 5
Square
Rulers of the World
Pleasant and Useful Function
Record 6
Accident
Damned "Clear"
24 Hours
Record 7
An Eyelash
Taylor
Henbane and Lily of the Valley
Record 8
The Irrational Root
R-13
Triangle
Record 9
Liturgy
Iambs and Trochees
Cast-Iron Hand
Record 10
Letter
Membrane
Hairy Me
Record 11
No, I Can't...
Skip the Contents
Record 12
Limitation of Infinity
Angel
Reflections on Poetry
Record 13
Fog
Familiar "You"
An Absolutely Inane Occurrence
Record 14
"Mine"
Forbidden
Cold Floor
Record 15
Bell
Mirror-like Sea
My Fate to Burn Forever
Record 16
Yellow
Two-Dimensional Shadow
Incurable Soul
Record 17
Through Glass
I Died
Hallways
Record 18
Logical Labyrinth
Wounds and Plaster
Never Again
Record 19
Third-Order Infinitesimal
A Sullen Glare
Over the Parapet
Record 20
Discharge
Idea Material
Zero Cliff
Record 21
An Author's Duty
Swollen Ice
The Most Difficult Love
Record 22
Frozen Waves
Everything Tends to Perfection
I Am a Microbe
Record 23
Flowers
Dissolution of a Crystal
If Only
Record 24
Limit of Function
Easter
Cross It All Out
Record 25
Descent from Heaven
History's Greatest Catastrophe
End of the Known
Record 26
The World Exists
A Rash
41 Centigrade
Record 27
No Contents - Can't
Record 28
Both Women
Entropy and Energy
Opaque Part of the Body
Record 29
Threads on the Face
Shoots
Unnatural Compression
Record 30
The Final Number
Galileo's Mistake
Wouldn't It Be Better?
Record 31
The Great Operation
I Have Forgiven Everything
A Train Wreck
Record 32
I Do Not Believe
Tractors
The Human Chip
Record 33
(No Time for Contents, Last Note)
Record 34
Those on Leave
A Sunny Night
Radio-Valkyrie
Record 35
In a Hoop
Carrot
Murder
Record 36
Blank Pages
The Christian God
About My Mother
Record 37
Infusorian
Doomsday
Her Room
Record 38
(I Don't Know What Goes Here, Maybe Just: A Cigarette Butt)
Record 39
The End
Record 40
Facts
The Bell
I Am Certain
Translator's Notes
081297462X|excerpt

Zamyatin: WE

record one

keywords:

A Declaration. The Wisest of Lines. A Poem.

I am merely copying, word for word, what was printed in the State Gazette today:

In 120 days, the construction of the Integral will be complete. The great, historic hour when the Integral will soar through the Earth’s atmosphere is nigh. Some thousand years ago, your heroic ancestors subjugated the Earth to the power of the One State. Today, you are confronting an even greater conquest: the integration of the infinite equation of the universe with the crystalline, electrified, and fire-breathing Integral. You are confronting unknown creatures on alien planets, who may still be living in the savage state of freedom, and subjugating them to the beneficial yoke of reason. If they won’t understand that we bring them mathematically infallible happiness, it will be our duty to force them to be happy. But before resorting to arms, we will employ words.

In the name of the Benefactor, let it be known to all ciphers of the One State:

All those who are able are required to create treatises, poems, manifestos, odes, or any other composition addressing the beauty and majesty of the One State.

These works will compose the first cargo of the Integral.

All hail the One State, all hail ciphers, all hail the Benefactor!

As I write this, I feel something: my cheeks are burning. Integrating the grand equation of the universe: yes. Taming a wild zigzag along a tangent, toward the asymptote, into a straight line: yes. You see, the line of the One State—it is a straight line. A great, divine, precise, wise, straight line—the wisest of lines.

I am D-503. I am the Builder of the Integral. I am only one of the mathematicians of the One State. My pen, more accustomed to mathematical figures, is not up to the task of creating the music of unison and rhyme. But I might as well attempt to record what I see, what I think—or, more exactly, what we think. (Yes, that’s right: we. And let that also be the title of these records: We.) So these records will be manufactured from the stuff of our life, from the mathematically perfect life of the One State, and, as such, might they become, inadvertently, regardless of my intentions, a poem? Yes—I believe so and I know so.

As I write this: I feel my cheeks burn. I suppose this resembles what a woman experiences when she first hears a new pulse within her—the pulse of a tiny, unseeing, mini-being. These records are me; and simultaneously not me. And they will feed for many months on my sap, my blood, and then, in anguish, they will be ripped from my self and placed at the foot of the One State.

But I am ready and willing, just as every one—or almost every one of us. I am ready.

record two

keywords:

Ballet. Quadratic Harmony. X.



Spring. From beyond the Green Wall, from the wild, invisible plains, the wind brings the yellow honey-dust from a flower of some kind. This sweet dust parches the lips—you skim your tongue across them every minute—and you presume that there are sweet lips on every woman you encounter (and man, of course). This somewhat interferes with logical reasoning.

But then, the sky! Blue, untainted by a single cloud (the Ancients had such barbarous tastes given that their poets could have been inspired by such stupid, sloppy, silly-lingering clumps of vapor). I love—and I’m certain that I’m not mistaken if I say we love—skies like this, sterile and flawless!

On days like these, the whole world is blown from the same shatterproof, everlasting glass as the glass of the Green Wall and of all our structures. On days like these, you can see to the very blue depths of things, to their unknown surfaces, those marvelous expressions of mathematical equality—which exist in even the most usual and everyday objects.

For instance, this morning I was at the hangar, where the Integral is being built, and suddenly: I noticed the machines. Eyes shut, oblivious, the spheres of the regulators were spinning; the cranks were twinkling, dipping to the right and to the left; the shoulders of the balance wheel were rocking proudly; and the cutting head of the perforating machine curtsied, keeping time with some inaudible music. Instantly I saw the greater beauty of this grand mechanized ballet, suffused with nimble pale-blue sunbeams.

And then I thought to myself: why? Is this beautiful? Why is this dance beautiful? The answer: because it is non-free movement, because the whole profound point of this dance lies precisely in its absolute, aesthetic subordination, its perfect non-freedom. If indeed our ancestors were prone to dancing at the most inspired moments of their lives (religious mysteries, military parades), then all this can only mean one thing: the instinct for non-freedom, from the earliest of times, is inherently characteristic of humankind, and we, in our very contemporary life, are simply more conscious . . .

To be continued: the intercom is clicking. I lift my eyes: it reads “O-90,” of course. And, in half a minute, she herself will be here to collect me: we are scheduled for a walk.

Sweet O! It has always seemed to me that she looks like her name: she is about ten centimeters below the Maternal Norm, which makes her lines all rounded, and a pink O—her mouth—is open to receive my every word. Also: there are round, chubby creases around her wrists—such as you see on the wrists of children.

When she entered, I was still buzzing inside out with the fly-wheel of logic and, through inertia, I started to utter some words about this formula I had only just resolved (which justified all of us, the machines and the dance): “Stunning, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes, the spring, it is stunning . . .” O-90 smiled pinkly.

Wouldn’t you know it: spring . . . I say “stunning” and she thinks of spring. Women . . . I fell silent.

Downstairs. The avenue is crowded: we normally use the Personal Hour after lunch for extra walking when the weather is like this. As usual, the Music Factory was singing the March of the One State with all its pipes. All ciphers walked in measured rows, by fours, rapturously keeping step. Hundreds and thousands of ciphers, in pale bluish unifs,* with gold badges on their chests, indicating the state-given digits of each male and female. And I—we, our foursome—was one of the countless waves of this mighty torrent. On my left was O-90 (a thousand years ago, our hairy forebears most probably would have written that funny word “my” when referring to her just now); on my right were two rather unfamiliar ciphers, a female and a male.

The blessed-blue sky, the tiny baby suns on each badge, faces unclouded by the folly of thought . . . All these were rays, you see—all made of some sort of unified, radiant, smiling matter. And a brass beat: Tra-ta-ta-tam, Tra-ta-ta-tam—like sun-sparkling brass stairs—and with each step up, you climb higher and higher into the head-spinning blueness . . .

And here, like this morning in the hangar, I saw it all as though for the very first time: the immutably straight lanes, the ray- spraying glass of the streets, the divine parallelepipeds of the transparent buildings, and the quadratic harmony of the gray-blue ranks. And: it was as if I—not whole generations past—had personally, myself, conquered the old God and the old life. As if I personally had created all this. And I was like a tower, not daring to move even an elbow, for fear of chipping fragments off of walls, cupolas, machines . . .

And then, in an instant: a hop across centuries from 1 to 2. I was reminded—obviously, it was association by contrast—I was suddenly reminded of a painting in the museum depicting their olden day, twentieth-century avenue in deafening multicolor: a jumbled crush of people, wheels, animals, posters, trees, paint, birds . . . And do you know, they say that it was actually like that—that it’s actually possible. I found that so improbable, so ludicrous, that I couldn’t contain myself and laughed out loud.

And then there was an echo—a laugh—coming from the right. I spun around: the white—unusually white—and sharp teeth of an unfamiliar female face were before my eyes, before me.

* This word is probably derived from the ancient word Uniforme.

“Forgive me,” she said, “but you were observing your surround-ings with such an inspired look—like some mythical God on the seventh day of creation. It looked as though you actually believed that you, yourself, had created everything—even me! I’m very flattered . . .”

All this was said without smiling, and I’d even go as far as to say that there was a certain reverence (maybe she was aware that I am the Builder of the Integral). And I don’t know—perhaps it was somewhere in her eyes or eyebrows—there was a kind of strange and irritating X to her, and I couldn’t pin it down, couldn’t give it any numerical expression.

For some reason, I became embarrassed and, fumbling, began to justify my laughter to her with logic. It was perfectly clear, I was saying, that the contrast, the impassable chasm, that lies between today and yesterday . . .

“But why on earth impassable?” What white teeth! “Across the chasm—throw up a bridge! Just imagine it for yourself: the drums, the battalions, the ranks—these were all things that existed back then too. And consequently . . .”

“Well, yes, it’s clear!” I cried (it was an astonishing intersection of thoughts: she was using almost exactly my words—the ones I had been writing just before this Walk). “You see, even in our thoughts. No one is ever ‘one,’ but always ‘one of.’ We are so identical . . .”

Her words: “Are you sure?”

I saw those jerked-up eyebrows forming sharp angles toward her temples—like the sharp horns of an X—and again, somehow, got confused. I glanced right, then left and . . .

She was on my right: thin, sharp, stubbornly supple, like a whip (I can now see her digits are I-330). On my left was O-90, totally different, made of circumferences, with that childlike little crease on her arm; and at the far right of our foursome was an unfamiliar male cipher, sort of twice-bent, a bit like the letter “S.” We were all different . . .

This I-330 woman, on my right, had apparently intercepted my confused glance and with an exhale: “Yes . . . Alas!”

In essence, her “alas” was absolutely fitting. But again, there was something about her face, or her voice . . .

I—with uncharacteristic abruptness—said: “Nothing alas about it. Science progresses, and it’s clear that given another fifty, a hundred years . . .”

“Even everyone’s noses will be . . .”

“Yes, noses,” I was now almost screaming. “If, after all, there is any good reason for enviousness . . . like the fact that I might have a nose like a button and some other cipher might have . . .”

“Well, actually, your nose, if you don’t mind me saying, is quite ‘classical,’ as they would say in the olden days. And look, your hands . . . show, come on, show me your hands!”

I cannot stand it when people look at my hands, all hairy and shaggy—such stupid atavistic appendages. I extended my arms and with as steady a voice as I could, I said: “Monkey hands.”

She looked at my hands and then at my face: “Yes, they strike a very curious chord.” She sized me up with eyes like a set of scales, the horns at the corners of her eyebrows glinting again.

“He is registered to me today,” O-90 rosily-joyfully opened her mouth.

It would have been better to have stayed quiet—this was absolutely irrelevant. Altogether, this sweet O person . . . how can I express this . . . She has an incorrectly calculated speed of tongue. The microspeed of the tongue ought to be always slightly less than the microspeed of the thoughts and certainly not ever the reverse.

At the end of the avenue, the bell at the top of the Accumulator Tower resoundingly struck 17:00. The Personal Hour was over. I-330 was stepping away with that S-like male cipher. He commanded a certain respect and, now I see, he had a possibly familiar face. I must have met him somewhere—but right now I can’t think where.

As I-330 departed, she smiled with that same X-ishness. “Come by Auditorium 112 the day after tomorrow.”

I shrugged my shoulders: “If I am given instructions to go to the particular auditorium you mention, then . . .”

With inexplicable conviction, she said: “You will.”

The effect of that woman on me was as unpleasant as a displaced irrational number that has accidentally crept into an equation. And I was glad that, even if only for a short while, I was alone again with sweet O.

Arm in arm, we walked across four avenue blocks. On the corner, she would go to the right and I to the left.

“I would so like to come to you today and lower the blinds. Particularly today, now . . .” O shyly lifted her blue-crystal eyes to me.

You funny thing. Well, what could I say to her? She came over only yesterday and knows as well as I do that our next Sex Day is the day after tomorrow. This was simply that same “pre-ignition of thought” as sometimes happens (sometimes harmfully) when a spark is issued prematurely in an engine.

Before parting, I twice . . . no, I’ll be exact: I kissed her marvelous, blue, untainted-by-a-single-cloud eyes three times.
“Zamyatin . . . did more than predict some of the specific characteristics of totalitarianism―he predicted its defining condition: the destruction of the individual. . . . [He] found the word for it: We.” ―Masha Gessen, from the Foreword

“The best single work of science fiction yet written.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

“[Zamyatin’s] intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism—human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself—makes [We] superior to Huxley’s [Brave New World].” —George Orwell
 
“At this dystopian moment in world politics, everyone’s talking about 1984, but take a look at the novel that inspired it (or, at least, which George Orwell reviewed soon before he wrote 1984)—Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. . . . The dystopia Zamyatin painted has, alas, many echoes with today’s surveillance society—just think of China’s budding ‘social credit’ program, which monitors citizens’ movements. Big Brother was a piker, compared to Xi Jinping. Zamyatin saw it coming.” —Lit Hub

About

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.

Author

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a naval architect by profession and a writer by nature. His favorite idea was the absolute freedom of the human personality to create, to imagine, to love, to make mistakes, and to change the world. This made him a highly inconvenient citizen of two despotisms, the tsarist and the Communist, both of which exiled him, the first for a year, the latter forever. He wrote short stories, plays, and essays, but his masterpiece is We, written in 1920-21 and soon thereafter translated into most of the languages of the world. It first appeared in Russia only in 1988. It is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-utopia; a great prose poem on the fate that might befall all of us if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. George Orwell, the author of 1984, acknowledged his debt to Zamyatin. The other great English dystopia of our time, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, was evidently written out of the same impulse, though without direct knowledge of Zamyatin’s We. View titles by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Table of Contents

We Introduction: Zamyatin and the Rooster
Notes to Introduction
Suggestions for Further Reading
WERecord 1
Announcement
The Wisest of Lines
An Epic Poem
Record 2
Ballet
Harmony Squared
X
Record 3
Jacket
Wall
The Table
Record 4
Savage with Barometer
Epilepsy
If
Record 5
Square
Rulers of the World
Pleasant and Useful Function
Record 6
Accident
Damned "Clear"
24 Hours
Record 7
An Eyelash
Taylor
Henbane and Lily of the Valley
Record 8
The Irrational Root
R-13
Triangle
Record 9
Liturgy
Iambs and Trochees
Cast-Iron Hand
Record 10
Letter
Membrane
Hairy Me
Record 11
No, I Can't...
Skip the Contents
Record 12
Limitation of Infinity
Angel
Reflections on Poetry
Record 13
Fog
Familiar "You"
An Absolutely Inane Occurrence
Record 14
"Mine"
Forbidden
Cold Floor
Record 15
Bell
Mirror-like Sea
My Fate to Burn Forever
Record 16
Yellow
Two-Dimensional Shadow
Incurable Soul
Record 17
Through Glass
I Died
Hallways
Record 18
Logical Labyrinth
Wounds and Plaster
Never Again
Record 19
Third-Order Infinitesimal
A Sullen Glare
Over the Parapet
Record 20
Discharge
Idea Material
Zero Cliff
Record 21
An Author's Duty
Swollen Ice
The Most Difficult Love
Record 22
Frozen Waves
Everything Tends to Perfection
I Am a Microbe
Record 23
Flowers
Dissolution of a Crystal
If Only
Record 24
Limit of Function
Easter
Cross It All Out
Record 25
Descent from Heaven
History's Greatest Catastrophe
End of the Known
Record 26
The World Exists
A Rash
41 Centigrade
Record 27
No Contents - Can't
Record 28
Both Women
Entropy and Energy
Opaque Part of the Body
Record 29
Threads on the Face
Shoots
Unnatural Compression
Record 30
The Final Number
Galileo's Mistake
Wouldn't It Be Better?
Record 31
The Great Operation
I Have Forgiven Everything
A Train Wreck
Record 32
I Do Not Believe
Tractors
The Human Chip
Record 33
(No Time for Contents, Last Note)
Record 34
Those on Leave
A Sunny Night
Radio-Valkyrie
Record 35
In a Hoop
Carrot
Murder
Record 36
Blank Pages
The Christian God
About My Mother
Record 37
Infusorian
Doomsday
Her Room
Record 38
(I Don't Know What Goes Here, Maybe Just: A Cigarette Butt)
Record 39
The End
Record 40
Facts
The Bell
I Am Certain
Translator's Notes

Excerpt

081297462X|excerpt

Zamyatin: WE

record one

keywords:

A Declaration. The Wisest of Lines. A Poem.

I am merely copying, word for word, what was printed in the State Gazette today:

In 120 days, the construction of the Integral will be complete. The great, historic hour when the Integral will soar through the Earth’s atmosphere is nigh. Some thousand years ago, your heroic ancestors subjugated the Earth to the power of the One State. Today, you are confronting an even greater conquest: the integration of the infinite equation of the universe with the crystalline, electrified, and fire-breathing Integral. You are confronting unknown creatures on alien planets, who may still be living in the savage state of freedom, and subjugating them to the beneficial yoke of reason. If they won’t understand that we bring them mathematically infallible happiness, it will be our duty to force them to be happy. But before resorting to arms, we will employ words.

In the name of the Benefactor, let it be known to all ciphers of the One State:

All those who are able are required to create treatises, poems, manifestos, odes, or any other composition addressing the beauty and majesty of the One State.

These works will compose the first cargo of the Integral.

All hail the One State, all hail ciphers, all hail the Benefactor!

As I write this, I feel something: my cheeks are burning. Integrating the grand equation of the universe: yes. Taming a wild zigzag along a tangent, toward the asymptote, into a straight line: yes. You see, the line of the One State—it is a straight line. A great, divine, precise, wise, straight line—the wisest of lines.

I am D-503. I am the Builder of the Integral. I am only one of the mathematicians of the One State. My pen, more accustomed to mathematical figures, is not up to the task of creating the music of unison and rhyme. But I might as well attempt to record what I see, what I think—or, more exactly, what we think. (Yes, that’s right: we. And let that also be the title of these records: We.) So these records will be manufactured from the stuff of our life, from the mathematically perfect life of the One State, and, as such, might they become, inadvertently, regardless of my intentions, a poem? Yes—I believe so and I know so.

As I write this: I feel my cheeks burn. I suppose this resembles what a woman experiences when she first hears a new pulse within her—the pulse of a tiny, unseeing, mini-being. These records are me; and simultaneously not me. And they will feed for many months on my sap, my blood, and then, in anguish, they will be ripped from my self and placed at the foot of the One State.

But I am ready and willing, just as every one—or almost every one of us. I am ready.

record two

keywords:

Ballet. Quadratic Harmony. X.



Spring. From beyond the Green Wall, from the wild, invisible plains, the wind brings the yellow honey-dust from a flower of some kind. This sweet dust parches the lips—you skim your tongue across them every minute—and you presume that there are sweet lips on every woman you encounter (and man, of course). This somewhat interferes with logical reasoning.

But then, the sky! Blue, untainted by a single cloud (the Ancients had such barbarous tastes given that their poets could have been inspired by such stupid, sloppy, silly-lingering clumps of vapor). I love—and I’m certain that I’m not mistaken if I say we love—skies like this, sterile and flawless!

On days like these, the whole world is blown from the same shatterproof, everlasting glass as the glass of the Green Wall and of all our structures. On days like these, you can see to the very blue depths of things, to their unknown surfaces, those marvelous expressions of mathematical equality—which exist in even the most usual and everyday objects.

For instance, this morning I was at the hangar, where the Integral is being built, and suddenly: I noticed the machines. Eyes shut, oblivious, the spheres of the regulators were spinning; the cranks were twinkling, dipping to the right and to the left; the shoulders of the balance wheel were rocking proudly; and the cutting head of the perforating machine curtsied, keeping time with some inaudible music. Instantly I saw the greater beauty of this grand mechanized ballet, suffused with nimble pale-blue sunbeams.

And then I thought to myself: why? Is this beautiful? Why is this dance beautiful? The answer: because it is non-free movement, because the whole profound point of this dance lies precisely in its absolute, aesthetic subordination, its perfect non-freedom. If indeed our ancestors were prone to dancing at the most inspired moments of their lives (religious mysteries, military parades), then all this can only mean one thing: the instinct for non-freedom, from the earliest of times, is inherently characteristic of humankind, and we, in our very contemporary life, are simply more conscious . . .

To be continued: the intercom is clicking. I lift my eyes: it reads “O-90,” of course. And, in half a minute, she herself will be here to collect me: we are scheduled for a walk.

Sweet O! It has always seemed to me that she looks like her name: she is about ten centimeters below the Maternal Norm, which makes her lines all rounded, and a pink O—her mouth—is open to receive my every word. Also: there are round, chubby creases around her wrists—such as you see on the wrists of children.

When she entered, I was still buzzing inside out with the fly-wheel of logic and, through inertia, I started to utter some words about this formula I had only just resolved (which justified all of us, the machines and the dance): “Stunning, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes, the spring, it is stunning . . .” O-90 smiled pinkly.

Wouldn’t you know it: spring . . . I say “stunning” and she thinks of spring. Women . . . I fell silent.

Downstairs. The avenue is crowded: we normally use the Personal Hour after lunch for extra walking when the weather is like this. As usual, the Music Factory was singing the March of the One State with all its pipes. All ciphers walked in measured rows, by fours, rapturously keeping step. Hundreds and thousands of ciphers, in pale bluish unifs,* with gold badges on their chests, indicating the state-given digits of each male and female. And I—we, our foursome—was one of the countless waves of this mighty torrent. On my left was O-90 (a thousand years ago, our hairy forebears most probably would have written that funny word “my” when referring to her just now); on my right were two rather unfamiliar ciphers, a female and a male.

The blessed-blue sky, the tiny baby suns on each badge, faces unclouded by the folly of thought . . . All these were rays, you see—all made of some sort of unified, radiant, smiling matter. And a brass beat: Tra-ta-ta-tam, Tra-ta-ta-tam—like sun-sparkling brass stairs—and with each step up, you climb higher and higher into the head-spinning blueness . . .

And here, like this morning in the hangar, I saw it all as though for the very first time: the immutably straight lanes, the ray- spraying glass of the streets, the divine parallelepipeds of the transparent buildings, and the quadratic harmony of the gray-blue ranks. And: it was as if I—not whole generations past—had personally, myself, conquered the old God and the old life. As if I personally had created all this. And I was like a tower, not daring to move even an elbow, for fear of chipping fragments off of walls, cupolas, machines . . .

And then, in an instant: a hop across centuries from 1 to 2. I was reminded—obviously, it was association by contrast—I was suddenly reminded of a painting in the museum depicting their olden day, twentieth-century avenue in deafening multicolor: a jumbled crush of people, wheels, animals, posters, trees, paint, birds . . . And do you know, they say that it was actually like that—that it’s actually possible. I found that so improbable, so ludicrous, that I couldn’t contain myself and laughed out loud.

And then there was an echo—a laugh—coming from the right. I spun around: the white—unusually white—and sharp teeth of an unfamiliar female face were before my eyes, before me.

* This word is probably derived from the ancient word Uniforme.

“Forgive me,” she said, “but you were observing your surround-ings with such an inspired look—like some mythical God on the seventh day of creation. It looked as though you actually believed that you, yourself, had created everything—even me! I’m very flattered . . .”

All this was said without smiling, and I’d even go as far as to say that there was a certain reverence (maybe she was aware that I am the Builder of the Integral). And I don’t know—perhaps it was somewhere in her eyes or eyebrows—there was a kind of strange and irritating X to her, and I couldn’t pin it down, couldn’t give it any numerical expression.

For some reason, I became embarrassed and, fumbling, began to justify my laughter to her with logic. It was perfectly clear, I was saying, that the contrast, the impassable chasm, that lies between today and yesterday . . .

“But why on earth impassable?” What white teeth! “Across the chasm—throw up a bridge! Just imagine it for yourself: the drums, the battalions, the ranks—these were all things that existed back then too. And consequently . . .”

“Well, yes, it’s clear!” I cried (it was an astonishing intersection of thoughts: she was using almost exactly my words—the ones I had been writing just before this Walk). “You see, even in our thoughts. No one is ever ‘one,’ but always ‘one of.’ We are so identical . . .”

Her words: “Are you sure?”

I saw those jerked-up eyebrows forming sharp angles toward her temples—like the sharp horns of an X—and again, somehow, got confused. I glanced right, then left and . . .

She was on my right: thin, sharp, stubbornly supple, like a whip (I can now see her digits are I-330). On my left was O-90, totally different, made of circumferences, with that childlike little crease on her arm; and at the far right of our foursome was an unfamiliar male cipher, sort of twice-bent, a bit like the letter “S.” We were all different . . .

This I-330 woman, on my right, had apparently intercepted my confused glance and with an exhale: “Yes . . . Alas!”

In essence, her “alas” was absolutely fitting. But again, there was something about her face, or her voice . . .

I—with uncharacteristic abruptness—said: “Nothing alas about it. Science progresses, and it’s clear that given another fifty, a hundred years . . .”

“Even everyone’s noses will be . . .”

“Yes, noses,” I was now almost screaming. “If, after all, there is any good reason for enviousness . . . like the fact that I might have a nose like a button and some other cipher might have . . .”

“Well, actually, your nose, if you don’t mind me saying, is quite ‘classical,’ as they would say in the olden days. And look, your hands . . . show, come on, show me your hands!”

I cannot stand it when people look at my hands, all hairy and shaggy—such stupid atavistic appendages. I extended my arms and with as steady a voice as I could, I said: “Monkey hands.”

She looked at my hands and then at my face: “Yes, they strike a very curious chord.” She sized me up with eyes like a set of scales, the horns at the corners of her eyebrows glinting again.

“He is registered to me today,” O-90 rosily-joyfully opened her mouth.

It would have been better to have stayed quiet—this was absolutely irrelevant. Altogether, this sweet O person . . . how can I express this . . . She has an incorrectly calculated speed of tongue. The microspeed of the tongue ought to be always slightly less than the microspeed of the thoughts and certainly not ever the reverse.

At the end of the avenue, the bell at the top of the Accumulator Tower resoundingly struck 17:00. The Personal Hour was over. I-330 was stepping away with that S-like male cipher. He commanded a certain respect and, now I see, he had a possibly familiar face. I must have met him somewhere—but right now I can’t think where.

As I-330 departed, she smiled with that same X-ishness. “Come by Auditorium 112 the day after tomorrow.”

I shrugged my shoulders: “If I am given instructions to go to the particular auditorium you mention, then . . .”

With inexplicable conviction, she said: “You will.”

The effect of that woman on me was as unpleasant as a displaced irrational number that has accidentally crept into an equation. And I was glad that, even if only for a short while, I was alone again with sweet O.

Arm in arm, we walked across four avenue blocks. On the corner, she would go to the right and I to the left.

“I would so like to come to you today and lower the blinds. Particularly today, now . . .” O shyly lifted her blue-crystal eyes to me.

You funny thing. Well, what could I say to her? She came over only yesterday and knows as well as I do that our next Sex Day is the day after tomorrow. This was simply that same “pre-ignition of thought” as sometimes happens (sometimes harmfully) when a spark is issued prematurely in an engine.

Before parting, I twice . . . no, I’ll be exact: I kissed her marvelous, blue, untainted-by-a-single-cloud eyes three times.

Praise

“Zamyatin . . . did more than predict some of the specific characteristics of totalitarianism―he predicted its defining condition: the destruction of the individual. . . . [He] found the word for it: We.” ―Masha Gessen, from the Foreword

“The best single work of science fiction yet written.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

“[Zamyatin’s] intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism—human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself—makes [We] superior to Huxley’s [Brave New World].” —George Orwell
 
“At this dystopian moment in world politics, everyone’s talking about 1984, but take a look at the novel that inspired it (or, at least, which George Orwell reviewed soon before he wrote 1984)—Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. . . . The dystopia Zamyatin painted has, alas, many echoes with today’s surveillance society—just think of China’s budding ‘social credit’ program, which monitors citizens’ movements. Big Brother was a piker, compared to Xi Jinping. Zamyatin saw it coming.” —Lit Hub

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