The One State is the perfect society, ruled over by the enlightened Benefactor. It is a city made almost entirely of glass, where surveillance is universal and life runs according to algorithmic rules to ensure perfect happiness. And D-503, the Builder, is the ideal citizen, at least until he meets I-330, who opens his eyes to new ideas of love, sex and freedom.
A foundational work of dystopian fiction, inspiration for both Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World, WE is a book of radical imaginings – of control and rebellion, surveillance and power, machine intelligence and human inventiveness, sexuality and desire. It is both a warning and a hope for a better world.
This new edition also includes Ursula K. Le Guin's essay 'The Stalin in the Soul' on the enduring influence of Zamyatin's masterpiece, and George Orwell's 1946 review of WE.
First published in the Soviet 1920s, Zamyatin's dystopic novel left an indelible watermark on 20th-century culture, from Orwell's 1984 to Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil. Randall's exciting new translation strips away the Cold War connotations and makes us conscious of Zamyatin's other influences, from Dostoyevski to German expressionism. D-503 is a loyal "cipher" of the totalitarian One State, literally walled in by glass; he is a mathematician happily building the world's first rocket, but his life is changed by meeting I-330, a woman with "sharp teeth" who keeps emerging out of a sudden vampirish dusk to smile wickedly on the poor narrator and drive him wild with desire. (When she first forces him to drink alcohol, the mind leaps to Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel.) In becoming a slave to love, D-503 becomes, briefly, a free man. In Randall's hands, Zamyatin's modernist idiom crackles ("I only remember his fingers: they flew out of his sleeve, like bundles of beams"), though the novel sometimes seems prophetic of the onset of Stalinism, particularly in the bleak ending. Modern Library's reintroduction of Zamyatin's novel is a literary event sure to bring this neglected classic to the attention of a new readership. (On sale July 11)