We is a dystopian novel by Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, written 1920–1921. The novel was first published as an English translation by Gregory Zilboorg in 1924. The novel describes a world of harmony and conformity within a united totalitarian state. It is believed that the novel had a huge influence on the works of Orwell and Huxley, as well as on the emergence of the genre of dystopia. George Orwell claimed that Aldous Huxley's 1931 Brave New World must be partly derived from We, but Huxley denied it.
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)