Thursday, 5 March 2015

We

If they do not understand that we are bringing them a mathematically faultless happiness, our duty is to force them to be happy.

The forefather of dystopian fiction, the Russian We (confusingly called My in its original language) starts of in a utopian society. Someone in the past has discovered the mathematical equations for happiness and the city is run on a strict schedule. Your name is a number. You eat at the same time as everyone else, go to work at the same time, and sleep at the same time. And repeat each day.

The walls are made of glass, there is no need for privacy and secretes when everyone lives by the same rules. Yet they can’t quite beat every primitive instinct from man, they have curtains which they can draw at a prescribed time, to partake in pastimes that may not be wholly approved of. Or time when they can have sex with whoever they have a pink slip agreement with. Love no longer exists and sex is a formal arrangement.

Walls are the foundation of every human.

Or that’s what everyone believes. Of course, we know the kind of thing that happens, D503 meets a strange women. He intends to report her for irregular behaviour, but events get in the way and he misses the deadline. His thoughts start to become erratic, he reports himself as ill, but all the time being drawn into a plot to change the equilibrium.

Desires are tortures, aren’t they? It is clear, therefore, that happiness is when there are no longer any desires, not a single desire any more.

I can see perhaps why Nineteen Eighty-Four became the better known book. I enjoyed reading We for its influence of dystopian fiction today, but sometimes D503’s narrative is a little hard to follow. He becomes delirious in his writings, as he starts to lose grip on his carefully calculated reality.

We was banned in the Soviet Union for its criticism of communism and Yevgeny Zamyatin was arrested and exiled. Its legacy can be seen in pretty much every dystopian novel written today, from enclosed cities to regulation of relationships, from surveillance to designated roles within society. And, of course, the idea that the government controls your every movement.

Man is like a novel: up to the last page one does not know what the end will be. It would not be worth reading otherwise.

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Book Source: Purchased

4 comments:

  1. I did love 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', so perhaps that's why I'm intrigued enough by this one to add it to my wishlist. I find Russian novels interesting in themselves. Thanks for the thought-provoking review.

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  2. A little hard to follow? You must be cleverer than me as I found it almost impossible to understand what was going on. I think the only way I coped was by reading the wikipedia entry!

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    1. Once I made the assumption he was losing his marbles it was easier to to accept that he was just ranting and it didn't matter if I didn't understand it all :)

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  3. I'd never heard of this but it sounds right up my street.

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