Yevgeny Zamyatin: Wikis


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Yevgeny Zamyatin

Yevgeny Zamyatin by Boris Kustodiev (1923).
Born Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin
20 February 1884(1884-02-20)
Lebedyan, Russia
Died 19 March 1937 (aged 53)
Paris, France
Occupation Novelist, Journalist
Nationality Russian
Genres Science fiction, Satire
Notable work(s) We

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin[1] (Russian: Евге́ний Ива́нович Замя́тин, Russian pronunciation: [jɪvˈɡʲenʲɪj ɪˈvanəvʲɪtɕ zɐˈmʲætʲɪn]) (February 20, 1884 – March 10, 1937) was a Russian author, most famous for his 1921 novel We, a story of dystopian future which influenced George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four,[2] Ayn Rand's Anthem, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed and, indirectly, Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano.


Early Life

Zamyatin was born in Lebedyan, 300 km south of Moscow. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest and schoolmaster, and his mother a musician. He may have had synesthesia as he gave letters and sounds qualities. To Zamyatin "L" was pale, cold and light blue.[3] He studied naval engineering in Saint Petersburg from 1902 until 1908, during which time he joined the Bolsheviks. He was arrested during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and exiled, but returned to Saint Petersburg where he lived illegally before moving to Finland in 1906 to finish his studies. After returning to Russia, he began to write fiction as a hobby. He was arrested and exiled a second time in 1911, but amnestied in 1913. His Uyezdnoye (A Provincial Tale) in 1913, which satirized life in a small Russian town, brought him a degree of fame. The next year he was tried for maligning the military in his story Na Kulichkakh (At the world's end). He continued to contribute articles to various socialist newspapers. After graduating as a naval engineer, he worked professionally at home and abroad. In 1916 he was sent to England to supervise the construction of icebreakers at the shipyards in Walker and Wallsend while living in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Literary Career

Zamyatin wrote The Islanders, satirizing English life, and its pendant A Fisher of Men, both published after his return to Russia in late 1917. Zamyatin supported the October Revolution, but opposed the system of censorship under the Bolsheviks. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 he edited several journals, lectured on writing, and edited Russian translations of works by Jack London, O. Henry, H. G. Wells, and others.

His works became increasingly critical of the regime. He stated boldly: "True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics". This attitude caused his position to become increasingly difficult as the 1920s wore on. Ultimately, his works were banned, and he wasn't permitted to publish, particularly after the publication of We in a Russian émigré journal in 1927.

In addition to We, Zamyatin also wrote a number of short stories, in fairy tale form, that constituted satirical criticism of the Communist regime in Russia, such as in a story about a city where the mayor decides that to make everyone happy he should make everyone equal. He starts by forcing everyone, himself included, to live in a big barrack, then to shave heads to be equal to the bald, and then to become mentally disabled to equate intelligence downward. This plot is very similar to that of The New Utopia (1891) by Jerome K. Jerome whose collected works were published three times in Russia before 1917.

Exile and Death

Zamyatin was eventually given permission to leave Russia by Joseph Stalin in 1931, after the intercession of Maxim Gorky. He settled, impoverished, in Paris with his wife, where he died of a heart attack in 1937. During his time in France, he notably worked with Jean Renoir, co-writing the script of his film Les Bas-fonds. He is buried in Thiais, France, at a cemetery on Rue de Stalingrad.

American Max Eastman describes Zamyatin's career in a chapter called "The Framing of Zamyatin" in his 1934 book Artists in Uniform.[4]


  1. ^ His last name is often transliterated as Zamiatin or Zamjatin. His first name is sometimes translated as Eugene.
  2. ^ Bowker, Gordon (2003). Inside George Orwell: A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 340. ISBN 031223841X.  
  3. ^ Introduction to Randall's translation of We.
  4. ^ Max Eastman, Artists in Uniform: A Study of Literature and Bureaucratism, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934) pp. 82-93


We was first published in the USSR in this collection of Zamyatin's works.
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1994). A Soviet heretic : essays. Mirra Ginsburg (editor and translator). Quartet Books Ltd.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (2006). We. Natasha Randall (trans.). Modern Library. ISBN 0-8129-7462-X.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. List of translations.
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny. Collected works (Russian) including his Autobiography (1929) and Letter to Stalin (1931)

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Yevgeny Zamyatin (February 1, 1884March 10, 1937) was a Russian author, known mostly for his dystopian novel, We, which influenced and inspired later dystopian works such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.



We (1921)

  • I turned. She was in a light, saffron-yellow dress of the ancient model. This was a thousand times more cruel than if she had worn nothing. [D-503]
  • It has never occurred to me before, but this is truly how it is: all of us on earth walk constantly over a seething, scarlet sea of flame, hidden below, in the belly of the earth. We never think of it. But what if the thin crust under our feet should turn into glass and we should suddenly see..
    I became glass. I saw- within myself. [D-503]
  • At night numbers must sleep; it is their duty, just as it is their duty to work in the daytime. Not sleeping at night is a criminal offense. [D-503]
  • Knowledge, absolutely sure of its infallibility, is faith. [D-503]
  • Those two, in paradise, were given a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative. [D-503]
  • The ancient God created the old man, capable of erring- thus he erred himself. [D-503]
  • She moved nearer, leaned her shoulder against me- and we were one, and something flowed from her into me, and I knew: this is how it must be. I knew it with every nerve, and every hair, and every heartbeat, so sweet it verged on pain. And what joy to submit to this "must." A piece of iron must feel such joy as it submits to the preceise, inevitable law that draws it to a magnet. Or a stone, thrown up, hesitating for a moment, then plunging headlong back to earth. Or a man, after the final agony, taking a last deep breath- and dying. [D-503]
  • "Fog.. So very.."
    "Do you like fog"
    She used the ancient, long-forgotten "thou"- the "thou" of the master to the slave. It entered into me slowly, sharply. Yes, I was a slave, and this, too, was necessary, was good.
    "Yes, good.." I said aloud to myself. And then to her," I hate fog. I am afraid of it."
    "That means you love it. You are afraid of it because it is stronger than you; you hate it because you are afraid of it: you love it because you cannot subdue it to your will. Only the unsubduable can be loved." [D-503 and I-330]



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