Devoted to an ideal Bolshevism, Zamyatin rejoiced at the coming of the Russian Revolution in 1917. He had been jailed and exiled for anticzarist activities in 1905 and 1911, and the Petersburg District Court had interdicted publication of one of his short stories in 1913. From 1917 to 1921 Zamyatin became a leading figure in Leningrad intellectual circles, respected for the virtuosity of his work as creative artist and critic. With the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921, however, he came under attack from communist critics, who characterized him as a decadent, apolitical individualist who was hostile to the Revolution. The Leningrad Regional Administration of Literary and Publishing Affairs banned his verse tragedy Attila in 1928 for its anti-Soviet character, shortly after it had been warmly received by an audience that included eighteen factory directors.
In 1929, with the purge of the All-Russian Union of Writers consequent to the adoption of the First Five Year Plan, Zamyatin came under increasingly heavy criticism for the romantic individualism of his major work, the anti-utopian novel My, completed in 1921 and first published as a whole, in English translation, as We (1924). As a result of that purge, Zamyatin’s books were removed from the shelves of many Soviet libraries, and dogmatic critics were prepared to stop publication of anything new that Zamyatin might produce.
In June, 1931, Zamyatin requested of Joseph Stalin the mercy of being exiled, since “being deprived of the opportunity to write is nothing less than a death sentence.” He left for France a few months later, never to return to Russia. His We has not been published in his homeland.
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was born on February 1, 1884, in Lebedyan, a small town in the Russian heartland. The writer would later point out with pride that the town was famous for its cardsharps, Gypsies, and distinctive Russian speech, and he would utilize this spicy material in his mature fiction. His childhood, however, was a lonely one, and as the son of a village teacher, he spent more time with books than with other children.
After completing four years at the local school in 1896, Zamyatin went on to the Gymnasium in Voronezh, where he remained for six years. Immediately after he was graduated, Zamyatin moved to St. Petersburg to study naval engineering at the Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. Over the next few years, Zamyatin became interested in politics and joined the Bolshevik Party. This political involvement led to his arrest late in 1905, when the student was picked up by the authorities who were trying to cope with the turbulent political agitation that swept the capital that year. Zamyatin spent several months in solitary confinement, and he used the time to write poetry and study English. Released in the spring of 1906, Zamyatin was exiled to Lebedyan. He soon returned to St. Petersburg, however, and lived there illegally until he was discovered and exiled again in 1911.
By this time he had been graduated from the Institute and had been appointed a lecturer there. He also had made his debut as a writer: in 1908, he published the story “Odin” (“Alone”), which chronicles the fate of an imprisoned revolutionary student who kills himself over frustrated love, and in 1910, he published “Devushka,” another tale of tragic love. Although neither work is entirely successful, they both demonstrate Zamyatin’s early interest in innovative narrative technique. A more polished work of his was Uezdnoe (1913; A Provincial Tale, 1966), which Zamyatin wrote during the months of renewed exile in 1911 and 1912. Zamyatin’s penetrating treatment of ignorance and brutality in the Russian countryside was greeted with warm approval by the critics. On the other hand, his next major work, Na kulichkakh (1914; at the end of the world), provided such a sharp portrait of cruelty in the military that the publication in which the story appeared was confiscated by the authorities.
In 1916, Zamyatin departed Russia for Great Britain, where he was to work on seagoing icebreakers. His experience abroad provided the impetus for two satires on the British middle classOstrovityane (1918; The Islanders, 1972) and “Lovets chelovekov” (“The Fisher of Men”). Zamyatin returned to Russia after the abdication of Czar Nicholas in 1917 and embarked upon a...
Yevgeny Zamyatin was born in 1884 in the central Russian town of Lebedyan, in the Tambov province, south of Moscow. His father was a priest, who held strict religious and conservative views. After finishing high school in the nearby city of Voronezh, Zamyatin was graduated from the University of St. Petersburg with a degree in naval engineering. In 1905 he joined the Bolshevik Party and subsequently was arrested for his revolutionary activity and jailed briefly. He began to move toward a more liberal socialist view. Zamyatin published his first story in 1908, followed by his first exceptional story, A Provincial Tale, and by a satire about the army life in Vladivostok, A Godforsaken Hole, which established him as one of the best among the younger Russian writers.
As a naval engineer, Zamyatin was sent to England in 1916 to oversee the building of ice-breaker ships for the Russian government. There, he was able to observe the English way of life and English people. His experiences resulted in an impressive work, The Islanders, which advanced his status as a writer. Returning to Russia, he was engulfed in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Even though he had once belonged to the Bolshevik Party and later to a leftist socialist party, he was highly critical of the way the revolution was carried out. When he criticized the barbarity and violence of the Bolsheviks, they began to view him with suspicion, a distrust that lasted until...
The son of a rural schoolteacher, Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was born in the small town of Lebedyan on January 20, 1884. Located on the Don River, the town lies in the heart of old Russia, and Zamyatin notes that it was famed “for its cardsharpers, gypsies, horse fairs, and the most vivid Russian speech.” Provincial Russia would figure prominently in Zamyatin’s later fiction, but in his youth, he took little interest in it. Instead, his childhood was marked by a keenly felt isolation. Having few playmates, he regarded books as his real companions. Learning to read at the age of four, he called Fyodor Dostoevski and Ivan Turgenev his “elders” and Nikolai Gogol his “friend.”
In 1896, after four years at the local school, Zamyatin enrolled in the Gymnasium (college-preparatory secondary school) in Voronezh. Six years later, he finished school with a gold medal, which he immediately pawned when he went to St. Petersburg to study naval engineering. During the next few years, he took classes at the Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, spending his summers working in shipyards and factories throughout Russia. He developed an interest in politics, and he soon joined the Bolshevik Party. During the frenetic political turmoil of St. Petersburg at the end of 1905, Zamyatin was picked up in a mass arrest and was forced to spend several months in solitary confinement; he spent his time in jail writing poetry and studying English. In the spring of 1906, he was released and exiled to Lebedyan, but he could not bear the torpor of the provincial town, and he returned to St. Petersburg illegally. It was not until 1911 that his true status was discovered, and he thus escaped renewed exile for several years.
In the interim, Zamyatin had graduated from the institute and had become a practicing naval engineer; in 1911, he was appointed lecturer at the institute. Moreover, he had just published his first stories: “Odin” (alone), which appeared in 1908, records the saga of an imprisoned student revolutionary who commits suicide because of frustrated love, and “Devushka” (1909; the girl) contains a similarly tragic theme of unfulfilled love. Neither story is the work of a mature artist, but both show that Zamyatin was already experimenting with prose technique. His first successful work was the novella A Provincial Tale, which he wrote from 1911 to 1912 during the weeks of seclusion in the country following his exile from the capital. This exposé of stagnation and cruelty in rural Russia sparked a glowing critical response upon its publication in 1913, while his next major novella, A Godforsaken Hole, so offended the authorities by its portrayal of inhumanity in a provincial military garrison that they confiscated the magazine in which it appeared.
In 1916, Zamyatin went abroad to work on icebreakers in England, where he wrote and gathered material for two satiric works, The Islanders and “Lovets chelovekov” (1922; the fisher of men), which depict the constrained reserve of the British with exceptional skill. After the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in 1917, Zamyatin returned to St. Petersburg and immersed himself in literary activities. During the years from 1917 to 1921, he completed fourteen stories, a dozen fables, a play, and the novel We. Zamyatin’s works from this period exhibit a wide variety of styles and interests. They include stories that examine the undiluted passions still found in Russia’s backwaters, such as “Sever” (“The North,” 1966); stories that depict the struggle to preserve humanistic impulses in the...
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (zuhm-YAHT-yihn) was an important Russian satirist, one of the formulators of the dystopian genre, and a masterful essayist, dramatist, and writer of short fiction. He was born on February 1, 1884, in Lebedyan, Tambov Province, in the central farmland of Russia. His family belonged to the educated middle class, his father being a priest and teacher in the local school and his mother a pianist. Zamyatin was educated from 1893 to 1902 locally and at Voronezh. In 1902 he commenced the study of naval engineering at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute, spending his summers touring Russia and the Middle East.
As a result of a certain innate rebelliousness, Zamyatin early became a Bolshevik, was...