The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote We in 1920 but could not find a Russian publisher, so in 1924 he had it published in translation in Great Britain. Russians came to know of We through readings by the author and through hand-typed copies that were circulated. The first Russian edition was published in Czechoslovakia; publication was blocked in Soviet Russia for six decades. The best English version for general readers is a translation by Bernard Guerney published in 1960 in An Anthology of Russian Literature in the Soviet Period from Gorki to Pasternak.

The novel consists of journal entries made by an engineer named D-503. He heads a project to build a spaceship named Integral, by which the superior social order of his land, the United State, will be spread throughout the universe. That order is based on the logic of the Book of Hours, a timetable that organizes every aspect of life, from getting up and marching off to work in the morning to eating lunch and taking the mandatory walk before returning to work. Even sleeping is considered a solemn duty. On designated evenings, a personal hour is allotted, during which numbers (people) engage in fifteen minutes of sex with a previously selected partner “so that work is performed more efficiently during day hours.”

D-503 by chance meets a female number, I-330, who introduces him to artifacts of Earth’s barbaric past: piano music, wood furniture, wine, and...

(The entire section is 488 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, Edward J. Brave New World: Essays in Criticism, 1976.

Collins, Christopher. Evgenij Zamjatin: An Interpretive Study, 1973.

Richards, David John. Zamyatin, a Soviet Heretic, 1962.

Shane, Alex M. The Life and Works of Evgenij Zamjatin, 1968.

Struve, Gleb. “Zamyatin,” in Russian Literature Under Lenin and Stalin, 1917-1953, 1971.