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...
(The entire section is 1120 words.)
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 entire section is 544 words.)