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Outside, in the sunshine, at the entrance, the old woman was dozing like a vegetable. Again it was astonishing that her closegrown mouth opened and she spoke. The old woman's mouth grew together again. She shook her head. Evidently, even her failing brain understood the full absurdity and danger of the woman's conduct. Exactly at seventeen I was at the lecture. And it was only here that I suddenly realized I had said an untruth to the old woman: I was not there by herself now.
Perhaps it was this—that I had unwittingly lied to the old woman—that tormented me and interfered with my listening. Yes, she was not by herself: that was the trouble. After half past twenty-one I had a free hour. I could go to the Office of the Guardians right there and then and turn in my report. But I felt extremely tired after that stupid incident And then— the legal time limit for reporting was two days. I would do it tomorrow; I still had twenty-four hours. Green, orange, blue. Red royal instrument. Orange-yellow dress. The bronze Buddha. Suddenly he raises his heavy bronze eyelids, and sap begins to flow from them, from Buddha.
And sap from the yellow dress, and drops of sap trickling down the mirror, and from the large bed, and the children's beds, and now I myself, flowing with sap —and some strange, sweet, mortal terror I woke: soft, bluish light, glimmer of glass walls, glass chairs and table. This calmed me; my heart stopped hammering. Sap, Buddha Clearly I must be ill. I have never dreamed before. They say that with the ancients dreaming was a perfectly ordinary, normal occurrence. But of course, their whole life was a dreadful whirling carousel—green, orange, Buddhas, sap.
We, however, know that dreams are a serious psychic disease. And I know that until this moment my brain has been a chronometrically exact gleaming mechanism without a single speck of dust. Yes, precisely: I feel some alien body in my brain, like the finest eyelash in the eye. You do not feel your body, but that eye with the lash in it—you can't forget it for a second.
The brisk crystal bell over my head: seven o'clock, time to get up. On the right and the left, through the glass walls, I see myself, my room, my clothes, my movements—repeated a thousand times over. This is bracing: you feel yourself a part of a great, powerful, single entity. And the precise beauty of it—not a single superfluous gesture, curve, or turn. Yes, this Taylor was unquestionably the greatest genius of the ancients. True, his thought did not reach far enough to extend his method to all of life, to every step, to the twenty-four hours of every day. He was unable to integrate his system from one hour to twenty-four.
Still, how could they write whole libraries of books about some Kant, yet scarcely notice Taylor, that prophet who was able to see ten centuries ahead? Breakfast is over. The Hymn of the One State is sung in unison.
In perfect rhythm, by fours, we walk to the elevators. The faint hum of motors, and quickly—down, down, down, with a slight sinking of the heart Then suddenly again that stupid dream—or some implicit function of the dream. Oh, yes, the other day—the descent in the aero. However, all that is over.
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And it is good that I was so decisive and sharp with her. In the car of the underground I sped to the place where the graceful body of the Integral, still motionless, not yet animated by fire, gleamed in the sun. Shutting my eyes, I dreamed in formulas. Once more I calculated in my mind the initial velocity needed to tear the Integral away from the earth. Each fraction of a second the mass of the Integral would change expenditure of the explosive fuel. The equation was very complex, with transcendental values.
As through a dream—in that firm world of numbers—someone sat down, next to me, jostled me slightly, said, "Sorry. I opened my eyes a little. At first glance association with the Integral , something rushing into space: a head—rushing because at either side of it stood out pink wing-ears.
Then the curve at the heavy back of the head, the stooped shoulders— double-curved—the letter S And through the glass walls of my algebraic world, again that eyelash—something unpleasant that I must do today. The number S glinted from his badge. So this was why I had associated him from the very first with the letter S: a visual impression, unrecorded by the conscious mind.
His eyes glinted—two sharp little drills, revolving rapidly, boring deeper and deeper—in a moment they would reach the very bottom and see what I would not That troubling eyelash suddenly became entirely clear to me. He was one of them, one of the Guardians, and it was simplest to tell him everything at once, without delay.
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But then, perhaps, he too? That time during the walk And he might even be registered for her? Of course, of course! The little gimlets had reached the very bottom, then, whirling rapidly, slipped back into his eyes. With a double-edged smile, S nodded to me and slid away toward the exit. I hid behind my newspaper—it seemed to me that everyone was staring at me—and instantly forgot about the eyelash, the gimlets, everything.
The news I read was so upsetting that it drove all else out of my mind. There was but one short line:. I use the word "criminal" deliberately. Freedom and crime are linked as indivisibly as That is clear. The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom. And now, just as we have gotten rid of it on the cosmic scale, centuries are, of course, no more than "just" , some wretched halfwits No, I cannot understand why I did not go to the Office of the Guardians yesterday, immediately.
Today, after sixteen o'clock, I shall go without fail.
We (novel) - Wikipedia
At sixteen-ten I came out, and immediately saw O on the corner—all pink with pleasure at the meeting. How fortunate: she will understand and support me But no, I needed no support, I had made a firm decision The March rang out harmoniously from the trumpets of the Music Plant—the same daily March. What ineffable delight in this daily repetition, its constancy, its mirror clarity!
She seized my hand. I must To my astonishment, the rosy circle of her lips compressed itself into a crescent, its horns down, as if she had tasted something sour. I exploded. You are totally incapable of thinking abstractly. You will pardon me, but it is plain stupidity. And I have brought you a spray of lilies of the valley from the Botanical Museum. Just like a woman.
Smell them—it is pleasant, yes? Then why can't you follow just this much logic? Lilies of the valley smell good. Very well. But you cannot speak of smell itself, of the concept 'smell' as either good or bad. You cannot, can you? There is the fragrance of lilies of the valley—and there is the vile stench of henbane: both are smells.
There were spies in the ancient state—and there are spies in ours I am not afraid of words. But it is clear that those spies were henbane, and ours are lilies of the valley. Yes, lilies of the valley! The pink crescent trembled. I realize now that it only seemed to me—but at that moment I was sure she would burst out laughing. And I shouted still more loudly, "Yes, lilies of the valley. And there is nothing funny about it, nothing at all. The smooth round spheres of heads floated by and turned to look.
O took me gently by the arm. You are not ill? The dream—yellow—Buddha It instantly became clear to me that I must go to the Medical Office. You understand yourself—it is your duty to be well. It would be ridiculous for me to try to prove it to you. I did not go to the Office of the Guardians. It could not be helped, I had to go to the Medical Office; they kept me there until seventeen. And in the evening it was all the same now—in the evening the Office of the Guardians was closed O came to me. The shades were not lowered. We were solving problems from an ancient mathematics textbook: it is very calming and helps to clear the mind.
O sat over the exercise book, her head bent to her left shoulder,' her tongue diligently pushing out her left cheek. This was so childlike, so enchanting. And within me everything was pleasant, clear, and simple. She left. I was alone. I took two deep breaths— this is very beneficial before bedtime. Then suddenly, an unscheduled smell, and again something disturbing Soon I found it: a spray of lilies of the valley tucked into my bed.
Immediately, everything swirled up, rose from the bottom. No, she was simply tactless to leave it there. Very well, I did not go! But it was not my fault that I was sick. How long ago it was—during my school years— when I first encountered V- l. A vivid memory, as though cut out of time: the brightly lit spherical hall, hundreds of round boys' heads, and Plapa, our mathematics teacher.
We nicknamed him Plapa. He was badly worn out, coming apart, and when the monitor plugged him in, the loudspeakers would always start with "Pla-pla-pla-tsh-sh sh," and only then go on to the day's lesson. One day Plapa told us about irrational numbers, and, I remember, I cried, banged my fists on the table, and screamed, "I don't want V"!!
Take V-1 out of me! It devoured me—it was impossible to conceive, to render harmless, because it was outside ratio. And now again V I've just glanced through my notes, and it is clear to me: I have been dodg-ing, lying to myself—merely to avoid seeing the V-1 - It's nonsense that I was sick, and all the rest of it. I could have gone there. A week ago, I am sure, I would have gone without a moment's hesitation.
But now? Today, too. Exactly at sixteen-ten I stood before the sparkling glass wall. Above me, the golden, sunny, pure gleam of the letters on the sign over the Office. Inside, through the glass, I saw the long line of bluish unifs. Faces glowing like icon lamps in an ancient church: they had come to perform a great deed, to surrender upon the altar of the One State their loved ones, their friends, themselves.
And I—I longed to join them, to be with them. And could not: my feet were welded deep into the glass slabs of the pavement, and I stood staring dully, incapable of moving from the spot. I started. Black eyes, lacquered with laughter; thick, Negroid lips. The poet R, my old friend— and with him, pink O. I turned angrily. If they had not intruded, I think I finally would have torn the V-1 out of myself with the flesh, and entered the Office.
By rights, my good friend, you should not be a mathematician; you ought to be a poet! Really, why not transfer to us poets, eh? How would you like that? I can arrange it in a moment, eh? R speaks in a rush of words; they spurt out in a torrent and spray comes flying from his thick lips. Every "p" is a fountain; "poets"—a fountain.
I neither like nor understand jokes, and R has the bad habit of joking. This knowledge of yours is only cowardice.
Don't argue, it's true. You're simply trying to enclose infinity behind a wall, and you are terrified to glance outside the wall. Just try and take a look, and you will shut your eyes. R spurted at me like a fountain. O laughed roundly, rosily. I waved them off—laugh if you please, it doesn't matter to me.
I had other things to think about I had to do something to expunge, to drown out that damned V O glanced at R, then at me with clear, round eyes. Her cheeks flushed faintly with the delicate, exciting hue of our coupons. Today I am assigned to him," she nodded at R, "and in the evening he is busy.
So that R's wet, lacquered lips mumbled good-humoredly "Oh, half an hour will be enough for us. Right, O? I don't care for your problems, let's go up to my place for a while. I was afraid to remain alone with myself, or rather, with that new, foreign being who merely by some odd chance had my number—D And I went with them to R's place. True, he is not precise, not rhythmical, he has a kind of inside-out, mocking logic; nevertheless, we are friends. Three years ago we had chosen together the charming, rosy O. This bound us even more firmly than our school years. Then, up in R's room.
Everything would seem to be exactly the same as mine: the Table, the glass chairs, the closet, the bed. But the moment R entered, he moved one chair, another—and all planes became displaced, everything slipped out of the established proportions, became non-Euclidean. R is the same as ever. In Taylor and in mathematics he was always at the bottom of the class.
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We recalled old Plapa, the little notes of thanks we boys would paste all over his glass legs we were very fond of him. We reminisced about our law instructor. We also recalled how the unruly R once stuffed his speaker with chewed-up paper, and every text came with a shot of a spitball. R was punished, of course; what he had done was bad, of course, but now we laughed heartily—our whole triangle—and I confess, I did too. Wouldn't that have been Sunlight—through the ceiling, the walls; sun— from above, from the sides, reflected from below.
O sat on R's lap, and tiny drops of sunlight gleamed in her blue eyes. I felt warmed, somehow, restored. The V-1 died down, did not stir. We shall soon be setting off to educate the inhabitants of other planets, eh? You'd better rush it, or else we poets will turn out so much material that even your Integral will not be able to lift it. Every day from eight to eleven R made a grimace. Well, if you wish, a court sentence. I versified a sentence. An idiot, one of our poets, too. For two years he sat next to me, and everything seemed all right Then suddenly, how do you do!
Better not speak about it The thick lips hung loosely, the lacquer vanished from his eyes. R jumped up, turned, and stared somewhere through the wall. I looked at his tightly locked little valise, thinking, What is he turning over there, in that little box of his? A moment of awkward, asymmetrical silence. It was unclear to me what the trouble was, but something was wrong. R turned his face to me. The words still rushed out of him like spray, but it seemed to me that the merry shine was no longer in his eyes.
We are the happiest arithmetical mean. As you mathematicians say —integration from zero to infinity, from a cretin to Shakespeare I do not know why—it seemed completely irrelevant—but I recalled the other one, her tone; the finest thread seemed to extend from her to R. What was it? Again the V-1 began to stir.
I opened my badge—it was twenty-five minutes to seventeen. They had forty-five minutes left for their pink coupon. In the street, when I had already crossed to the other side, I glanced back: in the bright, sun-permeated glass hulk of the building squares of bluish-gray, opaque drawn shades could be seen here and there—squares of rhythmic, Taylorized happiness. On the seventh floor I found R's square; he had already drawn the blind. Dear O Dear R In him there is also I don't know why "also," but let my hand write as it will —in him there is also something not entirely clear to me. And yet, he, I, and O—we are a triangle, perhaps not equilateral, but a triangle nonetheless.
To put it in the language of our ancestors perhaps, my planetary readers, this language is more comprehensible to you , we are a family. And it is so good occasionally, if only briefly, to relax, to rest, to enclose yourself in a simple, strong triangle from all that A bright, solemn day. On such days you forget your weaknesses, imprecisions, ailments, and everything is crystal, immutable, eternal—like our glass. The Cube Plaza. Sixty-six great concentric circles of stands. Sixty-six rows of quiet luminous faces, eyes reflecting the glow of the sky, or perhaps the glow of the One State.
Blood-red flowers—the women's lips. Tender garlands of childish faces in the front rows, near the center of action. Absorbed, stern, Gothic silence. According to the descriptions that have come down to us, something similar was experienced by the ancients during their "religious services.
Their God gave them nothing except eternal, tormenting searching; their God had not been able to think of anything more sensible than offering himself as sacrifice for some incomprehensible reason. We, on the other hand, offer a sacrifice to our God, the One State—a calm, reasoned, sensible sacrifice. Yes, this was our solemn liturgy to the One State, a remembrance of the awesome time of trial, of the Two Hundred Years' War, a grandiose celebration of the victory of all over one, of the sum over the individual.
The one. He stood on the steps of the sun-filled Cube. A white—no, not even white, already colorless—face: a glass face, glass lips. And only the eyes—black, greedy, engulfing holes. And the dread world from which he was but minutes away. The golden badge with his number had already been removed. His arms were bound with a purple ribbon—an ancient custom.
It evidently dates back to olden times, before such things were done in the name of the One State; in those days, the condemned understandably felt that they had the right to resist, and so their hands were usually bound in chains. And all the way above, upon the Cube, near the Machine—the motionless figure, as if cast in metal, of Him whom we call the Benefactor. His face could not be seen in detail from below; all you could tell was that it was defined in square, austere, majestic contours. But the hands It sometimes happens in photographs that the hands, placed in the foreground too near the camera, come out huge; they hold the eye and shut out all the rest So with these heavy hands, still calmly reposing on the knees.
And it was clear—they were stone, and the knees were barely able to support their weight. Then suddenly one of those huge hands slowly rose—a slow, cast-iron movement. And from the stands, obeying the raised hand, a number approached the Cube. He was one of the State Poets, whose happy lot it was to crown the celebration with his verse. Divine, brass iambics thundered over the stands—about the madman with glass eyes, who stood there on the steps, awaiting the logical results of his mad ravings. A blazing fire. In the iambics buildings swayed, went up in jets of liquid gold, collapsed.
Fresh green trees withered, shriveled, sap dripping out-nothing remaining but the black crosses of their skeletons. But now Prometheus meaning us appeared. And everything was new, everything was steel—a steel sun, steel trees, steel men. But suddenly a madman "unchained the fire" and everything would perish again Unfortunately, I have a poor memory for verses, but I remember one thing: it would have been impossible to choose more beautiful, more instructive images.
Again the slow, heavy gesture, and a second poet appeared on the steps of the Cube. I even rose a little from my seat: it could not be! No, those were his thick lips, it was he Why hadn't he told me he was to have this high His lips trembled, they were gray. I understood: to appear before the Benefactor, before the entire host of Guardians Yet-to be so nervous Sharp, quick trochees—like blows of an ax.
About a heinous crime, about sacrilegious verses which dared to call the Benefactor R sank into his seat, pale, looking at no one I would not have expected him to be so shy. For the smallest fraction of a second I had a glimpse of someone's face—a dark, sharp, pointed triangle-flashing near him, then vanishing at once.
My eyes, thousands of eyes, turned up to the Machine. The third castiron gesture of the nonhuman hand. And the transgressor, swayed by an unseen wind, walked slowly up one stair, another, and now—the last step in his life, and he is on his last bed, face to the sky, head thrown back. The Benefactor, heavy, stony as fate, walked around the Machine, placed His huge hand on the lever.
Not a sound, not a breath—all eyes were on that hand. What a fiery gust of exaltation one must feel to be the instrument, the resultant of a hundred thousand wills! What a great destiny! An infinite second. The hand moved down, switching on the current A flash of the intolerably dazzling blade of the ray, sharp as a shiver; faint crackling of the tubes in the Machine. The prone body enveloped in a light, glowing mist—and melting, melting before our eyes, dissolving with appalling speed. Then nothing—only a small puddle of chemically pure water, which but a moment ago had pulsed redly, wildly in the heart All this was elementary and known to everyone: yes, dissociation of matter; yes, splitting of the atoms of the human body.
And yet each tune it was a miracle—a token of the superhuman power of the Benefactor. Above us, facing Him, the flushed faces of ten female numbers, lips parted with excitement, flowers swaying in the wind. Personally, I see nothing beautiful in flowers, or in anything belonging to the primitive world long exiled beyond the Green Wall.
Only the rational and useful is beautiful: machines, boots, formulas, food, and so on. According to the old custom, ten women garlanded with flowers the Benefactor's unif, still wet with spray. With the majestic step of a high priest, He slowly descended and slowly walked between the stands. And in His wake, the delicate white branches of female hands raised high, and a million-voiced storm of cheers, shouted in unison.
Then cheers in honor of the host of Guardians, invisibly present somewhere here, within our ranks. Who knows, perhaps it was precisely these Guardians who had been foreseen by the imagination of ancient man when he created his dread and gentle "archangels" assigned to each man from his birth. Yes, there was something of the old religions, something purifying like a storm, in that solemn ceremony. You who will read this—are you familiar with such moments? I pity you if you are not Yesterday was to me like the paper through which chemists filter their solutions: all suspended particles, all that is superfluous remains on this paper.
And this morning I went downstairs freshly distilled, transparent. Downstairs in the vestibule, the controller sat at her table, glancing at the watch and writing down the numbers of those who entered. Her name is U Although, essentially, she is quite a respectable middle-aged woman.
The only thing I dislike about her is that her cheeks sag like the gills of a fish but why should that disturb me? I was just about to draw her attention to it when she raised her head and dripped an inky little smile at me. You will get it, my dear, yes, yes, you will get it. I know that the letter, which she had read, still had to pass the Office of the Guardians I believe there is no need to explain to you this natural procedure , and would reach me not later than twelve.
But I was disturbed by that little smile; the ink drop muddied my transparent solution. So much, in fact, that later, at the Integral construction site, I could not concentrate and even made a mistake in my calculations, which had never happened to me before. At twelve, again the pinkish-brown gills, and finally the letter was in my hands.
I don't know why I did not read it at once, but slipped it into my pocket and hurried to my room. I opened it, ran through it, and sat down. It was an official notification that number I had registered for me and that I was to be at her room today at twenty-one. The address was given below. After everything that had happened, after I had so unequivocally shown my feelings toward her! Besides, she did not even know whether I had gone to the Office of the Guardians. After all, she had no way of learning that I had been sick—well, that I generally could not And despite all this A dynamo whirled, hummed in my head.
Buddha, yellow silk, lilies of the valley, a rosy crescent Oh, yes, and this too: O was to visit me today. Ought I to show her the notice concerning I? I didn't know. She would not believe indeed, how could she? And I was sure—there would be a difficult, senseless, absolutely illogical conversation No, only not that Let everything be resolved automatically: I would simply send her a copy of the notice. I hurriedly stuffed the notice into my pocket— and suddenly saw this dreadful, apelike hand of mine.
I recalled how I had taken my hand that time, during the walk, and looked at it. Did she really And then it was a quarter to twenty-one. A white night Everything seemed made of greenish glass. But a very different glass from ours—fragile, unreal, a thin glass shell; and under it something whirling, rushing, humming And I would not have been astonished if the cupolas of the auditoriums had risen up in slow, round clouds of smoke, and the elderly moon smiled inkily—like the woman at the table in the morning, and all the shades dropped suddenly in all the houses, and behind the shades A strange sensation: I felt as though my ribs were iron rods, constricting, definitely constricting my heart—there was not room enough for it.
I stood before the glass door with the golden figures: I Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues.
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Freedom and Happiness (Review of ‘We’ by Yevgeny Zamyatin)
Log out of ReadCube. Volume 70 , Issue 2. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Search for more papers by this author. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. The novel even features a protective wall.
Although Zamiatin supported the Bolshevik revolution, by he was already seeing worrisome signs of group think. Unable to get his novel published in the Soviet Union, he smuggled it out, after which he too had to leave. The society runs according to the ideas of assembly-line inventor Frederick Taylor, and anyone who steps out of line is executed. The book ends with him dispassionately witnessing the torture and execution of his rebel love under a giant bell. Part of the wall has also been destroyed, however, letting in the outside green world and putting the future in doubt.
I thought of Trump cultism as I read the novel because of how everyone outsources their thinking to the Well-Doer, automatically adopting his talking points and instructions. No need for anyone to grapple with complexity or nuance. You see, it is the ancient legend of paradise. That legend referred to us of today, did it not? Only think of it, think of it a moment! There were two in paradise and the choice was offered to them: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness.
No other choice. Tertium non datur. They, fools that they were, chose freedom. Naturally, for centuries afterward they longed for fetters, for the fetters of yore. That was the meaning of their world weariness. For centuries! And only we found a way to regain happiness….
No, listen, follow me! The ancient god and we, side by side at the same table! Yes, we helped god to defeat the devil definitely and finally. It was he, the devil, who led people to transgression, to taste pernicious freedom—he, the cunning serpent. And we came along, planted a boot on his head, and…squish. Done with him! Paradise again! We returned to the simple-mindedness and innocence of Adam and Eve. No more meddling with good and evil and all that, everything is simple again, heavenly, childishly simple!