Introduced by Ursula K. Le Guin
Translated by Clarence Brown
Illustrated by Kit Russell
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a landmark work of modern dystopian satire. This special Folio edition features a unique lenticular slipcase and an introduction by acclaimed novelist Ursula K. Le Guin.
‘The best single work of science fiction yet written’
Written in 1921 and banned in its native Russia until 1988, We is a uniquely prophetic dystopian satire, fearlessly excoriating the very concept of censorship and predicting the rise of Stalinism. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley both stand as foundation stones of science-fiction literature, but neither might have existed without this remarkable book.
In the far-future city of OneState, happiness has been reduced to a simple equation: remove freedom and choice, and create contentment for all. Celebrated mathematician D-503 fully embraces the rule of the all-powerful Benefactor until the beautiful and mysterious I-330 comes into his life. A dangerous revolutionary, she throws the strict rhythms of his existence into chaos, and soon D-503 finds himself diagnosed with that most degrading of ancient diseases – the ownership of a soul.
Zamyatin, whose passionate devotion to freedom of thought is embedded in the text, had a troubled relationship with his own country. He was beaten and imprisoned by the Tsarist regime, and persecuted again by the Bolsheviks when they came to power. Although initially a supporter of the revolution, he had misgivings about the new government’s more extreme policies, eventually requesting exile in 1931. When We, his masterpiece, was banned by the Soviet Censorship Board for being ‘ideologically undesirable’, Zamyatin had it smuggled to the West, where it was translated into English and found an eager audience. Described by Ursula K. Le Guin, whose 1973 essay provides the introduction for this edition, as ‘the best single work of science fiction yet written’, We would go on to have a significant impact, not least on George Orwell, who admired the author’s ‘intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism’.
We is also full of unsettlingly hallucinatory imagery, from glass houses filled with pink sunlight, to the terrible Machine that reduces dissidents to pools of colourless liquid. For this edition Kit Russell has created a series of eerily beautiful monochromatic illustrations, where the human figures are dominated by ominous geometric shapes. In celebration of this underappreciated classic we have also created a special lenticular die-cut slipcase which interacts uniquely with the binding.
Yevgeny Zamyatin was an author, playwright, and naval engineer. Born in 1884 in the town of Lebedyan, Russia, he showed an early enthusiasm for literature. He studied naval engineering at St Petersburg Polytechnic University, but his studies were interrupted by his imprisonment after the failed 1905 Revolution. His experiences at the hands of the Tsarist police influenced his first published story, ‘Alone’ (1908). In 1916 Zamyatin was sent to England to oversee the construction of Russian ice-breakers, and while there wrote two novellas satirising English life, The Islanders and The Fisher of Men. He returned to Russia upon hearing of the revolt against Tsarist rule in 1917 and initially supported the Bolsheviks. His gradual disillusionment with the regime—particularly its increasing levels of state repression—along with what was viewed as a slander against Bolshevism led We to be the first book to be banned in the Soviet Union. His position in Russia becoming uncertain, Zamyatin left for Paris, where he died in 1937.
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) was born in Berkeley, and lived in Portland, Oregon. She has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honours and awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) is her best known work; it is the first book of Earthsea, which includes The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), Tales from Earthsea (2001) and The Other Wind (2001). Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2010 (2012) and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Short Stories (2012). She passed away in 2018.
Kit Russell is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer based in Dundee, Scotland. He graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 2013, where he received a BA First Class honours in Illustration. Russell’s illustrations are notable for a simple yet sophisticated graphic approach, which is inspired by his interest in visual illusions and pseudoscience.
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Review by anon on 18th Mar 2018
"The paper is not up to the usual standards in this Folio book. It is pale white (and called Abbey Lynx) instead of cream (which is Folio’s usual choice called Abbey Wove) and slightly rougher. The b..." [read more]