WE is a dystopian novel and seminal work written by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin originally published in 1924. Set in a future society marked by extreme conformity and surveillance, the story follows the life of protagonist D-503, a mathematician and engineer. The society, known as the "One State," enforces strict control over every aspect of its citizens' lives, erasing individuality and suppressing all personal desires. D-503's encounter with a woman named I-330 challenges his beliefs and sparks a rebellion against the oppressive regime. Widely considered to be a major influence on Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as a precursor to the modern-day archetypical dystopian novel.
The true first edition of WE is the 1924 American edition, translated by Gregory Zilboorg. Notably, the novel wasn't published in its original Russian until 1927. The Zilboorg edition is the most sought-after version of WE and is exceptionally rare. This specific copy includes a facsimile of the elusive original dust jacket and once belonged to Emlen Pope Etting Jr. (1905-1993), a renowned American painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and member of Philadelphia's esteemed Main Line Society.
Etting, who studied French at Harvard University, inked his ownership signature on both the front free-endpaper and the copyright page, dated 1925, a year after the book's release. He also adorned his copy with a few contemporary reviews. Prominent among these are clippings from the New York Times (January 20, 1925) and the Harvard Crimson (no date), meticulously pasted within without obscuring any text. Opposite the title page, Etting affixed a clipping that showcases a compelling portrait of Zamyatin by Yuri Annenkov, taken from Annenkov's 1921 collection Portraits. This portrait appears to have been republished by the Times in their book review of WE.
Like many extant copies of WE, this one bears the unmistakable signs of wear and age. However, one might contend that Etting's personal additions, especially the curated clippings from his era, endow this copy with a certain unique charm. It hints at a deeper connection to the period when the novel was penned, tied directly to this contemporary artist and Harvard intellectual, who engaged with this significant dystopian work shortly after its initial publication.
Hardcover. First Edition, First Printing. Octavo, cloth, stamped and ruled in gilt. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1924. #11276.
Solid copy in good condition, featuring a worn spine where the gilt lettering has faded to the point of being barely visible. The interior is clean and bright, presenting very well. It comes with a facsimile dust jacket that is in fine condition.
Published in 1924, WE is a groundbreaking dystopian novel written by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin. Set in a future society known as the "One State," the story unfolds in a world meticulously controlled by the government, where every aspect of life is subjected to strict regulations and surveillance. The protagonist, D-503, is a mathematician and engineer who becomes increasingly troubled by the uniformity and lack of personal freedom in this society.
The One State values conformity above all else, erasing individuality and emotions in the name of efficiency and order. Citizens are assigned numbers instead of names, and their lives are dictated by a rigid schedule and routine. The government, led by the Benefactor, enforces strict rules to suppress any form of dissent and ensure the complete subjugation of its citizens.
D-503's perspective begins to shift when he encounters a woman named I-330, who challenges his beliefs and introduces him to a hidden world of rebellion against the oppressive regime. I-330 leads D-503 to question the very foundations of the One State's ideology, awakening his desire for individuality and personal expression. As he becomes increasingly involved with the resistance movement, D-503 must confront the conflicts between his loyalty to the state and his yearning for true freedom.
Zamyatin's WE masterfully delves into themes of government control, loss of identity, and the longing for autonomy. The novel's stark portrayal of a dystopian society, where citizens are mere cogs in the machinery of the state, offers a chilling reflection on the dangers of unchecked authority and the suppression of individuality. As a precursor to the dystopian genre, WE has left an indelible mark on literature, inspiring subsequent works that explore the perils of totalitarianism and the struggle for personal liberation.
In a world where surveillance and government control continue to be topics of concern, WE continues to resonate with readers, sparking discussions about the importance of preserving individuality, questioning authority, and safeguarding the principles of freedom. Zamyatin's exploration of the human spirit's resilience against oppressive regimes serves as a timeless reminder of the power of resistance and the enduring relevance of dystopian literature.