09 September 2009

61. We

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

Before "Nineteen-Eighty Four". Before "A Brave New World". Before "Anthem". Before "The Handmaid's Tale".
There was We.

This is considered to be the beginning of dystopian science fiction writing. It was written in 1921 by a a Russian who had lived through two revolutions and WWI. He supposedly has written this book due to his own personal experiences during those times.

The "We" world is pretty darned interesting. Mathematics and logic rule. They have conquered both the problems of hunger and love. The lives of all the citizens are controlled strictly by "The Table". The leader of OneState is called "The Benefactor" and is supreme.

Sex is for procreation only, but the offspring immediately become the property of OneState. Anyone may have a sexual relation with anyone else. They must go to the government office and request authorization. They are then given a pink ticket for that rendezvous during the allotted 15-30 minute period where they are allowed to lower the shades. LOL

Nobody has a name. All the citizens of OneState have an alpha-numeric code. The protagonist is called D-503. Men start with a consonant and women with a vowel.

This book has numerous references to Christian themes and biblical stories. Even the creation of OneState is related in a way that is similar to the biblical creation in Genesis 1-4. OneState is even called a paradise where D-503 is called Adam and I-331 is called Eve. The serpent is called S-4711 who is repeatedly described as having an S shaped body.

OneState controls everything and the citizens are "happier" for it. There is a constant theme saying that OneState has no room for I, only We. One person alone is useless and causes problems for the whole. All citizens must act as one. Doing the same things at the same times and therefore all benefit. The society is like a single organism or machine operating in it's intended capacity because all the pieces do exactly what they are supposed to do at exactly the right time. All prescribed by the Benefactor, of course.

D-503 had gotten sick early in the book. He had an incurable disease called a "soul". Doesn't that just suck for him?

When things do eventually get a little out of control, the Benefactor used propaganda to keep the problems from spreading and then prescribed a medical procedure whereby all the citizens could have their imaginations removed. Why? Well, this was the cause of the "illness" they had contracted of course. Then they lined up in droves to be cured by the Benefactor.

This was a fascinating read. No wonder it created a market for dystopian fiction novels every twenty years or so since.

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