Zamyatin, Yevgeny (Writer)


(1884-1937) novelist

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was born in the small provincial town of Lebedyan, Russia. His father was a priest, and his mother an extremely well-educated woman who loved music. As a young child, Zamyatin read Dostoevsky and Turgenev. Zamyatin graduated Voronezh Gymnasium in 1902 with the Gold Medal (the highest academic honor in Russia, equivalent to a valedictorian), which he pawned for 25 rubles some months later. He moved to St. Petersburg and worked in the shipyards. Zamyatin joined the Bolsheviks, and his political beliefs got him into trouble. He was beaten by the police, placed in solitary confinement for several months, and was finally banished from St. Petersburg by the czar’s police force.

Zamyatin’s literary debut in 1908 was a subversive short story “Alone,” for which he was briefly exiled to Lakhta. In 1914, he was tried for political subversion and expression of antimilitarist sentiments on the basis of his short story “At the End of the World.” He was eventually acquitted. In 1917, Maxim gorky offered Zamyatin a position with Vsemirnaya Liter-atura, a journal specializing in world literature. Zamyatin was in charge of the English and American sections in the journal. Throughout this period, he continued to publish short stories.

Zamyatin described his literary works as neorealism, a style according to Zamyatin that concentrates on the grotesque and brutal aspects of life. Zamyatin’s most famous work, We (1924), is one of the earliest dystopias of science fiction. The setting of the novel is a future One State, governed by perfect laws of mathematics. All citizens have numbers instead of names, and their consumption (including sex) is completely regulated by the state. We comments on the structure of Soviet society, as well as the role of an individual within this social matrix. After the publication of We, Zamyatin could no longer publish his work in the Soviet Union. He moved to Paris in 1931. Zamyatin was readmitted to the Writers’ Union but died in 1937 before returning to Russia.

Zamyatin never received proper recognition for his work during his lifetime. His style was an enormous influence on many writers, including George Orwell and Ursula Le Guin. Zamyatin’s work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Another Work by Yevgeny Zamyatin

The Dragon: Fifteen Stories. Translated by Mirra Gins- burg. New York: Random House, 1967.

Next post:

Previous post: