Friday, January 8, 2010


I finally finished We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
This did not take me several months and 5 or 6 other books because it was boring. I had to keep stopping and reading other, lighter, fluffier books because it was too intense and creepy.
Written in 1920 / 1921 it is the original dystopia.

Zamyatin was a naval architect who had worked in England during the First World War and also lived in Paris in his later years. His early life was spent in his rural home town of Lebedyan (200 miles south of Moscow). He lived during the end of the Czarist regime, the rise of the bolsheviks and the communists. As a most inconvenient citizen, he was exiled by the czarists for a year and then, later, the communists exiled him forever. Combining the differences in culture and considering the time in which it was written and the level of technology, his vision for the far-future was an interesting one. All buildings made entirely of glass. Everything see-through since no one had anything to hide. Food made of petroleum. Flying transport called aeros.

Socially, the perfect world, OneState, depicted in We was a world of automatons. People who all believed the same "truths" and all worked together in perfect rhythm for the good of all. People who were not people but numbers. I couldn't help but think about what kind of political or religious stance could lead someone down the path to this type of world. It was bothersome.

There were, of course, some fantastical sci-fi allusions which derived, I believe from the fact that the book was finalized in 1921 and I am reading it in an entirely different century. There was also a crazed feel to some of the writing. This was purposeful to give you the feeling that our protagonist, D-503, was losing his mind and gaining a soul (the worst thing imaginable). The ending was a happy/unhappy ending in which all order was renewed and everyone could again live in blissful happiness with a smile on their face but all imagination was quelled and "souls" erased.

Reading through the notes by the translator after I finished the novel (I always read these afterwards because otherwise they cloud my reading of the work itself), I was interested to find that Zamyatin had read H.G. Wells prior to his writing which helps a great deal with his somewhat campy sci-fi perspective. In a way, I wish that I had read this book knowing nothing of the author especially not the fact that he was Russian. This was a very western novel and unlike the other Russian novels I have read. Perhaps in his need to be non-specific about a particular political party or formula, his writing lost its "Russian-ness". I am intersted to read more works by Zamyatin to see if they are also western in feel.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to read a piece of literature as opposed to mere entertainment.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Someone suggested that I blog about all the books I read. You know, a book report of sorts.
For lack of a better idea, I have decided to do just that.

Last night I finished Zorro by Isabel Allende. It was 384 pages and took about a week to read. It was not a week in which I did nothing but read. It is the latest book for my book club that meets in a week and a half.

I really enjoyed the book. It covered the formative years of Don Diego de la Vega a.k.a. Zorro. I like the writing style of Isabel Allende and found this to be an "easy read" like the other books of hers I have read.

She was inventive in coming up with reasons why Zorro can do all the amazing feats that he is able to do (swordsmanship, horsemanship, acrobatics, etc.). I also like that she created a man who was attractive to women but only ever loves those he cannot have. This made for a nice twist in the romance factor of the book.

The book club picked this because we all like Allende's writing (more or less) but we had all pretty much read the other books we wanted to and we have a pretty strict "no new books" policy since they are too expensive and too hard to get from the library. One member had read the book before and she may not be at the next meeting but suggested we read it. We also wanted a fun book. Our previous book was by Cormac McCarthy who is a wonderful writer but not, by any stretch of the imagination, lighthearted.

I've been reading the book We by Yevgeny Zamyatin for quite some time. I've had to put it down and read other books in the middle. I'm back to it and hoping to finish it before I start another. I don't have much longer to go so stay tuned for my post on that book.

I just reread this post and it seems to be lacking in umpf. Sorry. I'll work on getting better at this whole written book report thing as I go along. After all, I think the last book report I wrote was probably in high school which was a very long time ago.
I do recommend the book, by the way, in case you weren't sure.