Zamyatins We A Collection Of Critical Essays On The Awakening

John Huntington

Utopian and Anti-Utopian Logic:H.G. Wells and his Successors*

[Copyright: Columbia University Press]

[A slightly different version of the following essay will form the concluding chapter of The Logic of Fantasy: H.G. Wells and Science Fiction, a book by Huntington scheduled to appear this fall under the imprint of the ColumbiaUniversity Press. Huntington's remarks here, while they can stand on their own, may be best appreciated when read as the sequel to "Thinking by Opposition: The `Two-World' Structure in H.G. Wells's Short Fiction" in SFS No. 25.—Eds.]

1. It is generally recognized that Wells's work before 1900 is less prophetic and utopian than his later work. The ironic, comic stories and the great "scientific romances" constitute a body of literature that, while intensely interested in the possibilities of civilization and issues of domination, is for the most part skeptical of resolutions and solutions. After 1900, beginning with Anticipations (1901), Wells embarks on a more resolved course, predicting things to come and building utopias. Though this later mode may sacrifice some of the complexity of vision that is so valuable in the earlier mode, it nevertheless generates more effective polemic. For Wells at this stage in his career, to remain balanced in the midst of contraries, while it is a position of energizing tension and of broad perspectives, is to render oneself powerless to change the world. Without claiming that it is impossible to do both, we can readily admit that Wells's particular imagination cannot. The two modes are for him antithetical, and he is unable to yoke them successfully.                

If we are to take the aesthetic and intellectual issues of this dichotomy seriously, we need to do more than merely chart the various ways Wells handled them. We need to question the possibilities and failures of the forms themselves. Here I want to evaluate Wells's accomplishment in terms of the development of a particular genus of literature with a special set of structural characteristics. My purpose here is to understand the intellectual possibilities of certain structures and to sketch how the two forms Wells works in suggest a larger intellectual field of utopian and anti-utopian structures. When, later on, I compare Wells's structures to those of other writers, I am interested, not in establishing the debts others owe him, but in tracing a few of the possibilities beyond Wells himself as a way of sketching the larger field.                

The frustrations of the situation one can observe in "A Story of the Days to Come" ("Days to Come"; 1897) force Wells to try new forms. By the first decade of this century, he is more often applying his main imaginative energy to developing a fiction that addresses contemporary realistic social issues.1 During this period, when he does attempt the "scientific romance," he repeatedly returns to a very special form of it in which he depicts a strange and magical transformation from a corrupt and conflict-ridden world to a purged, sane, and entirely harmonious one. In the Days of the Comet (1906) is the first of these, but the form recurs again in The World Set Free (1914), Men Like Gods (1923), and The Dream (1924). These novels have not stood up well; it would be merely diligent to study all of them. But we need to understand the aesthetic issues Wells's imagination is confronting as he pushes his logic towards solution, and for that purpose a glance at the form of In the Days of the Comet (IDC) is in order.                

The major alteration in the structure of Wells's logic that has occurred in IDC is camouflaged by his use of what looks like the "two-world system" of The Time Machine or The Wonderful Visit (from which the phrase comes).2 The novel juxtaposes two worlds that share personalities and geographies but which are radically different. The old world is ours, an "insane" world of war, class hatred, and murderous jealousy; the new world is that which a rational treatment of society and of human relations might supposedly create, an organized utopia in which all humans are free to realize their whole potential. The agent of juxtaposition is the comet through whose tail Earth passes. Our atmosphere is so modified that humanity, while remaining biologically the same as it was, suddenly acts sanely. One sees the possibility for ironic inquiry, as in Wells's 1890s' fiction, but the similarity to the structure of his earlier works is superficial; the before-after balance conceals a deep imaginative imbalance. The opposition we see so clearly in IDC is not a puzzle at all; the two worlds do not exist in any cognitive tension with each other. Instead the new world, nearly faultless, a model of uncomplicated rationality, simply displaces the old. We have no problem; we reject the first. Thus, in its large structure, this novel asks us not to balance ironically, but to choose, to eliminate, to simplify.                

It is because of the comet that IDC is thrown in with Wells's earlier SF, whereas in fact neither part of the novel employs the kind of ironic thought we find in his early fiction. The realistic part of the novel, while it has attractions, lacks the element of logical fantasy, of organized landscape and plot that distinguishes the authentic "scientific romance." I do not intend this as a complaint, only as a distinction. The first part of IDC seems to me immensely successful in the tradition of Wells's realism. On the other hand, the utopian solution presents us with a world without conflict. The scientific romance falls in a range between these two broad generic types: it is neither realistic nor utopian. It is what I will call, with careful attention to its precise, stipulated meaning, anti-utopian.

The split in Wells's thought expresses itself in a dichotomy of genera, two forms of imaginative procedure, utopia and anti-utopia. By these terms I refer not to optimism or pessimism, but to the imaginative attempt to put together, to compose and endorse a world, and the opposite attempt to see through, to dismember a world. The familiar terminology here distinguishes, not political attitudes, but opposed structural principles of thought.3

Darko Suvin defines utopia as "a verbal construction of a particular quasi-human community where sociopolitical institutions, norms, and individual relationships are organized according to a more perfect principle than in the author's community."4 Suvin is especially concerned with seeing utopia as a literary form. Accepting that, I want here also to stress the importance of organization, community, and principle in this definition. The utopia is an exercise in thinking through a way things might fit together, might work; it strives for consistency and reconciles conflict. Utopia is, therefore, in the sense I am using the term, a verbal artifact with a distinctive imaginative imperative: it seeks coherence. At its purest utopia is like a mathematical equation: it achieves imaginative order; it accounts for all doubts; it solves.

Dystopia, in the structural configuration I am here defining, is similar to utopia. Dystopia (the bad place) is for our purposes utopia in which the positive ("more perfect principle") has been replaced by a negative. Though opposites on the surface, utopia and dystopia share a common structure: both are exercises in imagining coherent wholes, in making an idea work, either to lure the reader towards an ideal or to drive the reader back from a nightmare. Both are the expression of a synthetic imagination, a comprehension and expression of the deep principles of happiness or unhappiness.5               

By anti-utopia I propose to refer to a type of skeptical imagining that is opposed to the consistencies of utopia-dystopia. If the utopian-dystopian form tends to construct single, fool-proof structures which solve social dilemmas, the anti-utopian form discovers problems, raises questions, and doubts. Both utopian and anti-utopian modes partake in some way of the "what if?" premise so valued by utopian and SF commentators, and both work by contrast of sorts, by what Suvin calls "cognitive estrangement." And since every utopia is a criticism of the world as it is, all utopian thought has a satiric dimension.6 But anti-utopia, as I am here defining it, is not simply satiric; it is a mode of relentless inquisition, of restless skeptical exploration of the very articles of faith on which utopias themselves are built. Thus, while there is much anti-utopian satire, it is not an attack on reality but an exploration of conflicts in human desire and expectation. While the utopia attempts a vision of a coherent preferable world and draws our attention to the way it improves on the world we have, the anti-utopia questions utopian solutions even as it proposes them.7 It enjoys the construction of imaginary community, but does not succumb to the satisfactions of solutions. By the same mechanism the anti-utopia can acknowledge, virtures in oppressive situations even while denouncing them.                

At the core of the anti-utopia is not simply an ideal or a nightmare, but an awareness of conflict, of deeply opposed values that pure utopia and dystopia tend to override. If utopia seeks imaginative solutions, anti-utopia goes beyond to return to the powerful and disturbing ambivalences that come from perceiving simultaneous yet conflicting goods. Thus, the Selenites in The First Men in the Moon (1901) represent an ideal that twists into horror, and a horror that takes on shadings of the ideal. In the passage on physically shaping infants to prepare them for their adult tasks, Wells forces the reader to consider whether it is better to "use" or to "waste" a person. Philosophically this may be a false dichotomy; there are of course other ways than these two of dealing with human beings; but rhetorically the passage makes us approve and condemn both our own world and the Selenite solution. By ingeniously posing the issue in terms of a narrow and irresolvable conflict, the passage generates yearning and skepticism, and that conduction is the essence of anti-utopian thought.                

We can explore further the various ways the structural principle based on conflict functions at a level beneath that of explicit theme by beginning with Wells. In tracing his progress from anti-utopian imaginings to utopian prophetic ones, we can see how he changes the way he negotiates contradictions. His earliest period is one of rigorous thought and exploration which, though it flirts with deep pessimism, never falls into simple dystopia. The Time Machine (1895) is a guide which leads us away from a delusive utopian vision of pastoral simplicity towards a much more complex vision of antithetical balances: guilt and innocence, labor and ease, decline and triumph, change and stasis. This first major work represents anti-utopianism at its purest. It does not condemn utopian imaginings, nor does it despair about the possibility of a planned future—one of the strong messages of The Time Machine is that the predatory world of 802,701 is avoidable. By the same token, the fiction gives aesthetic form to the contradictions existing within our own civilization and its values; and together with his other SF of the 1890s, it thus constitutes a large anti-utopian project.

2. In an investigation of the difference between anti-utopia and utopiadystopia, When the Sleeper Wakes (WSW; 1899) assumes a remarkably important position, for it marks the point of intersection of the two genera. As a transitional work, WSW serves Wells in ways that are evident to us only after we understand the contradictions between the two ways of thought that he espoused. "Days to Come," while it has signs of frustration, remains anti-utopian; at the end Denton and Elizabeth balance at the edge of the monstrous city and try to "find their place." WSW, though it shares the same city and the same technological imagery, cannot remain content with such meditative perspectives. It reaches towards, though it does not grasp, the sort of utopian solution we see at the end of IDC. Embedded in the horror of dystopian servitude are gestures of utopian liberation, and while the novel ends on an ambiguous note, it is also clear that it has by the end broken clear of the static conflicts of anti-utopia. If "Days to Come" is a novella that seems to have begun with hopes of becoming a utopia, slid into dystopia, and finally retreated back to anti-utopia, WSW has started from anti-utopia and thrashed its way towards utopia-dystopia. Wells himself was unhappy with the "solutions" the novel offers, but whatever its failures as an individual work, it marks an important point of possibility that has attracted many imitators. It is an artistic and intellectual failure, but it is an extraordinary historical success.               

WSW shares with "Days to Come" a deep ambivalence about the liberating possibilities of technology. We have already seen how in "Days to Come" the imagery of the future, while it seems to promise alternatives and mediation, circles on itself and closes off escape. In WSW, by beginning to explore the political-economic structure that governs that technology, Wells would seem to be pushing the issue further. In this novel he turns to revolution for his promise of alternative, but then, after setting up what might be fruitful antitheses between the few and the many, capital and labor, he abandons the conflict.            

The crucial figure for understanding the dilemma the novel faces is Ostrog. Early in the novel he opposes the Council, and as long as he stands for labor against the capitalist Council the opposition seems meaningful. But, like the transition from Morris to Mwres in "Days to Come," the change from Council rule to Ostrog turns out to be a change which makes no difference. Graham, the hero, soon learns that Ostrog, the Boss, stands, not for change, but merely for an alternative tyranny, and that the revolution still has to be made. So Graham challenges Ostrog, and we approach again what looks like the same opposition. But an important change has taken place that deprives this new opposition of real content: the Council stood for an idea of economic structure, privilege, and control, but Ostrog stands for no economic, social, or political idea. He is merely the egoism of the powerful personality.8 We never know who benefits from his rule or why others follow and obey him. The revolt against Ostrog partakes in part-of the economic ideals of the initial revolt against the Council, but now it has become mainly a matter of personalities, of the good man, Graham, against the bad man, Ostrog.9               

If Ostrog lacks an economic basis, he might nevertheless be seen to represent an oligarchic idea of the necessity of an elite to maintain social order and thus appeal to a theme to which Wells frequently returns. Against this elite stand the rights of "the people," for which Graham vaguely argues. But the novel, just as it gets rid of the economic motive of the Council, never sees the people as much more than a source of explosive energy. Graham, their defender and advocate, comes to the realization that to save the world he must rule. The difference between him and Ostrog lies not in any explicit political ideas about structure and priority, but simply, to use the phrase that Wells later insists on, "good will." Graham, like the Samurai, serves as he rules. He proves he is not like Ostrog by sacrificing himself at the end.                

Graham himself works well as a mediating figure of the sort we come upon frequently in the early Wells, but whereas in the more general conflicts of the earlier work such a symbol allows for imaginative movement between opposed truths and goods, in this potentially more specific world such a symbol becomes simply ambiguous. Graham, "the Sleeper," is an outsider in the age, but he is at the center; he is a common man of no special distinction who is also "the Master"; he is economically most powerful, but also most moral; he rules, but he is powerless; he despairs at the beginning and he ends up an optimistic idealist. Graham combines in a single figure the double ideal represented at the end of IDC by Leadford and Melmount, the Prime Minister. These combinations involve familiar issues, but now a more concrete question has been posed: how can we change the social structure so as to prevent the nightmare of the future? In this context the symbolic mediation, while an important element in the preliminary thought on the issue, is obfuscating          

Similarly, the puzzle of the future is nicely figured in the statue of Atlas supporting the world: Atlas is the Sleeper who as arch-capitalist supports the world, and he is also suffering labor. He is a figure of entrapped power and of the potentiality for change. But just as Graham's symbolic function heightens our sense of the problem but obscures the political solution, the Atlas statue, while its ambiguity helps us focus on the contradictions of this civilization, frustrates resolution. Wells himself seems impatient with it; he destroys it along with the council hall.                

The clearest sign of the emptiness of the political-economic content of the novel is the fact that Graham, much as he objects to Ostrog's policies, is unable to justify revolution on economic grounds. Only when Ostrog employs Negro mercenaries is Graham roused to revolutionary action. A sense of racial outrage displaces and obscures the problem of economic oppression. The racial theme is not entirely a false issue; it has an ethical dimension, for at one point Wells links the black invasion with the idea of justice as he explores it in The War of the Worlds (1898): the Negroes "have been under the rule of the whites for two hundred years. Is it not a race quarrel? The race sinned—the race pays" (23:235-36).10 There is an important element of imperialist guilt here. But this theme is completely at odds with Graham's heroic resistance, and in any case has little to do with the issues of Ostrog's rule. When the mercenaries attack, the conflict between capital and labor is forgotten. As in other racist literature, the racial issue is used as a way of avoiding real political analysis.11               

In "Days to Come" the circular insufficiency of love and suicide defines the closed system Wells's futuristic imagination has generated. Here in WSW Wells uses these same two motifs to try to break the deadlock. In doing so, however, he has to deprive the gestures of the precision that they had in "Days to Come," and he falls back on sentimental romance and heroic martyrdom as solutions.                

Thematically, the romantic element is a gesture with powerful hopes behind it but with little thought. It stands in general for a violation of old structures and a revolutionary reinvigoration. Helen is Ostrog's niece, and a number of times it is remarked how extraordinary it is for her to aid the common people when her family connections lead all to expect her to serve her uncle's interests. Her empathy with human suffering becomes a revolutionary re-aligner which overrides tradition, whether genealogical or economic. Graham's love for her solves a problem posed at the very beginning of the novel when Graham, still living in the 19th century, confesses to Isbister: "I am a lone wolf, a solitary man, wandering through a world in which I have no part. I am wifeless—childless—who is it speaks of the childless as the dead twigs on the tree of life? I am wifeless, childless—I could find no duty to do. No desire even in my heart" (1:ó). Graham's love for Helen gives him energy and, by inspiring him to initiate ethical reform, a sense of duty. While we may approve the gesture, we have to admit that it is unexamined; next to the bitter ironies of the fourth chapter of "Days to Come," in which the facts of poverty undermine Denton's and Elizabeth's love, and next to the realistic difficulties of Mr Lewisham's choice of Ethel in Love and Mr Lewisham (1900), this cursory and undetailed love seems naive and merely conventional.                

The suicide motif traceable in "Days to Come" recurs in WSW, but even more than in the case of love, Wells has stripped it of logical significance and turned it into a romantic gesture. At the beginning of the novel, Graham in despair contemplates leaping off a cliff, and at the end he sacrifices himself for victory over Ostrog. Neither suicide is a comment on civilization. Graham's complaint at the beginning is private; overwork has exhausted him; it is implied that most other people, those with wives and children, do not share his malady. At the end, when Graham because of his love for Helen has committed himself to serving civilization, he willingly and heroically uses the tool of civilization, the aeropile, to attack the oppressive machine and bring his own martyrdom. In "Days to Come" heroic action is impossible: escape, collaboration, and submersion—all unsatisfactory—are the only responses an overwhelming technological, capitalist civilization permits. In WSW, on the other hand, Wells easily assumes that the technology which so defines oppression can be used against itself.                

Students of Wells have remarked on the "diminished intensity" of WSW.12 Certainly, the answers here are awfully easy. I would suggest that the problem with the novel lies also in the very nature of Wells's imaginative logic, that the techniques that have been so successful in the earlier fantasies become limitations as Wells tries to become more precise and more utopian. It is because he has taken on the truly difficult issues of his world and has such a lively sense of the areas of conflict that he does a poor job of working out solutions. A writer less attuned to the anti-utopian ironies of the world might succeed better at ignoring them.                

In ridding the novel of its disturbing anti-utopianism by melodramatic gestures, Wells is being true to one important dynamic of WSW: the technological exuberance. The machine-dominated future, so the novel implies, does not have to be a nightmare. The melodrama is an attempt to rescue the utopian intuition that is roused and denied in "Days to Come" by the ironic anti-utopianism. By comparison with the novella, WSW is genuinely utopiandystopian. It rejects the deep ambivalences of anti-utopia. In place of the irresolvable dilemmas of anti-utopia, it prefers the unambiguous horror of dystopia which, it implies, might be transformed to utopia.

WSW poses a problem in genre and in thought that Wells never adequately resolved. We have here reached a limit: his anti-utopian meditation seems incapable of change; his utopian-dystopian melodrama leads to unconvincing changes that betray the authentic difficulties posed. Works such as IDC are expressions of the desire to leap beyond the dilemma, but as we have seen, the result is only an embarrassing exaggeration of the generic incompatibility.                

I suspect that the dilemma Wells is facing lies near the heart of all authentic utopian enterprises. Later writers will pick up the essential situation Wells has posed and develop it in further directions, but the deep structural contradiction cannot be mediated. Either, as in the case of Zamyatin's We (1924), we commit ourselves to an infinitely dialectical anti-utopianism, or, as in the case of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or, in a different spirit, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953) or Huxley's Brave New World (1932), we quash ironic conflict and replace the puzzle with a single-valued structure, either dystopian or utopian. To look at the ways these later writers have handled the problem Wells posed himself tells us much about the structure and limits of the form itself.                

Let me note that the following sketch of different resolutions of the logical-aesthetic problem WSW presents implies an historical development that is different from that drawn by Mark Hillegas in The Future as Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. I do not see what I am doing here as a refutation or a contradiction of Hillegas, but simply as the charting of development along a different axis. Hillegas means something different from what I mean by the term "anti-utopian."13 The Wells that he posits is a more utopian thinker than the one I have been examining, and the later writers whom Hillegas sees as pitting themselves against Wells are reacting to that utopianist, not the anti-utopianist. I accept Hillegas's historical account. I am here tracing, not the history of attitudes towards Wells's utopian ideals, but the limits and possibilities of a form.14

3. Zamyatin's We is useful for our further understanding of anti-utopia for two reasons. First, the fact that We shares with the novels of Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley, which will be discussed later, a loose debt to WSW allows us to see more neatly than might be otherwise possible the logical differences between utopian and anti-utopian thought. Second, We is the most radical variation on the Wellsian mode.                

But let us also observe that Zamyatin is not the only anti-utopian developing out of the Wells tradition. Though it would lead us astray from our present purposes to explore their work in any detail, writers such as Karel Capek, Olaf Stapledon, and Ursula Le Guin deserve mention here. The elegant and pointedly contradictory truths of Capek's R.U.R. (1920), or the shifting satire of his War with the Newts (1937), wherein the victimized newts of the beginning become the fascist oppressors of the end, owe much to Wells's early logic.15 In Last and First Men (1930), Stapledon transforms the more or less static oppositions of Wells into a serial process of discovery, and his relentlessly dialectical history of the future picks up that mixture of yearning and skepticism that characterizes anti-utopia.16 Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974), originally subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia,17 captures the two-world system of The First Men in the Moon; it both admires and criticizes its anarchist utopia. And the novel has moments of pure antiutopianism that rival Wells's descriptions of the Selenite "education" or of the Eloi pastoral. When Shevek, the anarchist protagonist, feels revulsion at the "excremental" excess of the foliage of deciduous trees, or when he is unable to comprehend the achievements made possible by the profit motive, we perceive the deepest issues of the novel struggling against each other: ascetic discipline versus abundant profusion, cooperative survival versus competitive production (The Dispossessed, 4:89; 3:73). Neither is the only possible mode of being; each generates prejudices which blind its adherents to the possibilities of the other.                

Such works are important, but they are nevertheless recognizably close to Wells's own practice and therefore essentially familiar to us by now. Zamyatin adds to our understanding of the form by forcing contradiction into outright paradox. We is clearly anti-utopian, but it is also very different from Wells's work in the way it generates and negotiates conflict. However intricate the Wellsian logical system may become, it is not confusing; Zamyatin's, even at its most simple, baffles complacent understanding.18               

We is a novel whose ironic ambiguity is relentless. The reader is made aware of powerful and significant symbols, but every major symbol, besides its primary signification, retains the potential for representing its exact opposite. This quality is acutely, or perhaps obtusely, observed by S-4711 when he reads D-503's diary: "Somewhat ambiguous," he remarks, "Nevertheless.... Well, continue" (28:167).19 S-4711's quick glance has uncovered a quality that marks the novel as subversive, but perhaps at a level different from that usually supposed. In oppressive societies ambiguity serves as camouflage: a statement able to be "misunderstood" will be so comprehended by the proper readers. The censor in such a society finds subversive meanings everywhere; and to the extent that S4711 functions as that kind of cryptographer, he is D-503's best reader, seeing more, probably, than the author of the memoir himself consciously knows. In this case the ambiguity that S4711 observes functions as something more than a veil hiding a single subversive meaning. The ambiguous language and symbolism of We harbor a set of deep contradictions that do more than simply challenge the repressive One State; they challenge any belief in settled understanding. Throughout the novel Zamyatin keeps alive a self-contradicting tension.                

Zamyatin's advocacy of perpetual revolution is well known. It is preached by I-330 in We, and, speaking in his own voice, Zamyatin uses some of the same language, argument, and imagery in his 1923 essay, "On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters." It is worth looking at passages from this essay in some detail because Zamyatin's style here tells us more about the radical quality of the anti-utopian heresy he preaches than can any paraphrase of his argument:

Revolution [he writes] is everywhere, in everything. It is infinite. There is no final revolution, no final number. The social revolution is only one of an infinite number of numbers: the law of revolution is not a social law, but an immeasurably greater one. It is a cosmic, universal law— like the laws of the conservation of energy and of the dissipation of energy (entropy). Some day, an exact formula for the law of revolution will be established. And in this formula, nations, classes, stars—and books—will be expressed as numerical quantities.

The law of revolution is red, fiery, deadly; but this death means the birth of new life, a new star. And the law of entropy is cold, ice blue, like the icy interplanetary infinities. The flame turns from red to an even, warm pink, no longer deadly, but comfortable. The sun ages into a planet, convenient for highways, stores, beds, prostitutes, prisons this is the law. And if the planet is to be kindled into youth again, it must be set on fire, it must be thrown off the smooth highway of evolution: this is the law.                

The flame will cool tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow (in the Book of Genesis days are equal to years, ages). But someone must see this already today, and speak heretically today about tomorrow. Heretics are the only (bitter) remedy against the entropy of human thought.20

In the first paragraph of this passage Zamyatin alludes to a division close to the one we have seen in early Wells: the difference between social and cosmic law is analogous to that between ethics and evolution (as in The Island of Doctor Moreau [1896]). But if the cosmic (evolutionary) principle is invoked as the ultimate law of revolution to counter the lesser laws of social order and development, in the middle of Zamyatin's second paragraph the cosmic process is seen, not as revolutionary, but as entropic. If energy is to be regenerated, the world "must be thrown off the smooth highway of evolution: this is the law." Here Zamyatin in a few lines has come full circle; the principle that will counter evolutionary entropy is not the inevitable cosmic process, but willed heresy—in other words, a form of ethical activity. "Law" at the end of the second paragraph means not the natural "law" that takes place in spite of any conscious will, but a logical truth which sees the ethical activity of the human heretic as the only bitter remedy to the natural process. Thus, in the act of arguing for the inevitable revolution, Zamyatin ends up arguing for inevitable entropy; in place of cosmic process he turns to willed acts. The passage is absolutely contradictory. But in that contradiction lies its true thought-provoking power: the reader is not instructed; he is badgered by hectoring prose which backs him around in a circle. He ends not believing, but doubting; and that is Zamyatin's real message; that is the endless revolution.                

In another passage from this same essay Zamyatin gives a kind of justification for such a procedure:

Organic chemistry has already obliterated the line between living and dead matter. It is an error to divide people into the living and the dead-there are people who are dead-alive, and people who are alive-alive. The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment.

The same is true of what we write: it walks and it talks, but it can be dead-alive or alive-alive. What is truly alive stops before nothing and ceaselessly seeks answers to absurd, `childish' questions. Let the answers be wrong, let the philosophy be mistaken—errors are more valuable than truths: truth is of the machine, error is alive; truth reassures, error disturbs. And if answers be impossible of attainment, all the better! Dealing with answered questions is the privilege of brains constructed like a cow's stomach, which, as we know, is built to digest cud.

If there were anything fixed in nature, if there were truths, all of this would, of course, be wrong. But fortunately, all truths are erroneous. This is the very essence of the dialectical process: today's truths become errors tomorrow; there is no final number.21

To be alive-alive means to be "in error, in search, in questions, in torment," and Zamyatin's prose, right at its logical surface, enforces such a state. There are no "answered questions" here. At best we get clear paradoxes: "errors are more valuable than truths."                

The contradictory process which continually provokes the reader with inconsistencies and paradoxes is at work at the level of image as well as explicit logic. In the first passage we looked at, when echoing I-330's argument that there is no final number, Zamyatin concludes the paragraph with an image which, given the anti-mechanistic, anti-mathematical values that seem to dominate We, must be confusing: "Some day an exact formula for the law of revolution will be established. And in this formula, nations, classes, stars—and books—will be expressed as numerical quantities." This would seem to be, not I-330's image and argument, but that of the Benefactor. Order of this mathematical sort, order of law, is intrinsically entropic. But then in the next paragaph the imagery returns to that which fits We: the colors, blue and pink, neatly represent the ordered, enervated One State. While invited to find correspondences between the essay and the novel, the reader at the same time must understand each image on its own; to expect symbolic consistency is antithetical to the heretic's mode.               

The logical entanglement the novel performs is most clear when D-503 manages to become Zamyatin's own mouthpiece and thereby forces us to accept arguments we have already dismissed as sophistry. When D-503 tries to distinguish the evil Inquisition from the benevolent "Operational Section" of the One State which enforces orthodoxy by torture, he uses imagery which implies a clear distinction where in fact none exists:

About five centuries ago, when the Operational Section was first being developed, there were some fools who compared the Section to the ancient Inquisition, but that is as absurd as equating a surgeon performing a tracheotomy with a highwayman; both may have the same knife in their hands, both do the same thing—cut a living man's throat—yet one is a benefactor, and the other a criminal; one has a + sign, the other a—. (15:80)

A good reader has an easy enough time side-stepping the implications of this rationalization of oppression. But a little later, in an extraordinary passage, D-503 returns to the subject, and now the same argument and imagery become both more specious and more convincing:

You, Uranians, as austere and dark as the ancient Spaniards who had the wisdom to burn offenders in blazing pyres, you are silent; I think you are on my side. But I hear the pink Venusians muttering something about torture, executions, a return to barbarian times. My dear friends, I pity you: you are incapable of philosophic-mathematical thought.                                

Human history ascends in circles, like an aero. The circles    differ— some are golden, some bloody. But all are equally divided into three hundred and sixty degrees. And the movement is from zero—onward, to ten, twenty, two hundred, three hundred and sixty degrees—back to zero. Yes, we have returned to zero—yes. But to my mathematical mind it is clear that this zero is altogether different, altogether new. We started from zero to the right, we have returned to it from the left. Hence, instead of plus zero, we have minus zero. Do you understand?                                

I envisage this Zero as an enormous, silent, narrow, knife-sharp           crag. In fierce, shaggy darkness, holding our breath, we set out from the black night side of Zero Crag. For ages we, the Columbuses, have sailed and sailed; we have circled the entire earth. And, at long last, hurrah! The burst of a salute, and everyone aloft the masts: before us is a different, hitherto unknown side of Zero Crag, illumined by the northern lights of the One State—a pale blue mass, sparks, rainbows, suns, hundreds of suns, billions of rainbows....   

What if we are but a knife's breadth away from the other, the black side of the crag? The knife is the strongest, the most immortal, the most brilliant of man's creations. The knife has been a guillotine; the knife is the universal means of solving all knots; along the knife's edge is the road of paradoxes —the only road of a fearless mind. (20:11-17)

Plus and minus zero may be a meaningless opposition, but no sooner have we dismissed the logic of the infinitesimal difference that makes all the difference than we are confronted with the argument about paradox which is too close to Zamyatin's own pronouncements to be simply rejected. Yet in D-503's mouth the celebration of the "fearless mind" may be mere nonsense. Here we ourselves must distinguish between positive and negative versions which are identical, between plus and minus zero. The act of reading itself engages us in the process the text describes: in the act of rejecting the argument we affirm it.22               

This explicit and disconcerting confusion characterizes the symbolic imagery of We. The architecture of the One State expresses a paradoxical state of oppressive innocence much like the state of feeble-minded peace the Time Traveller envisions when he first sees the far future. The numbers all live in glass-walled apartments from which everyone is visible to everyone else. Privacy is unnecessary, it is argued, because there is no guilt. Of course such openness also exposes guilt, and the image of emancipation is entangled with that of severe repression. Thus, one of the the most shocking images of the revolution for D-503 is the sight of couples copulating in the open. Similarly, the Integral, the glass rocketship which D-503 is in charge of building is an instrument of totalitarian imperialism by which the One State will spread its message of obedient uniformity to the whole solar system, and also the key to the revolutionists' plan of escape and revolt. It is thus a symbol both of a repressive, enforced political unity without meaningful opposition and of psychic wholeness, the re-integrated personality that might exist if the numbers could destroy the repressive state.                

The pronouns of the novel work in similarly double ways. The "We" of the title represents a denial of the individual psyche: D-503, good citizen, dedicates his diary to the collective:

I shall merely attempt to record what I see and think, or, to be more exact, what we think (precisely so—we, and let this We be the title of my record). But since this record will be a derivative of our life, of the mathematically perfect life of the One State, will it not be, of itself, and regardless of my will or skill, a poem? It will. I believe, I know it.                

I write this, and my cheeks are burning. This must be similar to what a woman feels when she first senses within herself the pulse of a new, still tiny. still blind little human being. It is I, and at the same time not I. (1:2)

The initial we is clearly a pious act of individual negation, a willed union which exists in conflict with the many I's in the passage, and the reader easily sees the submerged ego abasing itself but wanting to emerge. But if that first we is totalitarian, in the second paragraph the image of a woman with child poses a more positive idea of "we," one which sees generation and creation as enjoying the "not I" and thereby enforcing a plural even as it is implicitly negated.                

Though the pronoun we has these suggestions of psychic possibility, through much of the novel it remains essentially ironic, a self-annihilating expansion of I, until near the end of the novel when the revolutionaries are swarming into the city. At that point, a revolutionary responds to D-503's question, where is I-330?

`Here,' he cried gaily, drunkenly—strong, yellow teeth....`She's here, in the city, in action. Oh-oh—we are acting!'                

Who are we? Who am I? (37:219)

Having worked throughout the novel to free himself from "we," D-503 finds his liberation in terms of a "we." The deep issue here is how can there be an "I" without a "we?" The individualism so championed against the totalitarian state is in itself meaningless; it must place itself in a social context.                

The second person pronoun establishes a less complex ambiguity, but one that leads directly to the central conflict of the novel. As his attraction to I-330 deepens and as they get more intimate, she uses the archaic intimate pronoun which he sees as a gesture of condescension:

`Do you like fog?'                

She used the ancient, long-forgotten `thou'—the `thou' of the master to the slave. It entered into me slowly, sharply. Yes, I was a slave, and this, too, was necessary, was good. (13:72)

Though D-503, so used to serving others, is probably misunderstanding I-330's linguistic gesture, we should be aware of an ironic truth here. He has just compared himself to a piece of iron drawn to a magnet, and the love relationship has a definite aspect of obedience and servitude to it. A little later, in a rapturous fantasy of meeting I-330, D-503 himself uses the intimate pronoun: "I will use the warm, familiar `thou'—only `thou"' (16:87). Here the pronoun suggests intimacy more than servitude, but the gesture remains servile.                

The puzzle about love is given mathematical expression somewhat later:

I am like a machine set at excessive speed; the bearings are overheated; another minute, and molten metal will begin to drip, and everything will turn to naught. Quick—cold water, logic. I pour it by the pailful, but logic hisses on the red-hot bearings and dissipates into the air in whiffs of white elusive steam.                              

Of course, it's clear: in order to determine the true value of a function it is necessary to take it to its ultimate limit. And it is clear that yesterday's preposterous `dissolution in the universe,' brought to its ultimate point, means death. For death is precisely the most complete dissolution of self in the universe. Hence, if we designate love as `L' and death as `D,' then L=f(D). In other words, love and death.... (24:135)

The formula engages both uses of "thou": love is tyrannical bondage, an obliteration of self, and love is an intimate devotion in which one gives up private interests in attending on the other. But the irony does not end there; the annihilation of the "I" in the "We" so celebrated by D-503 at the beginning corresponds exactly to the relationship expressed by the formula. I do not mean to suggest that the love for the State and the love for I-330 are in every way identical. Clearly they are not; clearly the love for I-330 is energizing while that for the One State is entropic. The formula turns out to have a further meaning when in "Entry 35" D-503 plans to murder U-, drops the curtains of his room, and realizes that the terrified woman thinks he is sexually aroused. In its comic, grotesque inversion of the central energy of his liberation, this scene suggests both the truth of D-503's bondage to I-330 and the absurdity of it. If we compare this complex ironic exploration of devotion to the simple way Helen inspires Graham, we can see how thoroughly anti-utopian Zamyatin is here.                

The structural similarity between D-503's love of the State and his love of I-330 re-emerges at the level of plot when it becomes clear that I-330 is using D-503 just as much as the Benefactor is. If the imagery of mechanical order represents one kind of bondage, the imagery of erotic mystery represents another. I-330 has awakened psychological depths in D-503 that the well-oiled state machine has put to sleep, but Zamyatin's dialectic will not let us rest with easy platitudes about healthy emotion: the awakening takes its cost; the mechanical, communal state has, after all, some genuine virtues that are lost in the re-entry into erotic individualism. At the core of the novel lie two contradictory imperatives. One commands commitment outside oneself; the other demands self and wholeness. Life asks both, but the novel sets them up as opposed, and the process of reading is an act of repeatedly moving across the distinction, of constantly rethinking the issue.                

If, in terms of its dystopian reintegration of D-503 back into the One State and the sadistic execution of I-330, We has seemed to clarify the heroic ambiguities that muffle the end of WSW, the texture of the whole novel is nevertheless more thoroughly anti-utopian than anything Wells ever wrote. The history of Zamyatin's reception has perhaps tended to obscure this pervasive anti-utopianism of We. Clearly the novel is a satiric attack on Bolshevik totalitarianism, but it does not give easy comfort to the enemies of the One State, either. The novel is "heretical" to the core, and it fights all entropic dogmas, even those which would combat the One State. Unlike Wells's Graham, whose love and heroism remain unquestioned, D-503 is never free to be simply heroic or passionate, for love and heroism themselves are seen as involved in contradictions.

4. In Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)we see an instance of Wells's and Zamyatin's futures transformed to pure dystopia. Unlike We, in which imagery and symbolism remain contradictory, and unlike When the Sleeper Wakes, in which heroic martyrdom leaves civilization's final destiny ambiguous, 1984 moves towards a resolution of all puzzles. The cruel reality of power means that experiential reality has no meaning and therefore any contradictions perceived are inconsequential. The pressure of conflict that so energized Wells and Zamyatin appears in Orwell on the thematic level as a naive empiricism. In a logical maneuver somewhat like Wells's absolutizing of the unique individual, Orwell renders everything ambiguous as a way of obliterating the distinguishing importance of ambiguity itself.23               

"Doublethink" is D-503's psychological self-denial carried to the point at which thought itself becomes impossible.24 D-503's distinctions between plus and minus zero and between the dagger and the scalpel have a logical base; as I have argued, the true energy of Zamyatin's insight derives from the fact that D-503's rationalizations of oppression and repression have an element of real truth in them. "Doublethink" poses even more blatant contradictions, but does so, not as paradox that generates thought, but as an illusion of thought which is nonsense. Contradiction ceases to be meaningful. Two plus two can equal four or five. This is, of course, an obvious thematic truth of the totalitarian state, but it is also structurally true of Orwell's novel.                

Orwell begins with a structure that closely echoes Zamyatin's: the totalitarian city is juxtaposed to the natural countryside, and the opposition is mediated by the ancient house, or in Orwell's version, by the antique shop in the prole section. But the opposition is never a real one for Orwell. The countryside turns out to be bugged; real secrecy is possible only in the midst of a crowd. 1984 turns out to expose the naivete of Zamyatin's hopeful structure. Of course, in We there is also a suspicion that the natural alternative outside the Green Wall is not a true alternative: D-503 sees the enigmatic S-4711 in the crowd there. But the ambiguity of this connection (it is never clear whose side S-4711 is on, or if he doesn't represent a power above both sides) is, like all the important ambiguities of the novel, unresolved. Therein lies the continuing possibility of thought. In 1984, on the other hand, resolution takes place with nightmarish finality. The Party controls everything— the countryside, the room, Carrington, O'Brien, the past, and the future.                

The last part of the novel is ingenious, not for its mediations or its conflicts, but for the skill with which it robs Smith and the reader of any alternative. The imagery becomes that of total control. Even the room number in the Ministry of Love, 101, while it balances ones, is in its tight symmetry a mirroring trap. And in this room Smith comes to know the fear, not a part of a dynamic structure, but the single, totally dominating core image, the rat, before which all reasoning and morality collapses. And here it is that O'Brien explains the real meaning of power, not as a political issue, not as a synthesis of competing goods or interests, but simply as a monolithic end in itself which denies the whole issue of freedom and happiness that torments Zamyatin and before him Dostoyevsky. The absolute pessimism implied by the complete triumph of the totalitarian state has upset critics; some have tried to see a possibility of change in Oceania's shifting foreign relations, but that seems to be grasping at straws. Orwell has tried to deny change; he has tried to envision the powerlessness of conscious thought and in Zamyatin's sense) the entropic end of history.                

But at the middle of the novel, in the picture of the prole washerwoman singing a trite, machine-made popular song, Orwell suggests, not a revolutionary hope, but a level of being that by its very ignorance of the issues of freedom and happiness, by its unconscious co-optation of the culture-producers' co-optation, transcends the totalitarian state. Here is an alternative, but it is one which, by displacing conflict to a completely different level, makes anti-utopian thought irrelevant. At the moment just before his arrest Winston Smith has a vision of prole endurance which, though he still tries to convert it to a conscious political end, stands as a pure bodily fact, deeper than politics:

`Do you remember,' he said, `the thrush that sang to us, that first day, at the edge of the wood?'           

`He wasn't singing to us,' said Julia. `He was singing to please himself. Not even that. He was just singing.'                               

The birds sang, the proles sang, the Party did not sing. All   around the world, in London and New York, in Africa and Brazil and in the mysterious, forbidden lands beyond the frontiers, in the streets of Paris and Berlin, in the villages of the endless Russian plain, in the bazaars of China and Japan—everywhere stood the same solid unconquerable figure, made monstrous by work and child-bearing, toiling from birth to death and still singing. Out of those mighty loins a race of conscious beings must one day come. You were the dead; theirs was the future. But you could share in that future if you kept alive the mind as they kept alive the body, and passed on the secret doctrine that two plus two make four.

`We are the dead,' he said.                                

`We are the dead,' echoed Julia dutifully.                                

`You are the dead,' said an iron voice behind them. (2:3:182)25

Despite the false note of Smith's political rhetoric ("unconquerable," "Out of those mighty loins a race..."), this passage still suggests in simple being an alternative to the Party's rule. In the all-controlling state, consciousness is dead, but life, the singing thrush, the singing woman, persists, not as an ethical social fact, not even as a challenge to the Party's domination, but as simple biology. If there is any hope in 1984, it lies here in the unreflecting joy of being. We are back at the issue of evolution and ethics, but now the ethical component is seen as impossible and irrelevant. Evolution, not as a historical, social process, but as purely biological survival, is the sole value. Winston Smith's hope of keeping "alive the mind as they kept alive the body" is vain; the mind is always trapped. But the body persists and finds joy even if Oceania succeeds as a thousand-year Reich.                

Orwell's imagination, always attuned to suffering, has managed to box itself in; the art of 1984, its greatness, is in the relentless denial of the possibility of change. If hope is ever raised—as it certainly is by Goldstein's book—it is raised to dashed. Orwell's pessimism reduces dynamic conflict to a monolithic truth.                

To transform such a dystopia into utopia requires discovering a different set of images that will be similarly free from ambiguity and conflict but which will function positively instead of negatively. Positive and negative are deceptive terms here; they imply a symmetry around a neutral middle which is in fact very difficult to achieve. It is a commonplace of modern criticism that there are no authentic heroes, only anti-heroes. Whereas the purely negative image is easily acceded to, the positive is deeply suspect. A single negative connotation will rob an image of its positive value, while a single positive connotation will not prevent an image from seeming totally negative. To say that a rat is intelligent does not make it any the less powerfully negative; like Satan, "by merit raised/To that bad eminence," its virtues simply increase its horror. On the other hand, positive images can be rendered ineffectual by a simple observation of how powerless they are. Given this imbalance in the present state of values, the utopian image must often depend on what in cinematic terms we would call soft-focus: a blurred vision which never looks closely enough at the image td discover flaws. Wells performs exactly such a shift of lens in the last part of IDC, and we see such a blur at the heart of Rav Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Montag, the protagonist of Bradbury's novel, like Graham, D-503, and Winston Smith, is a man coming to consciousness and attempting the overthrow or reformation of the closed, totalitarian, futuristic world he valued at the start. As in the other novels we have looked at, here too a woman is the inspiration for the change of mind. As in the other works, the act of seeing beyond the present is at least in part an act of recovery of a lost tradition: Graham is a revolutionary because he retains l9th-centry sentiments of justice which the future world claims to have outgrown; D-503 and Winston Smith find an alternative to the totalitarian state in the antique parts of civilization. And Montag rediscovers books, which the future society has banned. Other similarities might be traced, but my point in sketching the by now conventional situation is not to estimate the extent of Bradbury's debt to the tradition, but to establish a broad common background against which we can understand the different way Bradbury's images function logically.                

In Fahrenheit 451 the future is bad because people, denied the rich traditional culture contained in books and imaged by nature, have become unstimulated and unstimulating. The dystopian world is in large part conveyed in terms of the denial of positives. Firechief Beatty's defense of the bookless future is essentially that of the Grand Inquisitor, with the important change that the mass's fear of freedom is seen to be a historical phenomenon, a failure of education. In the past, so the ironic argument goes, people were capable of freedom, but because of technology and the triumph of a debased mass culture they have lost their ability to choose and their joy in freedom.

Beatty's argument seems to be the author's; in Montag's wife we see heavily done exactly the mindlessness, the need for booklessness that Beatty defends. Beatty argues that mass culture is necessarily simple and, therefore, inevitably a decline from our own élite culture based on books, and in much of its satire the novel supports him. Where the novel makes Beatty clearly an ironic spokesman to be refuted is not in his characterization of the masses and what they want, but in his inadequate appreciation of the sensitive few who are capable of freedom.                

The novel expresses this vision of freedom with images of sentimentalized nature (Clarisse rhapsodizes about the smell of leaves, the sight of the man in the moon26), the recollection of the small, mid-western town (the front porch and the rocking chair become symbols of freedom), some tag ends of 1930s' romanticizing of Depression survival, and an unquestioning admiration for books. This cluster poses an absolute pole around which accrues all good and in relation to which all movement away is bad. The dystopian and utopian possibilities in the novel are thus represented by separate clusters of images and ideas that the novel finds unambiguous and leaves unchallenged.                

What needs emphasis here is the extent to which Bradbury's novel preserves the dystopian-utopian structure by ignoring the implications of its own imagery. The author advises his audience that they must preserve books to prevent the horror he imagines, but he never questions the values implicit in the books. When the new age is accused of serious flaws—unhappiness, fear, war, and wasted lives—there is no sense that the age of books may have also suffered from such problems. At the end, in his vision of a wandering group of book-people Bradbury invokes an idealized hobo mystique, but with little sense of the limits and tragedy of such a life.                

In such a simple system of good and bad values, mediation produces horror rather than thought. Nature is good and technology is bad, but the ultimate terror is a mixture of the two, a kind of symbolic miscegenation. When Montag finally makes his break from the technological future he is pursued by a "mechanical hound," a terrifying figure which combines the relentlessness of the bloodhound with the infallibility of technology. In Bradbury's vision the hound is most terrifying for being both alive and not alive.                

The threat the hound poses for the imagery system of the novel is put to rest the moment Montag escapes him, and the clear opposition between technology and nature that Clarisse has preached strongly reasserts itself. Montag hears a whisper, sees "a shape, two eyes" in the forest and is convinced it is the hound, but it turns out to be a deer, not just harmless, but afraid of him (3:128).27 Nature is submissive and controllable, while technology is predatory and threatening. This important refuge then leads to a sequence of reversals. Montag sees a fire in the woods and for the first time in his life realizes that fire need not be destructive, that in providing warmth it can be benign (31:130). And this perception leads to a moment of trance in which Montag resees himself:

How long he stood he did not know, but there was a foolish and yet delicious sense of knowing himself as an animal come from the forest, drawn by the fire. He was a thing of brush and liquid eye, of fur and muzzle and hoof, he was a thing of horn and blood that would smell like autumn if you bled it out on the ground. (3:130)

I take it that this reduction of the human to animal parts is somehow consoling and ennobling. Like all the nature images in this novel, the purple rhetoric obscures true perception, but nevertheless the revelation is there and the blurred but central symbolic transformation of the novel is complete: Montag has escaped the urban world of destructive technology and joined the nurturing forest world. By rescuing fire for the good, natural side, he has enabled the novel to convert dystopia into utopia.
                The interesting difficulty is where do books fit into this simple opposition? Since Gutenberg the book has been a symbol of technological progress. Bradbury partly counters this meaning of his symbol by reducing his pastoral, not to paper books, but to humans who remember books. Thus the replication and general availability that are books' virtues, but which the novel has seen as the instruments of the mass-culture that has ruined the world, are denied. We have the idea of the book without the fact of its production. Then, by becoming a general symbol of the past now denied, the book becomes a symbol for all old values, but this symbolism brings up two difficulties. First, whatever good books have propagated, they have also preached the evils that have oppressed the world. The very technology that the novel finds threatening would be impossible without books. Second, books can readily inspire a repressive and tradition-bound pedantry which, while anti-technological, is also against nature.                

Through most of Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury simply ignores these potential problems with his symbol; but in the final pages, in an act of renunciation that is surprising given the values the novel has promulgated, the moral vision retreats from its main symbolism. The memorizers of books are about to move out of the forest to give succor to the cities that have just-been bombed: and Grander, the leader of the bookish hoboes, says:

Hold onto one thought: you're not important. You're not anything. Some day the load we're carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting on the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And some day we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. (3:146)

The vagueness, ambiguity, and misdirection of this passage confuse what Granger is saying; but in the technological imagery of the last line and in the attack on the previously sentimentalized past, in the recognition that books have done little to make life better, this paragraph implies a renunciation of the values the novel has been, however naïvely, building. But perhaps it is also, finally, an awareness of a true opposition, of an irony that gets beyond the simple sentimentalisms of much of the novel. Though one may have doubts as to how to take it, one way would be to see here a titantic revision of values, a deep questioning of the pieties that have inspired Montag and Clarisse. In line with such a reading we should observe that one of the books Montag remembers is Ecclesiastes: perhaps this is an allusion to the Preacher's famous words against the vanity of life, and particularly the vanity of books. But, then, to read it this way would be to suppose that Bradbury is attempting anti-utopian thought, and that seems unlikely.28               

Bradbury's novel is in the tradition of utopian prose put forth by Wells himself in his later romances. Whatever political differences we might discover between Wells's sane, organized, post-comet societies and Bradbury's nomadic society in nature, we can see that they both depend on an imagery which ignores contradiction. Such utopian thought is incompatible with the basic logical techniques of Wells's earlier work. It marks an evasion of the pressure of contradiction. It attempts to bring about conviction not by thought, but by the emotive power of rhythmic prose, the attractiveness of pretty images, the appeal to hope which will treat doubt as merely regretful cynicism. Such utopian images have an honored place, but they belong to a genus quite unlike the anti-utopian investigations that mark Wells's greatest scientific romances.

Bradbury's novel is clearly utopian-dystopian. What may not be so clear is how much a more complicated work, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (BNW), shares Fahrenheit 451's rigid values and repeats the same essential logical structure. In the light of the distinctions I am outlining here, BNW, while it may seem to echo the anti-utopianism of Wells and Zamyatin in a number of ways,29 is mainly dystopian.
                Like Bradbury's novel, BNW sets up simple plus-minus oppositions. Huxley defends nature against technology, and the individual against society.30 The social is the debased in Huxley's novel, and the recurrent image of the twin multiplied carries that meaning. There are numerous passages which convey satiric thrust simply by rendering in detail "the nightmare of swarming, indistinguishable sameness":

The menial staff of the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying consisted of one hundred and sixty-two Deltas divided into two Bokanovsky Groups of eighty-four red-headed female and seventy-eight dark dolychocephalic male twins, respectively. At six when their working day was over, the two Groups assembled in the vestibule of the Hospital and were served by the Deputy Sub Bursar with their soma ration. (15:160)

The numerical exactness, the scientific terminology, and the attention to precise titles here are vehicles of sarcastic scorn. Huxley's point is obvious and much commented on; my aim here is not to criticize it but to observe the way he presents it. There is none of the ambivalence we are used to in Wells; here we know exactly and unambiguously what we are supposed to be scorning.                

Against this multiplied sameness, the novel sets up the individual as the only true principle of meaning. In its dignifying of individual suffering and self-sacrifice, BNW shows itself as much less pessimistic than 1984. In Orwell's work the individual has been deprived of meaning, even that of conscious nay-saying, by the unchallengeable power of the Party. In Huxley's novel, John, disgusted with the world, can achieve a victory by dying.31 The motives for John's behavior do not seem to enter the novel's awareness,32 and the complacent rejection of the whole New World system of test-tube babies, feelies, and some hardly permits real inquiry. At bottom the novel is a skillful voicing of prejudices in favor of a cultural ideal which it symbolizes by the works of Shakespeare.
                It is worth comparing the way this novel treats test-tube methods to the way Wells treats Selenite methods of child-raising.33 As I read them, the passages in which Wells describes the conditioning of infants suggest that even as he sees the horror, he can imagine the virtues. In that tension resides his anti-utopian vigor. Huxley, however, as he ironically champions the method, rejects it without reason. Like the reporter in Wells's "The Land Ironclads," he is too good a journalist to spoil his contrast by admitting that what he is attacking has any virtues. I don't mean to suggest that test-tube methods or multiplied twins are "good," but only that Huxley does not think out why they are not good. An illuminating contrast to his easy rejection would be Ursula Le Guin's short story, "Nine Lives," which explores the virtues and drawbacks of just such identical replication.34               

In Mustapha Mond's explanation to John of the rationale behind the modern social techniques, we see not the dialectic of the Grand Inquisitor, but despair. As in Bradbury's novel, the irony of the speech is doubly vicious: the debased mass culture is a horror, and the debased masses deserve it. In the place of the investigation into the freedom-happiness dichotomy that characterizes anti-utopia, this vision denies the possibility of exchange. The logic leads to the conclusion that a free, meaningful society is a contradiction; society is by its very structure valued by the "happiness" it produces, not by the meaning it generates. Thus Mond's horrible paradox: only by debasing life can he perfect it. As Adorno observes, Huxley's "anger at false happiness sacrifices the idea of true happiness as well."35               

Such dystopian thought depends on secure values and categories. In Bradbury, nature and books, in Huxley, Shakespeare, freedom, and suffering, are undoubted positives against which all social forms look trivial. I suspect that the depressing quality of BNW is not the result of real pessimism but of this relentless trivialization of all social activity.36 By contrast, in an antiutopian form all positives turn up-side-down, and even the most escapist society has its attractions. In The Time Machine, the "hateful grindstone of pain and necessity" is both admired and dreaded. In We useful books are instruments of oppression; eroticism, while liberating is captivating; nature is both escape and perhaps betrayal; freedom is an exhilarating illusion.                

Such anti-utopian logic is rare; it never becomes the distinguishing mark of a school or movement. Thus, American SF as a whole, from the 1930s into the '60s, is generally utopian. In its deep structure Bradbury's dystopia-utopia is typical of the rest. It shares with Heinlein's rhapsodies of powerful, charismatic individuals and Asimov's ironic fables about economic triumph a common assurance that whatever new will occur will not in any deep way disrupt a set of values that conform closely to what might be called "Americanism." There are numerous historical reasons for this cautious utopianism: the perceived threats of Communism on one side and Fascism on the other, the war, the precarious sense that a "positive" attitude was the only way out of economic depression. There are also, of course, lazier reasons: the inertia of popular forms. the use of popular literature for blatant propaganda.                

In such a context, the antithesis to the prevailing utopian-dystopian mode is not a genuine anti-utopianism, but an ironic comedy which, far from meditating on the ways opposing truths can be made to co-exist, enjoys debunking all truth. Contradiction here is not enlightening; it simply proves the futility of real thought, the impossibility of discovering or instituting new ideas. The works of such perceptive writers as Tenn, Sheckley, or Vonnegut, outrageous as they can sometimes be, are finally trapped in the dilemma of the prevailing utopianism. Vonnegut's colloquialized Zen ("So it goes") is a resignation to the overwhelming undeniability of the world as it is. The contradictions he perceives merely prove that humans are inconsistent, that society is thoughtlessly cruel, and that, to quote Winnie Verloc, Life does "not stand looking into very much." Such comedy may remind us of some of Wells's ironic tales of incompetence—"The Empire of the Ants" (1905), "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" (1898), the opening section of The Food of the Gods (1904)—but it is a far cry from that passionate anti-utopianism of the great romances or even from the exhilarating utopianism of Wells's later projects.

5. It is appropriate to close our investigation of Wells's logic by tipping the balance back. Let us look again at Wells's A Modern Utopia (1905), for here, in a work which by its title and by the date of its writing we would expect to imitate the utopian style of IDC, we find traces of the anti-utopian irony reminiscent of the earlier work.                

The narrator of A Modern Utopia, what Wells calls "the owner of the Voice," is an ironic device that Wells uses as a way not of withholding full assent to the ideas he sets forth, but of suggesting the contradictory fullness of human hopes and, therefore, of expressing his anti-utopian awareness of the narrowness of his fervently held utopian ideas even as he declares them. The irony here is not satiric; it is like the wit T.S. Eliot praises in Andrew Marvell: "It involves probably, a recognition, implicit in the expression of every experience, of other kinds of experience which are possible."37 Wells's irony allows, perhaps forces, the reader to assume a stance that encompasses a more complex understanding than the speaker is able to render explicitly. The reader sees everything that the author sees and also those exceptions and flaws which a deep understanding must encompass but which the author cannot acknowledge without undermining the rational force and persuasiveness of his ideas. The irony is, therefore, partly a rhetorical device to absorb criticism at the loose edges of the work, but it is also a logical device that creates a double perspective. Thus, A Modern Utopia, like many sophisticated utopias, contains a strong anti-utopian element.                

The Botanist who accompanies the Voice throughout A Modern Utopia and who dreams of rescuing his childhood sweetheart from "that scoundrel" (her husband) repeatedly draws our attention to the limits of utopia. While the Voice sees the Botanist as an instance of the kind of romantic sublimation that utopia will obviate, the Botanist hates the utopia in which domestic dramas such as the one in which he imagines himself playing the romantic hero will be unnecessary, even impossible. In the midst of rational idealizations we are reminded of the stubborn, self-indulgent irrationality of human nature. The Botanist, for all his foolishness—in some respects he reminds one strongly of the Curate in The War of the Worlds—imparts shading to the clear, bright imaginings of the Voice. Yet the Botanist is not simply against utopia. He is, in fact, a warped version of Wells himself; he wants a utopia, but he wants his utopia, not the Voice's, and his selfish sentimentalism leads him to be quite unhappy in the Voice's utopia. Though Wells clearly finds the Botanist comically puerile, in other novels, such as The Passionate Friends, such a man, who secretly, even unconsciously, nurses a hidden flame and who at the second chance bursts into full passion, is a sympathetic figure for him. The Botanist, therefore, must be seen not as a trivial negation but as the expression of a reality: the unpredictable individual who cannot conform to the utopianist's neat plan.               

We can appreciate the anti-utopian subtlety of this device by observing that Wells gives us as a foil to the Botanist a foppish Utopian who declares himself in opposition to all the ideals of Utopia. "The world, he held, was overmanaged and that was the root of all evil" (4:120).38 This man is too clearly trivial to be anti-utopian in the sense I am using the term; for Wells himself the root of all evil is the under-management of the world, and this silly figure is simply hypocritical and wrong. Like the Artilleryman in TheWar of the Worlds, this man looks to the collapse of civilization as a way of getting back to "nature" and to "human nature," and as in the case of the Artilleryman, a deep hypocrisy underlines the inadequacy of this stance, for he accepts all the benefits of the wondrous civilization he damns. Unlike the sentimental Botanist, this man, rather than generating any serious questions about the purpose and success of utopia, merely gives criticism of utopia a bad name.              

Though the main thrust of A Modern Utopia, is as we would expect, utopian, Wells sprinkles an anti-utopian awareness throughout. The Voice's regret about bringing the Botanist along is an acknowledgment that social solutions are easy if we simplify humanity. Sometimes he remarks with a wary sense of self-criticism on how much "discipline and sacrifice" figure in his imaginings (7:234; 8:250). He can in the midst of meditations on social harmony introject an awareness of the serious problems energetic individuals pose: "What will Utopia do with Mr Roosevelt?" (1:28); Griffin and Nunez have not been forgotten.                

Towards the end of A Modern Utopia, when he returns to the horrors of this world, the Voice has a moment when he doubts the value of utopian imaginings altogether. Our own world,

has a glare, it has a tumult and a vigour that shouts one down. It shouts one down, if shouting is to carry it. What good was it to trot along the pavement through this noise and tumult of life, pleading Utopia to that botanist? What Good would it be to recommend Utopia in this driver's preoccupied ear?                

There are moments in the life of every philosopher and dreamer when he feels himself the flimsiest of absurdities, when the Thing in Being has its way with him, its triumphant way, when it asks in a roar, unanswerably, with a fine solid use of current vernacular, `What Good is all this—Rot about Utopias?' (11:366)

Here is the anti-utopian structure. Wells's utopia exists in an entirely ironic relation with what is; and if at the center are single-minded imaginings of a sane society, the whole is infiltrated by a pervasive awareness of "insanities."39               

What we have, then, in A Modern Utopia, is a gesture back towards the familiar two-world system of the early "scientific romances"; this world and utopia are juxtaposed, and Wells delights in tracing the parallels in order to uncover where important difference is possible. The beautiful machine, the efficient hotel room, the erection of the ugliest building, the treatment of motherhood as a service to the state—all are discovered as parallels with a difference to our own world. Yet A Modern Utopia differs from the earlier two-world systems in that the contrast is not balanced; here there is clear choice as to which world is preferable. If the ironies of The Time Machine never resolve, here the utopia is pervasively good and "sane" whatever doubts we may continue to entertain; and our world, however much we like it and however much it shouts thought down, is severely under-managed and "insane."                

Once that important difference is granted, however, we can see how the freedoms of the two-world system continue to function in A Modern Utopia. They allow for what the Voice praises in Plato: "the experimental inconsistency of an enquiring man" (6:209). The utopia exists, not as a prophecy, not even as a goal, but as an intellectual puzzle which is valuable, not for its conclusions, but for the exercise of imagination it demands.                

In the last chapter Wells says this, and the image he uses is telling:

For a time I sit restfully enjoying the Botanist s companionable silence, and thinking fragmentarily of those samurai and their Rules. I entertain something of the satisfaction of a man who has finished building a bridge: I feel that I have joined together things that I had never joined before. My Utopia seems real to me, very real, I can believe in it, until the metal chair-back gives to my shoulder blades, and Utopian sparrows twitter and hop before my feet. I have a pleasant moment of unhesitating self-satisfaction: I feel a shameless exultation to be there. For a moment I forget the consideration the Botanist demands; the mere pleasure of completeness of holding and controlling all the threads, possesses me. (11:353-54; emphasis added)

In this passage we see both the pure joy in "bridging," reminiscent of the taxidermist's fraudulent art (in "The Triumphs of a Taxidermist") and characteristic of Wells's earliest, anti-utopian work; and the more purely utopian "pleasure of completeness, of holding and controlling all the threads." This latter pleasure, though expressed with some wry irony, is distrustful of the openness and skepticism of irony itself. The passage accepts the structure of early Wells but strives to turn it to a less open yet more assured stance like that characteristic of Wells's later work.


1. In the next decade Wells would publish a series of novels (Love and Mr Lewisham, 1900; Kipps, 1905; Tono-Bungay, 1909; Ann Veronica, 1909; The History of Mr Polly, 1910; The New Machiavelli, 1911; Marriage, 1912; The Passionate Friends, 1913; The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, 1914; Boon, 1915; The Research Magnificent, 1915; Mr Britling Sees It Through, 1916) whose concern is not to imagine a future, but to see England as it is.
2. See The Wonderful Visit, chap. 28; and also my essay cited in the headnote to this article, esp. pp. 240-44.
3. The essence of utopia, as I am using the term here, resides in its presenting us with "a serious vision of society as a single intellectual pattern" (Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism [lPrinceton, 1957], p. 310. Cf. Darko Suvin, "Defining the Literary Genre of Utopia: Some Historical Semantics, Some Genology, a Proposal, and a Plea," in Metamorphoses of Science Fiction [lNew Haven, 1979], p. 49). Under dystopia I include what Frye elsewhere calls "utopian satire" (see his "Varieties of Literary Utopia," in Utopias and Utopian Thought, ed. Frank E. Manuel [1965; rpt. Boston, 1967], p. 19) and what many writers call anti-utopia (Cf. Hillegas, The Future as Nightmare [NY, 1967], pp. 3, 4, et passim, and Suvin, op. cit., pp. 61-62). I am reserving the term anti-utopia for a mode of imagining which is critical not of the utopian political structure, but of the way of thought that constructs it. Thus, anti-utopia, in this formulation, is a different genre from utopia.
4. Suvin, op. cit., p. 49.
5. It is this deep structural identity that leads Lewis Mumford to see all utopian thought as totalitarian (see his "Utopia, the City, and the Machine," in Utopias and Utopian Thought, ed. Manuel, p. 9). Mumford uses the term dystopia in a strange way, however: though at times he seems to mean an oppressive and totalitarian structure such that all utopias are potentially dystopias, at other times he means chaos, "total destruction and extermination" (p. 18), the total rejection of order (p. 23). Such a definition seems too idiosyncratic to be useful. It certainly does not fit what are conventionally called dystopias.
6. Cf. Robert C. Elliott, The Shape of Utopia: Studies in a Literary Genre (Chicago, 1970), pp. 22-24; and Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, p. 310.
7. For example, in the description of the Utopian war policy More may be indulging in what I am calling anti-utopian thought even as he builds one of the great utopias. It may be that pure utopianism is possible only in what I would call naïve utopias, that is, in those imaginative constructs such as Looking Backward and Walden Two which the author has serious hopes of realizing.
8. Though we might see in this charismatic figure a prefiguration of fascism, the charge of obscurity still holds. After all, one of the charges to be made against fascism is that it obfuscates true economic and political relationships by focusing on the leader's personality.
9. The blur here, as Bergonzi observes (The Early H.G.Wells [Manchester, 1961], pp. 152-55) results in part at least from Wells's own sympathy with Ostrog's position.
 10. H.G. Wells, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899; rpt. NY: Ace Books, n.d.).
11. See Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator (Palo Alto, CA: 1970).
12. Norman and Jeanne Mackenzie, H. G.Wells (NY, 1973), p. 150; Bergonzi, op. cit., pp. 140-41.
13. See n. 3 above.

Zamyatin and Rand

by Peter Saint-Andre (2003)

First published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 285-304.


Chris Sciabarra opened up many new avenues of Randian scholarship with the publication of his study Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical in 1995. Specifically, he argued that Rand's thought was not a-historical (as many of her followers, and Rand herself, have seemed to claim) but that it was instead deeply affected by the philosophy and culture of the Silver Age in Russia. Though Sciabarra adduced textual evidence for his claims and situated Rand within the context of Silver Age thinking generally, he traced a direct line of influence to Rand from only one Russian thinker: the philosopher N.O. Lossky. Yet it is quite possible that further influences are waiting to be discovered in the culture Rand was immersed in during her formative years. In this essay I argue that one such influence was quite likely the writer and theorist Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937).


Other than perhaps Gorky, Yevgeny Zamyatin was probably the most influential writer in Russia (and specifically in Petersburg, as he insisted on calling his adopted city) in the years immediately following the Russian Revolution. Today Zamyatin is best-known for his dystopian novel We (written in 1920-1921, read at a meeting of the All-Russia Writer's Union in 1923, published in English translation in 1924, used as inspiration by George Orwell in writing 1984, but never printed in the Soviet Union). However, from 1917 until 1924 or so, Zamyatin's literary energies radiated in all directions: in those years he wrote not only We but also a large number of short stories and critical essays, worked as an editor and translator for several Petersburg publishing companies, lectured frequently in public forums, and served as literary father to the "Serapion Brethren", which consisted of many of the leading young writers of the day (including Zoshchenko, Slonimsky, Lunts, Kaverin, and Fedin). Even after he was effectively silenced in the mid-1920s for his heretical views, he continued to inspire Russian writers of his day as well as long after, as witnessed by Solzhenitsyn's high opinion of Zamyatin.

As described by Sciabarra (1995, Ch. 3), in 1918 the young Ayn Rand (then 13 years old) escaped with her family from the ravages of post-Revolutionary Petersburg and travelled to the Crimea to wait out the Revolution. When the White army was vanquished by the Reds and it became clear that the Revolution would survive, Rand's family returned to Petersburg sometime in mid-1921. That same year, Rand entered (at age 16) Petrograd University to complete a three-year course of studies in the Department of Social Pedagogy, where she majored in history but also completed courses in literature and philosophy. After completing her degree in mid-1924 (barely avoiding the student purges earlier that year), Rand worked as a tour guide to help support her family; however, she recognized that no intellectual freedom was possible in Russia, obtained a visa, and in January 1926 left her native country for America, never to return.

Thus Rand's formative college years coincided with the years of Zamyatin's greatest fame and influence in Petersburg. He was at that time a hero to writers young and old, admired for his fierce independence and literary individualism, because he was virtually the only literary figure in Russia to voice his resistance to collectivism and conformity. Zamyatin was in those years a highly public literary and philosophical presence in Petersburg, and it is quite possible that Rand read some of his stories and essays (even the unpublishable We was "widely discussed in Petrograd," B. Branden 1986, 143), attended one of his many public lectures at the House of Arts and the House of Writers [1] , or even studied under him at the studios of the World Literature publishing house. [2] It also seems probable that Rand read Zamyatin's We in the English translation by Gregory Zilboorg published in 1924, for in a 1934 letter to her agent regarding the manuscript for We The Living (Rand 1936) she said "I have watched very carefully all the literature on new Russia, that has appeared in English" (Rand 1995, 4).

Yet despite Zamyatin's fame as a literary heretic, it must be noted that Rand never mentioned Zamyatin when talking about her years in Russia. Although this is not altogether surprising given her penchant for controlling inquiries into her past, it does mean that any argument for a direct influence of Zamyatin upon Rand must be purely speculative. Therefore, the most I can do in this essay is explore some striking similarities between the views and works of Zamyatin and those of Rand. These similarities may provide evidence that Rand was aware of and influenced by Zamyatin, or merely that both thinkers breathed the same intellectual air in post-Revolutionary Russia.


Aside from the special case of We, it is unlikely that Zamyatin's fiction would have appealed to the young Ayn Rand. [3] Zamyatin's short stories and novellas are in the main rather gloomy and deeply ironic. Rather than uphold an ideal (what Rand called representing things "as they might be and ought to be"), Zamyatin usually explored human frailty and even spiritual ugliness in his stories, seemingly for the purpose of causing the reader to reflect on where his characters (and the society in which they live) went astray. Although often there is an implied ideal buried beneath the wrecked lives of Zamyatin's characters, that vision can be discerned only as in a photographic negative.

The same is true of We, which is often considered to be something of the Ur-text for all twentieth-century dystopian novels. However, here the socio-political focus of the novel provides a way of externalizing, in large measure, the spiritual sickness experienced by the main characters. In addition, the fact that the world of We is a dystopia puts the novel in literary alignment with Zamyatin's usual themes and style. The result was a classic novel that withstands comparison with better-known dystopian novels such as Orwell's 1984 (which it influenced), Huxley's Brave New World (which it did not influence), and Rand's Anthem.

It is an open question whether Zamayatin's We influenced Rand's Anthem. In a seminal essay on the topic, Zina Gimpelevich argues that "there are too many coincidences in the philosophical approaches to literature" of Zamyatin and Rand to "consider them as merely accidental" (Gimpelevich 1997, 13). Indeed, she claims that "Zamyatin's influence on Rand" is "evident in every chapter of Anthem" -- evident not only in both writers' "negative treatment of the realization of utopian ideals" but also in the "strong tie between their philosophical beliefs and presentation in literary works" (21). The core such belief for both authors is "the need for human individuality and the word 'I' as its representation" (21) -- in Anthem, this is underlined by the lack of the word "I" in the lexicon of the future society. More specifically, Gimpelevich adduces many of the following similarities between We and Anthem (Gimpelevich 1997, 18-20):

  • The protagonist is a male scientist/inventor.
  • The story is narrated through a secret diary kept by the protagonist.
  • The society portrayed is a future collectivist state located in the former United States of America.
  • The society practices eugenics and separates children from their natural parents to be raised by the state.
  • All characters are identified by numbers, not names.
  • The individual soul is utterly submerged by the collective.
  • The protagonist rediscovers his soul through, in large part, the intercession of a female character.
  • The protagonist's striving to rediscover his soul starts with a link to the past, which is hidden in a secret tunnel left over from pre-collectivist times.

One possible explanation for these similarities is, as Gimpelevich argues, an explicit influence of Zamyatin on Rand. But other explanations may be equally plausible. Both authors may have been influenced by a third source that pre-dates both We and Anthem. [4] Or both authors may have made use of common literary devices (e.g., the narrative as diary) and themes (e.g., portraying a woman as the catalyst for a man's spiritual awakening is a theme as ancient as the story of Adam and Eve).

In a rich exploration of Zamyatin's We from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, Brett Cooke provides a great deal of evidence that the common themes of twentieth-century dystopian novels derive not from one Ur-text such as We, but from a set of "human universals" that define human nature (Cooke 2002, 3-4). A prime example with evolutionary significance is family life: the choosing of a mate, the rearing of children by their natural parents, the sharing of meals among close relatives, etc. Almost every dystopian novel violates these universal behaviors through the portrayal of eugenics programs, state rearing of children, communal eating arrangements, and the like. Thus it comes as no surprise that both We and Anthem (not to mention 1984, Brave New World, et al.) feature similar violations of species-wide behaviors and preferences; for it is precisely such universals that humans find so natural in real life, and thus so deeply troubling when violated in so-called utopias.

Such reasoning leads to the conclusion that the similarities between We and Anthem cannot be reliably attributed to a direct influence of Zamyatin on Rand. And the differences between the two novels are just as striking. One difference often noted is that Anthem ends optimistically with the protagonist escaping from the collectivist society and vowing to bring about a renaissance of civilization, whereas We ends with the spiritual death of the protagonist D-503 when he undergoes a forced "fantasiectomy" that removes his budding soul, with the capture and perhaps imminent capital punishment of D-503's lover I-330 for her subversive activities, and with the success of the revolt of I-330's "Mephis" very much in doubt. Yet this difference is non-essential, since Zamyatin's aesthetic purpose was not the portrayal of an ideal but the continual questioning of assumptions and the inculcation of such an attitude in his readers; the ambiguities present at the end of We are quite in line with this purpose, alien though they are to the more black-and-white fictional universe preferred by Rand.

Another surface difference between the two dystopias is that the society of Rand's Anthem has lapsed into a nearly complete primitivism (for example, fifty years of deliberations by the World Councils are required to approve the replacement of torches with candles), whereas the Single State of Zamyatin's We possesses at least some advanced technologies, including robots and rocket ships. [5] Yet Cooke points out that the Single State's technological achievements are quite modest 1,000 years in the future (Cooke 2002, 68) and that its mathematic theories are deeply flawed (75-7). Furthermore, even the Single State's supposedly perfect control over its citizens is only skin deep, since the Guardian class has been infiltrated by dissidents such as S-4711, the State has failed in removing such naturally individualistic behaviors as personal preference in sexual partners (as witness the love triangle between D-503, R-13, and 0-90, which D-503 refers to as a family), an epidemic of "fantasy" is raging through the city as citizens rediscover their souls, and a wall is required to keep the desiccated citizens of the Single State separate from the full-blooded Mephis who live in the forests beyond the wall.

By contrast, the society portrayed in Anthem exercises much more complete control over its citizens. Only two or three individuals in the city -- Equality 7-2521, Liberty 5-3000, and perhaps International 4-8818 -- possess individual souls. No wall is required to keep citizens in or rebels out -- there are no rebels, and the forest outside the city is uninhabited. Control has been thoroughly internalized, because only a few exceptional individuals (in fact only Equality 7-2521) conceive of doing anything that is not permitted, and only once in a generation does someone leave the city for the Uncharted Forest.

In this environment of utter repression, the catalyst for change cannot come from outside. In We, D-503 begins to question the received wisdom and to discover his soul only after being confronted by the femme fatale I-330, who tempts him not only sexually but intellectually; as the leader of the rebellious Mephis (whose name is an abbreviation of Mephistopheles), she holds out to him the forbidden fruit not only of passion but of ideas that are unheard-of in the Single State (especially some challenging mathematical concepts that intrigue him since he is the Single State's greatest mathematician as well as the designer of its first rocket ship). In Anthem, no one among the citizenry or from outside can so challenge or tempt Equality 7-2521, with the result that the Faustian bargain he makes is with his own internal "devil" in the form of his thirst for knowledge.

The conflict in We is often seen as a kind of Hegelian dialectic between the thesis of Apollonian reason in the form of the Single State and the antithesis of Dionysian emotion in the form of the Mephis, with a synthesis in the offing at the end of the novel; while this is too simplistic, it does capture the fact that there are two opposing societies present in the novel. In Anthem, there is only one society, and that society is opposed only by the questing and intransigent mind of Equality 7-2521.

These differences point to something more fundamental: each author's view of human nature. Only what Steven Pinker calls "blank slates" (2002) could be shaped and molded in so thoroughgoing a fashion as the people in Anthem; they no longer exemplify the "human universals" that Cooke describes, indeed they are barely human at all, and everything they do and are is determined by their social environment. While the "numbers" in Zamyatin's Single State are just as regimented and suppressed, their basic human needs and drives -- what D-503 call his "hairy arms" -- continue to poke through 1,000 years after modern society has been overthrown. For Zamyatin, history continues to bubble up from below, and the fighting (and mixing) of Mephis and "numbers" shows that, as I-330 says, "there is no last number" [6] and no "last revolution" (Zamyatin 1952, 162-3).

The society of Anthem has, by contrast, reached a kind of absolute zero, a state of near-perfect entropy in which only the "atomic swerve" of Equality 7-2521's curiosity introduces a movement that is not in perfect alignment with that of the society as a whole. This contrast of visions is mirrored in the stylistic approaches of the authors: Zamyatin's novel is fast-paced, modernistic, full of jarring contrasts and a highly-integrated system of images, [7] whereas Rand's is much more simple and serene, almost in the vein of a prose poem (which is how she referred to it). [8] It also finds expression in how the novels end. We leaves the reader in a state of suspense and uncertainty, with battles still raging in the streets, I-330 and other Mephi leaders in captivity and awaiting execution, and D-503 spiritually lobotomized but still alive. Anthem ends far from the corruption of the city, high in the mountains where Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 have discovered a house still standing from the Unmentionable Times, filled with books of ancient wisdom that Equality samples and then shares with Liberty, much as Eve shared the fruit of knowledge with Adam. The two of them essentially decide to found a new race of men that will wipe the slate clean and begin the world over again based on a holy reverence for the individual soul, for "this god, this one word: 'I'" (Rand 1937, 97).

Thus, whereas Zamyatin sees a continuing dialectic or spiral of historical progression that involves a mixing of alternatives (neither of which may be fully appealing), Rand sees a need for one alternative to overcome its opposite, thus cleansing the world of its sins in an almost apocalyptic fashion. This is not to say that Zamyatin held that the admixture of freedom and control, of liberty and equality, was the best social order; after all, it is Zamyatin who once expressed the hope that "The next stage of development, perhaps in the distant future, will be a social order under which there will be no need for the coercive power of the state" (Zamyatin 1970, 35). But he did recognize that the flow of history was never-ending, and that one phase of human development grows organically out of what preceded it.

Rand, by contrast, seems to have expressed a desire to start over historically and to fully vanquish the past, as evidenced by the endings of both Anthem and Atlas Shrugged (Rand 1957). This difference also manifests itself in a certain utopian tendency within Rand's writings (e.g., over 100 pages of Atlas Shrugged are devoted to a description of a utopian community founded by the "men of the mind"), which is absent from Zamyatin's thinking. Thus we can see that there are manifold differences between Anthem and We. Given these differences, it is clear that Rand does not slavishly imitate Zamyatin, even if he may have influenced her. Indeed, it could be argued that she consciously reacted against certain features of Zamyatin's world in creating Anthem.

Zamyatin's Theory

Although there are some striking parallels between We and Anthem, it is in the realm of theory, both literary and philosophical, that Zamyatin and Rand are most similar (though here again there exist some telling differences).

Whereas Zamyatin for the most part did not voice his own ideas in his fiction (the character of I-330 in We is a notable exception), in his essays he emerges from behind the curtain of the narrative and expresses his own positive views about art, society, and life. In his student days and thereafter Zamyatin was a Bolshevik when that was a dangerous thing to be, but he turned against Bolshevism once it settled into the exercise of power and began to crush the heretical voices that Zamyatin believed all societies need to remain healthy (Zamyatin 1970, 51, 109). In this sense Zamyatin was the opposite of a "half-hearted dialectician" who leaves "little place for dialectic in the future" (Bahm 1970, 198-99, quoted in Sciabarra 2000, 92) or who believes in "the end of history", for Zamyatin thought that "there is no final revolution" (Zamyatin 1970, 107) and that the dialectic of entropy and energy, tradition and heresy, is never-ending.

In the arts and specifically literature, Zamyatin called his approach variously Neo-realism or Synthetism. This theory "combines a formalistic analysis of style with a historical application of Hegel's dialectical process" (Shane 1970, xiii). [9] Zamyatin holds that the "dialectical path of development" works as follows (Zamyatin 1970, 39):

Take a certain phenomenon: it develops to its utmost limits, makes use of all its potentialities, creates the highest thing it can, and stops. Then comes the antithetical, hostile force; it also unfolds to the very end, so that it can no longer go on, and stops. And now, out these two hostile phenomena, a third one is born, making use of the results achieved by the first two, reconciling them. And society, or art, is given an opportunity to move forward, always forward, always toward the new. [10]

And again (Zamyatin 1970, 81):

+, -, - -

These are the three schools in art, and there are no others. Affirmation, negation, and synthesis -- the negation of negation. The syllogism is closed, the circle completed. Over it arises a new circle -- new and yet the same. And out of these circles the spiral of art, holding up the sky.

A spiral: a winding staircase in the Tower of Babel; the path of an airplane rising aloft in circles -- such is the way of art. The equation of the movement of art is the equation of a spiral. And every circle of this spiral, the face, the gesture, the voice of every school, bears one of these stamps:

+, -, - -

Yet unlike too many so-called modernists, Zamyatin does not advocate change for the sake of change, revolution for the sake of revolution (Zamyatin 1970, 160):

The development of art is subject to the dialectic method. Art functions pyramidally: all new achievements are based on the utilization of everything that has been accumulated below, at the foundations of the pyramid. Revolutions do not occur here; this field, more than any other, is governed by evolution. And we must know what has been done before us in the field of verbal art. This does not mean that you must follow in trodden paths: you must contribute something of your own. A work of art is of value only when it is original, both in content and in form. But in order to leap upward, it is necessary to take off from the ground. It is essential that there be a ground.

For Zamyatin, the artist does not "reject today in the name of a return to yesterday", nor is he "deafened by today" and thus a slave to ephemeral fashion. Instead, the function of the artist is to be an early-warning system, a heretic who heralds not just the future but the "distant tomorrow", who "judge[s] today in the name of tomorrow, in the name of man" (Zamyatin 1970, 52).

How does the artist come to have insight into, and then portray, the distant tomorrow? By creating his or her own imagined world, an image of life with which the artist falls in love. But such a world does not and cannot fit into the existing world; thus the necessity of heresy (Zamyatin 1970, 268):

Every artist of importance creates his own world, with its own laws -- creates and shapes it in his own shape and image, and no one else's. This is why it is difficult to fit the artist into a world that has already been created, a seven-day, fixed and solidified world: he will inevitably slip out of the set of laws and paragraphs, he will be a heretic.

Zamyatin thought that the creation of such an imagined world "with its own laws" is possible neither to symbolist "painting" nor to realist reportage, for the symbolist is drawn too far away from the world into the realm of fantasy, and the realist is too tied to current (or bygone) realities, to construct an imagined world. Thus Zamyatin thought that his theory of Synthetism held the key to artistic creativity:

The literature of the immediate future will inevitably turn away from painting, whether respectably realistic or modern, and from daily life, whether old or the very latest and revolutionary, and turn to artistically realized philosophy. (Zamyatin 1970, 76)

What we need in literature today are vast philosophic horizons... we need the most ultimate, the most fearsome, the most fearless "Why?" and "What next?" (Zamyatin 1970, 109-10)

Interestingly, Zamyatin thought that the "old sickness" of Russian literature was "plot anemia" (Zamyatin 1970, 105; see also Zamyatin 1970, 173), which might be cured through greater contact with the literature of Western Europe. However, he was equally wary of the "thoughtless game" of hyper-plot to be found in novels of pure adventure. Befitting his dialectical sensibilities, he argued that adventure novels "reflect only one color in the contemporary spectrum", and that "to reflect the entire spectrum, the dynamics of the adventure novel must be invested with a philosophic synthesis of one kind or another" (Zamyatin 1970, 106) -- advice that Ayn Rand seemed to take to heart!

Yet for Zamyatin the artistic-philosophic synthesis is not dogmatic or propagandistic. [11] He thought that the function of the writer is to "lead the reader to generalizations, to symbols, while depicting entirely realistic specific facts" (Zamyatin 1970, 45), but that those generalizations are the artist's own -- as he once said, "I prefer being wrong in my own way to being right in someone else's" (Zamyatin 1970, 49). Thus the artist does not conform to a pre-existing philosophy but rather develops his own philosophy by creatively re-organizing human experience and abstracting from "life, earth, rock, everything that has weight and dimensions" (Zamyatin 1970, 45). "The purpose of art, including literature, is not to reflect life but to organize it, to build it" (Zamyatin 1970, 130).

In his ascription of near god-like powers of world-creation to the artist, Zamyatin has much in common with the Nietzschean "god-builders" in Russia (Rosenthal 1986, 25-7) and seems to accept fully the Romantic notion of the great artist as a genius (Zamyatin 1970, 285):

The glory of the aristocrat of the spirit is in having no ancestors -- or having as few as possible. If an artist is his own ancestor, if he has only descendents, he enters history as a genius; if he has few ancestors, or is related to them distantly, he enters history as a talent. [12]

Yet because Zamyatin believed that revolution is a never-ending process, he recognized that even his own theories were not final truths (Zamyatin 1970, 110-1):

Fortunately, all truths are erroneous. This is the very essence of the dialectical process: today's truths become errors tomorrow; there is no final number. This truth (the only one) is for the strong alone. Weak-nerved minds insist on a finite universe, a last number; they need, in Nietzsche's words, "the crutches of certainty." The weak-nerved lack the strength to include themselves in the dialectical syllogism.

And leaning on the crutches of certainty leads to the sclerosis of established "truth", which is the antithesis of artistic creation: "dogma, static positions, consonance -- all these are obstacles to catching the disease of art" (Zamyatin 1970, 92-3). Thus "true literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics" (Zamyatin 1970, 57), who fight for tomorrow and for "the liberation of the individual -- in the name of man" (Zamyatin 1970, 52).

Rand's Theory

Just as Zamyatin saw Synthetism or Neo-realism as a way to overcome the "struggle between two artistic methods -- romanticism and realism" (Zamyatin 1970, 155), Ayn Rand too saw her own aesthetic as a synthesis of realism and romanticism. [13] This synthesis was asserted as early as 1962 in Nathaniel Branden's underappreciated study Who Is Ayn Rand? (N. Branden 1962, 88; see also N. Branden 1962, 97-8; Rand 1975, 167; Peikoff, 1991, 437; and Sciabarra 1995, 207):

The projection of "things as they might be and ought to be" [14] names the essence of Ayn Rand's concept of literature. In the wave of Naturalism that has engulfed the literature of the twentieth century, her novels are an outstanding exception. They are at once a continuation of the Romantic tradition and a significant departure from the mainstream of that tradition: she is a Romantic Realist. "Romantic" -- because her work is concerned with values, with the essential, the abstract, the universal in human life, and with the projection of man as a heroic being. "Realist" -- because the values she selects pertain to this earth and to man's actual nature, and because the issues with which she deals are the crucial and fundamental ones of our age. Her novels do not represent a flight into mystical fantasy or the historical past or into concerns that have little if any bearing on man's actual existence. Her heroes are not knights, gladiators or adventurers in some impossible kingdom, but engineers, scientists, industrialists, men who belong on earth, men who function in modern society.

It is tempting to view Rand's description of herself as a "Romantic Realist" through dialectical glasses; for while we must recognize that everything looks dialectical through such glasses, at the same time it is true that Rand places her theory in the context of a historical narrative (Rand 1975, 103-117) about the triumph of Romanticism over Classicism, about Romanticism in the end losing touch with reality and thus being supplanted by Naturalism (a.k.a. Realism), and finally about her unique synthesis of romantic idealism with realistic settings providing the foundation for a school of Romantic Realism.

However, it is not clear that Rand's sensibilities are entirely dialectical here. Despite the fact that she calls herself a "Romantic Realist", she lays much heavier emphasis on the Romantic aspect of her theory, consistently denigrates Realist (or Naturalist) writers and artists for their "journalistic" approach to art, and claims that "in regard to Romanticism, I have often thought that I am a bridge from the unidentified past to the future" (Rand 1975, vi). Indeed, given that Rand thought Romantic fiction is "taken symbolically" (Rand 1975, 138), it is perhaps most accurate to describe Rand's aesthetic as Heroic Symbolism: Rand defines symbolism as "the presentation of a metaphysical view of man, as opposed to a journalistic or statistical view" (Rand 1975, 126), and in the same passage she draws a sharp distinction between the symbolism of depravity (which presents "a monster [as] an appropriate projection of man's essence") and the symbolism of virtue (which presents "a hero" as the proper projection of "man's real, essential, metaphysical nature"). [15] From Rand's novels and her statements on art, it is quite clear where Rand measures herself along these dimensions: her novels are symbolic as opposed to journalistic and heroic as opposed to debased.

Yet the evidence that Rand's dialectical proclivities were only "half-hearted" goes much deeper than literary theory. She was adamantly opposed to the view Zamyatin espouses that "all truths are erroneous", for she held that certainty, far from being what Nietzsche called a "crutch", is a veritable necessity of human knowledge (Peikoff 1991, 171-81). Though Peikoff provides the caveat that certainty always occurs in a certain context, in Randian circles that context can be as wide as the total sum of knowledge so far accumulated by humankind. And in such a "context" Rand was not afraid to use the language of absolutism and to issue categorical statements about the good or evil of theories, practices, art works, emotional responses, and the like.

It could be argued that there is more common ground here than meets the eye. In specifiable contexts, Zamyatin was quite comfortable talking about the value and importance of truth, and he thought that "truth is the first thing that present-day literature lacks; the writer has drowned himself in lies, he is too accustomed to speak prudently, with a careful look over his shoulder" (Zamyatin 1970, 113). What Zamyatin opposed is the view that any truth can be final and thereby enable the holder of that truth to step outside the stream of history and the living process of human inquiry. Yet Peikoff, following Rand, argues that the notion of a final truth is left over from the days of belief in an omniscient god and that such a notion introduces a standard of knowledge that is literally inhuman (Peikoff 1991, 172). On this basis, Rand and her followers hold that a non-dogmatic, non-static certainty is possible to man.

Despite the qualifications, I doubt that Zamyatin would be comfortable with any such form of absolutism (however contextual), for he would argue that it is all too easy to slip from there into "dogma, static positions, consonance" (Zamyatin 1970, 92) and the creation of "trustworthy functionaries" (Zamyatin 1970, 57) rather than rebels and heretics. And he would cite as evidence not only his experience with the half-hearted dialecticians of the Bolshevik Revolution, who saw themselves as bringing about the end of history, but also (I imagine) Rand's novels themselves. By the logic of Rand's aesthetic, she used her art to symbolize the heroic triumph of good over evil in ways that suggest the removal of all obstacles to the continued success of the ideal, whether that triumph is personal (as at the end of The Fountainhead) or philosophical (as at the end of Atlas Shrugged). Unfortunately, Rand's success as a novelist has tended to push her followers to see reality in novelistic terms, [16] with the result that present-day conflicts (whether political, cultural, or philosophical) are all seen as instances of an apocalyptic struggle between pure good and pure evil. Combined with Rand's view that ideas move the world (which in practice all too often reduces to a form of philosophical determinism), this "novelization of reality" leads Rand's followers to see her philosophy of Objectivism as the savior of humanity, with a consequent need for intellectual hygiene to ensure that the good does indeed remain pure.

In artistic practice the results are what I have elsewhere described as "Objectivist Realism" (Saint-Andre 1999): art-works that are explicitly philosophical in the same way that works of Socialist Realism are explicitly political. In both cases art is seen not as the independent expression of an individual's insights into human experience, but rather as necessarily dependent on a deeper "superstructure", whether politico-economic (in the case of Marxism) or philosophical (in the case of Randianism). To fend off a world in which the artist is constantly looking over his shoulder to ensure that his art is consonant with established truths, Zamyatin argues consistently that the artist is a fully independent individual, who creates and shapes his own world in his own shape and image.

And yet -- Ayn Rand is an individualist. That individualist core of her message has been often obscured under a blizzard of doctrinaire exegesis, but the core remains. And thus we could say of Rand almost exactly what Zamyatin once wrote of Chekhov (Zamyatin 1970, 228):

This, then, is what we uncover when we remove the snowdrift piled up over Chekhov in recent years. We uncover a man profoundly agitated by social problems; a writer whose social ideals are the same as those we live by; a philosophy of the divinity of man, of fervent faith in man -- the faith that moves mountains.


1. Shane (1968, 33-34) describes some of the activities in which Zamyatin was engaged:

Mondays at the House of Arts were devoted to literary evenings and lectures open to the public, while Friday evenings were for more intimate gatherings restricted to members and their friends. The House of Arts was officially opened December 19, 1919.... Throughout the next two years Zamjatin was a frequent contributor to the literary evenings and lectures....

On January 22, 1920, [the House of Writers] launched an ambitious cultural program of two hundred and seven evening gatherings in one year. Included in the program were thirty lectures on literature and twelve "life almanacs," where contemporary authors read their works. This intensive program was continued for two years.

2. Shane (1968, 31) notes:

Zamjatin's third and perhaps most important contribution was the many hours he spent in World Literature's studio for translators. Established in February 1919, the studio was conceived as a practical workshop for literary analysis and the composition of prose and verse translations.... Zamjatin and Chukovsky delivered lectures on various subjects. The results were so gratifying that by June it was decided to enlarge the scope of the studio and to grant admission to anyone interested in the study of literature and composition. Apparently the studio was still active four years later, during the spring of 1923. Although Zamjatin was engaged in editorial work for World Literature as late as 1924, it is not known how long he continued teaching at the studio. (31)

3. There are some interesting parallels between Zamyatin's descriptions of Petersburg in his essays and Rand's descriptions in Chapter I of Part Two of We the Living (a passage, however, that Rand said was written not in her own style but in that of Victor Hugo -- Rand 1997, 63). For instance, echoing a line from Gogol, both Zamyatin and Rand stress that Petersburg is a "he" whereas Moscow is a "she" (Zamyatin 1970, 132 and Rand 1959, 259); Zamyatin says that "Petersburg is all straight lines, all geometry and logic" (Zamyatin 1970, 69) and Rand celebrated the fact that "its facets are cut clearly, sharply; they are deliberate, perfect with the straight-forward perfection of man's work" (Rand 1959, 229). Yet these are likely mere surface similarities derived from their perception of the common reality of the city.

4. One such possible source is the fictional essay "The New Utopia" by Jerome K. Jerome, who was quite popular in Russia around the turn of the twentieth century (Stenbock-Fernor 1988); Jerome's story, a parody of socialist thinking, portrays a society with a number of features familiar from We and Anthem: individuals have numbers rather than names, the family has been outlawed in favor of government-controlled breeding, and the like. Another possible influence is Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground (Gregg 1988, 62).

5. For an explicit comparison between Rand and Orwell on this point, see N. Branden 1962, 113.

6. Given that a "number" in We is the Single State's term for a man or person, Zamyatin's phrase "there is no last number" evokes Nietzsche's concept of the "last man" from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In general, Zamyatin seems to have been strongly influenced by Nietzsche, as too was Rand.

7. On this last, see Collins 1973, 52-68.

8. Despite the stylistic differences between We and Anthem, there are intriguing similarities between statements made by Zamyatin and Rand on literary style and the creative process. As Cox has noted, "in her comments about style, Rand is decidedly a modernist" (2000, 321); two examples are her exhortation to "show, not tell" (Rand 2000, 155) and her repeated emphasis on presenting only the essentials through an extreme economy of words and images (127, 133, 138, 143, 168-69). While Cox locates some of the modernist influence on Rand in the person of Isabel Paterson, it is quite likely that Rand was also influenced by the modernist ideas and practices current among writers active in her formative years, including Yevgeny Zamyatin. For instance, Zamyatin too put great emphasis on a compressed, essentialized style -- "writing with 90-proof ink", as he once put it (Zamyatin 1970, 75; see also 88, 169). However, Zamyatin's recommended approach to writing, and especially plot-development, was much more intuitive and inductive than Rand's (for example, contrast Zamyatin 1970, 166-68 with Rand 2000, 20-25). Nevertheless, any full exploration of Rand's style will need to take account of the possible influence of Zamyatin (as also of Nietzsche, Hugo, Dostoevsky, and many others).

9. Hegelian dialectic is well summarized by Sciabarra (Sciabarra 2000, 63):

In Hegel's view, the mechanism through which ideas evolve is highly dialectical: as one perspective enunciates a certain aspect of a philosophic issue, another, competing perspective emerges as its negation. A reconciliation between these apparently conflicting perspectives is made possible by a third movement that destroys the partiality of each, maintaining their truth and transcending their limitations. This third perspective subsequently becomes a new primary, through which the process begins anew.

10. For Zamyatin, the dialectical process of never-ending revolutions is not limited to the arts or even society (Zamyatin 1970, 107):

Revolution is everywhere, in everything. It is infinite. There is no final revolution, no final number. The social revolution is only one of an infinite number of numbers: the law of revolution is not a social law, but an immeasurably greater one. It is a cosmic, universal law -- like the laws of the conservation of energy and of the dissipation of energy (entropy).

11. For example, just as Rand criticized Hugo for the insertion of long historical essays into his novels (Rand 1975, 86), Zamyatin criticized those who include, as Rand did, lengthy philosophical monologues:

In addition to gray, newspaper language, which reads like a bad translation, we often find them guilty of still another fault -- lengthy monologues. As you know, the monologue was in great vogue in old drama but is entirely out of fashion in the new. Nor has it any place in the new literary prose. A monologue is always best developed in action, interspersed with other material.

12. In her novel The Fountainhead can be found three fascinating, and likely autobiographical, sentences from the novel's protagonist Howard Roark on the same topic (Rand 1943, 25): "I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one."

13. Layton (1988) argues that "the most crucial heritage for Zamyatin was the 'Romantic Realism' of Gogol' and Dostoevsky .... in its fundamental aesthetic strategy and intention, Zamyatin's art finds a striking parallel, indeed a model, in Dostoevsky's 'fantastic Realism.'" Given that Rand read, appreciated, and liked Dostoevsky's novels (Rand 1975, 43, 86, 88, 107, 114-115), it is quite possible that his aesthetic influenced Rand as well. The topic is worthy of further investigation.

14. Although Rand and her followers consistently have represented this phrase as Aristotle's, it is not a direct quotation from the Poetics and the Randian spin on it seriously misrepresents Aristotle's aesthetics. For some details, see Torres and Kamhi 2000, 63-4, as well as Saint-Andre 2009.

15. Rand's disciples have even gone so far as to claim that "all art works involve some moral content, at least implicitly" and therefore that, directly or indirectly, all art works either "project a hero" (Peikoff 1991, 421) or project man as a monster. I have criticized this "model-building" theory of art in Saint-Andre 1999.

16. On this point I am indebted to Roger Donway.


Branden, B. 1986. The Passion of Ayn Rand. New York: Doubleday.

Branden, N. 1962. Who Is Ayn Rand? New York: Random House.

Burns, T. 2000. Zamyatin's We and Postmodernism. Utopian Studies 11:1, 66-90.

Collins, C. 1973. Evgenij Zamjatin: An Interpretive Study. The Hague: Mouton.

Cooke, B. 2002. Human Nature in Utopia: Zamyatin's We. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Cox, S. 2000. The Art of Fiction. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 1, no. 2: 313-331.

Gimpelevich, Z. 1997. "We" and "I' in Zamyatin's We and Rand's Anthem. Germano-Slavica 10:1, 13-23.

Gregg, R.A. 1988. Dostoevsky, the Bible, and We. In Kern 1988.

Johnson, D.B. 2000. Strange Bedfellows: Ayn Rand and Vladimir Nabokov. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 2, no. 1: 47-67.

Kern, G. 1988. Zamyatin's "We": A Collection of Critical Essays. Ann Arbor: Ardis.

Layton, S. 1988. Zamyatin and Literary Modernism. In Kern 1988.

Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton.

Pinker, S. 2002. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Viking.

Rand, A. [1936] 1959. We the Living. New York: New American Library.
--. [1937] 1946. Anthem. New York: New American Library.
--. 1943. The Fountainhead. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.
--. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House.
--. 1975. The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature. Second Revised Edition. New York: New American Library.
--. 1995. Letters of Ayn Rand. Edited by Michael S. Berliner. New York: Dutton.
--. 1997. Journals of Ayn Rand. Edited by David Harriman. New York: Dutton.

Rosenthal, B.G. 1986. Nietzsche in Russia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Saint-Andre, P. 1999. Artist Shrugged. Monadnock Review, 17 February 1999.
--. 2009. Our Man in Greece: On the Use and Abuse of Aristotle in the Works of Ayn Rand. Unpublished.

Sciabarra, C.M. 1995. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
--. 2000. Total Freedom. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Shane, A.M. 1968. Life and Works of Evgenij Zamjatin. Berkeley: University of California Press.
--. 1970. Zamyatin the Critic. Introduction to Zamyatin 1970.

Stenbock-Fermor, E. 1988. A Neglected Source of Zamyatin's We. In Kern 1988.

Torres, L. and M.M. Kamhi. 2000. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. Peru, IL: Open Court.

Zamyatin, Y. [1921?] 1952. We. Translated by Gregory Zilboorg in 1924. Second Edition. New York: Dutton Books.
--. 1966. The Dragon: 15 Stories by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Mirra Ginsburg. New York: Random House.
--. 1970. A Soviet Heretic: Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Translated by Mirra Ginsburg. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
--. 1972. We. Translated by Mirra Ginsburg. New York: Avon Books.

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Randian Reflections

0 Thoughts to “Zamyatins We A Collection Of Critical Essays On The Awakening

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *