Tag Archives: Yevgeny Zamyatin

Zamyatin’s tangible threat that 2+2=4 [yikes]


Originally @ S-is-For-Somewhere

I’m admittedly biased against DRM-locked digitized books and audio, and so when it was announced that Amazon–which, otherwise, I like a ton–axed copies of 1984 from owners’ kindles, I was less at odds with the particular action than what it meant & symbolized regarding threats to ownership and autonomy in the digital culture.

Skim “Why 2024 Will Be like Nineteen Eighty-Four: How Amazon’s remote deletion of e-books from the Kindle paves the way for book-banning’s digital future” published @ Slate.

Amazon deleted books that were already available in print, but in our paperless future—when all books exist as files on servers—courts would have the power to make works vanish completely. Zittrain writes: “Imagine a world in which all copies of once-censored books like CandideThe Call of the Wild, and Ulysseshad been permanently destroyed at the time of the censoring and could not be studied or enjoyed after subsequent decision-makers lifted the ban.” This may sound like an exaggeration; after all, we’ll surely always have file-sharing networks and other online repositories for works that have been decreed illegal. But it seems like small comfort to rely on BitTorrent to save banned art. The anonymous underground movements that have long sustained banned works will be a lot harder to keep up in the world of the Kindle and the iPhone.


Yevgeny Zamyatin[-and-Mirra] / Evgenii Zamyatin[-and-Clarence]


Mirra Ginsburg is just pure poetry.

I’ve wound-up brooding on my purchase of the Penguin Classics We, rather than the Mirra Ginsburg mass-paperback. The novel was pretty comfortable in obscurity until, I think, relatively recently, when it roiled-up in english departments when professors discovered it was first an inspiration to 1984 and, second, wonderful. However it was read in Russian, Mirra Ginsburg anglicized We into buttermilk. 

I am less certain about Clarence Brown. I suspect (with no solid evidence) his translation may be more literal, academic, and subsequently less substantial – but that isn’t fair.

The reality is that I have done my damnedest to avoid ordering paperbacks, simply because in a public library these books yellow and tatter and dust away with only a handful of reads. Unfortunately, Mirra Ginsburg’s edition is only available (if only through Ingrams) in paperback; my loyalty yellows and tatters because of aesthetics.

Anyway, so Scott Friesner — professor at Western Michigan University — taught me We twice, initially as part of my first course in Lit., and then again (and this is kind of nifty) years later as part of my last. He talked The Odyssey as Homer playing a stratocaster, and filled me all up with paranoia (and morbid interest in dystopian lit.) in an hour-long lecture easily summarized

Dostoevsky: 2+2=5, you can never account for the human spirit.
Zamyatin: 2+2=4, there is no human spirit to account for.
Orwell: 2+2=4, 2+2=5,  …, 2+2=whatever the hell they tell you it is.

which refers to Dostoevsky’s (Notes From Undergroundresponse to  utilitarianism, Zamyatin’s parodic ideal-future-thereof, and Orwell’s inevitable reality resulting of it. The greater good.

Poignant jargon, huh?

So here’s the skinny: I am preparing my library for YALSA‘s Teen Tech Week, making it – this time around – thematically dystopian. Reliance on and trust in technology is, I suppose, a more stimulating bent rather than hosting a few gaming events (which I’m doing, I love gaming), and I want to pair 1984, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, and We in a month-long contemplation of dystopia.

Of course, the library hasn’t a copy of the latter, so I’ve gone an-ordering. Her translation is Awfully Good, though ….