Life of Evgeny Zamyatin and the first dystopia in history
Yevgeny Zamyatin was born at the end of the 19th century and worked in the era of revolutions and the First World War. He was not a prolific writer, and most of his works are unknown to a wide audience, but in history he remained as the author of the novel “We” – the first dystopian in its modern sense.
Briefly about the writer
Evgeny Zamyatin lived and worked in an era of change. His youth fell on the first Russian revolution, adulthood – on two revolutions and the civil war. By nature, he was a match for this era – with his rebellion and criticism, he gathered both like-minded people and many detractors.
His main work – the novel “We” – reflects all his views on the role of the state as an apparatus of subordination and on the reverse side of technological progress. The rest of his works are not so well known to the general public, and the novel itself was for a long time inaccessible to domestic readers – for ideological reasons it was banned, and the author himself was forced to emigrate. Zamyatin died in Paris, remaining a Soviet citizen until the end of his life.
In 1929, Zamyatin left the Union of Writers. After that, they stopped publishing it on the territory of the USSR. Zamyatin wrote a letter to Stalin, in which he outlined the reasons that prompted him to emigrate, and asked for permission. The request was granted.
In his youth, he laid his gold medal in a pawnshop, but could not buy it. The amount of the mortgage at that time was quite large – 25 rubles.
Briefly about youth and the development of Zamyatin as a writer. His most iconic works and legacy that he left.
Childhood and youth
Evgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin was born in 1884 in the district Tambov city of Lebedyan (now Lipetsk Region). His mother, Maria Aleksandrovna (nee Platonova), was an educated person, she loved literary classics, played the piano. All this was passed on to the children. Zamyatin’s father, Ivan Dmitrievich, was a priest.
According to the census of 1883, Lebedyan totaled 6678 inhabitants.
Remembering his childhood, Zamyatin wrote:
You will see a very lonely, peer-free child on the couch, belly down, above the book — or under the royal, and mother plays Chopin — and the county — with geraniums on the piano, windows in the middle of the street, the piglet is tied to a peg, and chickens are fluttering in the dust. If you want geography, here it is: Lebedyan, the most Russian-Tambov one about which Tolstoy and Turgenev wrote …
From 1893 to 1896, Zamyatin attended the Lebedyansk Gymnasium, then studied at the Voronezh Gymnasium, which he graduated in 1902 with a gold medal. He decided to continue his studies at the shipbuilding department of the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. As he writes in his autobiography:
In the gymnasium, I got fives with a plus for essays and did not always get along easily with math. It must be because of this (out of obstinacy) that I chose the most mathematical: the shipbuilding department of the Petersburg Polytechnic.
He graduated from the institute in 1908.
Creative activity and the path to fame
The very first story was written by Zamyatin in 1908, at the end of the institute – this is the story “One”. The next work, the story “Girl” came out only two years later, while Eugene taught and worked as an engineer.
The first story was written against the background of deportation to Lakhta – this is the story “Uyezdnoe”, in which he bitterly depicts the world of the Russian province full of inertia. This work attracts the attention of literary scholars and other writers, including Gorky.
His rebellion and dissent began to appear even during the First World War. In the story “On the Pussy” (1914), he “in the most repulsive form” described the inner life of a small military detachment in the Far East, for which he was brought to trial and sent to Kem.
During a business trip to England, he creates the novels “The Islanders” (1917) and “The Catcher of Men” (published in 1921) – a subtle satire on English life, and also begins the novel “North”, written on the basis of the impressions of the northern link and published in “Petersburg almanac ”by Z. I. Grzhebin (Berlin, 1922). In 1918-1924 he was a member of the editorial board of World Literature and the editorial staff of the publishing house. In 1924 he participated in the publication of the independent literary and artistic magazine “Russian Contemporary”.
He was active in the literary life of the country: he was a member of the Board of the All-Russian Writers Union, the Committee of the House of Writers and the Council of the House of Arts, and was chairman of the Leningrad branch of the All-Russian Writers Union.
In 1920, Zamyatin finishes work on the iconic novel “We.” In it, he described his vision of the development of military communism under the impression of the industrial revolution in England.
The only novel not published in the homeland
In 1921, the manuscript of the novel “We” was sent by the author to Berlin for publication by the publisher Z. Grzhebin, with whom Zamyatin was connected by contractual relationship. The publisher, in turn, handed over a copy to the United States for translation and publication in English.