Yevgeny Zamyatin Biography & Facts
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (Russian: Евге́ний Ива́нович Замя́тин, IPA: [jɪvˈɡʲenʲɪj ɪˈvanəvʲɪtɕ zɐˈmʲætʲɪn]; 1 February [O.S. 20 January] 1884 – 10 March 1937), sometimes anglicized as Eugene Zamyatin, was a Russian author of science fiction, philosophy, literary criticism, and political satire.
Despite being the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, Zamyatin lost his faith in Christianity at an early age and became a Bolshevik. As a member of his Party's Pre-Revolutionary underground, Zamyatin was repeatedly arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and exiled. However, Zamyatin was just as deeply disturbed by the policies pursued by the All-Union Communist Party (b) (VKP (b) following the October Revolution as he had been by the Tsarist policy of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.
Due to his subsequent use of literature to both satirize and criticize the Soviet Union's enforced conformity and increasing totalitarianism, Zamyatin, whom Mirra Ginsburg has dubbed "a man of incorruptible and uncompromising courage," is now considered one of the first Soviet dissidents. He is most famous for his highly influential and widely imitated 1921 dystopian science fiction novel We, which is set in a futuristic police state.
In 1921, We became the first work banned by the Soviet censorship board. Ultimately, Zamyatin arranged for We to be smuggled to the West for publication. The outrage this sparked within the Party and the Union of Soviet Writers led directly to the State-organized defamation and blacklisting of Zamyatin and his successful request for permission from Joseph Stalin to leave his homeland. In 1937 he died in poverty in Paris.
After his death, Zamyatin's writings were circulated in samizdat and continued to inspire multiple generations of Soviet dissidents.
Zamyatin was born in Lebedyan, Tambov Governorate, 300 km (186 mi) south of Moscow. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest and schoolmaster, and his mother a musician. In a 1922 essay, Zamyatin recalled: "You will see a very lonely child, without companions of his own age, on his stomach, over a book, or under the piano, on which his mother is playing Chopin." Zamyatin may have had synesthesia since he gave letters and sounds qualities. He saw the letter Л as having pale, cold and light blue qualities.He studied engineering for the Imperial Russian Navy in Saint Petersburg, from 1902 until 1908. During this time, Zamyatin lost his faith in Christianity, became an Atheist and a Marxist, and joined the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
1905: Revolt and Repression
Zamyatin later recalled the Russian Revolution of 1905 as follows: "In those years, being a Bolshevik meant following the line of greatest resistance, and I was a Bolshevik at that time. In the fall of 1905 there were strikes, and the dark Nevsky Prospekt was pierced by a searchlight from the Admiralty Building. October 17. Meetings in the universities."In December 1905, Zamyatin agreed to hide in his flat a paper bag filled with the explosive pyroxylin. The following day, he and thirty other Bolsheviks were arrested by the Okhrana inside their "revolutionary headquarters of the Vyborg district, at the very moment when plans and pistols of various types were spread out on the table."After being arrested and beaten up, Zamyatin managed to smuggle a note out of the prison, instructing his fellow Bolsheviks, "to remove everything compromising from my room and the rooms of my four comrades." Although this was immediately done, Zamyatin did not know of it until much later. During the months he spent in solitary confinement, Zamyatin recalled that he had almost daily nightmares about the paper bag in his flat containing pyroxylin.In the spring of 1906, Zamyatin was released and sent into exile in his native Tambov Governorate. However, Zamyatin later wrote that he could not stand life among the devoutly Russian Orthodox peasantry of Lebedyan. Therefore, he escaped and returned to Saint Petersburg where he lived illegally before moving to Helsinki, in the Grand Duchy of Finland.After illegally returning to St. Petersburg, "disguised, clean-shaven, with a pince-nez astride my nose," Zamyatin began to write fiction as a hobby. He was arrested and exiled a second time in 1911. He later recalled, "I lived first in an empty dacha at Sestroretsk, then, in winter, in Lakhta. There amidst snow, solitude, quite, I wrote A Provincial Tale."
Life as a naval engineer
In 1913, Zamyatin was granted an amnesty as part of the celebrations for 300-years of rule by the House of Romanov and granted the right to return to St. Petersburg. His A Provincial Tale, which satirized life in a small Russian town, was immediately published and brought him a degree of fame. The next year he was tried and acquitted for defaming the Imperial Russian Army in his story Na Kulichkakh (At the World's End). He continued to contribute articles to Marxist newspapers. After graduating as an engineer for the Imperial Russian Navy, Zamyatin worked professionally at home and abroad.
Sojourn in England
In March 1916, he was sent to the United Kingdom to supervise the construction of icebreakers at the shipyards of Armstrong Whitworth in Walker and Swan Hunter in Wallsend while living in Newcastle upon Tyne. He supervised the building of the Krassin, which retained the distinction of being the most powerful icebreaker in the world into the 1950s. He also worked on the Lenin.Zamyatin later wrote, "My only previous visit to the West had been to Germany. Berlin had impressed me as a condensed, 80-percent version of Petersburg. In England it was quite different: everything was as new and strange as Alexandria and Jerusalem had been some years before."
Zamyatin later recalled, "In England, I built ships, looked at ruined castles, listened to the thud of bombs dropped by German Zeppelins, and wrote The Islanders. I regret that I did not see the February Revolution, and know only the October Revolution (I returned to Petersburg, past German submarines, in a ship with lights out, wearing a life belt the whole time, just in time for October). This is the same as never having been in love and waking up one morning already married for ten years or so."
Return to Russia : 1917-1931
Zamyatin's The Islanders, satirizing English life, and the similarly themed A Fisher of Men, were both published after his return to Russia.
According to Mirra Ginsburg: "In 1917 he returned to Petersburg and plunged into the seething literary activity that was one of the most astonishing by-products of the revolution in ruined, ravaged, hungry, and epidemic-ridden Russia. He wrote stories, plays, and criticism; he lectured on literature and the writer's craft; he participated in various literary projects and committees - many of them initiated and presided over by Maxim Gorky - and served on various editorial boards, with Gorky, Blok, Korney Chukov.... Discover the Yevgeny Zamyatin popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Yevgeny Zamyatin books.