Monday, May 19, 2014

Madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics

"True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics." 

— Yevgeny Zamyatin, 'We' [written 1921] 1924.

I love this quote, but I never expected it to become my most popular post here at Ubu Loca. In honor of this surprise, the following excerpts from Zamyatin's "Foreword" to the English edition of We:

"Well, what else do you want? ...for three years I wrote about nothing but ice cutters, steam engines, refillers, and 'The Theoretical Exploration of the Works of Floating Steam Shovels.' I couldn't help myself. I was attached to the chair of Ship Architecture and busied myself with teaching in the shipbuilding faculty... If I mean anything in Russian literature, I owe this completely to the Petrograd Secret Service. In 1911 this service exiled me from Petrograd and I was forced to spend two years in a non-populated place in Lachta. There, in the midst of the white winter silence and the green summer silence, I wrote... 

     After that... in England where, during the war, I spent about two years, building ships and visiting the ruins of ancient castles. I listened to the banging of the German Zeppelin bombs and wrote...  
     Now ... Three new volumes are in the hands of the publisher ...The fourth will be my novel We, the funniest and most earnest thing I have written. However, the most serious and most interesting novels I never wrote. They happened to me in my life."
— Yevgeny Zamiatin
[ca 1921] page xvii-xviii, "Foreword" to We, (as cited by a person named Zilboorg.