Zamyatin: We – 4


Daylight. Clear. Barometer at 760.

Can it be that I, D-503, really wrote all these hundreds of pages? Can it be that at one time I felt all this – or imagined that I had felt it?

The handwriting is mine. And what follows is in the very same handwriting – but, fortunately, only the handwriting is the same. There are no ravings whatsoever, no preposterous metaphors, no emotions whatsoever. Facts only. Because I am well; I am perfectly, absolutely well. I smile; I cannot help but smile: they have extracted some sort of a sliver out of my head; my head is light, empty. To be more exact: it is not empty, but there is nothing extraneous in it, nothing that would interfere with smiling (smiling is the normal state for a normal human).

Here are the facts. That evening my neighbour, who had discovered the finitude of the universe, and I, and all the others there with us, were seized for not having certifications of fantasiectomy and hauled off to the nearest auditorium (its number, 112, was for some reason familiar). There we were bound to the operating tables ands subjected to the Grand Operation.

The next day, I, D-503, appeared before The Benefactor and imparted to Him all I knew about the enemies of our happiness. Why could this possibly have seemed difficult to me? It is incomprehensible. The only explanation lies in my former malady, the soul sickness.

On the evening of the same day – seated with Him, The Benefactor, at the same table – I found myself for the first time in the famous Chamber of the Gas Bell Glass. That woman was brought in. She was to give her testimony in my presence. This woman remained contumaciously silent – and smiled. I noticed that her teeth were sharp and very white – and this created a beautiful effect.

Then she was led in under the Gas Bell Glass. Her face became very white and, since her eyes were dark and large, this created an extremely beautiful effect. When they started pumping the air out of the Gas Bell Glass she threw he head back, half closing here eyes and compressing her lips: this reminded me of something. She kept looking at me as she gripped the arms of her seat – kept looking until her eyes closed altogether. Thereupon she was dragged out, quickly brought back to consciousness with the aid of electrodes, and was again made to sit under the Gas Bell Glass. This was gone through three times – and she still had not uttered a word. Others, who had been brought in with this woman, proved more honest: many of them started talking after the first treatment. Tomorrow all of them will mount the steps leading to the Machine of The Benefactor.

There can be no postponement, because the western districts of the city are still full of chaos, roaring, corpses, and – regrettably – a considerable body of numbers who have betrayed rationality.

We have, however, succeeded in constructing a temporary wall of high voltage waves on the transversal 40th Prospect.

And I hope that we will conquer. More than that: I am certain that we shall. For rationality must conquer.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 220-221