A Closer Look – We [The Folio Society] [Spring Collection]

Earlier this month, The Folio Society announced full details of its Spring Collection for March 2018, which featured a dozen stunning new titles – along with two reissues – including works from some of the most influential and important figures in literature.

In the next few features we’ll take a closer look at some of those releases and pick out a selection of our March 2018 highlights.

We begin with Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s dystopian classic, We.



By Yevgeny Zamyatin

Introduced by Ursula K. Le Guin Translated by Clarence Brown Illustrated by Kit Russell

Product Details: • Bound in Surbalin Perleffert paper printed with a design by the artist • Set in PT Serif with Wells Grosteque display • 240 pages • Frontispiece and 5 black & white illustrations • Lenticular design slipcase • 9½˝ x 6¼˝

Written between the years of 1920 and 1921, and banned almost immediately in its native Russia by the newly-formed Soviet Censorship Board (Goskomizdat) for being ‘ideologically undesirable’, it is safe to say that the later exiled author Yevgeny Zamyatin and his prophetic, science-fiction masterpiece, We, did not have the easiest of journeys, though no one can deny its intelligence, its fearlessness and overwhelming influence on countless science-fiction works that followed.

A landmark work of modern dystopian satire, and widely considered to be the grandfather of the futuristic/dystopian genre, Zamyatin’s work (written in response to his own experiences in the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917) explores a world of harmony and conformity within a united totalitarian state, bravely predicting the rise of Stalinism and the one-party state, and directly influencing the likes of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (Le Guin having written the introduction to this beautiful new Folio edition).

Illustration by Kit Russell from The Folio Society edition of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin © Kit Russell 2018

We unfolds in the Utopian far-future Society of OneState, a glass city of absolute straight lines, surrounded by a giant Green Wall to separate citizens from nature, and ruled by the all-powerful Benefactor. In OneState, society places no value on individuals, replacing all names with numbers, and removing all freedom, creativity and choice to achieve contentment for all, with every moment of life directed by “The Table,” a precursor to the ‘telescreen’ of Orwell’s 1984. Told in journal form by chief engineer and mathematician, D-503, We explores D-503’s important work and embrace of the Benefactor’s rule, that is until he finds himself caught up with a dangerous resistance group – led by the beautiful and mysterious I-330 – and begins to lose his loyal dedication to the regime.

The Folio Society’s striking new edition – a beautiful and essential addition to its growing science-fiction collection – is in itself a work of art, enhanced by Folio’s very first lenticular die-cut slipcase (one that cleverly interacts with the front cover) and the haunting illustrations of Kit Russell.

Illustration by Kit Russell from The Folio Society edition of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin © Kit Russell 2018

A fusion of Russian futurism and German expressionism, bringing to mind the startling, geometric designs of that other epic, dystopian landmark, Frtiz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Russell’s unsettling monochromatic illustrations, closely echoing the contemporary style of art that undoubtedly impacted upon Zamyatin’s own visions of dystopia, effectively capture the eerie and frightening sense of mystery the text evokes.

Zamyatin may not have the wider, mainstream renown (or cult following) that Orwell, Huxley and Vonnegut have developed, but the significance and influence of his work, and of this courageous, visionary novel in particular, can never by overestimated.

Whilst it remains a frontrunner to the genre with its fist-pumping cry for freedom, for creativity and for individuality, We is a cracking science-fiction read, influence and politics aside, one that thrills, chills and excites.

The Folio Society edition of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, introduced by Ursula K. Le Guin and illustrated by Kit Russell, is available exclusively from www.foliosociety.com.

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