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Yevgeny Zamyatin
Russian author of science fiction and political satire
(1894-1937)



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Every today is at the same time a cradle and a shroud: a shroud for yesterday, a cradle for tomorrow. Today is doomed to die - because yesterday died, and because tomorrow will be born. Such is the wise and cruel law. Cruel, because it condemns to eternal dissatisfaction those who already today see the distant peaks of tomorrow; wise, because eternal dissatisfaction is the only pledge of eternal movement forward, eternal creation. He who has found his ideal today is, like Lot's wife, already turned to a pillar of salt, has already sunk into the earth and does not move ahead. The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy. Our symbol of faith is heresy: tomorrow is an inevitable heresy of today, which has turned into a pillar of salt, and to yesterday, which has scattered to dust. Today negates yesterday, but tomorrow is a negation of negation. Thesis yesterday, antithesis today, and synthesis tomorrow.
-- Tomorrow (1919)

At night numbers must sleep; it is their duty, just as it is their duty to work in the daytime. Not sleeping at night is a criminal offense.
-- We (1921)

Those two, in paradise, were given a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative.
-- We (1921)

In America there is a society for the suppression of vice which once decided, in order to prevent temptation, that all the naked statues in a New York museum must be dressed in little skirts like those of ballet dancers. These puritan skirts are merely ridiculous, and do little damage; if they have not yet been removed, a new generation will remove them and see the statues as they are. But when a writer dresses his novel in such a skirt, it is no longer laughable. And when this is done not by one, but by dozens of writers, it becomes a menace. These skirts cannot be removed, and future generations will have to learn about our epoch from tinseled, straw-filled dummies. They will receive far fewer literary documents than they might have. And it is therefore all the more important to point out such documents where they exist.
-- The Day and Age (1924)

I spend much time in rewriting, evidently much more than is necessary for the reader. But this is necessary for the critic, the most demanding and most caviling critic that I know of; for myself. I am never successful in deceiving this critic, and until he tells me that everything that is possible has been done.

If I consider anybody else's opinion, then it is only the opinion of my friends, of whom I know that they know how a novel, a story, a play is made: they themselves have made them - and made them really well. For me, there is no other criticism, and how it could exist, is incomprehensible to me.
-- How We Write (1931)

No creative activity is possible in an atmosphere of systematic persecution that increases in intensity from year to year. In each of my published works these critics have inevitably discovered some diabolical intent. Regardless of the content of a given work, the very fact of my signature has become a sufficient reason for declaring the work criminal. Of course, any falsification is permissible in fighting the devil.
-- Letter to Joseph Stalin (June, 1931)





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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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