Quotes from “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin

The book “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin has some of the greatest quotes.  Here’s some I’ve collected:

– . . . by means of the glass, the electric, the fire-breathing INTEGRAL to integrate the indefinite equation of the universe.  It is for you to place the beneficial yoke of reason round the necks of unknown beings who inhabit other planets-still living, as it may be, in the primitive state known as freedom.  If they will not understand that we are bringing them a mathematically infallible happiness, we shall be obliged to force them to be happy.

– In the name of the Benefactor . . .

– Long live OneState!  Long live the Numbers!  Long live the Benefactor!

– Yes:  to integrate the completely colossal equation of the universe.  Yes:  to unbend the wild curve, to straighten it tangentially, asymptotically, to flatten it to an undeviating line.  Because the line of OneState is a straight line.

– . . . the mathematically perfect life of OneState . . .

– Why is the dance [of machinery] beautiful?  Answer:  because it is nonfree movement, because all the fundamental significance of the dance lies precisely in its aesthetic subjection, its ideal unfreedom.

– I had conquered the old God and the old life.

– . . . that not one of us, ever since the 200-Years War, has ever been on the other side of the Green Wall.

– Because, you know, all human history, as far back as we know it, is the history of moving from a nomadic life to a more settled way of life.  So, doesn’t it follow that the most settled for of life (ours) is by the same token the most perfect form of life (ours)?

– I can’t imagine a city that isn’t girdled about with a Green Wall.

– I’ll admit that people did not take to this settled way of life right away and without any trouble.

– One day all 86,400 seconds will be on the Table of Hours.

– I’ve read and heard a lot of unbelievable stuff about those times when people lived in freedom – that is, in disorganized wildness.

– This problem in moral math could be solved in half a minute by any ten-year-old Number . . .

– . . . because it never occurred to one of their Kants to construct a system of scientific ethics – that is, one based on subtraction, addition, division, and multiplication.

– . . . OneState Science cannot make a mistake.

– . . . it suddenly struck me that everything was empty, an empty shell.

– From this you can see how the mighty power of logic cleanses all it touches.

– . . . but inside there is something cloudy, something spidery, something cross-shaped like that four-pawed X. 

– We’ve channeled all the elements of nature.  No catastrophe can happen.

– . . . apparently even we haven’t yet finished the process of hardening and crystallizing life.  The ideal is still a long way off.  The ideal (this is clear) is that state of affairs where nothing ever happens anymore . . .

– . . . our splendid, transparent, eternal glass . . .

– . . . to be original means to distinguish yourself from others.  It follows that to be original is to violate the principle of equality.

– I never used to dream.

– “I don’t want √-1!  Take it out of me, this √-1.”

– That irrational root grew in me like some alien thing, strange and terrifying, and it was eating me, and you couldn’t make any sense of it or neutralize it because it was completely beyond ratio.

– “Knowledge!  What does that mean?  Your knowledge is nothing but cowardice.  No, really, that’s all it is.  You just want to put a little wall around infinity.  And you’re afraid to look on the other side of that wall.  It’s the truth.  You look and you screw up your eyes.  You do!”

– “. . . walls are the basis of everything human . . . “

– But they served their irrational, unknown God, whereas we serve something rational and very precisely known.  Their God gave them nothing but eternal tormented searching.  Their God couldn’t come up with any smarter idea than sacrificing yourself, never mind why.  But we, when we sacrifice to our God, OneState, we make a calm, rational, carefully considered sacrifice. 

– And in machines, in steel he harnessed fire,

And chaos fettered he with hoops of Law.

– It was a sign of the superhuman might of the Benefactor.

– The only thing that is beautiful is what is rational and useful:  machines, boots, formulas, food, and so on.

– Her face was crossed out.

– I became glass.  I saw into myself, inside.

– But I was disturbed by that little smile;  the ink drop muddied my transparent solution.

– But now I do not know what is there:  I have learned too much.  Knowledge, absolutely sure of its infallibility, is faith.  I had had firm faith in myself:  I had believed that I knew everything within myself.  And now . . .

– And for the first time in my life, I swear it, for the very first time in my life, I get a clear, distinct, conscious look at myself;  I see myself and I’m astonished, like I’m looking at some “him”.  There I am – or rather, there he is . . .

– Everything is very simple, childishly simple – Paradise!  The Benefactor, the Machine, the Cube, the Gas Bell, The Guardians:  All those things represent good, all that is sublime, splendid, noble, elevated, crystal pure.  Because that is what protects our nonfreedom, which is to say, our happiness.

-The highest thing in Man is his reason, and what the work of reason comes down to is the continual limitation of infinity, dividing infinity up into convenient, easily digestible portions:  differentiation.  This is what constitutes the divine beauty of my element, mathematics.

– Forever enamoured are two plus two,

Forever conjoined in blissful four.

The hottest lovers in all the world:

The permanent weld of two plus two . . .

– The multiplication table is wiser and more absolute than the ancient God.  It never – repeat, never – makes a mistake.  And there’s nothing happier than the figures that live according to the elegant and eternal laws of the multiplication table.

– Our gods are here below, with us, in the Bureau, in the kitchen, in the shop, in the toilet.  The gods have become like us – ergo, we’ve become like gods.  And we’re headed your way, my unknown planetary readers, we’re coming to make your life divinely rational and precise, like ours.

– Who am I?  What am I like?

– How many of the things they merely dreamed about have been realized in our life!

– Your are afraid of it because it is stronger than you;  you hate it because you are afraid of it;  you love it because you cannot subdue it to you will.  Only the unsubduable can be loved.

– What is the matter with me?  I’ve lost the rudder.

– Formerly, everything had turned around the sun;  now I knew – everything was turning around me – slowly, blissfully, with tightly closed eyes . . .

– Now I no longer live in our clear, rational world;  I live in the ancient nightmare world, the world of square roots of minus one.

– And have you heard about the newly invented operation – excision of the imagination?

– . . . humanized machines, perfect men.

– You’re in a bad way!  Apparently, you have developed a soul.

– . . . everything is now inside the mirror – inside you . . .

– The cold mirror reflects, throws back, but this one absorbs, and everything leaves its trace – forever.

– Wings are for flying, but we have nowhere to fly to, we’ve already flown there, we’ve found it.

– And now I don’t know dream from reality.  Irrational magnitudes are growing up through everything that is stable, customary, three-dimensional, and all around me something rough and shaggy is replacing the firm, polished surfaces . . .

– For irrational formulas, for my √-1, we know of no corresponding solids, we’ve never seen them . . .  But that’s just the whole horror – that these solids, invisible, exist.

– And mathematics and death never make a mistake.

– And if we don’t see these solids in our surface world, there inevitably must be, a whole immense world there, beneath the surface.

– This was a tangle every bit as unknown and terrifying as that behind the Green Wall.

– Innumerate pity is a thing known only to the ancients;  to us it’s funny.

– I’ve got to screw myself up tight, to sit through two hours, two whole hours, not moving . . . when I need to scream and stamp my feet.

– Understand this:  Only the four rules of arithmetic  are unalterable and everlasting.  And only that moral system built on the four rules will prevail as great, unalterable, and everlasting.  That is the ultimate wisdom.  That is the summit of the pyramid up which people, read and sweating, kicking and panting, have scrambled for centuries.  And looking down from this summit to the bottom, we see the remains in us of our savage ancestors seething like wretched worms.

– . . . Because, really, there isn’t any icebreaker that could break through this life of ours, this extremely transparent and permanent crystal . . .

– . . . and I instantly understood:  All this in reality was an immensely delicate spiderweb, stretched to its limit and trembling, and at any moment it would snap and something beyond all imagining would happen . . .

–  . . . to be saved by force and taught happiness.

– Children are the only bold philosophers.  And bold philosophers should be children. 

– They made only one mistake:  Afterword, they got the notion that they were the final number – something that doesn’t exist in nature. 

– Man ceased to be a wild animal only when he built the first wall.  Man ceased to be a savage only when we had built the Green Wall, when we had isolated our perfect mechanical world from the irrational, hideous world of trees, birds, animals . . .

– My mathematics – until now the only firm and immutable island in my entire dislocated world – has also broken of its moorings, is also floating, whirling.  Does it mean, then, that this preposterous “soul” is as real as my unif., as my boots, although I do not see them at the moment?

– And happiness . . . what is it, after all!  Desires are a torment, aren’t they?  And it’s clear that happiness is when there are no longer any desires, not even one.

– Absolute happiness should of course have a minus sign, a divine minus.

– I could see it clearly:  All were saved, but there was no saving me, not any longer.  I did not want to be saved . . .

– I’m leaving . . . for the unknown.

– I am saddened to see that, instead of a harmonious and strict mathematical poem in honor of the OneState, I am producing some sort of a fantastic adventure novel.  Ah, if it were really nothing but a novel, and not my present life, filled with X’s, √-1, and falls.

– But we, thanks to the Benefactor, are adults, we need no toys.

– . . . I knew that the cruelest thing is to make a person doubt his own reality, his three-dimensional – not any other – reality.

– Everything in human society is continually being perfected – and should be.

– Is it not clear that individual human consciousness is merely a sickness?

– If human foolishness had been as carefully nurtured and cultivated as intelligence has been for centuries, perhaps it would have turned into something extremely precious.

– Do you understand- I do not know, no one knows – tomorrow is the unknown!  Do you understand that everything known is finished?  Now all things will be new, unprecedented, inconceivable.

– I see a crude image – perhaps on the same stone:  a winged youth with a transparent body and, where the heart should be, a dazzling, crimson-glowing coal. (Mephi)

– Yes, yes, madness!  And everyone must lose his mind, everyone must!  The sooner the better!  It is essential – I know it.

– I have long ceased to understand who “They” are, who are “We”.  I do not know what I want . . .

– “But this is madness,” I say.  “You – and the OneState.  It is like putting a hand over the muzzle of a gun and hoping to stop the bullet.  It’s utter madness!”

– Everyone must lose his mind – the sooner the better.

– Rejoice!

For henceforth you shall be perfect!  Until this day, your own creations – machines – were more perfect than you.

– . . . you are sick.  The name of your sickness is:  Imagination

– You are perfect.  You are machinelike.  The road to one hundred percent happiness is free.  Hurry, then, everyone – old and young – hurry to submit to the Great Operation.

– “Down with the Machines!”  “Down with the Operation!”

– With a laugh you can kill even murder itself.

– Long live the Great Operation!  Long live OneState!  Long live the Benefactor!

– And I hope we’ll win.  More – I’m certain we’ll win.  Because reason has to win.

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