On Zamyatin (posted for A.B.)

The passage in which D-503 reads the sonnet entitled “Happiness” is
particularly interesting to me, because it shows multiple situations of
address: the author of the sonnet to the reader, and D-503 as the reader of
a sonnet speaking to us, as the readers of D’s story. What is so
interesting is that the sonnet is titled “Happiness”, so one would think it
is full of emotion, however it paints a different picture of emotion than
we are used to. It uses numbers, which are normally seen as cold and
unfeeling, as carriers of emotion: “Forever enamored are two plus
two,/Forever conjoined in blissful four./The hottest lovers in all the
world:” (page 65, Record 12) The unexpected personification of numbers in
this poem entitled “Happiness” tells us about the art and literature in D’s
world. What’s more, D’s reaction to the poem tells us how citizens think of
the world they are living in: “There’s nothing happier than figures that
live according to the elegant and eternal laws of the multiplication table,
No wavering, no wandering. The truth is one, and the true path is one.”
This stands in stark contrast to how poems of the “ancients” were, full of
jealousy and greed and hurt people. D’s reaction to the poem shows us that
the world he lives in is highly regimented, with no freedoms to disagree,
and what’s more, that the people find absolute beauty in that.

[posted for A.B. by AG to get around technical difficulties]

Author: AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

One thought on “On Zamyatin (posted for A.B.)”

  1. The passage in which D-503 reads the sonnet entitled “Happiness” is particularly interesting to me, because it shows multiple situations of address: the author of the sonnet to the reader, and D-503 as the reader of a sonnet speaking to us, as the readers of D’s story. What is so interesting is that the sonnet is titled “Happiness”, so one would think it is full of emotion, however it paints a different picture of emotion than we are used to. It uses numbers, which are normally seen as cold and unfeeling, as carriers of emotion: “Forever enamored are two plus two,/Forever conjoined in blissful four./The hottest lovers in all the world:” (page 65, Record 12) The unexpected personification of numbers in this poem entitled “Happiness” tells us about the art and literature in D’s world. What’s more, D’s reaction to the poem tells us how citizens think of the world they are living in: “There’s nothing happier than figures that live according to the elegant and eternal laws of the multiplication table, No wavering, no wandering. The truth is one, and the true path is one.” This stands in stark contrast to how poems of the “ancients” were, full of jealousy and greed and hurt people. D’s reaction to the poem shows us that the world he lives in is highly regimented, with no freedoms to disagree, and what’s more, that the people find absolute beauty in that

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