Quotes from Yevgeny Zamyatin

There is no joy nobler than suffering for the sake of love for man. (Sirin, 1914)

The next stage of development, perhaps in the distant future, will be a social order under which there will be no need for the coercive power of the state. (Contemporary Russian Literature, 1918)

I prefer being wrong in my own way to being right in someone else's. (Contemporary Russian Literature, 1918)

The world is kept alive only by heretics. (Tomorrow, 1919)

We have lived through the epoch of suppression of the masses; we are living in an epoch of suppression of the individual in the name of the masses; tomorrow will bring the liberation of the individual — in the name of man. (Tomorrow, 1919)

We call the Russian intelligentsia to the defense of man, and of human values. We appeal, not to those who reject today in the name of a return to yesterday, not to those who are hopelessly deafened by today; we appeal to those who see the distant tomorrow — and judge today in the name of tomorrow, in the name of man. (Tomorrow, 1919)

True literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics. (I Am Afraid, 1919)

The development of art is subject to the dialectic method. Art functions pyramidally: all new achievements are based on the utilization of everything that has been accumulated below, at the foundations of the pyramid. Revolutions do not occur here; this field, more than any other, is governed by evolution. And we must know what has been done before us in the field of verbal art. This does not mean that you must follow in trodden paths: you must contribute something of your own. A work of art is of value only when it is original, both in content and in form. But in order to leap upward, it is necessary to take off from the ground. It is essential that there be a ground. (The Psychology of Creative Work, 1919-1920)

To an artist, creating an image means being in love with it. (The Psychology of Creative Work, 1919-1920)

Crossing out is an art that is, perhaps, even more difficult than writing. It requires the sharpest eye to decide what is superfluous and must be removed. And it requires ruthlessness toward yourself -- the greatest ruthlessness and self-sacrifice. You must know how to sacrifice parts in the name of the whole. (Theme and Plot, 1919-1920)

   Name me the final number, the highest, the greatest.
   But that's absurd! If the number of numbers is infinite, how can there be a final number?
   Then how can you speak of a final revolution? There is no final one. Revolutions are infinite.
   (We, 1920)

None of us older writers had gone through such a school. We are all self-taught. And, of course, there is always, in such a school, the danger of goose-stepping, uniformed ranks. But the Serapion Brethren have already, it seems to me, outgrown this danger. Each of them has his own individuality and his own handwriting. The common thing they have derived from the studio is the art of writing with ninety-proof ink, the art of eliminating everything that is superfluous, which is, perhaps, more difficult than writing. (The Serapion Brethren, 1922)

The literature of the immediate future will inevitably turn away from painting, whether respectably realistic or modern, and from daily life, whether old or the very latest and revolutionary, and turn to artistically realized philosophy. (The Serapion Brethren, 1922)

   +, -, - -
   These are the three schools in art, and there are no others. Affirmation, negation, and synthesis — the negation of negation. The syllogism is closed, the circle completed. Over it arises a new circle — new and yet the same. And out of these circles the spiral of art, holding up the sky.
   A spiral: a winding staircase in the Tower of Babel; the path of an airplane rising aloft in circles — such is the way of art. The equation of the movement of art is the equation of a spiral. And every circle of this spiral, the face, the gesture, the voice of every school, bears one of these stamps:
   +, -, - -
   (On Synthetism, 1922)

Every artist of importance creates his own world, with its own laws -- creates and shapes it in his own shape and image, and no one else's. This is why it is difficult to fit the artist into a world that has already been created, a seven-day, fixed and solidified world: he will inevitably slip out of the set of laws and paragraphs, he will be a heretic. (H.G. Wells, 1922)

To me, the word airplane contains all of our time.... Mankind has stepped off from the earth and, with a beating heart, has risen aloft. From the dizzying height, immense distances spread before him. A single glance embraces entire nations and countries, the whole dried-out lump of dirt -- earth. The airplane speeds upward and kingdoms, kings, laws and creeds vanish from sight. Still higher, and the cupolas of some incredible tomorrow flash in the distance.... The airplane, daring what until now has been permitted only to angels, is the symbol of the revolution taking place in man. (H.G. Wells, 1922)

To the feudal aristocracy and the aristocracy of the spirit, nobility derives from diametrically opposite sources. The glory of the feudal aristocrat is in being a link in the longest possible chain of ancestors. The glory of the aristocrat of the spirit is in having no ancestors -- or having as few as possible. If an artist is his own ancestor, if he has only descendents, he enters history as a genius; if he has few ancestors, or is related to them distantly, he enters history as a talent. (H.G. Wells, 1922)

There are two generic and invariable features that characterize utopias. One is the content: the authors of utopias paint what they consider to be ideal societies; translating this into the language of mathematics, we might say that utopias bear a + sign. The other feature, organically growing out of the content, is to be found in the form: a utopia is always static; it is always descriptive and has no, of almost no, plot dynamics. (H.G. Wells, 1922)

In adopting the form of the adventure novel, Wells deepened it, raised its intellectual value, and brought into it elements of social philosophy and science. In his own field -- though, of course, on a proportionately lesser scale -- Wells may be likened to Dostoyevsky, who took the form of the cheap detective novel and infused it with brilliant psychological analysis. (H.G. Wells, 1922)

Dogma, static positions, consonance — all these are obstacles to catching the disease of art, at least in its more complex forms. (The New Russian Prose, 1923)

The art of the word is painting + architecture + music. (The New Russian Prose, 1923)

Only lifeless mechanisms move along faultlessly straight lines and compass circles. In art the surest way to destroy is to canonize one given form and one philosophy: that which is canonized quickly dies of obesity, of entropy. (The New Russian Prose, 1923)

Life itself today has lost its plane reality: it is projected, not along the old fixed points, but along the dynamic coordinates of Einstein, of revolution. In this new projection, the best-known formulas and objects become displaced, fantastic, familiar-unfamiliar. This is why it is so logical for literature today to be drawn to the fantastic plot, or to an amalgam of reality and fantasy. (The New Russian Prose, 1923)

To reflect the entire spectrum, the dynamics of the adventure novel must be invested with a philosophic synthesis of one kind or another. (The New Russian Prose, 1923)

Revolution is everywhere, in everything. It is infinite. There is no final revolution, no final number. The social revolution is only one of an infinite number of numbers: the law of revolution is not a social law, but an immeasurably greater one. It is a cosmic, universal law — like the laws of the conservation of energy and of the dissipation of energy (entropy). (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

The flame will cool tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.... But someone must see this already today, and speak heretically today about tomorrow. Heretics are the only (bitter) remedy against the entropy of human thought. (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

What we need in literature today are vast philosophic horizons... we need the most ultimate, the most fearsome, the most fearless "Why?" and "What next?" (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

Children are the boldest philosophers. They enter life naked, not covered by the smallest fig leaf of dogma, absolutes, creeds. This is why every question they ask is so absurdly naïve and so frighteningly complex. The new men entering life today are as naked and as fearless as children; and they, too, like children, like Shopenhauer, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, ask "Why?" and "What next?" (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

Philosophers of genius, children, and the people are equally wise — because they ask equally foolish questions. Foolish to a civilized man who has a well-furnished European apartment, with an excellent toilet, and a well-furnished dogma. (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

Let the answers be wrong, let the philosophy be mistaken — errors are more valuable than truths: truth is of the machine, error is alive; truth reassures, error disturbs. (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

All truths are erroneous. This is the very essence of the dialectical process: today's truths become errors tomorrow; there is no final number. This truth (the only one) is for the strong alone. Weak-nerved minds insist on a finite universe, a last number; they need, in Nietzsche's words, "the crutches of certainty". The weak-nerved lack the strength to include themselves in the dialectic syllogism. (On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters, 1923)

Truth is the first thing that present-day literature lacks. The writer has drowned himself in lies, he is too accustomed to speak prudently, with a careful look over his shoulder. (The Day and the Age, 1924)

The myth about the angel who rebelled against his Lord is the most beautiful of all myths, the proudest, the most revolutionary, the most immortal of them all. (The Day and the Age, 1924)

Sologub has preserved the stormy, reckless Russian soul. This love, which demands all or nothing, this absurd, incurable, beautiful sickness, is not limited to Sologub, to Don Quixote, to Blok (and this is the sickness Blok died of) -- it is our Russian sickness, morbus rossica. It is the sickness that afflicts the better part of our intelligentsia -- and, happily, always will afflict it. Happily, because a country where there are no longer any intransigent, eternally dissatisfied, forever restless romantics, where only the healthy remain, only the Sancho Panzas and the Chichikovs, such a country is doomed sooner or later to snore under the quilt of philistinism. (Fyodor Sologub, 1924)

By complex ways, by looking deep into the dark well of the human soul, full of filth, somewhere at the very bottom of it Chekhov at last found his faith. And this faith turned out to be faith in man, in the power of human progress. And man became his god. (Chekhov, 1925)

When we remove the snowdrift piled up over Chekhov in recent years, we uncover a man profoundly agitated by social problems; a writer whose social ideals are the same as those we live by; a philosophy of the divinity of man, of fervent faith in man -- the faith that moves mountains. (Chekhov, 1925)

It is not possible to build on negative emotions. Genuine literature will come only when we replace hatred for man with love for man. (The Goal, ca. 1926)

The purpose of art, including literature, is not to reflect life but to organize it, to build it. (The Goal, ca. 1926)

It is the specialist's task to talk about means, about centimeters. An artist's task is to talk about the goal, about kilometers, thousands of kilometers. The organizing role of art consists of infecting the reader, of arousing him with pathos or irony — the cathode and anode in literature. But irony that is measured in centimeters is pathetic, and centimeter-sized pathos is ridiculous. No one can be carried away by it. To stir the reader, the artist must speak not of means but of ends, of the great goal toward which mankind is moving. (The Goal, ca. 1926)

There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. (A Piece for an Anthology on Books, 1928)

I spend a great deal of my time on my work, probably more than the reader would require. But this is necessary for the critic, the most demanding and carping critic I know -- myself. I can never deceive this critic, and until he says that everything possible has been done, I cannot put the final period to the work. If there is any other opinion I respect, it is the opinion of my fellow writers -- those who, in my judgment, know how a novel, a story, or a play is made. They have made them themselves, and made them well. No other criticism exists for me, and I cannot understand how it could exist. (Backstage, 1930)

There is an excellent way to make predictions without the slightest risk of error: predict the past. (The Future of the Theater, 1931)

An error is more useful than truth: truth is a thought suffering from arteriosclerosis. (The Future of the Theater, 1931)

In order to write about the machine you have to know it, to live with it, to love it (or hate it). I think that true writing could be done on industrial subjects by people who work in industry, who are firmly linked with it. But ... and here is the opposite 'but', the technology of literary craftsmanship is itself a very fine and complex matter. Qualified specialists from industry prove themselves dilettantes in the field of literature. The needed synthesis is not yet in sight. (Auto-Interview, 1932)

The highly complex, almost mathematical, nature of music creates for it an ironclad protection against the microbes of dilletantism, which penetrate much more easily into the fields of painting, literature, and the theater. (Moscow-Petersburg, 1933)

The latest literary discussions reflect a struggle between two artistic methods -- romanticism and realism, with the latter clearly ascendant for the time being. (Moscow-Petersburg, 1933)

... the inner world: those spiritual apartments to which we are reluctant to admit strangers. (Maxim Gorky, 1936)