Clerk or Heretic? The Problem of ‘Profession’ and ‘Life-Creation’ in the Nonfiction of Evgenij Zamjatin After 1917
The article explores the literary and self-described worldview of Evgenij Zamjatin after the October Revolution. In three ‘autobiographies’ from the 1920s he stressed the crucial role of the 1917 events in his destiny. Post-revolutionary years witnessed an explosion of Zamjatin’s nonfiction, whereby the issue of self-determining in the face of a new Russia was pervasive. His articles and interviews from the 1920s and 1930s, at first sight, give two mutually contradictory definitions of his ‘job’ or, rather, ‘profession’ prior to emigration in 1931: a literary clerk in state service and a fundamentally opposed ‘heretic’. He entered world culture, first of all, as the author of the dystopian novel We and a ‘heretic’. However, his self-identification was far more complex and complicated, a case in point being the fact that in 1934, already apparently an emigrant, he applied for membership in the Union of Soviet Writers.
This article tries to solve the contradiction, examining the storyline of an inner conflict – between an actor and a dreamer, a believer and a heretic, an officer of the state and a sceptic – that is recurrent in his nonfiction writing. Moreover, the author suggests that the ambivalence of Zamjatin resists definite evaluation. It is possible to view his ambivalence not only as a psychological or worldview peculiarity but as a manifestation of a ‘life-creation’ strategy.