Understandably, this fiercely satirical novella about life in a Siberian military garrison was banned by the tsarist censors when it was first published in 1914. Zamyatin, known in the West for his influential mock-Utopian novel We , here depicts military life in "a godforsaken hole": it is a dreary existence, punctuated by bouts of drunkenness, wife-swapping and "chink"-baiting. Unlike the central character, Lt. Polovets, who enlisted, most of these comrades-in-arms chose military service instead of prison. When the politically correct Capt. Schmidt charges his commanding officer with embezzlement and mismanagement, pandemonium ensues. The general senses Schmidt's weak point - his wife - and threatens to court-martial her husband unless she sleeps with him. But Schmidt is no saint either; his sadistic relationship with his wife is one of the more bizarre aspects of the plot, and, by the end of the book, he has broken down completely and committed suicide. Zamyatin explores the powerful, interlocking relationships that define this claustrophobic society, revealing a great deal about the darker side of human nature. Although only his second novel, this established him as a master of neorealism. Zamyatin died in exile in the 1930s; his books are still banned in the Soviet Union.
Original title: На куличках [Na kulichkakh]
Genre: Fiction→ General Fiction→ Humor→ Satire