In this passage from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We translated by Mirra Ginsburg I am struck by the juxtaposition between the Rousseauesque wilderness outside the ordered city.
Through the glass the blunt snout of some beast stared dully, mistily at me; yellow eyes, persistently repeating a single, incomprehensible thought. For a long time we stared into each other’s eyes — those mine-wells from the surface world into another subterranean one. And a question stirred within me: What if he, this yellow-eyed creature, in his disorderly, filthy mound of leaves, in his uncomputed life, is happier than we?
I raised my hand, the yellow eyes blinked, backed away, and disappeared among the greenery. The paltry creature! What absurdity — that he could possibly be happier than we are! Happier than I, perhaps; but I am only an exception, I am sick.
I like the question it poses but more so do I like the question that arises for me: what counts as an “uncomputed” life? Are we not creatures of calculation?
And so for day 605