Zamyatin studied at the Polytechnic Institute in St. Petersburg and became a professional naval engineer. His first story appeared in 1908, and he became serious about writing in 1913, when his short novel A Provincial Tale (1913) was favorably received. He became part of the neorealist group, which included Remizov and Prishvin. During World War I, he supervised the construction of icebreakers in England for the Russian government. After his return home, he published two satiric works about English life, "The Islanders" (1918) and "The Fisher of Men" (1922). During the civil war and the early 1920s, Zamyatin published theoretical essays as well as fiction. He played a central role in many cultural activities---as an editor, organizer, and teacher of literary technique---and had an important influence on younger writers, such as Olesha and Ivanov. Zamyatin's prose after the Revolution involved extensive use of ellipses, color symbolism, and elaborate chains of imagery. It is exemplified in such well-known stories as "Mamai" (1921) and "The Cage" (1922). His best-known work is the novel We (1924), a satiric, futuristic tale of a dystopia that was a plausible extrapolation from early twentieth-century social and political trends. The book, which directly influenced George Orwell's (see Vol. 1) 1984, 1984, was published abroad in several translations during the 1920s. In 1927 a shortened Russian version appeared in Prague, and the violent press campaign that followed led to Zamyatin's resignation from a writers' organization and, eventually, to his direct appeal to Stalin for permission to leave the Soviet Union. This being granted in 1931, Zamyatin settled in Paris, where he continued to work until his death. Until glasnost he was unpublished and virtually unknown in Russia.
Mirra Ginsburg was born in Bobruisk, Byelorussia in 1909. As a child, she learned to love books. Folk tales were her favorite type of story, especially those from her native country. She wanted to share the richness, wit, and beauty of the tales with American children and did with her translation work. She died on December 26, 2000.