eBooks Cube
Chapter 3

Levin had on this visit to town seen a great deal of his old
friend at the university, Professor Katavasov, whom he had not
seen since his marriage. He liked in Katavasov the clearness and
simplicity of his conception of life. Levin thought that the
clearness of Katavasov's conception of life was due to the
poverty of his nature; Katavasov thought that the
disconnectedness of Levin's ideas was due to his lack of
intellectual discipline; but Levin enjoyed Katavasov's clearness,
and Katavasov enjoyed the abundance of Levin's untrained ideas,
and they liked to meet and to discuss.

Levin had read Katavasov some parts of his book, and he had liked
them. On the previous day Katavasov had met Levin at a public
lecture and told him that the celebrated Metrov, whose article
Levin had so much liked, was in Moscow, that he had been much
interested by what Katavasov had told him about Levin's work, and
that he was coming to see him tomorrow at eleven, and would be
very glad to make Levin's acquaintance.

"You're positively a reformed character, I'm glad to see," said
Katavasov, meeting Levin in the little drawing room. "I heard
the bell and thought: Impossible that it can be he at the exact
time!... Well, what do you say to the Montenegrins now? They're
a race of warriors."

"Why, what's happened?" asked Levin.

Katavasov in a few words told him the last piece of news from the
war, and going into his study, introduced Levin to a short,
thick-set man of pleasant appearance. This was Metrov. The
conversation touched for a brief space on politics and on how
recent events were looked at in the higher spheres in Petersburg.
Metrov repeated a saying that had reached him through a most
trustworthy source, reported as having been uttered on this
subject by the Tsar and one of the ministers. Katavasov had
heard also on excellent authority that the Tsar had said
something quite different. Levin tried to imagine circumstances
in which both sayings might have been uttered, and the
conversation on that topic dropped.

"Yes, here he's written almost a book on the natural conditions
of the laborer in relation to the land," said Katavasov; "I'm not
a specialist, but I, as a natural science man, was pleased at
his not taking mankind as something outside biological laws; but,
on the contrary, seeing his dependence on his surroundings, and
in that dependence seeking the laws of his development."

"That's very interesting," said Metrov.

"What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture; but
studying the chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer," said
Levin, reddening, "I could not help coming to quite unexpected

And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to
expound his views. He knew Metrov had written an article against
the generally accepted theory of political economy, but to what
extent he could reckon on his sympathy with his own new views he
did not know and could not guess from the clever and serene face
of the learned man.

"But in what do you see the special characteristics of the
Russian laborer?" said Metrov; "in his biological
characteristics, so to speak, or in the condition in which he is

Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with
which he did not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea
that the Russian laborer has a quite special view of the land,
different from that of other people; and to support this
proposition he made haste to add that in his opinion this
attitude of the Russian peasant was due to the consciousness of
his vocation to people vast unoccupied expanses in the East.

"One may easily be led into error in basing any conclusion on the
general vocation of a people," said Metrov, interrupting Levin.
"The condition of the laborer will always depend on his relation
to the land and to capital."

And without letting Levin finish explaining his idea, Metrov
began expounding to him the special point of his own theory.

In what the point of his theory lay, Levin did not understand,
because he did not take the trouble to understand. He saw that
Metrov, like other people, in spite of his own article, in which
he had attacked the current theory of political economy, looked
at the position of the Russian peasant simply from the point of
view of capital, wages, and rent. He would indeed have been
obliged to admit that in the eastern--much the larger--part of
Russia rent was as yet nil, that for nine-tenths of the eighty
millions of the Russian peasants wages took the form simply of
food provided for themselves, and that capital does not so far
exist except in the form of the most primitive tools. Yet it was
only from that point of view that he considered every laborer,
though in many points he differed from the economists and had his
own theory of the wage-fund, which he expounded to Levin.

Levin listened reluctantly, and at first made objections. He
would have liked to interrupt Metrov, to explain his own thought,
which in his opinion would have rendered further exposition of
Metrov's theories superfluous. But later on, feeling convinced
that they looked at the matter so differently, that they could
never understand one another, he did not even oppose his
statements, but simply listened. Although what Metrov was saying
was by now utterly devoid of interest for him, he yet experienced
a certain satisfaction in listening to him. It flattered his
vanity that such a learned man should explain his ideas to him so
eagerly, with such intensity and confidence in Levin's
understanding of the subject, sometimes with a mere hint
referring him to a whole aspect of the subject. He put this down
to his own credit, unaware that Metrov, who had already discussed
his theory over and over again with all his intimate friends,
talked of it with special eagerness to every new person, and in
general was eager to talk to anyone of any subject that
interested him, even if still obscure to himself.

"We are late though," said Katavasov, looking at his watch
directly Metrov had finished his discourse.

"Yes, there's a meeting of the Society of Amateurs today in
commemoration of the jubilee of Svintitch," said Katavasov in
answer to Levin's inquiry. "Pyotr Ivanovitch and I were going.
I've promised to deliver an address on his labors in zoology.
Come along with us, it's very interesting."

"Yes, and indeed it's time to start," said Metrov. "Come with
us, and from there, if you care to, come to my place. I should
very much like to hear your work."

"Oh, no! It's no good yet, it's unfinished. But I shall be very
glad to go to the meeting."

"I say, friends, have you heard? He has handed in the separate
report," Katavasov called from the other room, where he was
putting on his frock coat.

And a conversation sprang up upon the university question, which
was a very important event that winter in Moscow. Three old
professors in the council had not accepted the opinion of the
younger professors. The young ones had registered a separate
resolution. This, in the judgment of some people, was monstrous,
in the judgment of others it was the simplest and most just thing
to do, and the professors were split up into two parties.

One party, to which Katavasov belonged, saw in the opposite party
a scoundrelly betrayal and treachery, while the opposite party
saw in them childishness and lack of respect for the authorities.
Levin, though he did not belong to the university, had several
times already during his stay in Moscow heard and talked about
this matter, and had his own opinion on the subject. He took
part in the conversation that was continued in the street, as
they all three walked to the buildings of the old university.

The meeting had already begun. Round the cloth-covered table, at
which Katavasov and Metrov seated themselves, there were some
half-dozen persons, and one of these was bending close over a
manuscript, reading something aloud. Levin sat down in one of
the empty chairs that were standing round the table, and in a
whisper asked a student sitting near what was being read. The
student, eyeing Levin with displeasure, said:


Though Levin was not interested in the biography, he could not
help listening, and learned some new and interesting facts about
the life of the distinguished man of science.

When the reader had finished, the chairman thanked him and read
some verses of the poet Ment sent him on the jubilee, and said a
few words by way of thanks to the poet. Then Katavasov in his
loud, ringing voice read his address on the scientific labors of
the man whose jubilee was being kept.

When Katavasov had finished, Levin looked at his watch, saw it
was past one, and thought that there would not be time before the
concert to read Metrov his book, and indeed, he did not now care
to do so. During the reading he had thought over their
conversation. He saw distinctly now that though Metrov's ideas
might perhaps have value, his own ideas had a value too, and
their ideas could only be made clear and lead to something if
each worked separately in his chosen path, and that nothing would
be gained by putting their ideas together. And having made up
his mind to refuse Metrov's invitation, Levin went up to him at
the end of the meeting. Metrov introduced Levin to the chairman,
with whom he was talking of the political news. Metrov told the
chairman what he had already told Levin, and Levin made the same
remarks on his news that he had already made that morning, but
for the sake of variety he expressed also a new opinion which had
only just struck him. After that the conversation turned again
on the university question. As Levin had already heard it all,
he made haste to tell Metrov that he was sorry he could not take
advantage of his invitation, took leave, and drove to Lvov's.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Fiction - Russian literature
Nabou.com: the big site