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PART EIGHT - Chapter 1


Almost two months had passed. The hot summer was half over, but
Sergey Ivanovitch was only just preparing to leave Moscow.

Sergey Ivanovitch's life had not been uneventful during this
time. A year ago he had finished his book, the fruit of six
years' labor, "Sketch of a Survey of the Principles and Forms of
Government in Europe and Russia." Several sections of this book
and its introduction had appeared in periodical publications, and
other parts had been read by Sergey Ivanovitch to persons of his
circle, so that the leading ideas of the work could not be
completely novel to the public. But still Sergey Ivanovitch had
expected that on its appearance his book would be sure to make a
serious impression on society, and if it did not cause a
revolution in social science it would, at any rate, make a great
stir in the scientific world.

After the most conscientious revision the book had last year been
published, and had been distributed among the booksellers.

Though he asked no one about it, reluctantly and with feigned
indifference answered his friends' inquiries as to how the book
was going, and did not even inquire of the booksellers how the
book was selling, Sergey Ivanovitch was all on the alert, with
strained attention, watching for the first impression his book
would make in the world and in literature.

But a week passed, a second, a third, and in society no
impression whatever could be detected. His friends who were
specialists and savants, occasionally--unmistakably from
politeness--alluded to it. The rest of his acquaintances, not
interested in a book on a learned subject, did not talk of it at
all. And society generally--just now especially absorbed in
other things--was absolutely indifferent. In the press, too, for
a whole month there was not a word about his book.

Sergey Ivanovitch had calculated to a nicety the time necessary
for writing a review, but a month passed, and a second, and still
there was silence.

Only in the Northern Beetle, in a comic article on the singer
Drabanti, who had lost his voice, there was a contemptuous
allusion to Koznishev's book, suggesting that the book had been
long ago seen through by everyone, and was a subject of general
ridicule.

At last in the third month a critical article appeared in a
serious review. Sergey Ivanovitch knew the author of the
article. He had met him once at Golubtsov's.

The author of the article was a young man, an invalid, very bold
as a writer, but extremely deficient in breeding and shy in
personal relations.

In spite of his absolute contempt for the author, it was with
complete respect that Sergey Ivanovitch set about reading the
article. The article was awful.

The critic had undoubtedly put an interpretation upon the book
which could not possibly be put on it. But he had selected
quotations so adroitly that for people who had not read the book
(and obviously scarcely anyone had read it) it seemed absolutely
clear that the whole book was nothing but a medley of high-flown
phrases, not even--as suggested by marks of interrogation--used
appropriately, and that the author of the book was a person
absolutely without knowledge of the subject. And all this was so
wittingly done that Sergey Ivanovitch would not have disowned
such wit himself. But that was just what was so awful.

In spite of the scrupulous conscientiousness with which Sergey
Ivanovitch verified the correctness of the critic's arguments, he
did not for a minute stop to ponder over the faults and mistakes
which were ridiculed; but unconsciously he began immediately
trying to recall every detail of his meeting and conversation
with the author of the article.

"Didn't I offend him in some way?" Sergey Ivanovitch wondered.

And remembering that when they met he had corrected the young man
about something he had said that betrayed ignorance, Sergey
Ivanovitch found the clue to explain the article.

This article was followed by a deadly silence about the book both
in the press and in conversation, and Sergey Ivanovitch saw that
his six years' task, toiled at with such love and labor, had
gone, leaving no trace.

Sergey Ivanovitch's position was still more difficult from the
fact that, since he had finished his book, he had had no more
literary work to do, such as had hitherto occupied the greater
part of his time.

Sergey Ivanovitch was clever, cultivated, healthy, and energetic,
and he did not know what use to make of his energy.
Conversations in drawing rooms, in meetings, assemblies, and
committees--everywhere where talk was possible--took up part of
his time. But being used for years to town life, he did not
waste all his energies in talk, as his less experienced younger
brother did, when he was in Moscow. He had a great deal of
leisure and intellectual energy still to dispose of.

Fortunately for him, at this period so difficult for him from the
failure of his book, the various public questions of the
dissenting sects, of the American alliance, of the Samara famine,
of exhibitions, and of spiritualism, were definitely replaced in
public interest by the Slavonic question, which had hitherto
rather languidly interested society, and Sergey Ivanovitch, who
had been one of the first to raise this subject, threw himself
into it heart and soul.

In the circle to which Sergey Ivanovitch belonged, nothing was
talked of or written about just now but the Servian War.
Everything that the idle crowd usually does to kill time was done
now for the benefit of the Slavonic States. Balls, concerts,
dinners, matchboxes, ladies' dresses, beer, restaurants--
everything testified to sympathy with the Slavonic peoples.

From much of what was spoken and written on the subject, Sergey
Ivanovitch differed on various points. He saw that the Slavonic
question had become one of those fashionable distractions which
succeed one another in providing society with an object and an
occupation. He saw, too, that a great many people were taking up
the subject from motives of self-interest and self-advertisement.
He recognized that the newspapers published a great deal that was
superfluous and exaggerated, with the sole aim of attracting
attention and outbidding one another. He saw that in this
general movement those who thrust themselves most forward and
shouted the loudest were men who had failed and were smarting
under a sense of injury--generals without armies, ministers not
in the ministry, journalists not on any paper, party leaders
without followers. He saw that there was a great deal in it that
was frivolous and absurd. But he saw and recognized an
unmistakable growing enthusiasm, uniting all classes, with which
it was impossible not to sympathize. The massacre of men who
were fellow Christians, and of the same Slavonic race, excited
sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the
oppressors. And the heroism of the Servians and Montenegrins
struggling for a great cause begot in the whole people a longing
to help their brothers not in word but in deed.

But in this there was another aspect that rejoiced Sergey
Ivanovitch. That was the manifestation of public opinion. The
public had definitely expressed its desire. The soul of the
people had, as Sergey Ivanovitch said, found expression. And the
more he worked in this cause, the more incontestable it seemed to
him that it was a cause destined to assume vast dimensions, to
create an epoch.

He threw himself heart and soul into the service of this great
cause, and forgot to think about his book. His whole time now
was engrossed by it, so that he could scarcely manage to answer
all the letters and appeals addressed to him. He worked the
whole spring and part of the summer, and it was only in July that
he prepared to go away to his brother's in the country.

He was going both to rest for a fortnight, and in the very heart
of the people, in the farthest wilds of the country, to enjoy the
sight of that uplifting of the spirit of the people, of which,
like all residents in the capital and big towns, he was fully
persuaded. Katavasov had long been meaning to carry out his
promise to stay with Levin, and so he was going with him.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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