Anna karenina, p.192
Anna Karenina, p.192graf Leo Tolstoy
Levin had on this visit to town seen a great deal of his old friend atthe university, Professor Katavasov, whom he had not seen since hismarriage. He liked in Katavasov the clearness and simplicity of hisconception of life. Levin thought that the clearness of Katavasov'sconception of life was due to the poverty of his nature; Katavasovthought that the disconnectedness of Levin's ideas was due to his lackof intellectual discipline; but Levin enjoyed Katavasov's clearness, andKatavasov enjoyed the abundance of Levin's untrained ideas, and theyliked 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 toldhim that the celebrated Metrov, whose article Levin had so much liked,was in Moscow, that he had been much interested by what Katavasov hadtold him about Levin's work, and that he was coming to see him tomorrowat eleven, and would be very glad to make Levin's acquaintance.
"You're positively a reformed character, I'm glad to see," saidKatavasov, meeting Levin in the little drawing room. "I heard the belland 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 ofpleasant appearance. This was Metrov. The conversation touched for abrief space on politics and on how recent events were looked at in thehigher spheres in Petersburg. Metrov repeated a saying that had reachedhim through a most trustworthy source, reported as having been utteredon this subject by the Tsar and one of the ministers. Katavasov hadheard also on excellent authority that the Tsar had said something quitedifferent. Levin tried to imagine circumstances in which both sayingsmight have been uttered, and the conversation on that topic dropped.
"Yes, here he's written almost a book on the natural conditions of thelaborer 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 mankindas something outside biological laws; but, on the contrary, seeing hisdependence on his surroundings, and in that dependence seeking the lawsof his development."
"That's very interesting," said Metrov.
"What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture; but studyingthe chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer," said Levin,reddening, "I could not help coming to quite unexpected results."
And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to expoundhis views. He knew Metrov had written an article against the generallyaccepted theory of political economy, but to what extent he could reckonon his sympathy with his own new views he did not know and could notguess from the clever and serene face of the learned man.
"But in what do you see the special characteristics of the Russianlaborer?" said Metrov; "in his biological characteristics, so to speak,or in the condition in which he is placed?"
Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with which hedid not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea that the Russianlaborer has a quite special view of the land, different from that ofother people; and to support this proposition he made haste to add thatin his opinion this attitude of the Russian peasant was due to theconsciousness of his vocation to people vast unoccupied expanses in theEast.
"One may easily be led into error in basing any conclusion on thegeneral vocation of a people," said Metrov, interrupting Levin. "Thecondition of the laborer will always depend on his relation to the landand to capital."
And without letting Levin finish explaining his idea, Metrov beganexpounding to him the special point of his own theory.
In what the point of his theory lay, Levin did not understand, becausehe did not take the trouble to understand. He saw that Metrov, likeother people, in spite of his own article, in which he had attacked thecurrent theory of political economy, looked at the position of theRussian peasant simply from the point of view of capital, wages, andrent. He would indeed have been obliged to admit that in theeastern--much the larger--part of Russia rent was as yet nil, that fornine-tenths of the eighty millions of the Russian peasants wages tookthe form simply of food provided for themselves, and that capital doesnot so far exist except in the form of the most primitive tools. Yet itwas only from that point of view that he considered every laborer,though in many points he differed from the economists and had his owntheory of the wage-fund, which he expounded to Levin.
Levin listened reluctantly, and at first made objections. He would haveliked to interrupt Metrov, to explain his own thought, which in hisopinion would have rendered further exposition of Metrov's theoriessuperfluous. But later on, feeling convinced that they looked at thematter so differently, that they could never understand one another, hedid not even oppose his statements, but simply listened. Although whatMetrov was saying was by now utterly devoid of interest for him, he yetexperienced a certain satisfaction in listening to him. It flattered hisvanity that such a learned man should explain his ideas to him soeagerly, with such intensity and confidence in Levin's understanding ofthe subject, sometimes with a mere hint referring him to a whole aspectof 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 hisintimate friends, talked of it with special eagerness to every newperson, and in general was eager to talk to anyone of any subject thatinterested him, even if still obscure to himself.
"We are late though," said Katavasov, looking at his watch directlyMetrov had finished his discourse.
"Yes, there's a meeting of the Society of Amateurs today incommemoration of the jubilee of Svintitch," said Katavasov in answer toLevin's inquiry. "Pyotr Ivanovitch and I were going. I've promised todeliver an address on his labors in zoology. Come along with us, it'svery interesting."
"Yes, and indeed it's time to start," said Metrov. "Come with us, andfrom there, if you care to, come to my place. I should very much like tohear your work."
"Oh, no! It's no good yet, it's unfinished. But I shall be very glad togo 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 frockcoat.
And a conversation sprang up upon the university question, which was avery important event that winter in Moscow. Three old professors in thecouncil had not accepted the opinion of the younger professors. Theyoung ones had registered a separate resolution. This, in the judgmentof some people, was monstrous, in the judgment of others it was thesimplest and most just thing to do, and the professors were split upinto two parties.
One party, to which Katavasov belonged, saw in the opposite party ascoundrelly betrayal and treachery, while the opposite party saw in themchildishness and lack of respect for the authorities. Levin, though hedid not belong to the university, had several times already during hisstay in Moscow heard and talked about this matter, and had his ownopinion on the subject. He took part in the conversation that wascontinued in the street, as they all three walked to the buildings ofthe old university.
The meeting had already begun. Round the cloth-covered table, at whichKatavasov and Metrov seated themselves, there were some half-dozenpersons, and one of these was bending close over a manuscript, readingsomething aloud. Levin sat down in one of the empty chairs that werestanding round the table, and in a whisper asked a student sitting nearwhat was being read. The student, eyeing Levin with displeasure, said:
Though Levin was not interested in the biography, he could not helplistening, and learned some new and interesting facts about the life ofthe distinguished man of science.
When the reader had finished, the chairman thanked him and read someverses of the poet Ment sent him on the jubilee, and said a few words byway of thanks to the poet. Then Katavasov in his loud, ringing voiceread his address on the scientific labors of the man whose jubilee wasbeing kept.
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