Anna karenina, p.221
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       Anna Karenina, p.221

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 1

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

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

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

  Though he asked no one about it, reluctantly and with feignedindifference answered his friends' inquiries as to how the book wasgoing, and did not even inquire of the booksellers how the book wasselling, Sergey Ivanovitch was all on the alert, with strainedattention, watching for the first impression his book would make in theworld and in literature.

  But a week passed, a second, a third, and in society no impressionwhatever could be detected. His friends who were specialists andsavants, occasionally--unmistakably from politeness--alluded to it. Therest of his acquaintances, not interested in a book on a learnedsubject, did not talk of it at all. And society generally--just nowespecially absorbed in other things--was absolutely indifferent. In thepress, too, for a whole month there was not a word about his book.

  Sergey Ivanovitch had calculated to a nicety the time necessary forwriting a review, but a month passed, and a second, and still there wassilence.

  Only in the _Northern Beetle_, in a comic article on the singerDrabanti, who had lost his voice, there was a contemptuous allusion toKoznishev's book, suggesting that the book had been long ago seenthrough by everyone, and was a subject of general ridicule.

  At last in the third month a critical article appeared in a seriousreview. Sergey Ivanovitch knew the author of the article. He had met himonce at Golubtsov's.

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

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

  The critic had undoubtedly put an interpretation upon the book whichcould not possibly be put on it. But he had selected quotations soadroitly that for people who had not read the book (and obviouslyscarcely anyone had read it) it seemed absolutely clear that the wholebook was nothing but a medley of high-flown phrases, not even--assuggested by marks of interrogation--used appropriately, and that theauthor of the book was a person absolutely without knowledge of thesubject. And all this was so wittily done that Sergey Ivanovitch wouldnot have disowned such wit himself. But that was just what was so awful.

  In spite of the scrupulous conscientiousness with which SergeyIvanovitch verified the correctness of the critic's arguments, he didnot for a minute stop to ponder over the faults and mistakes which wereridiculed; but unconsciously he began immediately trying to recall everydetail 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 aboutsomething he had said that betrayed ignorance, Sergey Ivanovitch foundthe clue to explain the article.

  This article was followed by a deadly silence about the book both in thepress 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 factthat, since he had finished his book, he had had no more literary workto do, such as had hitherto occupied the greater part of his time.

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

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

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

  From much of what was spoken and written on the subject, SergeyIvanovitch differed on various points. He saw that the Slavonic questionhad become one of those fashionable distractions which succeed oneanother in providing society with an object and an occupation. He saw,too, that a great many people were taking up the subject from motives ofself-interest and self-advertisement. He recognized that the newspaperspublished a great deal that was superfluous and exaggerated, with thesole aim of attracting attention and outbidding one another. He saw thatin this general movement those who thrust themselves most forward andshouted the loudest were men who had failed and were smarting under asense of injury--generals without armies, ministers not in the ministry,journalists not on any paper, party leaders without followers. He sawthat there was a great deal in it that was frivolous and absurd. But hesaw and recognized an unmistakable growing enthusiasm, uniting allclasses, with which it was impossible not to sympathize. The massacre ofmen who were fellow Christians, and of the same Slavonic race, excitedsympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. Andthe heroism of the Servians and Montenegrins struggling for a greatcause begot in the whole people a longing to help their brothers not inword but in deed.

  But in this there was another aspect that rejoiced Sergey Ivanovitch.That was the manifestation of public opinion. The public had definitelyexpressed its desire. The soul of the people had, as Sergey Ivanovitchsaid, found expression. And the more he worked in this cause, the moreincontestable it seemed to him that it was a cause destined to assumevast 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 byit, so that he could scarcely manage to answer all the letters andappeals addressed to him. He worked the whole spring and part of thesummer, and it was only in July that he prepared to go away to hisbrother's in the country.

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

 
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