Categories
History Literature Politics

Contemporarily relevant dialogue by Chernyshevsky

“Your books say that we’re not supposed to live like this. Don’t you think I know that, Verochka? But in those books of yours it says that in order not to live like this, everything has to be organized differently; now, no one can live any other way. So why don’t they hurry up and set up a new order? Hey, Verochka, do you think I don’t know anything about those new systems described in your books? I know they’re good ones. Only you and I won’t live to see them! People are really stupid—how can you set up a new system with the likes of them? So let’s keep on living in the old order. That includes you! What sort of a system is it? Your books say that the old order is one of filching and fleecing. That’s true, Verochka. So if there’s no new order, let’s live by the old: filch and fleece. I’m telling you all this because I love you, becau . . . zzzz.”

Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is To Be Done?

Let us remember though, with the looming environmental collapse, we are on a deadline. If we don’t introduce new systems and ways of doing things soon, it will be too late. We are literally on a deadline here. Planet Earth cannot sustain capitalist models of society any longer, that is the only certainty we have now.

Let us “filch and fleece” no more. A kinder gentler world is not only possible. It is imperative.

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Categories
Literature Politics

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? – Bureaucratic bungling

The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the publication (and circumvention of censorship) of a landmark in 19th century subversive Russian literature.

In late 1862 Chernyshevsky asked the prison commandant for permission to begin work on a novel. His request granted, he set to work and produced the entire novel within four months, between December 14, 1862, and April 4, 1863. The first part of the manuscript was then submitted to the prison censor, who, whether carelessly or for devious purposes, passed it and forwarded the manuscript to the censor of the journal Sovremennik. Passed again, the novel was sent to the journal’s editor, Nekrasov, who promptly lost it in a cab. He managed to recover the manuscript only after advertising in the official gazette of the St. Petersburg police. With what is perhaps the greatest irony of Russian letters, the novel that the police helped to retrieve turned out to be the most subversive and revolutionary work of nineteenth-century Russian literature. Its publication has aptly been called “the most spectacular example of bureaucratic bungling in the cultural realm during the reign of Alexander II.”

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? and the Russian Intelligentsia,
Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner

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