What Is to Be Done?

What Is to Be Done?

Nikolai Chernyshevsky
TRANSLATED BY MICHAEL R. KATZ
ANNOTATED BY WILLIAM G. WAGNER
Michael R. Katz
William G. Wagner
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt1287cw7
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  • Book Info
    What Is to Be Done?
    Book Description:

    "No work in modern literature, with the possible exception ofUncle Tom's Cabin, can compete withWhat Is to Be Done?in its effect on human lives and its power to make history. For Chernyshevsky's novel, far more than Marx'sCapital, supplied the emotional dynamic that eventually went to make the Russian Revolution."-Joseph Frank,The Southern Review

    Almost from the moment of its publication in 1863, Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel,What Is to Be Done?, had a profound impact on the course of Russian literature and politics. The idealized image it offered of dedicated and self-sacrificing intellectuals transforming society by means of scientific knowledge served as a model of inspiration for Russia's revolutionary intelligentsia. On the one hand, the novel's condemnation of moderate reform helped to bring about the irrevocable break between radical intellectuals and liberal reformers; on the other, Chernyshevsky's socialist vision polarized conservatives' opposition to institutional reform. Lenin himself called Chernyshevsky "the greatest and most talented representative of socialism before Marx"; and the controversy surroundingWhat Is to Be Done?exacerbated the conflicts that eventually led to the Russian Revolution.

    Michael R. Katz's readable and compelling translation is now the definitive unabridged English-language version, brilliantly capturing the extraordinary qualities of the original. William G. Wagner has provided full annotations to Chernyshevsky's allusions and references and to the, sources of his ideas, and has appended a critical bibliography. An introduction by Katz and Wagner places the novel in the context of nineteenth-century Russian social, political, and intellectual history and literature, and explores its importance for several generations of Russian radicals.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7159-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    M. R. K. and W. G. W.
  4. Translator’s Note
    (pp. x-xii)
    M. R. K.
  5. INTRODUCTION: Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? and the Russian Intelligentsia
    (pp. 1-36)
    Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner

    From the moment of its first appearance in 1863,What Is to Be Done?provoked bitter controversy. Its author, Nikolai Gavrilovich Chemyshevsky (1828-1889), had already achieved considerable influence and notoriety as one of Russia’s earliest advocates of materialist philosophy, socialist political economy, and women’s liberation. The novel’s extraordinary impact, however, derived chiefly from the solutions it proposed for Russia's social ills and for the problems that agitated the intelligentsia from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Condemning the patriarchal and authoritarian nature of family, social, and political relations as the principal source of Russia’s social inequality, oppressiveness, and economic backwardness, Chernyshevsky rejected...

  6. Principal Characters
    (pp. 37-38)
  7. What Is to Be Done? From Tales about New People
    (pp. 39-46)

    On the morning of July 11, 1856, the staff of one of the large hotels. near the Moscow Railway Station in Petersburg was in a quandary, almost in a state of distress. On the previous evening at nine o’clock, a gentleman had arrived carrying a suitcase. He had taken a room, submitted his passport for registration and ordered tea and a cutlet. He said that he wished not to be disturbed because he was very tired and wanted to get some sleep, but had asked to be awakened at eight o’clock the next morning because he had urgent business. He...

  8. Preface
    (pp. 47-49)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Vera Pavlovna’s Life with Her Family
    (pp. 50-87)

    Vera Pavlovna h a d a very ordinary upbringing. Her early life, before she made the acquaintance of the medical student Lopukhov, contained a few noteworthy events, but nothing unusual. Even then, however, her behavior showed itself to be somewhat exceptional.

    Vera Pavlovna grew up in a multistoried house on Gorokhovaya [Pea] Street, between Sadovaya [Garden] Street and the Semenovsky Bridge. At the present time this house is designated by an appropriate number, but in 1852, when there were no such numbers, the house carried the inscription: “Residence of the Councillor of State? Ivan Zakharovich Storeshnikov.” That’s what the inscription...

  10. CHAPTER TWO First Love and Legal Marriage
    (pp. 88-169)

    It’s well known how such situations would have turned out in the old days. A fine young girl from a vile family with a vulgar man whom she doesn’t like forced upon her as a suitor; he’s a worthless, good-for nothing character who would have gotten even worse, except that once taken under tow, he submits; little by little he starts to approximate an ordinary fellow—if not a good one, then at least not too bad a one either. At first the girl won’t have him at all; then she begins to get accustomed to having him under her...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Marriage and Second Love
    (pp. 170-313)

    Three months have passed since Verochka escaped from her cellar. The Lopukhovs’ affairs are progressing well. He’s found sufficient lessons and has obtained work at a publishing house translating a textbook on geography. Vera Pavlovna has two pupils of her own—nothing to envy, but not too bad either. Together they’re earning about eighty rubles a month; although they can lead only a very modest existence, they’re not in any need. Their means are increasing gradually and they reckon that in about four months or even less they’ll be able to furnish their household (and that’s just what happened subsequently)....

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Second Marriage
    (pp. 314-386)

    Much esteemed Madame, Vera Pavlovna:

    My close acquaintance with the late Dmitry Sergeich Lopukhov leads me to hope that you will kindly admit into the ranks of your acquaintance a total stranger, but one who respects you deeply. In any case, I venture to think that you will not accuse me of importunity. In entering into correspondence with you I’m merely fulfilling a wish of the late Dmitry Sergeich. The information I will communicate about him can be considered completely reliable, for I will convey his thoughts in his own words, as if he himself were speaking. Here are his...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE New Characters and the Conclusion
    (pp. 387-443)

    In the letter to her friend, Katya Polozova mentioned that she was very grateful to Vera Pavlovna’s husband. In order to explain why, I have to describe the kind of person her father was.

    Polozov was a retired cavalry captain or staff captain;²⁷³ while in the service, and according to the customs of the good old days, he led a dissipated life and squandered a rather large ancestral estate. When he had done so, he came to his senses, resigned his commission, and settled down to earn himself a new fortune. Having collected his few remaining crumbs, he realized that...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Change of Scene
    (pp. 444-446)

    “To the Arcade!” cried the lady in mourning. Only now she was no longer in mourning: she was wearing a bright rose-pink dress, a rosepink hat, and a white mantilla, and she was holding a bouquet of flowers in her hand. She wasn’t riding alone with Mosolov. He and Nikitin were sitting on the front seat of the carriage, while a third youth was sticking out like a sore thumb on the coachman’s box . Next to the lady sat a man of about thirty.³²⁸ How old was the lady? Was she really twenty-five, as she said, and not twenty?...

  15. Selected Bibliography Works on Chernyshevsky in English
    (pp. 447-450)