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
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.