Book//mark – What Is to Be Done? | Nikolai Chernyshevsky, 1863

What Is to Be Done? | Nikolai Chernyshevsky, 1863
What Is to Be Done?, 1905                 Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-1889)

“But does it really help if a person doesn’t realize what he lacks, or, if he does, he insists that he doesn’t need it at all? That’s an illusion, a fantasy. Human nature is stifled by reason, circumstances, and pride. It keeps silent and doesn’t make itself known to one’s consciousness, all the while
silently doing its work of undermining life.”

“There’s no task more difficult than duping a sincere, honest man if he has the least bit of intelligence and life experience. Reasonably intelligent individuals are never hoodwinked individually. But they possess another, equally harmful form of this human frailty: they are subject to mass delusion. A swindler will never be able to lead a single individual by the nose; but as for a large group taken together, their noses are always ready and willing! Meanwhile, the swindlers, weak as individuals and each led by his own nose, when taken together can never be led by their noses. That’s the whole secret of world history.”

“You ask me what I seek in life. I wish neither to dominate nor to be dominated. I wish neither to dissimulate nor deceive; nor do I wish to exert myself to acquire what I am told is necessary, but of which I do not feel the need. I do not desire wealth. I wish to be independent and live in my own fashion.”

“What I do know is that I wish to be free; that I do not wish to be under obligations to any one. I wish to act after my own fancy. Let others do the same. I respect the liberty of others, as I wish them to respect mine.”

“What a pity that at the present hour there are still more than ten antediluvians for every new man! It is very natural, however. An antediluvian world can have only an antediluvian population.”

“We entered the workrooms; the girls who were occupied there seemed to be dressed like daughters, sisters, or young wives of these same officials. Some wore dresses made of the plainest silk, others wore barege or muslin. Their faces reflected the gentleness and tenderness that can come only
from a life of contentment. You can imagine how all this surprised me.”

“Good feeling towards those we love implies a great desire for their happiness. Now, there is no happiness without liberty. You would not wish to stand in my way; no more so I wish to stand in yours. If you should stand in your own way for my sake, you would offend me.”

“We feel free only with our equals.”

“Isn’t that always the way it is: if a person’s inclined to look for something, he finds it wherever he looks. Even if there’s no trace of it at all, he still finds clear evidence. Even if there’s not even a shadow, still he sees not only a shadow of what he’s looking for but everything he’s looking for. He sees it in the most unmistakable terms, and these terms become clearer with each new glance and every new thought.”

“Die, but don’t give a kiss without love!”

Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done?, 1863


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