Introduction

‘And in fact you can spend a whole day reading a lengthy book and not know what the writer wished to say, and only when you have nearly finished, after having wasted so much of your time— already insufficient for the fulfilment of the necessary obligations of life—do you discover that all this music was built up on an infinitesimal, almost null idea.

‘All contemporary literature falls by content into three categories: the first covers what is called the scientific field, the second consists of narratives, and the third of what are called descriptions.

‘The scientific books usually contain collections of all sorts of old hypotheses already obvious to everyone, but combined in different ways and applied to various new subjects.

‘In the narratives or, as they are otherwise called, novels—to which bulky volumes are also devoted—for the most part there are descriptions, without sparing any details, of how some John Jones and Mary Smith attain the satisfaction of their “love”—that sacred feeling which has gradually degenerated in people, owing to their weakness and will­lessness, and has now in contemporary man turned completely into a vice, whereas the possibility of its natural manifestation was given to us by our Creator for the salvation of our souls and for the mutual moral support necessary for a more or less happy life together.

‘The third category of books gives descriptions of travels, of adventures, and of the flora and fauna of the most diverse countries. Works of this kind are generally written by people who have never been anywhere and have never in reality seen anything, by people who, as is said, have never crossed their own doorsteps; with very few exceptions, they simply give rein to their imagination or copy various fragments from books written by others, former fantasists just like themselves.

‘With this puny understanding of the responsibility and significance of literary works, the writers of today, in striving ever more and more for beauty of style, sometimes even invent an incredible hodge­podge in verse, in order to obtain what in their opinion is beauty of consonance, and thereby even further destroy the already feeble sense of everything they write.

9