Introduction

‘It is interesting to notice that this word has been preserved even up to the present time, but is used, and in the sense exactly corresponding to its meaning, only by people who, although they belong to the Russian nation, happen to be isolated from the effects of present-day civilization, that is to say, by people of various country districts situated far from any centre of culture.

‘This artificially invented grammar of the languages of today, which the younger generation everywhere is now compelled to learn, is in my opinion one of the fundamental causes of the fact that, among contemporary European people, only one of the three independent data necessary for obtaining a sane human mind has developed—namely, their so-called thought, which tends to predominate in their individuality; whereas without feeling and instinct, as every man with a normal reason must know, the real understanding accessible to man cannot be formed.

‘To sum up everything that has been said about the literature of our times, I cannot find better words to describe it than the expression “it has no soul”.

‘Contemporary civilization has destroyed the soul of literature, as of everything else to which it has turned its gracious attention.

‘I have all the more grounds for criticizing so mercilessly this result of modern civilization, since according to the most reliable historical data which have come down to us from remote antiquity we have definite information that the literature of former civilizations had indeed a great deal to assist the development of the mind of man; and the results of this development, transmitted from generation to generation, could still be felt even centuries later.

‘In my opinion, the quintessence of an idea can sometimes be very well transmitted to others by means of certain anecdotes and proverbs formed by life.

‘So, in the present case, in order to show the difference between (he literature of former civilizations and the contemporary, I wish to make use of an anecdote very widely known among us in Persia, entitled “The Conversation of the Two Sparrows”.

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