Letter to Inessa Armand, Earlier than June 5, 1914

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I have just read, my dear friend,[1] Vinnichenko’s new novel which you sent me.[2] There’s balderdash and stupidity! To combine together as much as possible of every kind of “horror”, to collect in one story “vice” and “syphilis” and romantic crime, with extortion of money by means of blackmail (with the sister of the blackmailed person turned into a mistress), and the trial of the doctor! All this with hysterical outbursts, eccentricities, claims of having one’s “own” theory of organising prostitutes. This organisation represents nothing bad in itself; but it is the author, Vinnichenko himself, who makes nonsense of it, smacks his lips over it, makes it his “hobby horse”.

The review in Rech says that it is an imitation of Dostoyevsky and that there are good parts in it. There is an imitation, in my opinion, and a supremely bad imitation of the supremely bad in Dostoyevsky. Of course, in real life there are individual cases of all the “horrors” which Vinnichenko describes. But to lump them all together, and in such a way, means laying on the horrors with a trowel, frightening both one’s own imagination and the reader’s, “stunning” both oneself and the reader.

Once I had to spend a night with a sick comrade (delirium tremens), and once I had to “talk round” a comrade who had attempted suicide (after the attempt), and who some years later did commit suicide. Both recollections à la Vinnichenko. But in both cases these were small fragments of the lives of both comrades. But this pretentious, crass idiot Vinnichenko, in self-admiration, has from such things compiled a collection that is nothing but horrors—a kind of “twopenny dreadful”. Brrr.... Muck, nonsense, pity I spent so much time reading it.

P.S. How are things going with your arrangements for the summer?

Yours, V. I.

Franchement, continuez vous à vous fâcher ou non?[3]

  1. The words “my dear friend” were written by Lenin in English.—Ed.
  2. Lenin refers to the novel Paternal Testaments by the Ukrainian writer V. Vinnichenko, a bourgeois nationalist.
  3. Tell me frankly, are you still angry, or not?—Ed.