Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
By Maxim Gorky
(A novel in which the Russian has portrayed the spiritual agonies of his race. In this scene a poor school-teacher voices his despair)
YOZHOV drank his tea at one draught, thrust the glass on the saucer, placed his feet on the edge of the chair, and clasping his knees in his hands, rested his chin upon them. In this pose, small sized and flexible as rubber, he began:
The student Sachkov, my former teacher, who is now a doctor of medicine, a whist player and a mean fellow all around, used to tell me whenever I knew my lesson well: Youre a fine fellow, Kolya! You are an able boy. We proletarians, plain and poor people, coming from the backyard of life, we must study and study, in order to come to the front, ahead of everybody. Russia is in need of wise and honest people. Try to be such, and you will be master of your fate and a useful member of society. On us commoners rest the best hopes of the country. We are destined to bring into it light, truth, and so on. I believed him, the brute. And since then about twenty years have elapsed. We proletarians have grown up, but have neither appropriated any wisdom nor brought light into life. As before, Russia is suffering from its chronic diseasea superabundance of rascals; while we, the proletarians, take pleasure in filling their dense throngs.
Yozhovs face wrinkled into a bitter grimace, and he began to laugh noiselessly, with his lips only. I, and many others with me, we have robbed ourselves for the sake of saving up something for life. Desiring to make myself a valuable man, I have underrated my individuality in every way possible. In order to study and not die of starvation, I have for six years in succession taught blockheads how to read and write, and had to bear a mass of abominations at the hands of various papas and mammas, who humiliated me without any constraint. Earning my bread and tea, I could not, I had not the time to earn my shoes, and I had to turn to charitable institutions with humble petitions for loans on the strength of my poverty. If the philanthropists could only reckon up how much of the spirit they kill in man while supporting the life of his body! If they only knew that each rouble they give for bread contains ninety-nine copecks worth of poison for the soul! If they could only burst from excess of their kindness and pride, which they draw from their holy activity! There is no one on earth more disgusting and repulsive than he who gives alms. Even as there is no one so miserable as he who accepts them.