Among Soviet people the thirst for reading is really unimaginable. Newspapers, journals, books, all this is absorbed without quenching the thirst to the tiniest degree. Reading is one of the main activities of daily life. But for the reader in the Soviet Union there are, as it were, no clear divisions between the reality in which he lives, and the world he reads about in books. The reader treats the heroes of his books as if they are actual people. He argues with them, denounces them, and he even reads realities into the events of the story and its characters.
If we made ethical choices, they were based not so much on immediate reality as on moral standards derived from fiction. We were avid readers and we fell into a dependence on what we read. Books, perhaps because of their formal element of finality, held us in their absolute power. Dickens was more real than Stalin or Beria…Books became the first and only reality, whereas reality was regarded as either nonsense or nuisance.
Less than one
Oh literature is a wonderful thing, Varenka, a very wonderful thing: I discovered that from being with those people the day before yesterday. It is a profound thing. It strengthens people’s hearts and instructs them,… Literature is a picture, or rather in a certain sense both a picture and a mirror; it is an expression of emotion, a subtle form of criticism, a didactic lesson and a document…