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What Is to Be Done?

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  1,307 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
"No work in modern literature, with the possible exception of Uncle Tom's Cabin, can compete with What Is to Be Done? in its effect on human lives and its power to make history. For Chernyshevsky's novel, far more than Marx's Capital, supplied the emotional dynamic that eventually went to make the Russian Revolution."--Joseph Frank, The Southern Review

Almost from the momen
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Paperback, 445 pages
Published January 8th 1989 by Cornell University Press (first published 1863)
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The Narrator
Jul 23, 2008 The Narrator rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone remotely involved in contemporary political issues
Recommended to The Narrator by: A mysterious friend, who calls himself "Rakhmetov"
Dear Reader, the criticism of this novel is that it is poorly written. I can assure you this is not the case. Chernyshevsky - indeed once a dear friend of mine (we spent some time together in the Fortress of Peter and Paul) - with a few initial "striking scenes" comes right out and admits he's not trying to win you over with plot. Plot is grossly overrated anyhow; most modern "authors" would be well served to learn that lesson (and why must a plot have this silly, redundant arc to it? You've see ...more
Michael Steger
Jun 24, 2010 Michael Steger rated it really liked it
This is a rather peculiar book, which I enjoyed quite a lot. It was
written in 1863, while its author, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, was in prison for opposing serfdom. Chernyshevsky, who spent a number of years in prison and died in forced exile in Siberia, was considered one of the
most radical men of his time, one of the 'new men' of the 1860s, who opposed themselves to the 'men of the '40s' such as Dostoevsky and
Turgenyev. 'What Is to Be Done?' was for a long time considered the
exemplary radical
...more
Μαρία Γεωργιάδου
Απόσπασμα από τη σελ. 387:
«Ό,τι σου δείξαμε, δεν θα έχει σύντομα την πλήρη ανάπτυξή που διαπίστωσες τώρα. Θα περάσουν πολλές γενιές μέχρι να πραγματοποιηθεί αυτό απ’ το οποίο τώρα παίρνεις μια πρώτη γεύση. Όχι, το «πολλές γενιές» δεν είναι ακριβές: η δουλειά μου τώρα προχωράει γρήγορα, κάθε χρόνο και γρηγορότερα, μα, παρ’ όλα αυτά, δεν θα εισέλθεις ακόμα σ’ αυτό το βασίλειο της τελειότητας που κυβερνάει η αδερφή μου. Τουλάχιστον το είδες, ξέρεις πώς θα είναι το μέλλον. Φωτεινό, εκπληκτικό. Πες
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jon
May 07, 2007 jon rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Russian lit
Shelves: recentlyread
This is the middle book in an important Russian literary and philisophical argument. The first was Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, and the third was Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground. All that stuff Dostoevsky is talking about in Notes - advantage motivating action, the crystal palace, etc. - comes from What is to be Done. Chernyshevsky thought Turgenev treated nihilism unfairly in Fathers and Sons, so he portrayed nihilism in another manner. Dostoevsky then destroyed Chernyshevsky's vision of an ...more
Sergey
Jun 22, 2011 Sergey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
That was wonderful. Indeed, I want to read this book again even after I have just read it. Is there there a better way to rate a book?
Thom
Jun 07, 2007 Thom rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand the underpinnings of modern Russia and its recent history, you have to understand Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Lenin for one credits "What is to be done" as the most influential book in the development of his social conscious, and without him no doubt the world would be a very different place than it is today. A must read.
Elalma
Jul 16, 2012 Elalma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Per me � un libro speciale. Non per i meriti letterari o per lo stile, ma per la storia di questo rapporto uomo-donna basilare per la societ�, per il modo di vedere l'organizzazione del lavoro, attuali utopie che non vediamo realizzarsi neppure ora. Nessuna indagine psicologica (cos� non si rischiano toppate ;-) che toglierebbero freschezza al racconto, apprendiamo i fatti in maniera quasi oggettiva. E lo scrittore ci bacchetta pure nella buffa prefazione ed epilogo. Vera � una donna moderna. Ci ...more
liking
Apr 24, 2017 liking rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Поглощая очередной талмуд Радзинского, мама не удержалась от комментария: «И тут этот Чернышевский! Говорят, настольная книга революционеров. Надо будет перечитать, а то у меня со школы кроме довольно банального сюжета о Верочке-швее в голове ничего не задержалось». Пару недель спустя она подошла ко мне снова: «Посмотри, нет, ну ты посмотри, опять он!» - и тычет пальцем в высказывание В.И.Ленина, который признавался, что роман «Что делать?» его "всего глубоко перепахал". Тут уж я не выдержала, н ...more
Micah
Mar 20, 2017 Micah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-poetry
"What a pity that at the present hour there are still more than ten antediluvians for every new man! It is very natural, however. An antediluvian world can have only an antediluvian population."

A new society requires a new anthropological type, new personalities with new virtues, thoughts and values: this should be a truism for those seeking social change but in fact it's rarely given any thought. This love story about the Nihilist counterculture in 1860s Russia attacks the problem, as young wom
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Inna
Nov 18, 2013 Inna rated it liked it
Книга достаточно интересная. После ее прочтения я стала лучше понимать настроение людей перед революцией 1917 года. И если бы я жила в то время, то, думаю, что я сама была бы однозначным ее сторонником.

Чернышевский подробно описывает то, как он видит устройство послереволюционного общества, общества, которое в его представлении будет на голову выше, достойнее современного ему. Социализм, эгоизм, феминизм - неотъемлемые составляющие этого нового общества. И, читая книгу, я была абсолютно согласна
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David
May 13, 2014 David rated it liked it
I was expecting a lot from What is to be Done? naturally because of the buzz this book caused around its time. I can put it down finally with only mixed feelings about it. I suppose the book struck a chord loudly with those of its time, and as much as we present day "readers with penetrating eyes" wish to be struck with the same impact I believe we can only pretend to be so. If a book is not written for you and only you, there's only so much you can take away from it. I don't resolve to pretend ...more
Yara Mohamed
Sep 12, 2016 Yara Mohamed rated it it was amazing
I started reading this novel to figure out why Dostoyevsky distastes it. (It is said that Dostoyevsky was enraged by Chernyshevsky's "utilitarianism" and his depiction of his Russian Utopia.)

First of all, I had to look up words like "materialism" and "utilitarianism" dozens of times to just get the gist of. Big words like these confuse me so much. As assisting as the notes of the annotator were, they were as confusing. There are so many explanations that - as an un-perspicacious and unlearned r
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Grigory
Написано и вправду очень специфически, но свой шарм есть.

Также наверное стоит прочитать как исторический документ, потому что чувствуется, что на последующие поколения революционеров книга оказала большое влияние.
Никита Галасимов
Привет, читатель! Ну ты и дурачок! Ладно, читай давай, не отвлекаю.
Кстати, дурачок, ты что, не догадался, что тут все не так, каким кажется на первый взгляд?
Камен
Sep 23, 2010 Камен rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Стойностен роман. Класика!
Gijs Van Engelen
Feb 23, 2017 Gijs Van Engelen rated it did not like it
I've noticed quite a few positive reviews on What Is to be Done, which might give people who are interested in Russian literature the idea that this could be an interesting book to read. It is anything but. Now, for a historian this is an important source, because Chernyshevsky's ideas and especially the character of Rakhmetov have influenced Russian ideas on revolution, social change and what we now call Russian Nihilism more than any other piece of writing. However, Chernyshevsky's style is te ...more
Shutterbug_iconium
Çernişevski'nin hapiste kurnaz bir dille yazdığı 'Nasıl Yapmalı' kitabı hayli tartışılmış bir kitap. Hatta rivayet odur ki kitaba karşı bir eleştiri yazmaktansa, toplumsal meselelere bu kadar naif çözümler sunmaya kalktığı için 'Yer Altından Notlar'ı yazarak yanıt verir Dostoyevski. Kimileri ise Çernişevski'nin kitabı Turgenyev'in Babalar ve Oğulları'na yanıt olarak yazdığını söylüyor. Neyse kitabın yazıldığı dönem serflerin bağımsızlığını kazandığı, Rusya'da çarlık rejiminin kazanının kaynadığı ...more
Paul O'Leary
May 12, 2016 Paul O'Leary rated it it was ok
Intended as an answer to Herzen's Who is to Blame?, Chernyshevsky's ponderous novel, What is to Be Done will test the patience of any modern reader. Its historical value is well known. Lenin thought much of it. Beyond this, the modern reader will likely view it as a work that might have been written by Jane Austin if she had read Karl Marx.....and were Russian. Combine the novel of manners with a socialist blueprint and you get a special creation of tedium. As if you couldn't guess that, right? ...more
Jonathon
Page. 58 chapter 2

This book is fucking long, I keep staring at it on the floor....I don't know, I might skip it for later...Seems all these graphic novels are getting ordered from the library, which is pretty great. This should be my focus...Not outdated commie literature...

These are just quotes from the intro....

"Social, political, and religious institutions likewise tended to preserve distorted images of reality in order to protect the power and privileges of the social groups that benefited f
...more
Jonathan
Sep 03, 2011 Jonathan rated it liked it
At times this novel was extremely tiresome. Especially the many philosophical reflections by each of the main characters on their motives for their thoughts and actions were hard to digest, unrealistic and hard to empathize with. The coldness and rational treatment by the author of the first marriage between Eva Pavlova and Lupokhov was hard to digest, no matter what the outcome. Finally, the frequent attempts of the author to confront and abuse the reader didn't improve what was already lacking ...more
Ian Chinich
Nov 26, 2016 Ian Chinich rated it liked it
I had been meaning to read this book for a while, so after finishing another Russian book, "The Master and The Margarita", I picked it up. What surprised me most is how few radicals I know have actually read the book. It was extremely influential on the growth of the Russian Socialist movement and is the oldest feminist novel I have ever read.

The book itself is a very thinly vaneered revolutionary propaganda story told through a number of young people in middle russian society. It uses a drama s
...more
Derek Chinich
Nov 26, 2016 Derek Chinich rated it liked it
I had been meaning to read this book for a while, so after finishing another Russian book, "The Master and The Margarita", I picked it up. What surprised me most is how few radicals I know have actually read the book. It was extremely influential on the growth of the Russian Socialist movement and is the oldest feminist novel I have ever read.

The book itself is a very thinly vaneered revolutionary propaganda story told through a number of young people in middle russian society. It uses a drama s
...more
Mayta Quix
Apr 24, 2009 Mayta Quix rated it liked it
Knowing the reputation of the book, I thought it would turn out to be a dry reading...well...some parts of the book did, a large proportion of the text serve to convey Chernyshevsky's socio-political propaganda in a heavily didactic manner (some tend to be rather corny too, eg Verochka's first dream and the final fate of Lopukhov). Yet, it also possesses scenes of sardonic wits, sound arguments and surprisingly whimsical tone, just like when the materialist author acknowledged that "...the mater ...more
Andrei
Jun 01, 2010 Andrei rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, classics, leftist
Книга заключается в том, что автор описывает нестандартного, "альтернативного" толка (особенно для того времени) людей, формы организации взаимоотношений в браке, экономической организации предприятия и проч. Описывает с откровенным восхищением, граничащим с обильным неконтролируемым слюноотделением.

Художественной, литературной ценности при этом я особо не заметил, идеологическая составляющая абсолютно перевешивает. (Даже сны Веры Павловны - это больше не метафоры, а зашифрованные (для обхода це
...more
Krista Danis
Feb 07, 2012 Krista Danis rated it liked it
Though I do think Chernyshevsky is scatterbrained in his storytelling, and to reject the advantages of plot yet use one to convey political meaning is to necessarily detract from both efforts, there were a few sparkling gems to extract from this influential Russian novel. His illustration of the "new" household dynamic was quite progressive, not only for his time but for modern standards of domesticity. Though idealistic, the explaination of profit distribution in the workshops and how each work ...more
Lucas
Aug 02, 2014 Lucas added it
So hard to appreciate the historical context through only reading. Some of the ideas out forth don't translate well to the modern west, others have an amazing prescience in regards to modern feminism and liberalism. I especially like one aspect which appears to be a continual theme in Russian lit in the 19th century, particularly with Gogol, are the intermissions in which the author pauses the story to harangue and condescend to the reader. I found these to be particularly funny, for he pulls no ...more
Ben
May 07, 2014 Ben rated it it was ok
An invaluable insight into the mindset of the mid-19C utopian Russian nihilist. As a novel, however, this is pretty terrible. Chernyshevsky's style leant itself far better to literary criticism than it did to actual literary writing, to the extent that there are sections of this novel that are impossible to read without either laughing or sighing in despair. The naivety of the plotting, and the flaws of the characterisation, are indicative of the chaos of the Russian revolutionary movement at th ...more
Katie Herring
Jan 22, 2014 Katie Herring rated it really liked it
This was the first novel I had to read for my Russian literature course, and it was okay. It's been said that this piece was the most influential Russian work (in Russia), and I can understand why.

I really enjoyed how Chernyshevsky talked to the audience. Also, I really liked all the quotes concerning reading, and how it would better society.

My professor has read this many times, but I don't think I'll read it again...

I do, however, look forward to the rest of the novels/short stories I will re
...more
May
Aug 22, 2011 May rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I was really tempted to talk to one of my Russian girl friends after this book. There were definitely parts where I feel the wit and sardonicness was lost in translation or the temporal confusion expected of an modern American reading a historically, politically potent novel. Too smart for me, but fascinating.

I did get a sense for the unfairness of the times in the trickle of a high class response to murder and deceit. The way things were handled was definitively not straight forward and that do
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Fabula: Обсуждение романа "Что делать?" 10 27 Aug 18, 2013 04:17AM  
  • The Same Old Story
  • Happy Moscow
  • Cursed Days: Diary of a Revolution
  • Farewell to Matyora
  • The Squabble
  • Hope Against Hope
  • The Duel
  • How the Steel Was Tempered
  • The Queue
  • The Lower Depths
  • The Village of Stepanchikovo
  • The Sebastopol Sketches
  • The Case of Comrade Tulayev
  • White Walls: Collected Stories
  • My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen
  • Forever Flowing
  • The Time: Night
  • Virgin Soil
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Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky (Russian: Николай Гаврилович Чернышевский) was a Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, critic, and socialist (seen by some as a utopian socialist). He was the leader of the revolutionary democratic movement of the 1860s, and an influence on Vladimir Lenin, Emma Goldman, and Serbian political writer and socialist Svetozar Marković.
The son of a pr
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“But does it really help if a person doesn't realize what he lacks, or, if he does, he insists that he doesn't need it at all? That's an illusion, a fantasy. Human nature is stifled by reason, circumstances, and pride. It keeps silent and doesn't make itself known to one's consciousness, all the while silently doing its work of undermining life.” 12 likes
“Только тот любит, кто помогает любимой женщине возвышаться до независимости.” 2 likes
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