MOSCOW, January 9, 1888.
Following your friendly advice I began writing a story [Footnote: “The Steppe”] for the Syeverny Vyestnik. To begin with I have attempted to describe the steppe, the people who live there, and what I have experienced in the steppe. It is a good subject, and I enjoy writing about it, but unfortunately from lack of practice in writing long things, and from fear of making it too rambling, I fall into the opposite extreme: each page turns out a compact whole like a short story, the pictures accumulate, are crowded, and, getting in each other’s way, spoil the impression as a whole. As a result one gets, not a picture in which all the details are merged into one whole like stars in the heavens, but a mere diagram, a dry record of impressions. A writer — you, for instance — will understand me, but the reader will be bored and curse.
. . . Your “Sokolinets” is, I think, the most remarkable novel that has appeared of late. It is written like a good musical composition, in accordance with all the rules which an artist instinctively divines. Altogether in the whole of your book you are such a great artist, such a force, that even your worst failings, which would have been the ruin of any other writer, pass unnoticed. For instance, in the whole of your book there is an obstinate exclusion of women, and I have only just noticed it.
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