Repin told Rozanov this as they were walking along, one cold day, in the country, Repin clutching his burnous against the wind.
“… I felt an icy fear; it seemed to me that in front of my eyes, the great secret of Gogol emerged from the earth. Yes, the person was really like that: formalist, narrow, stiff, like some prelate of death celebrating a funereal liturgy in the middle of candelabras and torches, ordering genuflections and proffering here and there some ‘mots’ from his great repertory, empty and insane. I couldn’t help but pronounce the word idiot. For he was truly inflexible and obstinate, as rigid as he was limited in his reasoning. “I write like that, dot the i and its done.” Magnificent. But what does this mean? The idiot widens his eyes, without understanding. He has these magnificent “mots”. Like nobody else. And besides, he is conscious of this fact; and this delighted him to the point of madness and made him arrogant with an insane pride.
-Ugh. Get out of here, Satan.
But the mannequin winks its cold and glassy eye. It doesn’t understand that behind the words there has to be something, that behind the words there has to be, among other things, a reality, a fire or flood, terror or joy. He absolutely does not understand, and continues to put the finishing touches to his own, while distributing that last cup of cold and repugnant tea to his admirers, , who he imagines in his little head to be the heads of some office constrained to intone praises for the director… what am I saying, for the author of Dead souls.
-Ugh, get out of here Satan!! Cursed witch with a blackspotted soul, icy cadaver, glassy, transparent, … empty.
-Out of here, you polluted thing!
His decrepit face laughs in the tomb.
-But I don’t exist, I never existed. If there is nothing but an appearance.
-Cursed werewolf! Out of here! The cross of Jesus will protect us! How, if not, to be protected from you?
With faith, the heart whispers. For whosever has kept a grain of faith, of faith in the soul, in the earth, in the future of man, for this person Gogol in truth never existed.
Never on earth has a man, or rather the simulacrum of a man, been more terrible.
I am translating this from the French translation.