Who cares if you've read all of Hegel? 'Humanities' started sounding like a disease. 'All you people are capable of is carrying around a volume of Mandelstam'. Many unfamiliar horizons unfurled before us. The intelligentsia grew calamitously poor.
Out of habit, I would go into the used bookstore where the full two-hundred-volume sets of the World Classics Library and Library of Adventures now stood calmly, not flying off the shelves. Those orange bindings, the books that had once driven me mad. I'd stare at the spines and linger, inhaling their smell. Mountains of books! The intelligentsia were selling off their libraries. People had grown poor, of course, but it wasn't just for spare cash - ultimately books had disappointed them. People were disillusioned. It became rude to ask, 'What are you reading?' Too much about our lives had changed, and these weren't things you could read about in books. Russian novelists don't teach you how to become successful. How to get rich ... Oblomov lies on his couch, Chekhov's protagonists drink tea and complain about their lives ...
In the camp, my father met a lot of educated people. He never met people that interesting anywhere else. Some of them wrote poems; the ones who did were more likely to survive. Like the priests who would pray.
... I was already sick of all those conversations from constantly hearing them at home: communism, the meaning of life, the happiness of others ... Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov ... They weren't my idols - they were my mother's. The people who read books and dreamed of flying, like Chekhov's seagull, were replaced by those who didn't read but knew how to fly.
from Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time (my book of the year, for what it's worth)