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This is a speech given by Valery, but I have encountered a few questions. First, what does the word "task" in the first sentence mean? Second, what does the sentence below in bold mean? Does it mean that everything he does is just normal, as everyone else does the same thing?

More than one critic has taken him to task rather harshly, and naively, for being so knowledgeable and for not being unaware of what he knew. What was he sup­ posed to do? What did he do that had not always been done? Nothing is newer than the standard of absolute newness imposed as an obligation on writers

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    To take to task is an idiom meaning to lecture, berate, admonish, hold someone accountable. – CowperKettle Oct 24 '14 at 12:24
  • Re the idiomatic usage take to task: This term, dating from the mid-1700s, at first meant either assigning or challenging someone to a task. Its current sense dates from the late 1800s. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 24 '14 at 12:49
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To "take someone to task" is roughly synonymous with "to remonstrate with them" - a strong rebuttal, scolding or complaint.

"What did he do that has not always been done" in this context is accusing him of lack of originality. A slightly less complex sentence with a similar theme would be.

What has he done, which has not already been done by others for a long time?

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