As it seems that I am apparently a fan of the odd short story, I’ve been reading a bit of Chekhov lately and thought I should keep you up to date. As one of the best novella writers, known for his ability to capture human nature and the significance of everyday events against the backdrop of the hopelessness of life. You have guessed it, this is not going to be a cheerful one.
This book is a collection of some of his work dating from around 1896-1904. The majority of these stories focus upon isolated or miserable characters trapped within their lives as they attempt to find meaning.
I had a few favourites from these:
- The Bride: the story of a girl who has only wished for marriage realises within the weeks before her wedding that there may be more to life. As a tale of the opening up of the world and the female empowerment of exploring the wider options, this is one of the few stories in this book that is actually uplifting.
- My Life (A Provincial’s Story): this is one of the longer stories in the collection, running as a narrative of a young member of the Middle Classes striving for more meaning from society through the labours of physical labour. However, he and everyone else around him continues to be unhappy, searching for more instead of appreciating what they have.
- Man in a Case: one example of Chekhov’s exploration of character, this tale uses the storytelling of travelling friends to relay the idea of the man – trapped by his anxiety he attempts to change his ways.
Although this book is not particularly happy, it is realistic. There was something reassuring in its portrayal of life going on despite trauma and personal heartbreak. Each story is a thing of beauty, with Chekhov’s clever writing making them easy to read yet also complex – the people written about feel real, and people to empathise with.