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Of the two hundred stories that Anton Chekhov wrote, the twenty stories that appear in this extraordinary collection were personally chosen by Richard Ford—an accomplished storyteller in his own right. Included are the familiar masterpieces—"The Kiss," "The Darling," and "The Lady with the Dog"—as well as several brilliant lesser-known tales such as "A Blunder," "Hush!," and "Champagne." These stories, ordered from 1886 to 1899, are drawn from Chekhov's most fruitful years as a short-story writer. A truly ...
Of the two hundred stories that Anton Chekhov wrote, the twenty stories that appear in this extraordinary collection were personally chosen by Richard Ford—an accomplished storyteller in his own right. Included are the familiar masterpieces—"The Kiss," "The Darling," and "The Lady with the Dog"—as well as several brilliant lesser-known tales such as "A Blunder," "Hush!," and "Champagne." These stories, ordered from 1886 to 1899, are drawn from Chekhov's most fruitful years as a short-story writer. A truly balanced selection, they exhibit the qualities that make Chekhov one of the greatest fiction writers of all time: his gift for detail, dialogue, and humor; his emotional perception and compassion; and his understanding that life's most important moments are often the most overlooked.
"The reason we like Chekhov so much, now at our century's end," writes Ford in his perceptive introduction, "is because his stories from the last century's end feel so modern to us, are so much of our own time and mind." Exquisitely translated by the renowned Constance Garnett, these stories present a wonderful opportunity to introduce yourself—or become reaquainted with—an artist whose genius and influence only increase with every passing generation.
Ilya Sergeitch Peplov and his wife Kleopatra Petrovna were standing at the door, listening greedily. On the other side in the little drawing-room a love scene was apparently taking place between two persons: their daughter Natashenka and a teacher of the district school, called Shchupkin.
"He's rising!" whispered Peplov, quivering with impatience and rubbing his hands. "Now, Kleopatra, mind; as soon as they begin talking of their feelings, take down the ikon from the wall and we'll go in and bless them .... We'll catch him.... A blessing with an ikon is sacred and binding .... He couldn't get out of it, if he brought it into court."
On the other side of the door this was the conversation:
"Don't go on like that!" said Shchupkin, striking a match against his checked trousers. "I never wrote you any letters!"
"I like that! As though I didn't know your writing!" giggled the girl with an affected shriek, continually peeping at herself in the glass. "I knew it at once! And what a queer man you are! You are a writing master, and you write like a spider! How can you teach writing if you write so badly yourself?"
"H'm! ... That means nothing. The great thing in writing lessons is not the hand one writes, but keeping the boys in order. You hit one on the head with a ruler, make another kneel down.... Besides, there's nothing in handwriting! Nekrassov was an author, but his handwriting's a disgrace, there's a specimen of it in his collected works."
"You are not Nekrassov..." (A sigh). "I should love to marry an author. He'd always be writing poems to me."
"I can write you a poem, too, if you like."
"What can you write about?"
"Love -- passion -- your eyes. You'll be crazy when you read it. It would draw a tear from a stone! And if I write you a real poem, will you let me kiss your hand?"
"That's nothing much! You can kiss it now if you like."
Shchupkin jumped up, and making sheepish eyes, bent over the fat little hand that smelt of egg soap.
"Take down the ikon," Peplov whispered in a fluster, pale with excitement, and buttoning his coat as he prodded his wife with his elbow. "Come along, now!"
And without a second's delay Peplov flung open the door.
"Children," he muttered, lifting up his arms and blinking tearfully, "the Lord bless you, my children. May you live -- be fruitful -- and multiply."
"And -- and I bless you, too," the mamma brought out, crying with happiness. "May you be happy, my dear ones! Oh, you are taking from me my only treasure!" she said to Shchupkin. "Love my girl, be good to her ..."
Shchupkin's mouth fell open with amazement and alarm. The parents' attack was so bold and unexpected that he could not utter a single word.
"I'm in for it! I'm spliced!" he thought, going limp with horror. "It's all over with you now, my boy! There's no escape!"
And he bowed his head submissively, as though to say, "Take me, I'm vanquished."
"Ble -- blessings on you," the papa went on, and he, too, shed tears. "Natashenka, my daughter, stand by his side. Kleopatra, give me the ikon."
But at this point the father suddenly left off weeping, and his face was contorted with anger.
"You ninny!" he said angrily to his wife. "You are an idiot! is that the ikon? "
"Ach, saints alive!"
What had happened? The writing master raised himself and saw that he was saved; in her flutter the mamma had snatched from the wall the portrait of Lazhetchnikov, the author, in mistake for the ikon. Old Peplov and his wife stood disconcerted in the middle of the room, holding the portrait aloft, not knowing what to do or what to say. The writing master took advantage of the general confusion and slipped away.
Excerpted from The Essential Tales of Chekhov by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov Copyright © 1998 by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Excerpted by permission.
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|Introduction: Why We Like Chekhov|
|A Trifle from Life||17|
|Ward No. 6||124|
|An Anonymous Story||172|
|The New Villa||295|
|On Official Duty||308|
|The Lady with the Dog||323|
Posted February 1, 2006
Out of all of the short stories in The Essential Tales, An Anonymous Story embodies the style of Chekhov and serves as a great introduction to his many works. With his well-defined character development Chekhov relates the story of a young footman in the service of a wealthy businessman Georgy Ivanitch, otherwise known as Orlov. Through the eyes of the young man, whose name is not revealed we learn much about the personality of Orlav and the life he leads. As the story develops we are introduced to Zinaida Fyodorovna a young women who is having an affair with Ivanitch, their relationship continues to grow until she leaves her husband and decides to live with Orlov. Eventually he grows tired of her and is increasingly distant, Zinaida¿s condition grows worse as a result and she sinks into depression. The story then takes a shift as Zinaida begins to confide in the young footman and finally makes plans to escape with him. As with most of Chekhov¿s works we are allowed a glimpse into the workings of the human mind and as a result realize how often our poor choices affect us daily. On the same token however An Anonymous Story also embodies hope and optimism in the sense that life has infinite possibilities. Chekhov¿s transition from one set of characters to another is done seamlessly and the narrative gives us a sense of the story from human eyes. The changes that occur in the young footmen show us the power of love and we can¿t help but feel pity for Zinaida as she slips further away. One of the overbearing conflicts in the story is the one Zinaida fights against society. The constant internal struggle of what she is expected to do and what she feels she should do is apparent in her relationship with both Orlov and the unnamed protagonist. As readers we feel liberated when she decides to leave Orlov however, at the same time feel her uncertainty at what the future holds. Given its length we can only imagine how Chekhov was able to tell such a compelling tale. As the 3 main characters change and develop we come to better understand each one of them and how the choices they make affect their future for better or worse. During certain parts of the story emotions run high as we sympathize for the plight the characters find themselves in and celebrate when happiness is found. The gamut of human emotions is run throughout this short story and Chekhov paints a picture with every one, ¿The sunshine and the breeze from the sea caressed and fondled my sick body¿ My soul yearned towards that lovely sea, which was so akin to me and to which I had given up my youth. I longed to live ¿ to live ¿ and nothing more.¿ It is in this sense that we can truly appreciate Chekhov¿s ability to relate human emotions in a vivid and compelling story.
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Posted July 6, 2010
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