Anton Pavlovich Chekhov(1860-1904) may be likened to his contemporaries, the pointilliste painters. Piece by piece, episode by episode, character by character, he constructs in prose a survey of the human condition. as David Magarshack writes in his introduction, on reading these stories 'one gets the impression of holding life itself, like a fluttering bird, in one's cupped hands'.
This collection includes such famous small masterpieces as 'A Boring Story','Ward 6', 'Ariadne', and 'The Darling', not to mention the title story, after reading which Gorky wrote to Chekhov that everything he himself wrote seemed 'coarse and written not with a pen but with a log'. The stories typify Chekhov's extraordinary ability to compress a whole life into a few pages, and reveal that blend of comedy and tragedy with which he portrays the world.