Monday, July 17, 2017

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov is one of the most read and celebrated short story writers of the nineteenth century. His stories are set in the pre-revolution period in Russia and mainly focus on poverty, misery, unemployment , displacement and a climate of insecurity and uncertainty prevailing at the time.
He has written in a simple language and style and even complex matters are dealt with in an easy informal way.
Of late I have revisited two of his famous stories.
His story 'Misery' that also carries the title ' Grief ' in some of the collections is a timeless story.The subtitle 'To Whom Shall I Tell my Grief ' itself sets the theme.The story is about an old emaciated sledge driver Iona Potapov , who has lost his only son less than a week before succumbing to a fever and he is burdened with grief , loneliness and helplessness.In the beginning there is also mention of his little mare that pulls the sledge.This shows that the mare has some special place in the story.One snowy winter evening he is looking for passengers for his sledge . A young military officer comes and asks to be taken to some place. Thinking that the person is a potential listener, Iona Potapov in order to share his grief tries to make mention of his son's death but the officer is only interested in reaching his destination and asks him to drive the sledge fast.
At last the destination is reached and the officer departs after making the payment.
Next come three wayward young persons who board the sledge, but young revellers as they are, they too are not interested in his sad story.
After this a fellow cab driver whom he comes across proves equally insensitive.
At night, when there is time to retire for the day, in order to unburden himself, he talks to his mare and finding it a patient listener, tells about his son Kuzma Ionitch, his name being mentioned only once in the story. Iona asks the mare what it would it have felt if it had a colt and lost it.
The story is a scathing comment on human insensitivity.
The other story ' Lady With The  Dog ' is of a different tenor and is about a banker Dmitri Dmiritch Gomov who is a banker & a philanderer and a woman Anna Sergueyevna. Both are married persons . They have a chance meeting at Yalta and fall into a liaison.Soon they part company and go to their respective places.Gomov who has had a series of affairs , finds for the first time that he is in love with Anna. Not able to resist his impulse, he goes to Moscow where Anna lives and not finding her at her residence, locates and meets her at a theatre where a play The Geisha' is being staged. They have a furtive brief meeting at the interval when Anna's husband has gone out for smoking. Gomov leaves only after having a promise of meeting from Anna.
After some days, they meet at the appointed place and time and carry on with the affair. Both being married persons have their families behind and thus are destined to meet stealthily.
They haven't lost hope for the future and story ends irresolutely leaving the reader to imagine and guess !

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