Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Last year for Gothic October I read "The Black Monk" and enjoyed it very much. I had downloaded it as the first in a collection of Chekov's short stories. It was published in 1915 and I'm not quite sure what the reasoning behind the selection was; I suppose it was just what the editor preferred. The biographical sketch in the beginning spells it as Tchekhoff, which seems to me a little overdone, alphabetically speaking. Anyway, I read the rest of the stories for the Back to the Classics 2013 Challenge, short stories division.
The stories are all sad. Not romantically melancholy, not tearjerkingly emotional, but plain tragic, with most of the characters caught in circumstances with no solution. Chekhov saw so much suffering around him--just in ordinary Russian life--and these stories all reflect that. They are pessimistic about the human condition, about the existence of free will, about Fate. I can't recall any happy endings or anything like that; they are very modern, in that they tend to peter out at the end rather than have a final resolution (unless the resolution is the protagonist's quiet and pointless death).
They were good stories, but kind of randomly selected. I think I would prefer reading a more modern edition, with more explanation and notes, but I am interested in reading more Chekhov. I have his plays lined up to read.