The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896 – 1904, by Anton Chekhov

I came to these stories partly because of something said by Raymond Carver, whose short stories are simply amazing and wonderful, who noted that V S Pritchett had said something about how a good short story should be a bit like something seen out of the corner of your eye. Carver went on to say that he loved Chekhov and I suppose, altogether, he means it should suggest as much as it actually makes explicit; and there is much of that in these stories.

They are his later stories and there are some very consistent themes: the approach of modernity to a Russia that in many ways had not changed for hundreds of years; the changing social mores, and the pressures they create for individuals; the life and character of peasants and their masters; and the difficulties and consolations of love.

He is a beautiful writer and the translation is excellent, though as will all translated fiction you wonder what you are missing.

Some of the stories are a little inconclusive, such as ‘Ionych’, which is really a portrait of a wasted love and how it becomes washed away with the passage of time. But they are subtle, sensitive stories. Pretty beautiful, even if they seem, indeed, to hold the transient beauty of something seen obliquely, out of the corner of one’s eye.


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