Today, I wanted to suggest an author whom I adore. Although his stories are dramatic, he has a somewhat humorous way of writing that warms the heart: it is his great art. So my dear readers, I will be frequently posting little reviews of the short stories of Anton Chekhov. Here is the first episode.
The Chemist’s Wife by Anton Chekhov (1886)
The young wife of the chemist cannot sleep. Her husband Chernomordik snores. She gets bored and feels upset, oppressed.
In the night she hears the footsteps of two men, two officers approaching. It is the doctor and the young officer Obtiossov. Passing the chemist’s shop, they decide to go in, despite the late hour, because the chemist’s wife is to their liking.
They buy her mint lozenges and then Seltz water. They talk amiably, want wine. She drinks with them, she is cheerful and momentarily escapes her loneliness. They flatter her... It is getting late and they leave with regret.
Once in the street, Obtiossov returns to the store and rings the bell again, hoping perhaps to talk more with her or to pay her court... But it is her husband who comes to serve him. His wife was much attracted by the officer, but her husband was unaware.
And here is the chemist’s wife of this little town, who repeats with bitter tears “How unhappy I am, how unhappy I am - and no one knows”
Author: Anton Pavlovitch Chekhov was born on 17 January 1860 in Taganrog, a port of Azov in southern Russia. He was a Russian playwright and short story writer and is considered to be the greatest writer of fictional short stories ever. In 1886 he graduated in medicine and practised as a medical doctor in Moscow, whilst writing in parallel. Chekhov died of tuberculosis in July 1904, he was 44 years old.
My thoughts: This book, re-edited in 2016 by Folio Classique, contains 15 short stories, each with a common theme, namely women, indeed the book is dedicated “to the kingdom of women”. In his work one finds happy women, even more unhappy ones and also bitches, even criminals. Their common point is that they are misunderstood women, very alone, aspiring to another life and not knowing how to change their existence.
Anton Chekhov was a little misogynous, cold and taciturn and with an unparalleled sense of humour (albeit very cynical, I must confess). Chekhov tended to believe that he wrote comic stories, even when he drew tears from his readers and, thus, he was astonished to learn that great Russian writers, such as Léon Tolstoï, had read “Douchetchka” four times in the same day saying that this short story had made him more intelligent.
This is not surprising, since Anton Chekhov drew his inspiration from real life models. Moreover, some of his friends and acquaintances were angry with him for having dared to take inspiration from a part of their life.
Finally, did you know that we owe this famous aphorism to Anton Chekhov: “If you fear solitude, do not marry.” In my opinion, this gives an accurate image of Chekhov’s attitude towards women. But for my part, I love this great author: his books and short stories are a real treat.
It is for this reason that I decided to publish here, over the coming months, brief summaries of the stories I prefer. Perhaps this review has aroused you curiosity?
For my part, they go right to my heart with their mixture of romanticism and nostalgia.