The complete (319) stories of Anton Chekhov: synopses, comments and ratings

(actualisé le ) by Ray

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was probably the most prolific writer of short stories of all time, with 319 published stories to his credit before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 44, as well as 2 novels [1], 16 plays [2] and a number of newspaper articles and essays.

Here you will find a complete list of all of his short stories, novelettes and novellas in chronological order of initial publication, with for each entry:

  • an overview of the story;
  • our comments on the literary merits of the text;
  • a note from 1-10, where :
    • 10=> one of his finest masterpieces;
    • 9.5=> one of his most outstanding works;
    • 9=> one of his best works;
    • 8.5=> a ’must’ read;
    • 8=> a (very) good read;
    • others=> not in the same category as the above, for the reasons indicated.

41 of these stories – those for which the English title is highlighted - can be seen in full by clicking on the title.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. THE COMPLETE STORIES, NOVELETTES AND NOVELLAS: OVERVIEWS, COMMENTS AND RATINGS

2. OTHER WORKS INCLUDED IN SOME ANTHOLOGIES OF CHEKHOV’S STORIES

3. INDEX OF STORIES IN ALPHABETIC ORDER

4. REFERENCES


1. THE COMPLETE STORIES, NOVELETTES AND NOVELLAS

short story: < 7,500 words; novelette: 7,500-17,499 words; novella: 17,500-40,000 words; novel: > 40,000 words.

no. date 1st pub. English_Title______ Alternate_Title Genre Synopsis/Comments___________________________________________ Rat-ing
1 1880-03 A Letter to a Learned Neighbour Letter to a Scientific Neighbour comical letter A retired nobleman writes to his neighbour, a famous scientist, to declare how much he would like to meet him now that he has been living next door to him for the past year, and insists at length on his own interest in science. He does mention, however, that he cannot agree with the scientist’s declarations about man having descended from the apes, because if that were true people would think that women who smell like monkeys would be pleasing, and anyway we aren’t covered in fur and we wear clothes, and if people were descended from monkeys they would have to dance on tables in gypsy saloons. Also, he doesn’t agree with what he has said about the moon, because if there could be people living on the moon their slops would fall on the Earth, and anyway the moon disappears during the day. All of that and more is expressed in the most deferential manner possible, and at the end the man insists on their shared interests and explains a number of his own scientific discoveries such as the fact that winter days are short because they shrink due to the cold. He concludes with a mention of his daughter who would like the scientist to visit with some clever books, and asks him to beat the bearer of the letter if he has gone to the tavern on the way.
- A clever and amusing little work.
7
2 1880-12 Artists’ Wives
(A Translation from the Portuguese)
satire about starving artists We follow a starving writer in a boarding-house in Lisbon as he visits each of his fellow-artist neighbours (painters, singers, sculptors) in turn, trying to borrow money or at least to get something to eat from them. Like him they are all convinced of their inherent greatness, they all have the same patron who keeps them barely alive, and they all mistreat their wives miserably. Not surprisingly, the story ends with an admonition to women to take heed and not ever, ever to marry an artist.
- An interesting piece of talented juvenilia.
7
3 1880 Little Apples Because of Little Apples apple-orchard story Trifon Semyonovitch is a landowner who discovers a boy and a girl eating apples in his orchard. He first subjects them to a rather nasty tirade and then obliges each of them to beat the other for their misdeed. The young couple, who had been amorously inclined, never talked to each other afterwards, quite understandably.
- A somewhat unpleasant story about a very unpleasant man, that quite failed to amuse us.
6
4 1881-09 On the Train travel conversations A set of comments and conversations in a passenger train, recounting small incidents of a somewhat humorous nature: a woman throws another’s bag off the train by mistake, thinking she had missed the train; passengers without tickets bribe the conductor; a pickpocket makes off with the narrator’s suitcase.
- A very primary level of humour, obviously dashed off without much thought.
6
5 1881-10 The Trial humoristic sketch Neighbours are crowding around the hut of Kuzma Ezorov, who is accusing his son Seraphion of having stolen twenty-five roubles from a drawer. Several neighbours are sitting around the central table like a panel of judges, mostly emitting menacing comments like “Give him a whipping!”. Kuzma eventually does take off his belt and gives him twenty-five whacks, only to discover that the money had been found by his wife in his own pocket.
- A sort-of-amusing little sketch.
6
6 1881-10 This and That: Four Vignettes humoristic vignettes Four very brief sketches involving more or less comic situations: a love scene brutally interrupted by two bugs; a mother who thinks that the Belvedere Apollo statue is a friend of her son; a tryst interrupted by a school inspector at lunch-time; and an improvisation in a student performance of Hamlet.
- Two pages of pleasant but distinctly juvenile humour.
6
7 1881-12 Sarah Bernhardt Comes to Town mock telegrams A series of comments in the form of telegrams about the concerts of Sarah Bernhardt in Russia, some moderately amusing (“If you don’t send me a ticket for Sarah Bernhard tonight, don’t bother coming home.”), some unpleasantly abusive (“It’s just rubbish...A waste of money.”; “Thousands of Russian Orthodox Christians... thronging to the theatre to lay their money at the feet of that Jewess”). 5
8 1882-04 Green Scythe
(Little Novel)
romance Green Scythe is a lovely dacha on the Black Sea where the narrator and his friends love to spend their summers, partly because of the charm of the buildings and the beauty of the surroundings, but mostly because of the vivacious Olya, daughter of the owner of the dacha, the very severe widow the Princess Mikshadze. Life is gay there for all those young people, but there is a problem: Olga had promised to her father Prince Mikshadze on his deathbed that she would marry the young Chaykhidzev, son of the Prince’s best friend, whereas Olya and the young Lieutenant Egorov, a neighbour, were secretly in love. So the narrator and his friends arrange for Olya to hide away in the garden gazebo with Egorov during the ball held to officialise the engagement with Chaykhidzev, and compose a formal letter of explanation and reclamation in Egorov’s favour the next morning after the abortive engagement ball. All turns out well at the end for the young lovers.
- A quite charming narrative in a charming location.
8
9 1882-06 Village Doctors medical farce The doctor is out hunting so his place has been taken for the day by his two assistants, both quite incompetent in medical manners but brash and authoritative when it comes to dealing with patients. We follow their antics as they prescribe various pills and remedies, particularly their favourite, bicarbonate of soda.
- A satire on the medical profession hidden behind the outward farce.
8
10 1882-08 A Living Chattel

14,000-word novelette
marital drama Groholsky, a wealthy aristocrat, is embracing Liza in her sitting-room, and is in the process of proposing that she run away with him when her husband Bugrov, a sedate civil servant, enters the room. Whereupon Groholsky tells all to Bugrov and proposes a financial recompense. After upping the stakes the husband finally agrees to hand over his wife – but not their little son. Later on they meet up in a southern resort when Bugrov arrives in luxurious conditions with the boy, and Lisa starts to realise that she is bored with her new life with Groholsky and begins to regret, not her former life, but: a) her son and b) the flashy new lifestyle of her husband. Finally Bugrov drives another good bargain and goes off to live with both Lisa and the boy in a grand property that used to belong to Groholsky, who sort of tags along because he just can’t live without Lisa.
- An elaborate tale of a marriage triangle with humorous overtones.
8
11 1882-09 Life as a Series of Questions and Exclamations humoristic sketch Entirely in the form of a series of rhetorical questions and exclamations for each stage of a person’s life such as “Childhood. What is it, a boy or a girl? When’s the christening? A strapping lad! Mama, don’t drop him! Ah, Ah! He’ll fall!! Has he cut his teeth? Has he got eczema? Take the cat from him, otherwise she’ll scratch him! ...”.
- This very brief one-page account of a man’s life as seen through the exclamations of his family as he grows up and then his own reflections as he confronts life is a distinctly juvenile attempt at humour somewhat resembling a prototype of a theatrical sketch.
5
12 1882-10 Late-blooming Flowers

11,500-word novelette
medical-romantic saga The story begins with Princess Maroussia Priklonsky and her mother pleading with the Prince Yegorushka to give up his depraved ways, citing as models his distinguished father and grandfather and also Toporkov, the brilliant nephew of his servant Nicephorus, who had become a renowned physician. Finally Yegorushka does promise to reform, but three days later he has come home inebriated and is so sick afterwards that mother and sister call in the famous Doctor Toporkov as a last resort. And then Maroussia came down with pneumonia! But the efficient and imposing, rather haughty doctor takes good care of both of them and a week later they have both recovered. They see him regularly passing in front of their house on visits, and then there is a curious incident when a matchmaker comes to the door on behalf of the doctor proposing a match – but the Priklonskys are heavily in debt and end up in bankruptcy. Maroussia finally goes to Doctor Toporkov’s office for medical help, and after a number of visits she declares that she loves him. The doctor is moved by this confession and leaves with her for the south of France.
- A rather convoluted medical drama, with some nice and other moving passages, too drawn out and melodramatic to be fully convincing but nevertheless quite memorable.
8
13 1882-11 An Unsuccessful Visit humorous sketch A dandy pays a visit to a house that he has never been to before and is met by a pretty young thing of sixteen in a cotton dress. He calls her “peach” and “little vixen” and gives her a tap on her “waist” and orders her to announce him. When he meets the lady of the house, she introduces him to the young girl in the cotton dress as her daughter.
- A brief and not particularly funny one-pager.
5
14 1882-12 Confession, or Olya, Zhenya, Zoya letters about love A thirty-nine year-old man writes to a lady friend who had asked him why he had never yet married, and explains with three examples of cases (there were many other occasions, these were just examples) when he had been on the verge of proposing to a woman he was in love with when something unexpected happened to ruin the event and the whole project.
- An amusing series of almost-silly incidents that nevertheless are sufficiently credible to be acceptable for this kind of pleasantry.
8
15 1883-01 A Hypnotic Seance A Seance satire on bogus medicine The narrator recounts his participation in a public demonstration of a celebrated hypnotist, when he only fell under the hypnotist’s influence when he felt a 5-rouble note being pressed into his hand.
- A satire on doubtful medical practices – at the time hypnotism came into that category – in the mask of a semi-farcical sketch.
7
16 1883-01 Rapture Joy satiric farce A young man bursts into his parents’ house at midnight in a great state of excitement, wakes up the whole household and announces to them that he is now famous all over Russia because he had gotten his name into the newspaper. He gets his father to read out loud the newspaper account of how he had been run over (in an advanced state of drunkenness) by a passing carriage. Having been taken to the hospital, he had been given a cold compress and declared fit. In a great state of excitement at his new-found celebrity, he then rushes off to wake up all his acquaintances with his big news.
- A very, very light adolescent bit of fun.
6
17 1883-02 A Lawyer’s Romance: A Protocol humorous text In legalistic language a lawyer writes to a judge requesting a divorce on the grounds that as he no longer loves his wife he has been steadily drinking in various establishments for the past five years, so he qualifies for the divorce on the grounds that his wife hasn’t known where he has been for that period of time, the legal delay for declaring a person disappeared.
- A 1-page spoof of a marriage gone down the guilty party’s gullet.
5
18 1883-02 At the Barber’s drama of unrequited love We are in the unkempt, dirty and poorly-equipped barbershop of the young Makar early in the morning when his godfather comes in and tells him that he needs his head shaved on doctor’s orders after a long sickness. Makar gets to work and has half-shaved the head when his godfather tells him that his daughter Anna has been betrothed to a fellow with some means and will be married in a week. Makar suddenly breaks into tears as he had has intentions on Anna, and the haircutting and all friendly relations between the two come to an abrupt halt for ever.
- A light comedy of popular ways and mores with a touching note of real sympathy for the stark realities of life low down on the social scale.
7.5
19 1883-02 Advice theatrical sketch A one-page conversation between a carpenter and his client involving the client’s main customer and how much he needs to be bribed to maintain his custom.
- Really an ultra-brief and not particularly amusing theatrical sketch with two actors.
5
20 1883-02 The Cross critique of censorship A poet comes home to announce that a poem of his had won a cross, and when the family expresses surprise that crosses are awarded for poems and want to know what decoration was awarded, he shows them the manuscript with a large red cross of censorship across it.
- A very brief 2-page unveiled denunciation of the censorship in effect under the Czarist regime.
7
21 1883-02 The Collection comical anecdote The narrator recounts how a friend of his had refused to provide him bread with his tea, showing him a collection of all the horrible objects that he had found in breads and other foodstuffs that he had been served over the years.
- A pun with a punch.
7
22 1883-03 An Incident at Law A Case in Court a trial scene A famous lawyer has been called in to defend a gypsy defendant accused of burglary, fraud, misappropriations and other offences. The lawyer’s plea, centred on the defendant’s essential goodness and the plight of his hungry children, has the audience in a turmoil and the prosecutor, with tears of sympathy in his eyes, even starts to consider dismissing the case. But the defendant too has been moved to his depths by the lawyer’s speech and stands up and admits to everything.
- A somewhat amusing two-page judicial farce.
7
23 1883-03 An Enigmatic Nature love comedy A very pretty young lady in a first-class railway car is baring her soul to a budding author who is all too anxious to proffer his psychological expertise on problems of the heart, complete with regular comforting kisses on the hand, but the explanation by the lovely lady of her current romantic drama puts a real damper on his effusions.
- A short, amusing and rather brilliant parody of traditional romantic realism.
8.5
24 1883-03 America in Rostov on the Don humorous sketch The commentator presents an announcement that appeared in a local paper in the Ukraine whereby a man informs one and all that his wife had left him and that he refuses to take her back. The commentator follows this up with his own remarks, wondering what would happen if someone did actually bring the wayward woman back, and he suggests that the announcement was a hoax on the part of the well-known publisher of the paper.
- A tiny one-page text that has not well passed the test of time.
5
25 1883-05 Heights humorous texts Two short pages containing four paragraphs about various kinds of “heights”: a story about the height of gullibility of a man who had shot himself because of a bad weather forecast; one about the height of inattentiveness of a surgeon who had amputated the wrong legs (his own); one on the height of civility concerning a very civil-minded civil servant; and finally one on the height of loyalty about a man who began to doubt his own political loyalty and denounced himself to the police.
- Fun with words, in a (very) mildly funny way.
6
26 1883-05 A Classical Student A Matter of Classics comedy about education Vanya has been getting up at 4 a.m. every day to prepare for a tough exam in classical Greek and sets off with a worried prayer and a desperate wish to avoid another catastrophic mark. But when he returns home his worst fears have been realized, and his family and neighbours join in the verbal and physical punishment for his unforgivable betrayal of the family’s hopes.
- A forceful little vignette of the class distinctions based on abstruse educational criteria that played such an important social role then and later too.
8
27 1883-05 The Cat comical incident Alyosha is woken up in the middle of the night by his wife who has been scared by the terrible noise made below their window by a group of love-struck cats. He eventually deals vigorously with the situation but runs afoul of his boss, who lives in the same building and had been admiring his favourite animal in the group.
- A rather silly and contrived situation.
5
28 1883-06 How I Came to Be Lawfully Wed comical sketch The narrator recounts the decisive interview with his future wife, eagerly spied upon by their parents, when they had both confessed to each other that they loved someone else and were so overjoyed by these mutual revelations that their parents misunderstood the cause of their joy and opened up the champagne bottle to celebrate, after which it was too late to go back. A story that didn’t turn out badly after all.
- An amusing variation on an eternal theme.
8
29 1883-06 From the Diary of an Assistant Bookkeeper diary entries We see the entries in his personal diary of an accountant (by definition small-minded and mean) over a period of 23 years as he writes about the poor health and alcoholism of the head bookkeeper whose position he counts on being appointed to when he dies, the sooner the better. But the head bookkeeper is made of stern stuff and the assistant bookkeeper won’t live for ever either.
- A brief and very simple three-pager.
6
30 1883-06 Mr. Gulevich, Writer, and the Drowned Man comical account of a suicide The writer Ivan Ivanovitch Ivanov (a comical name, we do believe) has drowned in th Hermitage gardens in front of everyone. In view of the fact that he was a carefree, gay fellow there is suspicion of foul play and another writer, Mr. Gulevitch, who had been with him that day, testifies tearfully that he had told Ivanov some jokes from the shore while Ivanov was boating, and that Ivanov had laughed so hard that he fell off the boat. However, another witness testified that Ivanov had not laughed at all and had made a sour face at the jokes and tumbled into the water in despair. The jury is still debating the case.
- Can a suicide be comical? The jury is still out on that too.
6
31 1883-06 The Potato and the Tenor humorous text A mock (one hopes) entry in a medical journal recounts how a physician examined a tenor complaining of a cramp in his throat and found that a potato that was stuck there had begun to sprout. After enquiry the tenor told him that the potato had been there for the past five years, but that it hadn’t prevented him from singing. The physician remarked however that he sang like a young jackal howling.
- A microscopic one-pager that is amusing in a way.
5
32 1883-07 A Naughty Boy That Wretched Boy boy meets girl Ivan and Anna are fishing in a sheltered spot out of sight and Ivan has accidentally held her hand and then accidentally kissed her, when Anna’s little brother pops up out of the river making fun of them and threatening to tell Anna’s parents about what she has been doing. They buy him off with a rouble but he keeps coming back with more blackmail and more demands until they find a way not only to keep him quiet but to be able to pull his ears too.
- A light, enjoyable little sketch.
7.5
33 1883-07 The Death of a Government Clerk The Death of a Civil Servant comical social drama Ivan Dmitritch, a government clerk, is taken with a fit of sneezing at the opera and notices that a general sitting in front of him, a senior civil servant, is discontentedly wiping his head. Overcome with remorse at his faux pas, Ivan excuses himself profusely after the performance, only to be dismissed abruptly by the general. The next day, wanting to properly atone for the incident, he presents himself in full attire at the general’s residence only to be rebuffed by the general even more strongly for bothering him with such triviality. Ivan Dmitritch persists nevertheless in his efforts to excuse himself, with catastrophic results.
- A spoof of servility in the civil service that is really too caricatural to be effective.
6
34 1883-07 Goat or Scoundrel? comical sketch An old man enters a drawing-room where a young woman of about eighteen is sleeping and quietly goes over and kisses her hand. The young lady awakens slightly, thinks that she is still dreaming and murmurs that in her dreams she sees only goats or scoundrels, much to the disappointment of the old lecher.
- A tiny one-page skit that does succeed in raising a slight smile in the reader.
7
35 1883-08 The Trousseau social drama The narrator describes the visits he had made to a charming but very neglected little house in a quiet neighbourhood many years beforehand, where a forty-something woman, her 19-year-old daughter and a maid were eternally busy preparing the wedding trousseau of the daughter for the (unlikely, in view of their isolation, their poverty and her looks) eventual future marriage of the daughter. Years later, on another visit the mother and daughter had visibly aged and were poorer than ever, but the preparations for the trousseau were carrying on full-time nevertheless. At a final visit things were worse than ever.
- A somewhat caricatural exploration of a serious theme indeed: the severe marital plight of isolated, poverty-stricken women in those bad old days.
7.5
36 1883-08 The Daughter of Albion A Daughter of Albion comic anecdote Otsov, a local dignitary, calls on the landowner Gryabov who is out fishing with his governess, an Englishwoman. Gryabov, who is so obsessed with his fishing that he refuses Otsov’s invitations to go out for a drinkie, passes his time in insulting the Englishwoman, who cannot understand a word of Russian although she has been in the country for ten years, and finally wades into the water completely naked in front of her to unravel his lines. But nothing daunts the lady, who remains haughty and superior throughout.
- An amusing albeit trivial farce, with a slightly xenophobic tinge.
7
37 1883-09 An Inquiry satire on bureaucracy Voldyrev enters a government office seeking information about a lawsuit he is engaged in, but the official in charge of the affair pays him no attention whatsoever even though Voldyrev has put two roubles on his desk. Finally he is told that the minimum for a bribe is three roubles, and when that requirement has been met the agent becomes alert and efficient.
- A short but effective denunciation of the routine corruption pervading in government offices of the time.
8
38 1883-09 A Fool, or The Retired Sea Captain
(A Scene From an Unwritten Vaudeville Play)
matchmaking In the form of a theatrical scene, a retired sea captain is interviewing a middle-aged woman, a professional matchmaker, as they review the qualities of the envisaged spouse for the captain (not too young, not too old, not too pretty, not too intellectual, etc.).
- A short, clever skit that could even have been fuller developed.
7
39 1883-09 Mayonnaise comical notes Four very short two- or three-line notes of a comical if not nonsensical nature, starting with “Astronomers rejoiced when they discovered spots on the face of the sun. A case of unparalleled malice!”, and continuing with two scenes of civil servants taking bribes and a story about a goat that behaved piggishly.
- A one-page piece of nonsense that is almost amusing, but not quite.
5
40 1883-09 In Autumn drama On a very stormy evening Tikhon’s tavern is crowded with coachmen and pilgrims and a forty-year-old man in shoddy clothes who stands at the bar ceaselessly begging for a glass of vodka, eventually proposing his worn coat in exchange. Tikhon contemptuously refuses to give him any more vodka, until a coachman arrives who recognizes the man as his former master, and we learn the unhappy and female cause of his downfall.
- A dramatic story, an ambience evoked with talent, a remarkable achievement for a young author of twenty-three. Chekhov developed a theatrical version of this story, On the High Road, the following year (1884).
9
41 1883-10 Fat and Thin Lean and Fat satire on servility Two former classmates and close friends, one now very plump and the other distinctly thin, meet up at a railway station years afterwards. Although the ambience is joyful at the start of the encounter, the tone and the language suddenly change when the thin one realises that his former companion has advanced much more rapidly in the official hierarchy than he has.
- A light-handed but effective parody of the severe social barriers based on rank and station in the Russia of the time.
8.5
42 1883-10 The Grateful German brief anecdote A one-page anecdote about two later encounters with a German who had told the narrator, when he had first given him some money in his native land, that he would never forget his generosity.
- Simple and simplistic, almost silly.
5
43 1883-10 Tragic Actor Tragic Role tragicomedy about actors The daughter of a police captain becomes so enthusiastic about the theatre and about actors after seeing her first performance by a travelling company that she goes there every night, and ends up running away with the chief tragedian. But life on the road for an impoverished actor’s wife is not as magical as she had imagined.
- A severe portrayal, in a light vein, of the mores and social declassification of the acting profession.
8
44 1883-10 A Sign of the Times comical romantic scene A fellow is in the process of proposing to his beloved when they are interrupted by the lady’s brother, who wants to have a word with her. She goes out to hear him warn her that the fellow is a complete scoundrel who will sell them out if he has a chance. She agrees to be careful, goes back to the fellow, agrees to marry him, but she carefully only talks about love.
- This one-page scene has not dated particularly well.
4
45 1883-10 At Sea
(Story of a Sailor)
On the Sea a sailor’s scabrous anecdote The narrator is a young sailor who had drilled peepholes with his father (!), also a sailor on the ship, in the wall of a ship’s honeymoon cabin. The two of them had waited impatiently for the honeymoon couple to retire to their cabin after dinner, as the newlywed was engaged in a lengthy discussion with a burly English businessman. Finally they do retire, and the two peeping toms see the husband pleading for a long time with his bride, who seems to be reluctant although they can’t hear what they are saying. Finally the young bride thinks for a while and then makes a sign to her bridegroom, who has been waiting outside. Surprise: the bridegroom comes back into the room with the Englishman he had been talking to at dinner, who asks the bride a question, to which she nods her head in agreement, and then he hands a roll of bills to the husband who leaves the room! The banker locks the door but we don’t know what happened next as the scandalised father took the narrator away, telling him that he was too young to be able to continue watching.
- A neat but not very nice twist at the end of this rather original two-page story.
7
46 1883-10 From the Diary of a Young Girl diary entries Six brief entries over a period of seven days in the diary of a young adolescent girl who starts flirting with a fellow who had been standing for days outside her home, only to find to her disappointment that he was a policeman who had been waiting there to arrest her brother.
- A two-page effort that couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to write and which probably wasn’t worth the trouble.
4
47 1883-11 The Stationmaster marital farce A stationmaster fights against the boredom of his job in the middle of the night by dallying with the wife of the bailiff, but one night he espies the lady’s husband approaching with a stick and he almost gets run over by the train trying to escape. Only to find that the man had peaceful albeit mercantile intentions.
- A good farce with a rather amusing twist at the end.
8
48 1883-11 The Bird Market portrait of a marketplace A colourful and engaging description of a Moscow marketplace specialised in selling birds as well as other animals.
- Most successfully conveying the atmosphere of the specialised marketplace, the tactics of the peasant sellers and the characteristics of the frequent buyers and onlookers, the story is interesting as a sociological document even though the narrative is purely descriptive, without any scenario.
8
49 1883-11 A Slander Slander;
The Slanderer
comic farce The teacher Ahineev is marrying his daughter, and the wedding festivities at his home are proceeding most successfully at midnight when Ahineev goes into the kitchen to inspect the main dish for the forthcoming supper, a splendid sturgeon in jelly. He purses his lips in pleasure and emits a kissing sound, which one of the guests thinks was a real kiss to the very buxom albeit almost-elderly cook. Ahineev promptly tells the other guests one by one that he actually hadn’t been kissing the cook but only been admiring the dish, however the next day the rumour of his infidelity is all over town and his wife hears about it to her outrage.
- An amusing little parable about gossip and gossip-mongers.
8
50 1883 Two in One satire of servility in the work-place The narrator is a senior civil servant who for once in his life takes a public streetcar with the hoi polloi, keeping his coat collar high and his cap low to avoid being recognised by the vulgar masses. He is amazed to see one of his staff, a particularly servile fellow, lording it over one and all in a most extraverted manner. When he makes himself known, the man immediately reassumes the humble mien and manner he always adopts in the office.
- A little 2-page sketch that has not lost its sting.
7.5
51 1884-01 The Decoration satire on the mania for official decorations The teacher Pustyakov has been invited for dinner on New Year’s Day at the house of a merchant who looks with contempt on anyone who doesn’t have an official decoration. As the merchant has two lovely daughters, Pustyakov needs to impress him and buys an Order of Stanislav from an officer. When he arrives at the dinner, however, he sees a colleague sitting at the table and has to cover up the decoration to prevent the colleague from seeing the illicitly-acquired decoration and causing a scandal in his school. So he has to forego all of the savoury dishes that are served because of having his right hand taken up with hiding the order from view. Eventually he realises that the colleague is doing the same thing and regrets, apart from all the food that he had missed, that he hadn’t purchased an even more prestigious medal such as the Vladimir.
- A rather silly satire about a rather silly person.
6
52 1884-02 A Woman’s Revenge a doctor’s visit A doctor comes to the home of the Chelobitevs in answer to a call from the man of the house, but when he gets there he finds that the fellow has left in search of a dentist, and the doctor waits for a while before deciding to leave. Madame Chelobitev doesn’t have the five-rouble fee, but after a while a mutually satisfactory solution is reached.
- A tale with an amusing twist.
(One almost dares to wonder if it could have been based on the experience or fantasies of the author, a practicing physician.)
8
53 1884-02 O Women, Women! marital dispute over poetry A newspaper editor comes home tired out after a hard day at the office and recounts his day to his wife, who finds that the awful poem that he had refused to publish was a very nice one and accuses him of being jealous of the poet, so he leaves the house in a huff determined to get drunk.
- Too simple, too shallow, too silly.
5
54 1884-02 Choristers social satire The sacristan of a village church has been intensely rehearsing a complex choral with the school’s choir in preparation for the forthcoming visit of a Petersburg dignitary, in spite of the vocal inadequacies of the singers and the hostility of the church deacon. But when the big day arrives, there is a crisis that reconciles the two churchmen.
- A serious and almost moving critique of the lack of appreciation of traditional culture by the unbelieving intelligentsia of the day.
8.5
55 1884-03 The Complaints Book diverse complaints at a railway station This one-pager consists entirely of a number of entries in the complaints book at a railway station, such as: "Nikandrov is a socialist!"; “Since I am being expelled from service as if I am drinking, I declare that you are all crooks and thieves. Telegrapher Kozmodemyansky."; "Become a virtue."; "Katinka, I love you madly!"; “I ask you not to write extraneous things in the complaint book. For the chief of the station, Ivanov 7th.” and "Though you are the seventh, but a fool."
- Comments are superfluous.
5
56 1884-03 Two Letters romantic comedy Vladimir writes to his uncle asking him to see the neighbours who have just returned from a long stay abroad, with special emphasis on obtaining news of Mashenka, the daughter of the family, whom he would like to write to about his feelings for her that haven’t changed now that he has a law practice and means. The uncle obliges and writes back that Mashenka has tender thoughts for him and would indeed like him to write, adding in a postscript that he had shown Vladimir’s letter to Mashenka’s new husband, that she had acquired abroad.
- A very broad 2-page gag.
6
57 1884-03 Perpetuum Mobile anecdote about an autopsy An elderly forensic investigator and a doctor are on their way to perform an autopsy but decide to stop off on the way and spend the night at the house of a friend, the retired general Yezhov. The general has a newly-widowed daughter who tells the doctor that when she has insomnia she leaves the light on outside her door, and this ends up by provoking a quarrel between the two men when the doctor just wants to sleep and the old investigator wants to go and visit the lady with the light. The investigator ends up insulting the doctor who decides to go back home, but three days later they when they start off again on another autopsy and see Yezhov’s horses outside an inn, they go in to see him and his attractive nurse and so on, they are in a perpetual circle.
- A complicated intrigue of little interest.
6
58 1884-03 Reading comedy about the value of reading A theatre manager is interrupted in his conversation with the patron of the theatre by a clerk requesting a signature, and he comments on the clerk’s uncouth manner and appearance. The patron exclaims that the clerk should read books to improve his state and brings him The Count of Monte Cristo the next day. Soon all of the other employees have also been given reading assignments, with quite disastrous results.
- An amusing but patronising sketch about the incurable ignorance of the average working person.
6
59 1884-05 The Album satire on civil servants The civil councillor Zhymhov is presented with a magnificent album by several of his subordinates on the occasion of his tenth anniversary of service, and is quite overwhelmed by the acclamation he has received, stressing his genius and his great contribution to the nation, to “social self-consciousness”, etc. At home he receives more compliments from family and friends, and his children take care of the album most thoroughly, not to say destructively.
- A very light but effective satire of the pretentiousness of senior civil servants.
8
60 1884-06 Minds in Ferment
(From the Annals of a Town)
social satire A civil servant and a journalist are peacefully walking through a provincial town’s deserted marketplace on a particularly sultry summer day when they notice a large flock of starlings descending on cherry trees in the church-sexton’s garden. Other people observe them staring at the garden and look to see what is happening and more and more people congregate to see what is going on. Soon the town’s gendarme and the local fireman arrive and there is a near-riot as they and others get more and more excited. Finally the crowd goes away and the journalist writes a dramatic account of the event in the next day’s newspaper.
- A rather amusing tongue-in-cheek satire on crowd psychology – and superficial journalism – that has not really lost its bite so many years later.
8
61 1884-08 Surgery The Dental Surgeon medical comedy An elderly church sexton comes to a local hospital suffering from a severe toothache and is treated by the orderly in the absence of the medical doctor. The orderly decides to take the tooth out and delivers a reassuring speech about his experience in the area, but there follows a painful description of his subsequent failures to get the job done properly.
- A convincing, terrifying and at the same time amusing account of the way dental surgery was done in the bad old days.
8.5
62 1884-09 The Chameleon A Chameleon satire on subservience Police superintendent Otchumyelov is strolling through the town when there is an uproar because the goldsmith Hryukin had captured a puppy that had bitten his finger, and he is loudly demanding that the dog be put down in reparation for the damages to his working finger. In view of the mongrel status of the animal the superintendent is initially in full agreement with the goldsmith, but someone in the crowd that has gathered says that the dog belongs to a local notable, a general, whereupon Otchumyelov promptly takes the side of the pup, and then when others point out that the general only has purebred dogs the verdict suddenly changes again, and so on until the discussion is finally ended on a comical note in the dog’s favour.
- An amusing little satire on the widespread servility so prevalent towards the upper crust of society in those days.
8
63 1884-09 After the Fair humorous anecdote The wife of a Moscow fur merchant who has just returned from a trip to the Nishgorod Fair finds a jumbled set of notes and bills in his pocket that reveal a great deal about the wild time that the merchant had had out on the town after the fair.
- A clever two pages of fun.
7
64 1884-09 What is to be Done? satire on provincial mores The health commission in a provincial town starts out full of enthusiasm for its mission but quickly gets distracted by the wiles of the shopkeepers and the constant proffers of tidbits and especially vodka.
- An amusing spoof of officialdom
7.5
65 1884-10 In the Graveyard satire on the acting profession A group of friends visiting a cemetery comment on the pompous gravestones of people they knew who are buried there, and they encounter a poverty-stricken actor come for a final visit to his dearest enemy, an actor who had initially enticed him to join that unhappy (?!) and drink-prone profession.
- A nice little vignette with an effective mix of satire and social comment.
8
66 1884-11 A Dissertation on Drama
(A Small Scene)
short sketch While a judge and a senior officer are talking in a somewhat pretentious vein about literature and the theatre over dinner they are interrupted by a boy bringing a letter from his mother to his uncle, the judge, who carries out without hesitation the flogging requested of him in the letter. The judge then carries on his discourse about artistic values without a pause.
- A very succinct but effective little 1000-word sketch that has some decidedly noteworthy lines, such as “On the stage you see what you see in ordinary life... But is that what we need? What we need is expressiveness, a grand effect. As it is your life has bored you to tears, you’ve grown accustomed to it, got used to it, what you need is something ... something that’ll tear your nerves apart, play havoc with your insides! The actor of old used to speak with an unnatural, sepulchral voice, beat himself on the chest with his fists, roared, disappeared into the earth, but on the other hand he was so expressive! There was expression in his words. He spoke about duty, about humanity, about freedom... In each scene you saw self-sacrifice, great achievements of devotion, suffering, furious passion! And now?! Now, as you see, we have to have reality... You look on the stage and what do you see? Pfff! You see some wretch... some swindler, a worm-eaten creature in shabby trousers spouting some nonsense.”
8
67 1884-12 At the Patient’s Bedside  At the Sickbed;
At a Patient’s Bedside
farcical medical sketch Two doctors at a patient’s bedside are misinterpreting words in a political sense (one starts off by saying that he doesn’t believe in conservative methods, the other replies that he believes in a change of regime) and the patient gets anxious about this subversive talk being overheard by the authorities and begs them not to talk so loud. End of this one-page 150-word sketch.
- More a tiny gag than a story.
5
68 1884-12 Oysters social drama on the theme of hunger An eight-year-old boy is accompanying his unemployed father who, after several months of fruitless searching for work has at last determined to go begging. They are standing outside a restaurant while the father is trying to work up his courage to approach the passers-by for alms when the boy notices the strange word “oysters” on a sign inside the restaurant. The story continues in ever-starker tones as the little fellow progressively discovers the meaning of the word and the thing itself.
- One of the most sombre and striking early stories of the master, on the poignant theme of hunger-stricken poverty.
9.5
69 1884-00 The Swedish Match
(The Story of a Crime)
The Safety Match spoof of a police inquiry We follow the investigation of the local authorities into the disappearance of one of the town’s citizens. One and all they assume that the man had been murdered as they find blood in his room, although the man’s body cannot be found, while the police superintendent’s young and eager assistant continually notes interesting clues from which they they deduce not only exactly how he was murdered and by how many people but by whom. Finally the assistant tracks down the owner of the main piece of evidence, a rather rare Swedish match, and the enquiry rapidly gets resolved while turning into a farce.
- An amusing spoof and a tongue-in-cheek satire on provincial bureaucracy.
8
70 1884-00 The Tutor a replacement-teacher’s lesson This is a detailed account of the struggles of a rather incompetent replacement teacher and his very incompetent pupil with arithmetic and algebra in particular, as well as Latin, geography and Russian, all to little avail as the teacher isn’t even paid for his efforts in the end.
- A brief 2-page mockery.
6
71 1884 The Skit skit on servility towards the hierarchy After dinner with his friends Osip Fyodorovitch reads a skit of his own composition about a fellow who announces excitedly to his wife that a senior official who is interested in his daughter will be coming for a visit. All the guests initially heap praise on him but then one expresses reserves about how his boss might take offence at being caricatured, so Osip decides to remove the offending passage. One by one each of the guests points out potentially offensive or subversive aspects of his play until nothing is left of the work after Osip has agreed to make all the necessary changes.
- A most effective parody of the severe state- and auto-censorship in place at the time (and long afterwards too).
8
72 1884 Worse and Worse farcical court case The choirmaster Gradulov has had a public altercation with a certain Derevyashkin, who has brought a lawsuit against him for defamation. Derevyashkin’s lawyer persuades the choirmaster to apologise in public, which he does, but in such an aggressive manner that it only makes matters worse, and when the case is brought to court Gradulov continues in the same vein and gets the judge riled up too.
- A clever skit indeed that still hits home.
8
73 1884 Vint Whist comical skit on the passion for card-playing Andrey Stepanovich is coming home late at night after the theatre when he is astonished to see the lights on in the office where he is the manager. Impressed by the idea that his staff is working late on the assignment that he had given them, he goes up there to see what is going on and finds them playing a strange version of whist using photographs of important people, including his own. He starts rebuking them, but when the fellows explain the intricacies of this original version of whist he tries his hand at it and gets hooked.
- Quite a lot of fun, really.
8
74 1885-02 The Marshal’s Widow social satire Every year on the estate of Madame Zavzyatov there is a memorial service for the late marshal of the district, attended by all of the local notabilities. After the service there is a truly splendid feast in honour of the late departed, who had been famous for knocking off a whole bottle of champagne at one go – with every delicacy imaginable, with the exception of anything containing alcohol. As the feast progresses, the guests return ever more frequently to the cloakroom where many of them have things stored away in case of need.
- An amusing portrait of the Russian attitude towards festivities of any nature.
8.5
75 1885-02 A Living Chronology A Living Calendar a conversation The elderly official Sharamykin is discussing with his friend Loniev in front of his fireplace, talking about how things used to be more lively in their town, each time citing memorable occasions from the past. He needs reminders from his wife, a vivacious younger woman of thirty, as to exactly when each of these four events had taken place, and every time the wife reminds him that the event in question took place less than a year before the birth of one of their four children.
- An amusing little tale, possibly a tad scandalous in its day.
8.5
76 1885-03 At the Bathhouse satire on ignorance The barber in a bathhouse delivers a critical speech about long-haired intellectuals, much to the ire of one of the bathers, a scrawny fellow with long locks who forcefully defends the merits of education. Much to the surprise of the barber it turns out that the man in question is a respectable church deacon, so the barber apologises to the deacon for thinking that he was educated.
- A very simple, even simplistic sketch, reflecting the struggle of intellectuals and writers of the time to acquire social recognition.
7.5
77 1885-03 Small Fry psychological portrait While the clerk Nevyrazimov is in the process of penning a routine letter he listens to the sounds of the Easter bells, and seeing the festivities outside he feels progressively ever more discouraged by his lack of prospects and his lack of education. Finally he consoles himself with a gratuitous act of cruelty.
- A quite effective portrayal of existential ennui.
8
78 1885-05 In an Hotel In a Hotel spoof on marriage Madame Nashatyrin is complaining to the proprietor of the hotel where she is staying with her two unmarried daughters about the uncouth behaviour of their next-door neighbour, a boorish and outspoken army officer. But when she learns that the officer is unmarried she changes her angle of attack. 8
79 1885-06 Boots farce about actors A hotel porter has mistakenly put the boots of the piano-tuner Semyon in the next-door room, where an actor had been staying. The actor in question has gone off with them, so Semyon has to go to the theatre to reclaim his boots, but the apparently-outraged actor puts on a performance that Semyon will not forget in a hurry. 7
80 1885-06 Nerves marital comedy Vaxin has been to a spiritualist séance and thinking of the gloomy topic of after-life addressed at the séance and imagining the presence of deceased ancestors in his dark bedroom, he has trouble getting to sleep. As his wife is out at an all-night service, to escape from his lonely situation he ends up going to sleep in the room of his maid. But that was not the best solution to his problem, as he discovered when his wife came back the next morning and found him still asleep there. 7.5
81 1885-06 A Country Cottage comedy about newlyweds Sasha and Varya have just been married and are admiring the romantic scenery near the train station when Sasha’s uncle descends from the train on a surprise visit with his four children, wife and mother in trail. Sasha’s and Varya’s plans for the evening have gone awry. 7
82 1885-06 Trickery: An Extremely Ancient Joke a joke about a criminal sentenced to death A microscopic 90-word one-page joke about an English criminal condemned to death in olden times who had had a laugh on the medical man who had paid for his corpse, because he was going to be burned at the stake and not just hanged.
- A not very funny joke about a not very funny subject – what were the censors doing in Tsarist Russia to have let this one get by?
4
83 1885-06 Malingerers satire on homeopathy The homeopath Marfa Petrovna has been busy receiving her many clients all day when a neighbouring landowner comes into her office and falls down on his knees with highly laudatory compliments about the miraculous effects her homeopathic treatments have had on his rheumatism, in contrast to the failed and even dishonest attempts by classical allopathic doctors. She is so rejoiced by his transformation that she lends him money and grain, but after he leaves she notices that the rascal had never in fact taken her pills at all.
- An amusing sketch with real content and a punch that is still relevant today.
8.5
84 1885-06 My Love comical discourse on laziness The narrator complains about the love of his life leading him astray and preventing him from reading, writing, going for walks, enjoying nature, and so on. At the end of the diatribe he reveals that her name is LAZINESS.
- A one-page quite inventive amusement.
7
85 1885-07 The Fish The Burbot country comedy Two peasants have been struggling in the water for a long time trying to wrench a large burbot out from its hiding-place under a root. After much mutual insulting they are still unsuccessful when a shepherd arrives and decides to show them how to do it, without more success. Finally the master comes along to find out what all the noise is about and joins in the fray himself. The epic struggle does eventually come to a somewhat surprising end.
- A clever yarn about country mores and a rather good portrait of the fascination of the act of fishing.
8
86 1885-07 At the Pharmacy medical satire Egor goes straight to the pharmacy after his visit to the doctor’s to gain relief from his suffering as soon as possible, but he had not reckoned with the staid, bureaucratic, arrogant, old-fashioned and lethargic way the pharmacy was run. When at long last he is served he realises that he doesn’t have quite enough money on him and has to struggle home in a daze without the remedy.
- An interesting account of the old-time way of running a pharmacy (and of looking down on customers).
9
87 1885-07 A Horsey Name farce about quack dentistry Major-General Buldeeff is suffering agonies from a severe tooth-ache when his steward remarks that he once knew an exciseman who was most successful in curing tooth-aches with his special gift of spitting a certain way. In desperation the general accepts to send his fee to the exciseman by mail but the steward cannot quite remember the man’s exact name other than that it had something to do with horses. The entire household then spends the next several days suggesting horsey-sounding names until the general’s doctor solves both the conundrum and the tooth-ache.
- An inventive play on words and on local superstitions that has however somewhat paled over time.
7.5
88 1885-07 Gone Astray farce about drinking Two lawyers are making their way home in the early hours of the morning after an evening’s celebration and have difficulty finding their homes – they have taken the wrong road, are extremely tired and confused, and mistakenly try to enter the wrong house.
- A most credible situation, treated perhaps excessively in the vein of a slapstick college prank.
7.5
89 1885-07 The Huntsman marital drama Yegor is walking with his dog hunting game-birds on a sultry autumn day when he hears his name called by Pelagea. She is the still-young woman he had married twelve years previously and who is still hopelessly in love with him. He stops to talk with her, and explains why his passion for hunting and a more genteel style of life could never enable him to live in a peasant village with her.
- An open, quite moving confrontation of surprising frankness and intensity.
9
90 1885-07 A Prelude to a Marriage conversation of newlyweds A couple of newlyweds are riding home in a coach after the wedding and the husband shows her what would happen if she ever ran at him with clenched fists.
- A not-very-funny two-page skit that probably seemed just as macho then as it does now.
4
91 1885-07 A Malefactor farmland farce Denis, an unkempt, barefooted peasant is on trial for having been discovered stealing nuts from the railway line, and he explains to the uncomprehending magistrate that that has long been standard practise in the region, as the nuts make excellent sinkers for fishing lines. The mutual misunderstanding continues to the very end, as Denis just cannot understand why he is being punished.
- A dialogue of the deaf that seems today unduly harsh about the faculties of the uneducated poor, in spite of the author’s depth of understanding of that milieu through his medical practice.
7
92 1885-08 A Man of Ideas The Thinker;
The Philosopher
idle meditations on a hot day The prison keeper Yashkin and his guest Pfimfov, the caretaker of the county school, are sitting under a linden tree on a hot day at a table with vodka, beef and sardines, and Yashkin perorates at length about the mysteries of Russian punctuation and spelling, recalling various punishments he had received at school on their account. Pfimfov is offended by this attack on the sciences that he represents because of his school function and tries to leave, but more vodka is brought in and Yashkin meditates openly on the superfluousness of so many things and people before finally falling asleep, just as Pfimfov is thinking that at least this time Yashkin hadn’t gone onto the topics of the creation of the world and of hierarchies.
- A brief 2-page diversion, quite appropriate for a hot summer day.
7
93 1885-08 The Head of the Family The Father of a Family family drama Stepan Stepanitch is not only grumpy and aggressive towards all the members of his household after losing at cards or drinking too much, even at everyday mealtimes he cannot help but being critical and complaining to a degree. When all is going well for him he cannot understand why he is treated with such fear and reserve by one and all.
- The man’s tendency to constantly flaunt his earning powers in the face of his housebound wife, his young son and the other members of the household certainly touches the sensitivities of the modern equality-conscious reader, a sensitivity of which the author was clearly a precursor.
8
94 1885-08 Advertisement humorous text In the form of a publicity for an anti-combustion ointment purporting to explain why some brands of matches and lanterns never light up, the text plays on words to advocate its use for various unexpected applications such as preventing loan sharks and theatre brokers from lighting up with shame; for smearing it on fiery men and women, on entrepreneurs whose business is about to go up in flames, on men in whose hearts love is all to easily kindled, and so on.
- A tiny one-page gag.
6
95 1885-09 A Dead Body deathwatch scene A corpse wrapped in linen is lying under a tree in the middle of a misty August night, dutifully watched over by two peasants who are keeping a fire alive. They listen to the sounds of the forest and talk to fight off their feelings of eeriness when a pilgrim comes along attracted by the fire, who asks for directions and is afraid to continue on his way alone after seeing the corpse. The scene peters out in the end when the younger peasant accepts to accompany him to the nearest village.
- A marvellous evocation of the atmosphere of uneducated Russian peasants reacting to the presence of death on a gloomy summer night, most readable in spite of the lack of a story line.
9
96 1885-09 Women’s Good Fortune Woman’s Happiness comments on women Two officials are on their way with their wives to the reception after the funeral of an army officer, but there is a crush of people also going there and the bailiffs outside only let their wives through the security barrier. This sets one of them off on a long discourse of the unfair advantages of women on all sorts of social occasions (free admission to balls, no corporal punishment, priority for seats, the magic of a dropped handkerchief, etc). He proceeds to tell about how he hears his senior civil servant, a General, being scolded shamefully by his wife and how he had seen the general being insulted most violently by his cook at his summer residence. While he is bemoaning the privileged status of women the dance music begins, he and his colleague remaining resentfully outside.
- An amusing little 2-page tirade.
7.5
97 1885-09 The Cook’s Wedding a working-class woman’s existential dilemma The seven-year-old son of the household observes uncomprehendingly how the cook Pelaga is being wooed by a new cabman with the encouragement of the whole household, even though the cook is adamantly opposed to the project. His incomprehension increases as he observes the intense social pressure on Pelaga and culminates when, the marriage performed, the new husband demands an advance on Pelaga’s wages.
- Interesting for its straightforward portrayal of the social plight of single working women, as a story it remains on the first-degree level as seen through the eyes of its young narrator.
7
98 1885-10 Doctor’s Advice humorous text Four short nonsense prescriptions on one page for various ailments: a cold, a spinning head, arsenic poisoning and persistent coughing. For example: “For arsenic poisoning, try to induce vomiting, which can be achieved by a sniff of food bought at the Okhotni Ryad market.” and “For strong and persistent coughing, try not to cough at all for three or four days, and your ailment will disappear on its own.”
- Silly beyond words.
5
99 1885-10 Sergeant Prishibeyev The non-commissioned officer Prishibeyev is being tried before a judge on charges of insulting police officers and bystanders at the beach. Prishibeyev explains in his inimitably unsophisticated way that there was a crowd around the body of a man who had drowned and that he had felt it his official duty not only to disperse the crowd, which had resisted his initiative, but also to tell the police officer what his duties were and what he should be doing, advice which was not listened to with the respect due his status as a non-commissioned officer. The judge cuts short his diatribe with a one-month jail sentence. As he leaves the courtroom Prishibeyev can’t prevent himself from ordering the crowd there to break up.
- A confused anecdote with subtle criticism of something or other that we weren’t able to determine.
6
100 1885-10 In a Strange Land Russian national pride The landowner Kamyshev is dining with Monsieur Champoun, the former tutor of his children whom he had kept on as a (paid) dinner-table companion after his children had left home. His disobliging comparisons about the French people and nation drive Monsieur to despair, but liberating himself from his virtual albeit comfortable state of serfdom is easier said than done.
- A frankly hard-hitting criticism of provincial Russian philistinism that must have raised an eyebrow or two at the time.
8
101 1885-10 To Cure a Drinking Bout A Cure for Drinking how to cure drunken actors A renowned actor arrives in a provincial town for an engagement, but to the dismay of the impresario he goes off on one of his well-known drinking bouts and will be out of action for two months at least. The theatre cashier tells the impresario that the local barber has a tried and proven method for curing drinking bouts and out of desperation the impresario calls him in, with spectacular, albeit particularly brutal, results.
- A remarkably vivid, funny and credible story.
9
102 1885-11 The Writer
(A Scene)
critique of mercantilism The merchant Yershakov feels the influence of culture when he receives the visit of the writer Geynim, who has written an advertisement for his wares in record time. He reads out the complicated contents of his work to the merchant, who accepts the work with some minor corrections, and then there is an awkward moment when the merchant explains to the writer that he will be paid in tea and sugar rather than roubles, as that is how he pays his labourers. After some discussion Geynim accepts the payment that he converts into cash at a discount, and the merchant feels even more cultivated than before after this rewarding contact with a writer.
- A very short (2-page) and almost savage satire of the mercantile view of the writing profession.
7
103 1885-11 Overdoing It Overseasoned a traveller’s anecdote A land surveyor arrives at a post-station at the end of the day and hires a peasant to drive him to the area that he had been commissioned to survey some twenty miles further on. The little cart and its tired mare plod slowly on and night rapidly befalls the travellers as the surveyor becomes conscious of their isolation and exposure to attack. His solution to the problem is to explain in detail to the driver how heavily armed he is, but that was definitely the wrong approach, as he learns to his dismay.
- A sort-of-interesting portrayal of the joys and travails of travelling on the vast Russian plains, with a number of sparkling dialogues, but somewhat tainted by its simplistic psychology.
8.5
104 1885-11 Old Age marital drama The architect Uzelkov returns on mission to his old town that he had left after his divorce there twenty years before, and is invited to dinner by the wily lawyer who had handled his divorce, now an wealthy old man who reveals to him during the dinner what really went on with his former wife in those faraway days.
- A striking and quite moving exploration of the theme of a critical moment in a man’s life as seen many years afterwards through another’s eyes.
9
105 1885-11 Sorrow Grief;
Misery;
Woe
peasant saga The introverted monologue of a (brutal and drink-inclined) peasant who is almost lost in a violent snow-storm driving his critically-ailing wife to the hospital, as he reviews his life and marriage.
- A subtly powerful evocation of the existential dilemma of the uneducated country-folk of that vast country-continent in those faraway days.
9
106 1885-11 Oh! The Public comic farce A chief ticket-collector on an overnight train decides to at long last stop shirking and proceeds to wake up an invalid traveller to verify his ticket, much to the outrage of the traveller and the others on the train too, who are angered by this abuse of authority. They demand excuses from him – enough to drive anyone, especially this ticket-collector, to drink.
- An amusing albeit rather inconsequential tale.
7.5
107 1885-12 My Talk with Edison Edison and Chekhov fictitious interview An imagined interview with the great scientist on the occasion of an anniversary of his invention of the light bulb.
- This short one-page piece of journalism has traditionally been considered a short story, although it has no story line, a single character and was never included by the author in any of the numerous collections of his short fiction published during his lifetime.
6
108 1885-11 Murder Will Out
(Story)
an incognito inspection Inspector Posudin has left his office in secret and is travelling incognito to ensure a surprise when he arrives at his destination. On a hired coach going through back roads he questions the driver about what he knows of this recently-arrived official Posudin, and the driver, who has never seen him, tells him all about his little secrets and methods: his secret drinking, the names of his mistresses, the amount of bribes he will accept and the kind of foodstuffs he orders when leaving on a mission. He also tells him that the whole neighbourhood knows perfectly well that the Posudin in question is on his way and are awaiting for him. Posudin has no alternative but to turn back!
- A clever little (2-page) story.
8
109 1885-12 Mari d’Elle Her Husband marital drama An opera singer unsuccessfully confronts her parasitical husband who has been profiting from her fame and wealth ever since she defied him to tale up her artistic career.
- A resounding declaration in favour of feminine emancipation, only marred somewhat by the basic vileness of the male partner in this fruitless and endless confrontation.
PS - one can’t help wondering about the title, “her husband” in fractured French, that normally would be "son mari" in the language of Molière. Did the author’s mastery of that language leave something to be desired?
8
110 1885-12 The Looking Glass medical drama While looking into a mirror Nellie falls into a deep daydream about her future life with her husband-to-be, centred on the inevitable day when she will have to seek relief for him at the doctor’s during an epidemic of typhus in winter. Not the glorious future she had initially dreamed of with him!
- Centred on the everyday dangers to health and happiness, a little sketch that has real punch.
8
111 1885 Two of a Kind marital comedy The newly-married narrator is setting off with his bride on a post-nuptial visit to her relations, rather reluctantly as all of these people have high-sounding names and he himself is of very plebeian stock. But one by one all of the relatives and friends of his bride’s family are seen to be no more hoity-toity than himself, much to his relief.
- A nice little spoof of the class differentiations so important in those far-off days.
7.5
112 1885 Drowning spoof about actors A shipping agent waiting for a customer on a wharf is approached by a down-and-out actor who offers to give a performance of a drowning man with all his clothes and boots on for two roubles – only one without the boots – and when the agent declines he knocks the price down to sixty kopeks, but to no avail. However, when the customer arrives he does it for thirty, boots and all.
- An amusing sketch, perhaps not for actors but for the rest of us, yes.
8
113 1885 The Village Elder peasant wiles The ragged peasant Semyon is having a feast in a tavern and is explaining to the tavern keeper that he can afford to live like a prince because although he is not a man of learning he is nevertheless the best jurist in Russia whenever there are peasants to defend. He proceeds to recount how he got the wealthy but skinflint factory manager Petrov to give the peasants in his home village a hundred roubles to drink to his health, after having told them that for vodka he wouldn’t give a copper.
- A very funny story, marvellously recounted.
9
114 1885 Saintly Simplicity Savva, the aged priest of a little town, is delighted to have the visit of his son Alexander, a celebrated Moscow lawyer whom he hadn’t seen for fifteen years since he had sent him off to Moscow to university. The father can’t relate to the big-city life that the son has been leading – he thinks that the son must earn a thousand roubles a year to have such nice clothes and a gold watch and the son throws out when he asks him that he usually gets thirty thousand, he tells his father that his divorce cost ten thousand, and so on, but Savya just thinks that Alex is a great liar. At the end of the evening he tells his son that he has bequeathed him his life savings, fifteen hundred roubles, a sum that the son just laughs at. But Savya is nevertheless very proud of his distinguished son, a university man.
- A very amusing and even moving story, with particularly interesting insights into the lifestyle of up-and-coming big-city professionals in the Russia of the eighteen-eighties.
9.5
115 1886-01 Art rural religious ritual Seryozhka is a 30-year-old lazy sluggard who has a great talent for creating magnificent holy icons out of snow and ice on the frozen river for the annual festival of Epiphany. Once a year he dominates one and all, ordering them around, vilifying and exploiting them, as they patiently wait for the great moment when his latest masterpiece will be ready and the great ceremony can begin.
- Infused with the intense religiosity of country folk, what starts off a a peasant farce gradually becomes a pageant of considerable beauty and significance.
9.5
116 1886-01 A Blunder Foiled! farce on the theme of marriage A couple of parents anxiously listen in on a fateful interview between their marriageable daughter and her suitor, waiting for the fateful moment of tenderness when they will be able to burst in upon the couple and confront the suitor with an icon, thereby rendering a wedding obligatory as per the custom of the time. But things do not go according to plan.
- An amusing tongue-in-cheek satire of old-fashioned Russian religious traditions.
7.5
117 1886-01 Children Kids children playing games. While waiting for their parents to come home from a night out, a group of six children play intensely at cards, with kopecks, prestige, the thrill of competition, the joy of gaming and the simple reticence of going to bed driving them each on in different ways.
- A small masterpiece, like a Dutch genre painting of an everyday scene most effectively translated into words.
8.5
118 1886-01 Misery a winter scene in the city We follow a cabman on a wintry day in Saint Petersburg as he waits for fares in the cold and the snow and tries to share with his rare customers his heartbreak at having just lost his only son.
- A relentlessly bleak portrayal of the struggle fo existence of a very ordinary person, with perhaps a touch too much pathos.
8
119 1886-02 An Upheaval social critique Mashenka, a highly-educated young woman who has just taken up a position in a wealthy household as a governess, comes back from a visit to find the mistress of the house in the process of searching her room, looking for an expensive brooch that has been stolen. She is outraged but her inferior social position has and always will put her at a disadvantage confronted with awful people like the mistress of this rich house.
- A sensitive and moving investigation of the social plight of educated but moneyless young women in a rigid society.
9
120 1886-02 An Actor’s End Death of an Actor tragedy with a comical tinge Shtchiptsov, a huge and very powerful actor in a travelling company, is having a violent argument with the manager of the group, when he feels something snap in his chest and he totters off to his hotel room to recuperate. All of the actors in the company visit him in turn, each with their own remedy for his ills, but Shtchiptsov has only one thought – to return to his home town a thousand miles away, to die there.
- A comedy about the easy-going life of an acting company on the surface, a hard-hitting drama on the next level down.
9
121 1886-02 The Requiem Requiem family drama Andrey Andryitch is in church for the memorial service for his dead daughter, an actress, and is severely reprimanded by the priest for having written the word harlot­ in his memorial message about her. For him, who had brought her up at a distance, her profession was a shameful one, assimilable with the world’s oldest, and nothing the priest can say can prevent him from tenderly addressing her as a harlot in his prayers.
- A moving insight into the mindset of the time in the Russian countryside.
9
122 1886-02 Anyuta social drama Anyuta is the pale, fragile twenty-five year-old mistress of a medical student who takes her for granted and has no intention whatsoever of continuing their relationship after his studies. She is lent to his friends as a model and used by him for anatomy studies as a being of no significance whatsoever.
- A harsh analysis of the plight of uneducated women of the time – and a most uncomplimentary comment on the humanity of medical students that the author knew only too well, having been one himself.
9
123 1886-02 On Mortality: A Carnival Tale sketch on gluttony A tiny, 300-word sketch about a senior civil servant’s gluttony at the dinner table, centred on his anticipation of tasting freshly-made blinies adorned with caviar, cream, salmon and other tidbits.
- This shortest of short stories does have a moral, although it is more a morality skit than a story.
7
124 1886-03 Ivan Matveyich teaching anecdote The man of the title is a learned professor who is excessively cross at his his literary assistant for being late once again. When the youth does arrive he berates him roundly, starts dictating a fairly incomprehensible academic thesis at him, and then takes the greatest pleasure in listening to the boy recount stories of hunting in his homeland.
- A spoof of academia that has a real and almost surprising core of sensitivity.
8
125 1886-03 The Witch marital drama A poor and very dirty country sexton lies in his bed at night listening to the howling of a blizzard outside and, ignorant creature that he is, accuses his wife of being a witch and of somehow having started the storm so as to entrap stray visitors. Soon the bells of the post-carriage are heard and the postman and his assistant come in, having lost their way. The postman is young, sturdy and handsome, a complete contrast to the sexton, who had married his young and attractive wife three years earlier. We follow the increased tension between the postman, the wife and the surly sexton, more convinced than ever that she is indeed a witch.
- A quite masterful evocation of (backward) country life and passions in the Russia of old.
8.5
126 1886-03 A Story Without An End narration of an attempted suicide The narrator, a doctor, remembers being called to a neighbour’s home where he discovered in the dead of night the corpse of a woman, a former actress, in her coffin, and in the next room the blood-stained body of the woman’s husband, an actor, who had shot himself out of despair. Much confusion followed, as the man’s wound was only a superficial one in spite of all the blood, and the man couldn’t be prevented from discoursing on the psychology of suicide and his miserable plight. A year later he ran into the man again, well-dressed and full of gaiety and busy charming a group of young ladies.
- An interesting portrayal of an actor who couldn’t stop posing even in the face of death.
8
127 1886-03 The Little Joke  A Joke amorous farce The narrator remembers going on a dangerous sleigh-ride with a girl who was terrified by the prospect, and playing a prank on her by declaring in a ghostly voice that he loved her just at the scariest moment of the ride – to such an extent that she wanted to do it over and over again. The experience of being told that she was loved by what seemed to be the wind or some other force marked her for the rest of her life.
- A fanciful tale, well told.
8.5
128 1886-03 Agafya love drama Savka is a strong, handsome young man who is too lazy to work at anything and is the poorest fellow in the village as a result. He has an irresistible attraction for the women of the village, though, who visit him surreptitiously at night while he is on duty as the watchman of the village kitchen-gardens. The narrator, who enjoys Savka’s company while fishing, recounts how Agafya, a young newlywed, throws all caution to the winds for the sake of a few hours in Savka’s company.
- A quite engrossing tale of passion in the countryside, imbued with a kind of poetic realism that makes the it very hard to forget.
9
129 1886-03 Hydrophobia
(A true story)
The Wolf medical drama Nilov is a thickset, very powerful man who had been attacked by a wolf when out for a walk at night while staying with his friend Maxim during a hunting expedition. He managed to survive by strangling the wolf, but not before being bitten by the beast, that was strongly suspected of having had rabies, and he is desperate to find salvation, even though there is no known remedy for hydrophobia. He does eventually survive, and when a collection is taken up for Maxim, who had just been bitten by a mad dog, he contributes ten roubles.
- A cruel tale – for which the author prepared another, more civilized and optimistic ending fifteen years later that was never published during his lifetime.
8
130 1886-03 A Nightmare countryside poverty A local notable comes back to his country residence where he is disappointed by the uncouth manners and appearance of the young local priest whom he had summoned to arrange for the creation of a school in the village. Eventually, however, he discovers the incredible poverty in which the priest and others of his diocese, such as the local doctor (!), are living.
- A sensitive, moving tale of devotion, dedication and suffering contrasting with the comforts of middle-class life.
9
131 1886-04 Grisha child narrative A two-year old boy meditates on a rush of new sights and experiences – horses, cats, soldiers, fruit-sellers, a tall man kissing his nurse, etc. – as he goes for a walk in the springtime with his nurse.
- An original account of one day in a very young boy’s life, with the following memorable reflection by the boy: “Nurse and mama are comprehensible … but what papa exists for is unknown.
8
132 1886-04 Love courting reminiscences The narrator remembers the poetic fervour that had seized him when he had stayed up most of the night feverishly composing his first love letter to his future bride – and mediates on the contrast between his romantic illusions and the reality of her character so feminine and down-to-earth, so different from his own.
- A nice little monologue, humorous although somewhat facile, that concludes however with the striking and quite moving confession that he just does not know what his love for her consisted of.
8
133 1886-04 Easter Eve Easter Night;
The Night Before Easter;
On Easter Eve
an Easter celebration The narrator describes his experience of attending an early-morning celebration of Easter Eve in the countryside after crossing a river in flood in the middle of a very starry night, admiring the fireworks and listening to the boatman’s account of the sudden demise of the still-young and very gifted church deacon while composing Easter hymns.
- A particularly powerful, poetic text and a fascinating account of the mix of popular fervour and nonchalance that surrounded that very special ceremony throughout Russia then, and perhaps later too.
10
134 1886-04 Ladies a teacher’s drama The Director of Elementary Schools is in the process of dismissing a teacher from the position he had held for the past fourteen years because he had quite lost his voice and must abandon the teaching profession without any pension. Faced with the plight of the poor man, married and father of two, he remembers that an administrative post will be liberated shortly and offers the position to the grateful man. But on coming home his wife tells him that one of her closest friends has approached her for the position for an idle good-for-nothing young relative, and that is followed up with letters from the wives of a number of town notables and even from the Governor in the young man’s favour. The superintendent is faced with the choice of bitterly disappointing his wife and his social relations or breaking his promise to the distressed former teacher, and the reader knows which way he will go.
- A biting critique of nepotism and bureaucratic indifference.
9
135 1886-04 Strong Impressions Overwhelming Sensations the power of eloquence A group of jurors is retained in court for the night. They had heard earlier in the day a witness stumble while describing an important moment, and pass their time in recalling each in turn a striking moment that had left them with a particularly strong impression. The last one to intervene remembers a debate he had had with a young lawyer friend before the friend had become nationally famous, about whether eloquence could win over truly firmly-held convictions, and tells how the friend had managed in a short while to persuade him not only that his soon-to-be wife was unworthy of him, but that he should write her a letter breaking off their engagement and post it on the spot.
- A brilliant exposé of the theme of the power of the spoken word.
9
136 1886-05 A Gentleman Friend the female condition Vanda has just left the hospital and has no home to go to and not a penny in her pocket. What to do? She feels quite undressed without a proper hat and shoes and a fashionable jacket, so she decides to ask a gentleman friend, a doctor, for a loan, but that turns out badly. She does manage to find resources however, and how she does that is left to the imagination of the reader.
- A rather abrupt little tale with a real sting about the social plight of poor single women.
8
137 1886-05 A Happy Man honeymoon anecdote Ivan Alexyevitch comes into a railway carriage in a somewhat excited state after having stopped off for a glass at the latest stop, finds an old friend there, and promptly launches into a lengthy explanation of his joy at just having gotten married and how nothing could spoil his state of bliss that day. When the conductor comes along, however, he finds that he has in fact gotten onto the wrong train after the last stop, and that while his bride has gone off to Petersburg he is on his way to Moscow.
- An amusing little farce with a charming, theatrical-like set of dialogues.
8.5
138 1886-05 The Privy Councillor satire on status symbols The narrator recounts the visit of his uncle, a prestigious senior civil servant, and how the effort of treating him like visiting royalty wore his mother down so much that she ended up by paying him to spend his vacation abroad.
- An elaborate satire of the civil-service ranking system that played such an important role in the Russian society of the time.
8.5
139 1886-05 A Day in the Country country pageant We follow Terenty, an impoverished cobbler, as he accompanies two homeless young orphans on a long excursion around the countryside, sharing his extensive knowledge of nature with them.
- A simple but touching tale with a poetic tinge, imbued with the author’s profound sympathy for life’s underdogs.
9
140 1886-06 At a Summer Villa romantic comedy Pavel Ivanitch has been happily married for eight years when he receives an anonymous love-letter fixing a tryst in a secluded spot that evening. Scornful at first at the very thought, then perplexed, then intrigued, he finally decides to see what it is all about, and gets an unexpected surprise, and a good lesson to boot.
- A light, perhaps somewhat too light, little comedy.
7.5
141 1886-06 Romance With Double-Bass slapstick farce A musician carrying his heavy double-bass, walking alongside a stream on his way to a reception, decides to go for a swim and sees a beautiful maiden sleeping on the bank a little further down where she had been fishing. He leaves a bouquet on her line for her and goes back only to find that his clothes have been stolen by thieves, so he hides under a bridge awaiting nightfall. The young woman finds her line to be caught on the bottom and takes off her clothes to go into the water to untangle it, whereby the thieves steal her clothes too. So she also hides under the bridge where she meets the musician who proposes to put her in his case and carry her to safety, but that doesn’t work out either, much to the eventual confusion of both of them.
- A farcical fable, so silly that one wonders how it ever got printed in the first place.
4
142 1886-06 Panic Fears pastoral tales The narrator recalls three incidents when almost-supernatural phenomena had unexpectedly frightened him while travelling through the countryside.
- Nicely recounted, the three incidents in question nevertheless lack substance.
7
143 1886-06 The Chemist’s Wife flirting Two officers pass a chemist’s shop late at night and go in to buy knick-knacks and especially to talk and flirt and perhaps more with the chemist’s attractive young wife. Things go well but the husband is right there sleeping away, for the moment...
- A very simple but quite charming little episode.
8
144 1886-06 Not Wanted family-vacation comedy Zaikin arrives in the resort town where his family is staying and progressively becomes more and more dissatisfied with the discomforts and the hectic pace of vacation life.
- A rather tepid tale.
7
145 1886-06 A Serious Step comedy about an engagement Aleksei and his wife Martha are upset first because their daughter Lidochka has gone for a walk in the garden with the young Fyodor, and then when she comes back all upset after the walk and shuts herself up in her room, and finally when she sends off a message to the young man. Aleksei grumbles about young people not consulting their elders about serious steps like marriage, but things work out in the end without his help.
- A short and almost-amusing sketch on the eternal conflict between the generations.
7.5
146 1886-07 The Chorus Girl melodrama between mistress and wife Pasha is entertaining her gentleman friend Kolpakov in her summer villa when the doorbell rings, and after Kolpakov retires to the inner room she opens the door to an elegant woman in distress who demands to see her husband because he is wanted for embezzlement. The woman is desperate to find nine hundred roubles to avoid her husband being arrested, and begs Pasha to render the valuable objects that she is convinced her husband must have given her. Finally she humiliates herself to such an extent that Pasha does give her all her valuables even thought they didn’t come from Kolpakov.
- An excessively theatrical scene, but with heartfelt dialogues.
8
147 1886-07 The Schoolmaster sad story The schoolmaster Sysoev feverishly prepares for the annual school banquet where he will be honoured once again, but almost collapses getting there because of his poor health. He crosses swords with rivals at the reception and makes a strangely embittered and self-centred speech before we finally learn the truth about his dramatic state of health.
- A long series of awkward incidents and unpleasant remarks by the central character lessen the impact of the story on the reader.
7
148 1886-07 A Troublesome Visitor A Troublesome Guest dangerous encounter The old forester Artyom is telling a young hunter who has sought shelter in his isolated cabin about the rough people who regularly come into his cabin pretending to seek shelter and who often try to rob him of his money when they hear cries in the distance of a woman in difficulty. The hunter goes out to help but Artyom refuses to accompany him, and when the hunter returns there is a menacing scene indeed.
- A simplistic, theatrical encounter in an isolated forest cabin that held promise but peters out ineffectually at the end.
7
149 1886-08 The Husband marital strife A cavalry regiment has come to town and the townspeople organise a ball to welcome them. The eponymous husband of the title is a tax-collector who becomes progressively more and more upset at seeing his wife enjoying her dancing so much, and finally orders her to leave long before the evening is over. A key moment of revelation of the true state of their unhappy marriage.
- A severe, perhaps too severe, indictment of the banality of bourgeois life in the provinces.
8
150 1886-08 A Misfortune A Calamity desire and infidelity Sofya, a twenty-five year-old married woman, is walking in the woods with Ilyin, a family friend, and is asking him to stop pestering her with love letters and to either be satisfied with just being a friend or to just go away. But Ilyin is not to be put off with words, he is really in love with her, he has an intellectual’s command of language and Sofya is tormented by her increasing realisation of his attractiveness.
- A compelling account of a young woman’s conflicting sensual and moral impulses.
8.5
151 1886-08 A Pink Stocking macho diatribe On a rainy day Somov feels cooped up and irritable, and after reading the lengthy letter that his pretty young wife has just been writing to her sister he berates her severely for her innumerable faults of grammar and expression, complaining that she is too little educated and incapable of carrying on intellectual conversations. But then after the memorable thought “Granted that it is her vocation to love her husband, to bear children, and to mix salad”, this essentially macho man – even for the time – remembers that learned women are usually tedious and liable to contradict and confront one, so he concludes that it’s better to live with simple ones, and that one can only discuss intellectual subjects with men.
- A vivid albeit skimpy overview, voluntarily caricatural, of the feminine condition and traditional male-superiority complexes.
7.5
152 1886-08 Martyrs nervous illness A young woman falls sick with a nervous ailment, much to the distress of her husband, who stays at her side imagining her forthcoming death and funeral until she asks him to amuse her by putting on a Jewish accent, which he does so successfully that she rapidly recovers her spirits and her good health and goes off to the theatre. But the husband is so worn out that he is put on sick leave.
- A frankly inconsequential tale that has not well passed the test to time.
6
153 1886-08 The First-Class Passenger discourse on celebrity A passenger in a first-class train compartment regales a fellow-traveller with a discourse on fame (defined by Pushkin as “a bright patch on a ragged garment”), recounting his many exploits as a leading architect and bemoaning the fact that actresses, singers and athletes of all sorts, not to say criminals, were so much better-known than those in intellectual occupations.
- An amusing and not at all outdated outburst.
8
154 1886-09 Talent satire of pretentious artists Yegor, a very indolent and ill-kempt artist, is about to move out of his lodgings much to the dismay of the landlady’s daughter Anna, utterly bewitched by his artistic aura. In the evening he has a drinking session with two other artists, both as unknown and unproductive as he is, but the young Anna is enraptured by their talk of future greatness.
- A sharp portrait of the self-deluding mentality of budding artists, too caricatural however for our timid taste.
7.5
155 1886-09 The Dependents peasant poverty The elderly artisan Zotov gets up in the early morning and performs his ritual prayers and housework, only to discover that he has no tea left whatsoever. He gets furious with his two animals, a dog and a horse, who are starving and need to be fed, and after drinking tea and vodka with his one friend decides to leave home to live with his only relative, a distant great-niece, and to take the bothersome animals to the slaughter-house.
- A grim tale of loneliness, poverty, ignorance, brutality and social distress.
9
156 1886-09 The Jeune Premier satire on actors A young actor impresses his audience in a reception in a provincial town with his boastful tales of his successes both in theatres and also with the women in the audiences, when he oversteps the mark by telling how he had had an affair with a beautiful young woman in the town of one of the guests, much to the outrage of the guest, the young woman’s own uncle. Who demands that he retracts and apologises on the spot or there will be a duel. The story is false, but the actor is too worried about what his fellow actors will say to admit it, so he leaves without apologising - but then starts to really worry about the potentially fatal consequences of his bravado.
- A pitiless critique, very nicely done, of male braggadocio.
9
157 1886-09 In the Dark illicit love The wife of the assistant procurer wakes up in the middle of the night and sees a man slipping through their downstairs window. Alarmed, she wakes her husband up, who reluctantly (he supposes that the fellow is the cook’s lover, the local fireman, with the memorable line “What’s a fireman for if not to make love to the cook?”) goes down to wake up the cook and get her to make the fellow leave. But the cook denies all and the incident is almost over, but not quite.
- A clever and most amusing tale of everyday life and love in those (amazingly modern-sounding) times.
8.5
158 1886-09 A Trivial Incident lost love On a hunting expedition for woodcocks with a still-young and quite reclusive Russian prince (nicely portrayed as “straight-forward and honest, not a bully, not a fop, and not a rake – virtues which, in the eyes of the general public, are equivalent to a certificate of being a nonentity and a poor creature”), the narrator recounts how they had been prevented from hunting in the forest of of Madame Kandurin, an immensely rich young heiress with whom the prince had formerly been connected by local gossip. To resolve the matter the two go to the lady’s mansion to seek permission to hunt there, while the prince confides to the narrator that his situation is quite desperate as he is about to lose his own estate. On encountering the heiress the narrator realises the extent of the prince’s sad situation and how close he had formerly been to an entirely different fate.
- A very touching story, beautifully told and quite pregnant with understanding of the social conditions of the time.
10
159 1886-09 A Tripping Tongue marital comedy Natalya has just come back from a holiday in the sea-coast resort of Yalta with a friend, and babbles on endlessly to her husband about her vacation there, but says a little bit too much about their handsome Tatar guides and the gay time they had had.
- A charming and almost naughty tale about marital relations then and there and at all times and everywhere.
9
160 1886-09 A Trifle From Life A Trifle From Real Life honour and dishonour Nikolay Ikyitch visits the dwelling of his mistress who is absent, and while resting there gets into conversation with her eight-year-old son. The boy mentions his father in a moment of distraction, and, swearing Nikolay to secrecy on his most sacred honour, proceeds to reveal how the nurse takes him and his little sister to see their father twice a week, recounting the comments that the father makes about Olga and Nikolay. In the face of these revelations the outraged Nikolay Ikyitch has not the slightest qualm about breaking his vow of secrecy to the boy.
- A sharp, sad, almost painful little tale, only too true to life.
8.5
161 1886-10 Difficult People avarice Pyotr is about to leave for his university studies in Moscow but his father, a very tight-fisted and almost-prosperous small farmer, just cannot bear the thought of giving him the money he needs for his trip and expenses. A terrible scene involving the entire family ensues.
- A stark, dramatic, even melodramatic portrayal of a loveless family life ruined by the passion for the almighty rouble.
9
162 1886-10 In the Court portrait of the rural judicial system In the local courthouse a trial is underway and the judge, the prosecutor and the defence attorney are all as bored by the proceedings as usual. Their lethargy is not troubled in the least when a middle-aged peasant is brought in on the charge of murdering his wife with an axe. The evident slovenliness of the enquiry and the probable innocence of the accused man do not prevent the relentless machinery from grinding along pitilessly and unfeelingly as usual.
- A surprisingly interesting evocation of the atmosphere in those regional courts of justice.
9
163 1886-10 Revenge marital woes While taking a break in the kitchen from yet another losing card-game, Leo Turmanov overhears his wife arranging a mail-drop with one of his best friends, and resolves to get his revenge on the fellow and his unfaithful wife by playing a clever trick on them. But it doesn’t work out at all as planned.
- A short and rather silly sketch, although undeniably amusing in a juvenile sort of way.
7
164 1886-10 A Peculiar Man avariciousness A midwife is called upon after midnight by a well-dressed man to come to his home at once, and as she is about to leave the man starts bargaining for a cut-rate price for her services, all the time invoking the noblest of motives. Finally she proposes to work for nothing rather than the two roubles the man insists upon, which he refuses to agree to and leaves in a huff. But he does come back later after failing to find an alternative, settles for three roubles rather than the standard five, and she carries out her duties faithfully and efficiently. But the tone of over-weening moral rectitude and the fanatical miserliness in the prosperous household are too much for her to bear.
- A grim little tale with a strong and almost too-forceful tone of moral judgement on the social ravages of an avaricious mentality.
9
165 1886-10 Mire culture shock The young officer Sokolsky calls upon the rich young (Jewish) heiress of a vodka factory to collect a debt of her recently-deceased father that he urgently needs in order to get married. After making the interesting remark “I can’t make out what possesses people to get married! Life is so short, one has so little freedom, and they must put chains on themselves!”, she wonders why he needs five thousand rubles for that, and the officer explains that if officers get married before the age of twenty-eight they must leave the service and pay that sum in amends. The lady, in her twenties and subtly attractive, fetches the money and invites the lieutenant to dinner, babbling all the time about her jewishness and her tastes and her likes and dislikes. You’ll never guess how the story ends.
- A most impressive account of the shock of cultures and the wiles of womanhood.
9
166 1886-11 A Dreadful Night country anecdote In the courtyard of an estate the dogs are barking, three servants are staring at the horizon and the lady of the house comes out to stare with astonishment at the skyline all ablaze – the neighbouring village is on fire! After a number of worried and idle remarks they decide to go to the village to see better what is happening there, and it is even worse than they had thought – the church has burned down and most of the town has gone. The lady just wishes it had been a bad dream.
- A surprisingly detached account of a severe catastrophe.
8
167 1886-11 Calchas an actor’s existential drama This account of the (early) morning after the night before starts off nicely with: “Comedian Vasily Svetlovidov, a stout, strong old man of 58 years old, woke up and looked in surprise around him. In front of him, on either side of a small mirror, two stearin candles burned out. The still, lazy lights dimly lit a small room with painted wooden walls, full of tobacco smoke and twilight. All around were visible the traces of the recent meeting of Bacchus with Melpomene, a meeting secret, but stormy and ugly, like a vice.” It goes on to describe the ageing comedian’s despair at finding himself alone at his age with no family to go to, and when he sees the prompter, who had been sleeping in his prompter’s box, he bares his soul to him, recalling the actress he had once loved who had rejected any idea of marriage because she loved the actor and not the man, recalling also the low social status of actors even in the eyes of the public that applauded his performances. The aged prompter helps him change his clothes before leaving the theatre.
- A brief but moving evocation of the down-side of the acting profession, at least then, certainly beforehand, and perhaps sometimes afterwards too.
9
168 1886-11 Dreams Daydreams meditation on freedom Two constables are escorting a frail man looking more like a monk than a tramp on a long march through the countryside to the local prison. The man, who refuses to give his name, does recount his upbringing and elaborates at length on his beliefs and convictions. He says that he had been sent to prison in his youth as an accomplice when his mother had been convicted of murder, and tells the policemen about his love of fishing and his dream of being sent to a settlement in Eastern Siberia where he could get a land grant, get married and raise children.
- A moving evocation of the plight of a condemned man.
9
169 1886-11 Hush! satire on journalists Ivan Yegoritch, an impoverished and most unsuccessful journalist, returns home late at night lamenting on “the agonising discord in the soul of a writer who has to amuse the crowd when his heart is heavy or to shed tears at the word of command when his heart is light” and wakes up his wife to order tea and to instruct her not to let him be disturbed because he is going to write. He sits down at his desk where all his writing equipment is neatly arranged, and he does proceed to write for hours, all the while issuing orders to his family for more quiet and for more tea. When his subject has been exhausted he finally goes to bed and sleeps till mid-afternoon while his admiring family trembles from fear of disturbing him.
- A sharp dig at pretentious writers of all persuasions.
8
170 1886-11 At the Mill a miller’s meanness Miller Alexei is standing outside his mill looking surly and when two monks arrive he starts bitterly complaining about them fishing in his river, using particularly foul language all the while. He continues by shouting insults at a worker who has been drinking and when an old lady, who turns out to be his mother, comes asking for help, he refuses abruptly and prepares to leave. When she offers him a piece of cake that she has brought he thrusts her hand aside, but the horrified reaction of the monks has an effect on him, and he repents.
- A despairing vision of the common man, or at least of the common miller.
8.5
171 1886-11 Excellent People satire on the literary profession Vladimir Semyonitch is a graduate of the faculty of law who has a management job on a railway but who explains to one and all that his work is literature. He has written some articles for a local newspaper and writes weekly on literary matters for them, has all the characteristics and tics of a typical literary man, and is the object of devoted admiration of his sister, a former doctor who had abandoned her profession after the sudden death of her husband from typhoid. With the interesting comment that “That was just at the period – in the eighties – when people were beginning to talk and write of non-resistance, of the right to judge, to punish, to make war; when some people in our set were beginning to do without servants, to retire into the country, to work on the land, and to renounce animal food and carnal love.", the narrator describes how even the sister loses faith in him and his future.
- An interesting satire on pretentiousness in the literary realm, perhaps a tad too involved and intellectual for simple folk like us.
8
172 1886-11 An Incident childhood drama Vanya and Nina, little children of six and four respectively, wake up to discover that the house cat has given birth to kittens, and their joy is unbounded. Their day is centred around the three little beings, even if their joy and wonder is not shared by their parents who end up by forbidding them to go into the kitchen to play with the kittens. And when their uncle arrives that evening, his huge dog puts a definitive end to their childish delight.
- A cruel story not for children about casual indifference to animals that was so widespread in those days apparently, almost as shocking to us now as it must have been then to Vanya and Nina.
8.5
173 1886-11 The Orator satire on glib orators The collegiate assessor Kirill Babilonov, who “had died of the two afflictions so widely spread in our country, a bad wife and alcoholism”, was being buried, and one of his colleagues goes off to get Grigory Petrovitch, a celebrated local orator, to deliver the funeral oration for the deceased assessor. Which he does most impressively, except that he thought the deceased was another of Gregory’s colleagues, also an assessor, and describes the man as a clean-shaven (not true) bachelor (not true either) and as an incorruptible civil servant unwilling to take bribes (not at all true), much to the annoyance of the surviving assessor.
- An amusing farce with a nice thrust at glib gabbers.
8.5
174 1886-12 The Objet d’Art A Work of Art satire on art Sasha Smirnov arrives in the office of his doctor with a present for the physician in lieu of payment, to thank him for having saved his life. The object in question is an antique bronze of two naked young women, a family heirloom that is not at all to the doctor’s taste who has innocent young children in his home, so the doctor contrives to give the work of art to a bachelor friend who had performed legal services for him. The young man finds it too risqué for him though, and gives it in turn to Shashkin, a comedian, who finds it an embarrassment to his many lady visitors, so he gives it to... and so on until it comes back to the doctor.
- An entertaining little yarn on the theme of Arthur Schnitzler’s celebrated later play La Ronde.
8.5
175 1886-12 Who Was To Blame? fable A high-school teacher is upset to find his Latin textbook nibbled by mice, so he sets the maid the task of training their two-month old little kitten to catch them. To help the process along Pyotr sets a mouse-trap to capture the things alive and releases them right before the little cat’s eyes. But the kitten, who had been dreaming of ferocious exploits, is terrified of the things, and is finally thrown out of the house for being so useless. A year later, now a big, experienced tomcat, he has another encounter with the mouse world that is no better than the first.
- A pleasant little fable
7.5
176 1886-12 Vanka social critique Vanka is a nine-year old orphan and shoemaker’s apprentice in Moscow who takes advantage of Christmas Eve when the whole household is out at the church service to write a long, impassioned letter to his grandfather, his only relative, describing the terrible conditions in which he lives, his constant near-starvation and his utter lack of prospects, begging him to take him away from his Hell on earth. Proudly he finishes his long letter and puts it in the mailbox, vainly addressed simply To Grandfather in the village­.
- A moving account of a sad social situation, the plight of young orphan apprentices in big cities and no doubt elsewhere too.
9
177 1887-01 On the Road existential drama Introduced by an evocative citation from Lermontov: “Upon the breast of a gigantic crag, A golden cloudlet rested for one night.”, we follow the unfolding of the intense conversation in a country inn during a snow-storm between a big, powerful man who is resting there for the night with his little daughter and a young noblewoman on her way to a family property nearby, who has been obliged to stop over at the inn because of the severity of the storm. The man has done everything, seen everything, believed in everything from religion to nihilism and back, and opens his soul to his young fellow-traveller, especially about the role women had played in his life. She is on the verge of being overcome by his force and his charm and his passion for the things he believes in, but... life must go on.
- A story of great force and conviction, a magnificent portrayal of the Russian soul if one can say such a thing, which this story seems to say one can.
10
178 1886 The Telephone comedy about telephone connectivity A man is trying to get through to the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel on the telephone and progressively and with increasing difficulty gets connected to a little girl, to a businessman, to a manufacturer, to the Exchange, to the little girl again, and finally to the Slavyansky Bazaar Hotel, who pass him back to the Exchange. It finishes with the notation (Continuation ad Infinitum).
- A story that said something to everyone everywhere in those days and for a good hundred years afterwards too.
8
179 1886 Other People’s Misfortune a young couple buy a country house The young lawyer Stepan and his bride Vera are on an excursion in the countryside to visit a house that they had seen advertised for sale. The visit is a success even though the house needs repairs and changes need to be made, as Stepan points out with aplomb to the old man guiding them. They decide to purchase the lovely property (with the wife’s dowry), and Stepan in particular is totally insensitive to the distress of the family that is devastated by the loss of their precious family home.
- A straightforward account of a theme later addressed in The Cherry Orchard to greater effect, the decline of the landed gentry.
8
180 1886 Women Make Trouble peasant brawl The magistrate Popikov is woken up in his home at 5 a.m. by Ivan, an unkempt peasant who had been summoned to appear before him at 11 a.m. to testify in an affair of assault. The judge decides to hear him anyway, and the man in his confused and semi-illiterate manner recounts the affair that had started when he pulled a boy’s ears for throwing stones at ducks in a pond, much to the disapproval of the accused man, a certain Drykhunov, who ended up inviting Ivan to continue the discussion in a tavern. Where after eight glasses of vodka there was a general free-for-all during which Drykhunov gave just about everyone there a bash in the head, including his own wife, the eventual plaintiff in the affair, who happened to come along towards the end to bring him home. Ivan sums up the affair with the declaration “Women make trouble!”.
- A frankly amusing tale, most colourfully recounted.
8.5
181 1886 The Lodger a landlord gets put in his place Brykovich rushes out of his flat late at night fed up with the bossiness of his wife, the owner of the lodging-house where they live. He encounters the musician Khalyavkin, who is behind with his rent and is unsuccessfully trying to get his key in his lock after a night out with fellow artists, and starts berating him for being in arrears. The musician replies that Brykovich doesn’t pay any rent either and is just as much a hanger-on as he is, and when he finally gets the door open they continue the somewhat heated debate in the room. Brykovich asks for tea but there isn’t any so he settles for vodka and the conversation lasts until dawn - the start of a great friendship.
- A clever tale about a clever fellow with an original attitude towards his landlord.
8.5
182 1887-01 Champagne A Wayfarer’s Story nihilist drama The narrator recounts a New Year’s Eve he had passed on duty in a remote railway post with his wife when they had opened up a precious bottle of authentic champagne. He had let the bottle slip and his wife was dismayed because that was an evil omen, and he irritatedly exclaimed to her that his situation and his whole life was at such a low point already that it couldn’t possibly get worse. He then left for a walk on the steppe to calm down and came back to find that it certainly could, and it did.
- A short but tough story of decline and despair, most impressive.
9
183 1887-01 Frost evocation of the Russian winter A big popular feast out-of-doors has been planned for Epiphany and it goes ahead with skating, tobogganing and music even though there are twenty-eight degrees of frost. When the wealthy elderly mayor arrives, he orders drinks and regales one and all with tales of fighting against the frost in his poverty-stricken youth. Then the governor recounts how his whole regiment stayed motionless one night for thirteen hours without fire in bitter cold in wartime against the Turks, for fear of being spotted by the enemy, the bishop tells how he had fallen off his sled in Siberia and narrowly escaped death from freezing, and the mayor just can’t be stopped with more reminiscences of severe Russian winters.
- A colourful, memorable portrait of a winter gathering in the Russia of the times.
9.5
184 1887-01 The Beggar redemption of a beggar Skvortsov, a Petersburg lawyer is stopped by a poorly-dressed beggar who explains that he is a teacher who has been unfairly dismissed and needs help to travel to a position in the province – but Skvortsov recognizes the man who had told him an entirely different story only a few days before. After giving him a lecture about his lying, his idleness and his drunkenness, he offers him work chopping wood. The man accepts, comes back regularly, and finally gives up his drinking habits and gets a regular job as a clerk. When Skvortsov meets him two years later in a theatre the man explains what the key event that had changed his life really had been that first day at work.
- A morality sketch with a nice, unexpected twist at the end.
8.5
185 1887-01 Enemies a doctor’s suffering On an appropriately dark September evening the only child of the district doctor Kirilov has just died of diphtheria when a well-dressed, elegant man arrives at his door in a panic, urgently requesting that the doctor come to care for his wife. Kirilov is completely stunned with despair at what has happened to him and his wife and can hardly talk, but the man insists and Kirilov acknowledges that he is obliged by the regulations to go with the man, which he does at last. When they finally arrive, what they discover shocks and scandalises both men, each entirely dominated by the personal drama that they are living through.
- An almost unbearable tale of great intensity and sensitivity.
10
186 1887-01 The Good German marital comedy Ivan Karlovitch is a senior foreman of German origin on the paternal side who is making a surprise visit home to Moscow after four months away on mission. He arrives home in the evening feeling joyous after a couple of bottles of beer at the station and telling the cabman that he wants to secede from Germany, only to find a stranger sleeping in one of the beds in his bedroom. He rushes off in despair to a tavern declaring that he now wants to secede from Russia, and writes a fiery letter to his parents-in-law denouncing their daughter. After mailing the letter he finally returns home to confront his wife one last time, only to learn that she had sublet their bedroom to boarders and that he should quiet down so as not to wake them up.
- A reasonably amusing fable about husbands, beer, Germans and (not) rushing to hasty conclusions.
8.5
187 1887-01 Darkness peasant misery A young peasant stops a doctor comIng out of the hospital of a provincial town to beg him to let his brother, a convict who had been brought to the prison for treatment, be released so that he can work the family forge and feed his mother and family who are all starving for want of resources. The doctor dismisses him as he has no authority to do any such thing, and then the peasant walks twelve miles to another town where he had been told that the person responsible for peasant affairs resides. To no avail of course, and the story end with the peasant and his elderly father uselessly prostrate in the snow before the doctor once more pleading for his help in getting the convict released.
- A terribly dark image of the way uneducated peasantry of the time lived on the borderline of extreme hunger and even starvation.
8.5
188 1887-02 Polinka frustrated love Polinka is shopping in an elegant drapery establishment where she requests that Nikolay Timofeitch takes her order. When he arrives, in between discussion of various articles for Polinka and her mother, the two converse in low terms, one reproaching the other for no longer coming to see her, the other explaining that there is no point since the she goes out regularly on walks with a student who he is convinced has only one thing in mind for her and that is not marriage – especially since students in those days did not have the right to get married (!). A perfect dialogue of the deaf, that cannot and does not end happily.
- A clever sketch with a very solid emotional background in spite of its high-spirited commercial spiel in the foreground.
8.5
189 1887-02 Drunk critique of the rich We follow Frolov, an extremely wealthy, boorish and unhappy man as he flings money around in a very fancy restaurant, drinking far too much, eating practically nothing and grossly insulting the servants and the various performers in the restaurant that he has reserved for himself and his lawyer, a close friend. To whom he ends up confessing the root cause of his repulsive rage – he no longer loves the woman he had married only two years previously. With a problem like that nothing can be done by the friend or the restaurant personnel – he must eventually just go home and continue his miserably rich existence as best he can.
- A terribly negative portrait of the wealthy crust of society, convincingly portraying however the extent to which Russian exuberance can and did and probably still does go when fused with an explosive mix of massive wealth, massive amounts of alcohol and the intensely Russian form of melancholy.
8.5
190 1887-02 An Inadvertence A Rash Thing to Do medical farce Describing the state of the normally sedate Pyotr Petrovitch on coming home at two o’clock in the morning from a christening party, the author remarks “Spirituous liquors are like sea-water and glory: the more you imbibe of them the greater your thirst.” Pyotr, a widower living with his sister-in-law Dashenka, a strict old maid, decides to have one last drop of vodka and takes a drink from the bottle in the dark to avoid waking up the household. Instantly he feels his insides exploding and he collapses in terror, smelling the distinctive odour of paraffin and realising that his last moments had come. Staggering into Dashenka’s room for help, he only succeeds is getting her outraged by his effrontery at having drunk the paraffin without her permission, so he decides to go to a doctor’s for help. But as “a doctor is only readily found when he is not wanted”, that is easier said than done, as none of them answer the door and even the pharmacist refused to help because, according to the documentation that he grumpily consulted at length, it was a purely medical question. The next morning he was still alive, but had to listen to Dashenka endlessly criticising the inferior quality of the paraffin that she had been provided with.
- A mildly amusing medical comedy.
7.5
191 1887-02 Verochka Verotchka unrequited love Ivan Alexeyitch is leaving his hosts on a late-summer evening after having spent several months with them on a mission for the government. Used to Petersburg lodgings and the hectic pace of life in the big city, he has been enchanted by the warm hospitality of his host and his young daughter Verotchka, by the home-made wine that had been flowing freely, by the beauty of the surrounding fields and forests and the charm of summer in their splendid countryside.
The daughter walks with him along the road to town when he has finished his good-byes, and when they pause she breaks down in an impassioned avowal of her love and admiration of him. But Ivan Alexeyitch, a lonely bachelor of twenty-nine, has had little experience with women, finds that “by declaring her love for him she had cast off the aloofness which so adds to a woman’s charm”, and cannot find it in his heart to respond in kind to her, even though he “frankly acknowledged to himself that it was not the intellectual coldness of which clever people so often boast, not the coldness of a conceited fool, but simply impotence of soul, incapacity for being moved br beauty, premature old age brought on by education, his casual existence, struggling for a livelihood, his homeless life in lodgings.”. And life went on for both of them.
- A powerful, and poetical text, one of the master’s finest.
10
192 1887-02 Shrove Tuesday a day at home We follow the household routine as Pelageya Ivanovna awakens her husband to help their son Styopa with his arithmetic, which he tries to do although the difficulties of dividing fractions by other fractions rapidly gets him most confused. We see him aimlessly trying to help Styopa avoid yet another mark of one (out of five), we listen to him tell stories of his own schoolboy years, we see tea being served and the cook coming in to pay her respects to the members of the family, and we realize that this is the last day before the seven-week fasting period of Lent. That’s it!
- A sort-of-interesting account of one day in the life of a typically bourgeois family of the time, but unsatisfying nevertheless.
6
193 1887-02 A Defenceless Creature comedy of incomprehension A lady comes to the office of the bank manager Kistunov to ask for reimbursement of a sum that had been unduly taken from the pay of her husband, and Kistunov patiently explains to her that her husband was employed by the army and that this is a bank. But the lady persists, explaining that she has already been refused several times, that no one knows where she should go, that she is poor and hungry, and so on and so on. Finally Kistunov asks each of his staff in turn to deal with her, but to no avail as she continues to ramble on endlessly at cross-purposes. Out of desperation, K. finds a solution to her problem, to everyone’s satisfaction but his own.
- A Kafkaesque comedy forty years before The Castle, odd and somehow amusing and even touching.
8.5
194 1887-03 A Bad Business graveyard drama The night watchman in a village graveyard finds an old man wandering around who says he is a pilgrim. He tries to accompany him to the exit but there are problems, the old man is not as inoffensive as he seems to be, there is an eerie atmosphere in the cemetery, and the watchman realises that he is in serious trouble.
- A suitably troubled atmosphere for a cemetery story at midnight.
8
195 1887-03 Home bringing up children Yevgeny Petrovitch, the prosecutor of the circuit court, comes home to be told by the governess that his seven-year old son Seryozha has been found smoking. He summons the boy, remembering the harsh punishments that used to be dealt out for such misdemeanours in his own youth (thrashings, expulsion from school) and explains rationally to the boy that smoking reduces the number of years one lives, but the boy doesn’t seem to be paying much attention and continues drawing images and playing with his father’s beard. The father, who is at a loss how to deal with the motherless boy, then tells him an invented fable involving a castle and a boy of his age whose only fault was that he smoked, so that the boy died and his father had no one to help him and robbers came and destroyed the palace and its beautiful gardens.
- Interesting but not all that convincing.
8
196 1887-03 The Lottery Ticket get-rich dream Ivan Dmitritch sits down to read the evening paper and notices right away that the winning lottery number starts with the same four digits as his own ticket. He and his wife try, initially unsuccessfully but then with more and more gusto, to imagine what they could possibly do with the 75,000-rouble prize money. But then Ivan realises that the ticket is in his wife’s name, that she would be a difficult travel companion and would probably begrudge giving him money while showering it upon her numerous relatives who would all come running for it. They each start to hate the other for wanting to monopolise the winnings and feelings rapidly deteriorate until they finally find that the last two numbers were wrong after all. Their cozy life all of a sudden took on a much darker, sombre and depressing aspect.
- A modern-sounding and quite believable tale
8.5
197 1887-03 Too Early! hunting episode Slyunka and Ryabov, two peasants, passionately plead with the inn-keeper Semyon to let them have the gun that Slyunka had pawned there, so that they could go out to shoot snipe, but to no avail. The two sportsmen go out anyway to watch the rooks and the cranes flying overhead, hoping to see the long-awaited snipe come back too.
- An interesting evocation of the passion for hunting among country folk on all of the rungs of the social ladder, and a nice portrait of the autumn landscape teeming with life.
8.5
198 1887-03 Typhus medical tragedy Lieutenant Klimov is travelling home on the train and becomes increasingly uncomfortable, hot and feverish, dreaming in patches of being comfortably in his bed at home, looked after by his beloved sister Katya and his faithful orderly Pavel. Eventually he does arrive home and is carried to bed, where Katya, Pavel, a doctor and a priest all intensely take care of him. When he eventually survives the attack of typhus, he finds out that his dear sister hadn’t – she had died helping him.
- A terribly moving tale of disease and death, told most originally through the eyes of the survIving sufferer.
9
199 1887-03 In Passion Week a youthful religious experience We participate in the key events of the Easter Week ceremonies, notably the ritual of confession and the Easter Day service, through the eyes of a devout young boy.
- An interesting peek into the mindset of the young faithful believers of the time.
8
200 1887-04 A Mystery satire of spiritualism The senior civil servant Navagin is perplexed to find in the list of his visitors on Easter Sunday the name of an unknown person, Fedyukov, whose name had appeared on the annual list for the past thirteen years. Unable to identify the mysterious visitor, Navagin appeals to his wife, an adept of spiritualism, for help and she engages in conversation with the spirit of the departed Fedyukov most successfully. Soon she has Navagin immersed in the rituals of spiritualism, studying supernatural phenomena every day, until he finally writes a huge opus on the subject and he is on the verge of sending it off for publication when he discovers the banal truth about the mysterious Fedyukov’s identity.
- A scientific man’s amusing denunciation of the vogue for spiritualism that was so important at the time.
8
201 1887-04 The Cossack moral parable The recently-married farmer Tortchakov is driving home across the countryside with his wife after the Easter service when he encounters a Cossack sitting on the ground beside his horse too ill and famished to carry on, who begs him for a piece of the Easter cake that he has had blessed during the service. Tortchakov’s wife indignantly refuses to cut into the blessed cake so they carry on, but the next day, filled with remorse, Tortchakov sends the servants out with food and a piece of the cake for the Cossack, who is nowhere to be found. Feeling guilty because of his lack of charity, he quarrels bitterly with his wife for the first time, and takes to drinking more and more regularly. From then on things went steeply downhill for the whole household.
- A parable with a religious and even superstitious overtone.
8.5
202 1887-04 The Letter sinful sons A very stressed church deacon explains to his reverend father that his son has renounced his religion and is living in sin with an unmarried woman, so the articulate senior priest dictates a stern letter of rebuke to his son for him. Delighted with the letter the deacon adds some local news in a friendly manner at the end, spoiling the whole moral effect of the missive. 8
203 1887-05 An Adventure
(A Driver’s Story)
moral fable A cab-driver tells a passenger the story of how his father had fallen victim to robbers after bragging in a café that he was taking five hundred roubles of rent-money to town. He had been accosted by thieves afterwards, but not before he confiding the money to his little daughter who fled through the surrounding trees. She lost her way though, and finally came to a cabin where a woman gave her shelter and food and listened to her story. Unfortunately this was the home of the chief of the robbers and the woman gave them the money when they arrived after having killed the father while searching for his money. The story doesn’t end there, though, because the robbers, who spent the night drinking to celebrate their success, had underestimated the resourcefulness of the little girl.
- A hard tale about nasty people who do get their comeuppance in the end, fortunately.
8
204 1887-05 The Examining Magistrate infidelity drama An examining magistrate tells a doctor while they are driving to an inquest that “there is a great deal that is enigmatic and obscure in nature; and even in everyday life one must often come upon phenomena which are absolutely incapable of explanation.” When the skeptical doctor declares that there”s no effect without a cause and that if there’s a death there must be a reason for it, the magistrate proceeds to tell him of a woman who had for months predicted the exact date upon which she would die. The doctor insists that there had to be a cause, and it turned out that the lady was with child and that she had died the day after giving birth. When the doctor declared that she had probably poisoned herself as soon as the baby was born the magistrate admitted that the story was about his own wife, who had found him with another woman during her pregnancy. End of friendship between the magistrate and the doctor.
- A rather distressing tale of deceit.
8
205 1887-06 Aborigines anti-racist sketch An excessively grumpy retired lieutenant of Polish extraction heaps insults on his Russian tenant and neighbours all day long, notably treating them as lazy, good-for-nothing “aborigines”, in the company of the architect Finks, of German extraction, who listens to his twaddle all day long, plays endless games of cards with him, and finally goes home late in the evening after having had a three-hour siesta. The pensioner finally goes to bed venting his spleen on the furniture in the room. Neither man has been an example of anything to anyone.
- No doubt intended as a satire on national caricatures, the racist tone of the lieutenant’s diatribes is hardly to the taste of the modern reader.
4
206 1887-06 Volodya drama of depression Volodya is a frail seventeen-year-old student thinking about the critical exam the following day that could result in his expulsion from school, about his inferior social position at the house of the Shumihins where he and his mother are guests, and about the attractiveness of the Shumihins’ thirty-year-old married cousin. When the lady in question appears dressed in a towel fresh from bathing she taunts him about his shyness as he is at a total loss for words. When he does stammer out three intimate words and grasps her around the waist she only laughs, tells him he needs to be more charming and goes on her way. He deliberately misses the train back to town that night;has another encounter with the lady in the middle of the night, and definitively misses his examination the next day by over-sleeping. On going back to town in the train with his mother they quarrel bitterly and things go from bad to worse to definitively catastrophic.
- A dark tale about awful people that ends awfully.
7
207 1887-06 Happiness Fortune peasant dialogue Two shepherds on the steppe in the middle of the night exchange thoughts with an overseer who has stopped nearby. The talk is centred on evil spirits and the treasures that they are all convinced lie hidden below the many ancient burial mounds scattered about the steppe, and about how evil spirits prevent men from uncovering those treasure, although the older shepherd cannot tell the others just what he would do with the treasure that he is looking for.
- A poetical description of the vast Russian steppe at night, steeped in mystery and superstition.
8.5
208 1887-06 Bad Weather marital drama Nadyezhda and her mother are playing patience and reading in the summer villa of Nadyezhda’z husband, the lawyer Kvashin, who has stayed in town to work and to avoid all the rain there has been in the resort area. After five days of his absence Nadyezhda decides to go into town to help the poor lonely man with his cooking and cleaning, and finds that the apartment had been locked up for five days although Kvashin had written that he never left the flat. But Kvashin arrives the next evening with a good story to explain his absence from the apartment and all is well again.
- A straight-forward tale of marital unfaithfulness, hardly redeemed by the gullibility of the woman and definitely blackened by the man’s mental contempt for her and her mother as “tradesmen’s wives”.
7
209 1887-06 A Drama A Play melodramatic farce A well-known author is visited by a lady unknown to him who begs him profusely to let her read him a play of hers, and out of weakness of character he submits to the request, even though the only works that have ever interested him are his own. Her play turns out to be an interminable love-melodrama of the most boring kind, but the author does not have then courage to stop her, and ultimately in a fit of desperation he resorts to violence.
- A silly satire of would-be writers.
5
210 1887-06 First Aid First a (tipsy) sergeant-major and then a well-meaning gentlewoman intervene to help a group of peasants try various methods to fully revive a drunken peasant who had fallen into the river and had only barely been rescued in time. But to no avail, or rather because of the ineffectual and violent remedies applied by one and all to the poor man he doesn’t survive the treatment inflicted upon him.
- No doubt intended as a critique of inappropriate traditional methods of first aid, as a story it lacks both humour and humanity.
6
211 1887-07 A Transgression marital farce The dignified collegiate assessor Miguev remembers being accosted on the street the week before by his former servant Agnia, who had threatened to leave her baby on his doorstop and to reveal all to his wife, accompanied by a demand for five thousand roubles. He discovers shortly afterwards a tightly-wrapped baby asleep on his doorstep, and at first decides to deposit it himself on the doorstep of a friend, but at the last moment, looking at the baby and imagining its future, he has regrets and brings it home, confessing his fault to his wife and begging her forgiveness before rushing out of the room. But there has been a misunderstanding.
- A farce on a theme that is hard to laugh about in general and here too.
7
212 1887-07 From the Diary of a Violent-tempered Man Notes from the Journal of a Quick-Tempered Man marriage comedy A high-minded and very irascible professor strives unsuccessfully to concentrate on his work in the face of constant social harassment by his female neighbours who can’t understand why he isn’t married yet.
- This tale investigating male frailties faced with female wiles and willpower stands out as a small masterpiece of comic fiction.
9
213 1887-07 Uprooted
(An Incident of My Travels)
encounter at a monastery The narrator remembers a long conversation with a young man, recently-converted to Orthodoxy from the Jewish faith, at the great monastery in the Holy Mountains in the Ukraine, where thousands of people had congregated for the yearly festivities there. The young man had a restless, tortured spirit, was constantly on the move, and deeply impressed the narrator with his eternal quest for what might be called enlightenment.
- A fascinating account of the atmosphere at major pilgrimages in the Russian Empire at the time.
9.5
214 1887-07 A Father son and father Musatov, the black sheep of his family, is a very dissolute old man who has come to his son’s lodgings to borrow ten roubles, promising to pay him back the following Tuesday. When the son dutifully obliges, the man confesses that he was lying about the repayment and launches on a lengthy monologue decrying his drunken habits and how he shamelessly exploits the good will of his children. The son patiently listens, gives his father new boots, and accompanies him home in a cab, interrupted by several stops when the father rushes into taverns for more drinks. Finally he has tea at his father’s shabby home, all the time listening to further confessions of dissolution and drunkenness.
- A moving story of filial respect and fatherly disrespect.
9
215 1887-07 A Happy Ending matchmaking Semyon Ivanovitch, a severe head-guard of fifty-two, explains to Lyubov Grigoryevna, an experienced matchmaker who has come for a visit while he was off duty, that “a married man has always more weight in society than a bachelor... I am a man of the educated class, with money, but if you look at me from a point of view, what am I? A man with no kith and kin, no better than some Polish priest.” He proceeds to outline his feelings with regards to pretty women (too worrisome), thin women (not plump enough), educated women (too opinionated and can’t sew), wealthy women (he wouldn’t want to marry one for money), poor women (raising children is expensive) and so on, all the time plying the lady with wine, until a mutually satisfactory solution is found.
- An amusing exploration of an eternal theme.
9
216 1887-08 In the Coach-House The Coach-House suicide story Alyosha, an eight-year-old boy, is playing cards with his grandfather, a coachman at a fine mansion, the house porter and an old salt-herring merchant, all of whom every now and then comment on the day’s big event, the suicide of the father of the house, an only son. Severe comments are made about suicides and how they must be refused church funeral services, and a story is told of how a young nobleman who had shot himself howled constantly in his grave after his mother had bribed the authorities to let him be buried there. That night Alyosha hears howling and is terrified.
- An interesting account of popular superstitions and attitudes towards a very dramatic subject.
8.5
217 1887-08 Zinotchka love and hate A group of sportsmen is spending the night in a peasant’s hut and they have been endlessly talking about dogs, women, first love and snipes when the stoutest of them all talks not about his first love but his first hate. He was eight years old at the time and had taunted his governess and his brother after seeing them kissing each other, and had earned the undying hatred of the young woman when he revealed their secret to his very strict mother.
- A good tale about a bad boy.
8
218 1887-08 The Doctor death and parenthood An eight-year-old boy is dying of a brain tumour (!) and the doctor, who doesn’t know how to comfort the mother, an old friend, asks her to tell him at long last whether her husband really is the father of the boy (!!) or whether it is in fact one of the two other men who are also secretly supporting her (!!!).
- Too much melodrama, no matter how artfully told, is just too much!
7
219 1887-08 The Siren magistrates thinking about dinner A group of magistrates has come out of a congress and pauses in a deliberation-room before taking off their uniforms and going home for dinner. The chairman of the congress starts rapidly writing his dissenting opinion on the case they had been analysing and a philosophically-minded judge stands aloof at a window thinking pessimistic thoughts, when the secretary of the session starts talking about food and the best way to prepare a large number of dishes. The chairman gets distracted from his dissertation, some go out with a hungry expression on their faces, and finally they all rush out exasperated by the secretary’s incessant chatter about food and then beauties and finally politics.
- A scintillating series of mouth-watering descriptions of a great many savoury dishes.
8.5
220 1887-08 The Reed-Pipe  The Pipe  ecological pessimism A hunter encounters an elderly shepherd playing monotonously on his reed-pipe in the woods while surveying his herd, and listens as the old man laments at length on the way everything in nature is going to ruin.
- A particularly gloomy forecast of the future of the natural world.
8
221 1887-09 An Avenger marital farce Pavel has just found his wife in flagrante delicto with another man and had gone to a gunsmith’s to buy a gun with which to get his revenge. He can’t quite make up his mind if he wants to shoot both of them and then commit suicide, just the two of them, or only himself, and the gunsmith extolls the virtues of the different makes for the different purposes. He even contemplates doing nothing, but is embarrassed to have taken up so much of the gunsmith’s time and realises that he can’t just simply leave without buying anything. He finally makes a decision.
- A spoof that seems to have lost its sting, if it ever had one, with the passing of time
7
222 1887-09 The Post night-time rural ride The nephew of the local postmaster gets a free ride in the middle of the night on a postal-wagon that is on its way to the train station. He admires the scenery and the difficulties of the terrain as they flash along; they almost have an accident; and he is unable to strike up a conversation with the surly driver who resents his presence. That’s all.
- A nicely-described drive in the starlit Russian night, nothing more.
7
223 1887-09 The Runaway the plight of the poor Pashka, a seven-year-old boy and his mother had walked to the hospital in the rain cross-country at night, then waited for two hours for the doors to open, then for a long time in the waiting-room. When Pashka was finally examined the doctor berates the mother for not having brought him sooner as his arm was so badly infected – she had let him rot for six months – that he had to be operated on and Pashka, who had never before been separated from his mother, had to stay there overnight. Wandering around the different wards he saw terrible things and ran out of the hospital in the evening in terror. We don’t know what happened in the end to Pashka – probably an amputation – but we do know that the doctor did find him before it was too late.
- A sensitive account of a poor peasant boy learning about death and disease the hard way, seen through his own eyes.
8.5
224 1887-10 A Problem a family scandal The three uncles of Sasha are holding a family council to decide what to do about a major family crisis: the twenty-five-year-old wastrel had forged a false promissory note for a considerable sum of money. Now that it is due, the family’s reputation will be ruined if the case goes to court and Sasha will go to prison, unless the family pays the debt. Sasha waits patiently outside for the verdict, not really caring which way it will go. When the kindliest of the uncles manages to get agreement on paying the debt, Sasha asks him for a hundred roubles so that he can go and celebrate with friends.
- A delicate portrait of the eternal conflict and contrast of goodness, badness, innocence, guilt, moral values and nihilism all in a few pages. Infuriating and fascinating at the same time.
9
225 1887-10 Intrigues a doctor’s persecution complex We follow the thoughts of Doctor Shelestov as he rehearses in front of a mirror the speech he intends to make at the meeting of his medical Association that has been summoned to judge an unspecified misdeed of his. We see how he intends to denounce the incompetence and faults of all of his enemies, apparently all of the other doctors on the committee of the Association not to mention the members of the Jewish faith, and how he dreams of turning the event in his favour by a coup d’état that would put him in power and enable him to purge the Association of his enemies. But the image he sees of himself in the mirror is not very impressive and as he leaves for the meeting he meditates bitterly on how one and all are intriguing against him.
- This doctor is a sick man! But his interior monologue is a juicy one indeed.
8.5
226 1887-10 The Old House
(A Story told by a House-owner)
portraits of people A house-owner doing a final tour of a large house about to be torn down recounts the many different kinds of people who have lived in the various room over the past many years.
- None of the stories are very gay, all have a melancholy tint of decline and decay.
8.5
227 1887-10 The Cattle-dealers The Cold Blood railway adventures of a cattle dealer An old man, accompanied by a lethargic grandson, is conducting eight van-loads of cattle – without fodder or water – on a long journey in winter to the big town far away and has to endlessly bribe the railway personnel to allow his vans to proceed on their way.
- This longish 7000-word story is certainly rife with realistic anecdotes about the trials and travails of transporting cattle by rail in the Russia of the times. But the evocative tale remains essentially anecdotal.
8
228 1887-11 Expensive Lessons romantic comedy Vorotov is a cultivated man who knows Greek and Latin but feels handicapped by not knowing French or German, so he engages a French teacher to come and give him lessons every day. She turns out to be an elegant and most attractive young Frenchwoman and Vorotov, presented as “having never seen virtuous Frenchwomen before … reflected that this elegantly dressed young lady with her well-developed shoulders and exaggeratedly small waist in all probability followed another calling as well as giving French lessons”, was easily distracted from the straight-forward reading lessons she gave him. Although he did once start to make a declaration to her, her startled reaction soon put an end to that but not to the fruitless lessons, as Vorotov just couldn’t bear being without her delicious presence.
- Amusing but somewhat inconclusive, and excessively simplistic about young ladies in general and young French ones in particular.
8
229 1887-12 The Lion and the Sun satire of the love of medals Kutsyn, the mayor of a town just this side of the Urals who has a bee in his bonnet about collecting medals, goes quite bonkers when a Persian magnate visits the town and he starts dreaming about acquiring the Persian Order of The Lion and the Sun. So although the magnate doesn’t speak a word of Russian and Kutsyn doesn’t know any foreign languages, he manages to repeatedly wine and dine the visitor and to escort him around the city day and especially night. He does manage to achieve his aim, but then he starts dreaming of a Serbian order.
- A somewhat heavy-handed satire on officialdom and the magic of official honours.
7.5
230 1887-12 In Trouble A Misfortune tragicomedy about corruption The whole town is talking about the arrest of the bank manager and most of his staff and the merchant Avdeyev is as vociferous in his criticisms as any. When it is pointed out to him that he is on the committee of the auditors of the bank whose report he signed, he explains that he can hardly read and knows nothing about accounts. The reader is not surprised to learn that Avdeyev’s turn will soon come.
- A satire of commercial mores with a distinctly juvenile touch.
7
231 1887-12 The Kiss

7,600-word novelette
the unromantic life of an artillery officer An artillery brigade arrives in a village on their way to camp and the officers are invited for tea by the elegant local landowner. All nineteen officers duly join in the outing and are regaled by tea, drinks, delicacies, wine, elegant conversation and dancing with the numerous ladies of the household that is full of guests. We follow one officer, short and rubicund and almost middle-aged, practically an outcast among his fellow officers, as he wanders around the huge mansion and is actually kissed in the neck in the dark by one of the ladies of the house, who seems to have mistaken him for another. He spends the rest of the story wondering who that delicious person might have been.
- A delicate evocation of the manners of the time in polite society - and of the unhappy destiny of an unhappy man.
9.5
232 1887-12 The Boys Boys boys’ adventure story Young Volodya arrives home for the Christmas holidays with a somewhat mysterious friend, Lentilov, a thin, dark, reserved fellow. Instead of joining in the preparations for Christmas the two boys spend all their time poring over maps of Eastern Russia and America: as Volodya’s sisters discover by spying on them, they are planning to run away to America to find gold and ivory and become pirates. They do set out on Christmas Eve but don’t get very far before being brought back, much to the relief of the parents, needless to say. On parting with his mother who has come to fetch him, Lentilov signs in the eldest daughter’s book his name as “Montehomo, the Hawk’s Claw, Chief of the Ever Victorious.”
- An odd account of the mentality of adolescent boys.
7
233 1887-12 Kashtanka
(A Story)

7,700-word novelette
In Learned Society a dog story Kashtanka is a fox-like female mongrel dog that one day during an outing with her carpenter master has gotten lost after he had gone into one too many taverns. She had been found by a kindly man who gave her shelter in a back room where he also kept a cat and a gander that he had trained to perform stunts, that he took with him for performances where the man was a clown. He also trained Kashtanga to do tricks too. One day the gander was fatally stepped on by a horse, and Kashtanga was taken to replace it at the circus act – but right away there was a cry of recognition and she was reunited with the carpenter and his little boy.
- A nice little story perhaps somewhat too uneventful to be very impressive.
7
234 1887-12 A Lady’s Story Natalia Vladimirovna unrequited love The lady of the story recounts how she has been riding gaily through the woods nine years before in hay-making time with Pyotr Sergeyitch to fetch the letters from the train station. They had then raced back to her home in front of an oncoming storm, which they contentedly watched from the safety of her veranda. Pyotr declared on the spot that he loved her and she reciprocated in like – but there was an insurmountable social barrier between them: he was only a plebeian and she was a noblewoman. Nine years later when both of them are lonely and single and meet again, she realises that her life had been wasted and regrets that he hadn’t insisted more that rainy day nine years previously.
- A touching tale touchingly told.
9
235 1887 Boa Constrictor and Rabbbit a seducer’s technique An experienced rake explains to his guest his quasi-irresistible technique for seducing attractive wives, involving making incessant compliments about the lady to her own husband, whom one arranges to meet regularly by accident, in such effusive terms that he invariably repeats them to the lady. After a while he tells the husband that he is terribly depressed and is contemplating suicide at night in a park, so the lady out of the goodness of her heart goes out there to save him, and voilà!
- Clever and even convincing.
8.5
236 1888-01 A Story Without a Title moral-monastical parable A tale of an isolated, self-sufficient monastery in the fifth century living in lush surroundings in a beautiful forest separated by a difficult desert from the nearest town over fifty miles away, with a saintly old Father Superior who spoke wonderfully and played the organ most movingly. One day a drunken hunter who had lost his way came to the monastery, told them of all the sin and evil-doing and faithlessness that was rife in the town, and urged the monks to go there and preach the good word rather than just eating and drinking their fill in their comfortable little corner of paradise. The Father Superior goes there to remind the townspeople of the Christ that they had forgotten, and when he comes back three months later he promptly shut himself up in a cell without eating or drinking for seven days and nights. When he describes in detail to the monks the sinful things he had seen in the town, they all abandoned the monastery to go to the town too.
- A powerful but perhaps too cynical parable about the attractiveness of sin.
8
237 1888-01 Sleepy Let Me Sleep;
Sleepyhead
nursing drama Varka, a thirteen-year-old nurse, is trying to rock a little baby to sleep in her cradle but the baby persists and Varka gets sleepier and sleepier while she is trying to quieten the baby. She is brutally awakened by a blow on the head from the master of the house because she had fallen asleep and the baby is still crying. All night she tries to stay awake while rocking the baby, and in the early morning, still dead tired, she carries out an extensive series of household duties and then is again charged with rocking the screaming child to sleep. In a state of exhausted hallucination she puts a final end to the baby’s wailing by strangling it and then lying down for a sound sleep at long last.
- A powerful tragedy most convincingly narrated.
9
238 1888-02 The Steppe
(The Story of a Journey)

39,000-word novella
a boy’s long journey on the steppe The long journey of Yegory, a young eight-year-old boy travelling with his uncle and a priest on an ancient carriage across the Ukrainian steppe to a distant town where he will go to school. On the way they meet a wagon-train driven by peasants with whom the young boy travels most of the way to his final destination, while the uncle goes off in search of a buyer for his wares
We see the sights and sounds of the steppe in the day and at night – the birds, the animals, the winds and the storms and the rivers and the fish – and we listen with Yegory to the talk of the peasants and their quarrels and their tales, especially of bandits and robberies and murders, and we are plunged intensely into the atmosphere of that vast and populous land.
- A simple and straightforward tale, lovingly narrated in subtly poetical terms by a writer who loved that land and its people. A quiet masterpiece
10
239 1888-05 Lights

15,000-word novelette
conversation late at night in a railway camp The engineer Ananyev is working late at night with his assistant and the narrator, a casual visitor to their worksite in a railway camp. As they plan the next day’s work there is debate about the value of what they are doing and indeed of the value of any worldly endeavour in view of the inevitability of death and destruction at some point: what is the meaning of life anyway? This sort of thing continues in an expansive, enthusiastic, almost emotional, rather Russian way for some good time, and to illustrate how as a younger man he himself had harboured similar nihilistic thoughts, the engineer recounts his heartless seduction of a despairing woman he had met by chance in a resort town many years previously.
- A long, intense, complex work of considerable force.
9
240 1888-06 An Awkward Business Trouble;
Worldly Trifle
medical drama Grigory Ivanovitch is an experienced doctor doing his rounds at the hospital who is so upset with his incompetent assistant for being inebriated on duty that he utterly loses his temper and strikes the fellow. The consequences of this act on the life of the hospital and on the career of the doctor and the assistant, and the play of forces at work in the hospital organisation and in the regional judicial system – for there are judicial consequences – are the marrow of this story.
- An interesting and intricate psychological analysis of the forces at work in the medical system of the time.
9
241 1888-09 The Beauties memorable youthful memories The narrator remembers two incidents in his youth when he had unexpectedly encountered remarkably beautiful adolescent girls, and the extraordinary influence each in turn had exercised on all of the youths and men who had caught a glimpse of them that day.
- Remarkably effective evocations of memorable moments.
9
242 1888-10 The Party

12,900-word novelette
The Name-day Party household drama We follow the thoughts of Olga Mihalovna, a highly educated young heiress who happens to be in an interesting condition, as she assumes her duties as hostess for a large group of people who have come to celebrate the name-day of her husband, a prominent and still youthful jurist with a particularly strong personality. She meditates increasingly bitterly on her handsome husband’s tendencies to bombast, on his opinionated political declarations, and particularly on his attractiveness to women. As the day progresses through dinner, tea, and supper and the guests finally leave after midnight, her stress and dissatisfaction evolve into a crisis of epic moral and physical dimensions.
- A fascinating account of a particularly unhappy day in the life of a sensitive, educated and wealthy young woman.
9.5
243 1888-11 A Nervous Breakdown

9,000-word novelette
The Seizure;
The Fit;
An Attack of Nerves
student dissipation Vassiliev, a sedate law student, is enticed one evening by his two best friends to come with them to the red-light district of Moscow. He goes along in a spirit of friendship but is severely depressed by what he sees and the sordidness of the people and the places they have visited. He meditates at length on the stupidity of the common people and the essential baseness of his friends who participate in the exploitation of the fallen women he saw that night, and returns home to ponder further on the state of humanity.
He returns to the district the next night though, to try to understand what he has seen and heard there, and the following day his friends find him in such a state of nervousness that they take him to a psychiatrist’s for medical treatment. Life carries on nevertheless.
- An interesting, in-depth, perhaps somewhat excessively wordy exploration of the eternal theme of fallen women in a very Russian, “philosophical”, intellectual kind of way.
9
244 1888-12 The Cobbler and the Devil  The Shoemaker and the Devil moral fable A poor cobbler exhausted by his work dreams that he had struck a bargain with an abusive client - who is in fact the devil in person - to sell his soul for riches, a new wife and a new life. But all good things must come to an end.
- A simple and basically simplistic fable impregnated with sympathy for the poor and with animosity for the arrogant rich.
8
245 1889-01 The Bet moral fable A banker remembers a conversation he had had fifteen years before with a student about capital punishment, when the student had expounded so vehemently on how preferable life imprisonment was to the death sentence that the banker had bet him two million roubles that he couldn’t possibly stand to spend a long period such as fifteen years in solitary confinement and would prefer anything to such a fate. The bet had been made, the student had spent fifteen years – that were drawing to a close the next morning – in solitary confinement with all the food, wine and books that he desired, without once having left the small room in which he had been confined. But now the banker feels differently about the prospect of losing such a sum...
- A nicely-told fable that somehow seems excessively intellectual and contrived today in spite of its lofty intentions.
7.5
246 1889-03 The Princess class tensions Princess Vera Gavrilovna arrives in a splendid carriage at the historic monastery of N—, converses animatedly and charmingly with the Father Superior, and tours the grounds in style, as she has been in the habit of doing for several years during the summer months. She likens herself to a graceful bird bringing joy and grace into the solemn institution as a songbird does alighting on a window-sill. On her walk she sees the doctor Mihail Ivanovitch, to whom she expresses her regrets for the loss of his wife the previous year. The conversation takes an unexpected turn though, as the doctor’s severe demeanour provokes her into probing his obvious lack of sympathy for her lamentations about the mistakes she had made since she had last seen him: the doctor tells her bluntly about what he and everyone else really think about her condescending and self-centred attitude towards everyone, her ineffectual acts of charity, her superficiality and in fact her essential worthlessness.
- Straight talk that rings ever so resoundingly down to us so many years later.
9.5
247 1889-04 A Forced Declaration No Comment mock theatrical sketch A one-page sketch wherein there is a first tiny scene in which a Countess and her lover are fleeing from the lady’s Count who is chasing them, and who catches up because the horse that the driver is furiously whipping suddenly dies (!). In a second even shorter scene the lover flees and the count rewards the driver with a hundred roubles that the driver refuses out of respect for the nobility (!!). This is followed by a letter from the sketch’s author listing a series of demands on the Society of Dramatic Writers that is in turn followed by a rebuttal from the Society in question.
- Complete nonsense!
3
248 1889-11 A Dreary Story
(From the Notebook of an Old Man)

24,000-word novella
A Boring Story;
A Dull Story;
A Tedious Story;
A Tedious Story from an Old Man’s Journal
intimate journal Professor Nikolay Stepanovitch, a famous professor of medicine, ponders at length on his unsatisfying life, his unloving family, his financial problems, his fatuous colleagues, his failing health and his insomnia, and recounts to the reader his surprisingly unhappy daily existence and notably his intense but essentially unsatisfying relationship with the one person who really counts for him, his god-daughter Katya.
- A quite extraordinarily intense, moving reflection on science and art and learning and values and on what makes life really worth living.
10
249 1890-04 Thieves The Horse-Stealers;
Robbers
drama in a lonely inn Yergunov, a hospital assistant, is returning one evening during Christmas week from an errand to make purchases for the hospital when he is caught in a snow-storm and loses his way. He finally comes upon an inn that he recognizes as being frequented by horse-thieves, but has no alternative but to take shelter there, where there are in fact two known horse-thieves as well as the attractive daughter of the house. She brings in food and wine and vodka, Yergunov exchanges stories with the fellows who drink much less than he does and who leave early on. When he tries to prevent them from taking his horse, that the doctor had lent him for his errand, the girl blocks the door and Yergunov loses his head, and soon after his job. The story ends rather badly for all concerned except the horse-thieves.
- An interesting excursion into the mindset of a poor soul lost in a cruel world.
9
250 1890-12 Gusev Goussiev sea saga Gusev, a simple and sometimes delirious discharged soldier, is coming home from the Far East in a hammock in the sick ward of a military ship, and he is suffering with the others in the ward from the continuing rocking of the ship, the pounding of the waves and the severe heat. He carries on a desultory conversation with his neighbour, a certain Pavel Ivanitch, who rallies incessantly against the system and the inevitable fate of the men in the sick bay, most of whom are dying. We follow Gusev and Ivanitch to the bitter end.
- A poignant portrayal of a simple man facing death uncomprehendingly far from home.
9.5
251 1891-06 Peasant Wives Women anecdotes of country life A travelling merchant comes into an inn with a little boy, an orphan he had adopted, and recounts to the innkeeper the dramatic tale of the little boy’s parents: how the mother had fallen in love with the merchant while the father was away in the army, how she had refused to go back to her husband when he returned, how she had been mercilessly beaten, how she had poisoned the husband and been condemned to imprisonment and died there. The story makes an impression on the innkeeper’s wife and his attractive young daughter-in-law, who are both miserable with their lot in life, and they dream of similarly getting rid of the awful men in their lives as the new day breaks out amidst shouting and insults and haggling over prices.
- A dark vision full of drama of life in the countryside, where all of the people portrayed, apart from the little boy, are pretty nasty human beings.
9
252 1891-12 The Duel

40,000-word novella
The Bad Good Man love drama We follow the stormy relationship of Laevsky, a youngish government official in a small Crimean town, with his common-law wife Nadyezhda, who had left her husband for him two years previously and with whom Ivan would like to break off relationships but lacks the courage and the finances to do so properly. So he asks – endlessly – for advice from his generous and warm-hearted friend the doctor Samoylenko, and debates – endlessly, in a very Russian way – with himself and with his entourage on the moral consequences of his various options and on the meaning of life, etc. His tireless self-indulgence and self-centredness provoke the enmity of an officer who has his eye on Nadyezhda, and in a frenzy of agitation about borrowing enough money to be able to flee to Moscow he insults the officer who is only too happy to demand a duel. That event changes everything for everyone in the story.
- A work of practically novel length (in English, but not in Russian, where it has 32,000 words), but clearly more a long story that has been stretched out by the numerous lengthy scenes of soul-searching and introspection, the tensions and mental anguish described so well that they almost succeed in interesting the reader in the fate of the fatuous central character.
8.5
253 1892-01 The Wife

18,000-word novella
My Wife marital relations The narrator, a prosperous engineer involved in writing the history of railroads, receives an anonymous letter about the famine that the peasants in the villages near to his estate are suffering from, and which begs him to do something to help them. He promptly summons his best friend and his wife, with whom he has been separated for two years and who is living an independent existence on the ground floor of his estate, to organise a relief committee. But he meets with unexpected resistance from his wife who accuses him if always wanting to control everything around him, and as the story progresses he learns more about her, about what his friends and neighbours think of him, and about himself.
- A powerful story artfully told with a very strong social content.
9.5
254 1892-01 The Grasshopper

10,000-word novelette
The Butterfly;
The Fidget
medical drama Olga Ivanovna is an artistic-minded young woman who has married Dymov, a very serious, very dedicated, very hard-working doctor who is most understanding of her tendency to incessantly visit and invite artists and musicians of all kinds, ceaselessly searching out the acquaintanceship of celebrities of all sorts. He even tolerates unflinchingly her vacation fling with a well-known artist who flaunts their relationship in front of him and his friends and who treats her more and more casually. She learns too late that the most celebrated person she had ever met was the man she had married.
- A fluid tale of flightiness with a subtle undertone of bitterness about the chasm between the artistic and the scientific worlds.
9
255 1892-04 After the Theatre a young girl’s fancy Nadya is a sixteen-year old girl who has just come back from the opera in a state of rapture, spending the rest of the evening in her room writing and then tearing up impassioned love letters in the style of “Eugene Onegin” to the two fellows, a student and a young officer, who have been courting her. She has a lot of fun doing so and is very happy to be sixteen, pretty and loved by handsome fellows. That’s it.
- A nicely-recounted moment of joyful youth, an impressionist sketch of a passing moment, with no story line whatsoever, though.
7
256 1892-04 Fragment A Fragment;
From the Notebook of a Country Squire
notebook comments A tiny 450-word selection of comments on birds, his housekeeper and virtue by a retired civil servant, found by a traveller in a roadside inn that used to belong to the civil servant in question.
- Can this really be considered a short story? It probably shouldn’t be, but it is fiction of sorts and it is entertaining in a very small way.
6
257 1892-05 The Story of a Commercial Venture how a bookstore became a successful business When Andrei Andreyevich inherited four thousand roubles from his mother he decided to open up a bookstore because his provincial town had gone astray in ignorance and prejudice, indulging in all kinds of practices except reading. For quite a while the only customers were his friends who came to borrow books, but then a potential customer came in to buy pencils which he didn’t sell, so he decided to add writing equipment and school supplies to the store’s offerings. Then a girl came in to buy stamps and he added postage and stamps, and so on – after a while he was selling a large variety of goods, and when the grocer next door was arrested for fraud he extended his shop and his trade to groceries too. Now when his friends ask him what he has read lately he replies that he now does more positive things.
- A short (2-page) spoof of the commercial trade.
7
258 1892-05 In Exile vignette of life in Siberia Two exiles in Siberia, an old man of sixty and a young Tatar, talk about their lives there. The older man has been in Siberia for a long time and is quite happy with his simple, carefree existence manning a ferry-boat, and he expounds on the positive side of the Siberian experience, while the young Tatar, who barely speaks Russian and is oppressed and shunned by one and all, is desperately miserable and dreams at length about his young wife from whom he had been taken away.
- An interesting peek into life in that vast land, sketchy and limited but nevertheless touching.
8
259 1892-06 A Fishy Affair fable about poets and publishers A carp fell in love with a beautiful maiden bathing in its pond and determined that nothing would be so nice as to die at her hands. He bit on her hook while she was fishing but survived the ordeal and went mad, and when a young poet came bathing in the pond our carp mistook him for the lovely young lady and kissed him on the back. This infected the poet with pessimism, an infection that he spread in the offices of his publisher. That is why all Russian poets thereafter were pessimists.
- A short two-page tongue-in-cheek fable that might have seemed charming in its day.
6
260 1892-06 Neighbours

7,600-word novelette
drama of illicit love Pyotr Mihalitch and his mother are devastated by what his young sister has just done – run away to live with an unmarried man, a middle-aged neighbour. Pyotr hesitates at first about what to do, then finally in a mood of anger sets off on horseback in a storm and in a stormy mood for a confrontation with the illicit couple, whose financial and social situation is very bleak. After much soul-searching discussion with the two of them there is a reconciliation of sorts and Pyotr returns home, a wiser and a sadder man.
- A moving tale of an intense moral confrontation that is a revelation of character and values for all parties concerned.
9
261 1892-06 Ward No. 6

20,000-word novella
Ward 6 drama of mental illness Progressively we are introduced to the five inmates of a particularly dirty, ill-kept ward for mentally-ill people in the hospital of a remote provincial town, to the brutal warden, and then to the well-meaning but ineffectual doctor who visits the patients daily and who is the central figure of this in-depth investigation into his long physical and intellectual decline.
- A text of considerable power in spite of the endless long and generally confused “philosophical” debates on moral and ethical values between the doctor and his favourite patient.
9
262 1892-12 Terror
(My Friend’s Story)
Fear marital drama The narrator recounts his last stay with his intimate friend Dmitri, when Dmitri had unburdened his heart about his terrible state of nerves in general and his terrible relationship with his wife in particular. That did not fall on deaf ears, as the narrator had been deeply attracted to Dmitri’s wife and had only hesitated to pursue the matter out of respect for their friendship. That evening, unforgettable, things came to a head.
- A beautifully-narrated account of passion and conflicting loyalties.
9.5
263 1893-00 The Story of an Unknown Man

30,000-word novella
An Anonymous Story;
The Story of a Nobody
semi-political drama of unrequited love The narrator is a highly-educated, well-off political activist/idealist suffering from consumption who knows that his days are numbered, and who for political reasons has taken a position as a footman in the house of the son of a political enemy, with the aim of learning the family’s secrets and if possible bringing about their downfall. The story rapidly turns into an account of the son’s lifestyle, his disinterest in anything political, his compulsive reading, his arrogance, his ironical attitude to everyone and everything around him, his dissipation and especially his tumultuous affair with the elegant and independently wealthy Zinaida, who is desperately in love with him and who soon leaves her house and home to descent on him and his inherently bachelor ways. The narrator, who sympathises with her frustration at the lack of warmth and understanding she receives, is so taken up with her that he intervenes when the inevitable crisis comes, and we follow them as they flee to Italy and the south of France fruitlessly seeking health and happiness.
- A strong story of conflicting ideas, ideals and emotions, beautifully recounted.
9
264 1893-12 The Two Volodyas marital drama Young Sofya has married the wealthy Colonel Volodya, thirty years her senior, partly for financial reasons – she didn’t have three roubles to her name beforehand – and partly to spite her girlhood idol, another Volodya. After a visit to her sister Olga, now a nun, she realises that she has been shallow and dishonest with herself and that she hates her husband and really does want to have relations, so to speak, with the other Volodya. That doesn’t work out as well as she had hoped, though.
- A well-told tale of shallowness, self-deception and frustration.
8.5
265 1894-01 The Black Monk

12,500-word novelette
a professor’s crisis Andrey Vallilitch has been worn out physically and nervously by his tireless university work and has been advised to spend the summer in the countryside to recuperate, which he does by visiting his former guardian Pesotsky, a famous horticulturist, and his daughter Tanya in their magnificent estate-nursery. The site is splendid and the welcome whole-hearted, but Andrey still spends too much time working and very little sleeping and has strange encounters with a supernatural figure, a black monk who descends from the skies to discuss values and ideals with him. His hosts are overworked and very highly strung too, and although Andrey and Tanya discover a mutual passion for each other, Andrey’s state of mental tension, dissatisfaction and anguish continues to get worse as his intellectual and physical health – he is increasingly consumptive – declines. A final encounter with the black monk puts an end to everything.
- A strange but moving and convincing portrait of psychic anguish and decline.
9
266 1894-01 A Woman’s Kingdom

16,000-word novelette
a day in the life of a heiress Anna Akimovna, who is nearing thirty and is still unmarried, has inherited from her uncle a large steel-products factory employing almost two thousand men, whose functioning she leaves to others while doing her best to spend as best she can the large sums of money that she regularly receives to (mostly) help the poor, with whom she empathises in view of her own proletarian upbringing. We are at Christmas time and she meets a young, handsome foreman during a charity visit distributing funds on Christmas Eve, whom she has trouble keeping out of her mind all the next day while she receives endless protocol visits from the town’s notables and the staff of the factory and while she discusses marriage and matrimony with her closest friends, with her maid and with the hired help in the kitchen. She finally faces up to the reality of her loveless life and the social impossibility of a serious relationship with the foreman.
- A sensitive portrait of a somewhat empty-headed and very privileged young woman.
- In this story there is the following interesting reference to Maupassant: Of all contemporary writers, however, I prefer Maupassant.” Lysevitch opened his eyes. “A fine writer, a perfect writer!” Lysevitch shifted in his seat. “A wonderful artist! A terrible, prodigious, supernatural artist!” Lysevitch got up from the sofa and raised his right arm. “Maupassant!” he said rapturously. “My dear, read Maupassant! one page of his gives you more than all the riches of the earth! Every line is a new horizon. The softest, tenderest impulses of the soul alternate with violent tempestuous sensations; your soul, as though under the weight of forty thousand atmospheres, is transformed into the most insignificant little bit of some great thing of an undefined rosy hue which I fancy, if one could put it on one’s tongue, would yield a pungent, voluptuous taste. What a fury of transitions, of motives, of melodies! You rest peacefully on the lilies and the roses, and suddenly a thought —a terrible, splendid, irresistible thought—swoops down upon you like a locomotive, and bathes you in hot steam and deafens you with its whistle. Read Maupassant, dear girl; I insist on it.”
8.5
267 1894-02 Rothschild’s Violin Rothschild’s Fiddle story of a life Yakov Ivanov, a poor, elderly and very religious man, ekes out a living making coffins in a small provincial town where not many people ever seem to die, and earns a few half-roubles on the side playing the fiddle in the town’s Jewish orchestra. Which he disliked doing because of the piercing, plaintive way the flute player Rothschild played everything, right beside him, so he developed a virulent hatred for Rothschild in particular and of Jews in general. But one day, as his wife Martha was taken ill and seemed to be rejoicing at the thought of escaping from her life of misery with him by dying, he started wondering about the way he had spent his life with her, and when after her death he too was taken ill and Rothschild came to ask him to play again in the orchestra, he called him brother, played one last time for him and bequeathed his precious violin to him on his dying bed.
- A simple but moving story of reconciliation and redemption, masterfully recounted.
10
268 1894-04 The Student a student’s thoughts Ivan comes home late in the evening on Good Friday after a day’s shooting and stops at the fireside of neighbours, two widows, where he recounts the story of how Peter renounced Jesus three time before the cock crowed, in accordance with Jesus’s prediction. As dawn breaks he reflects on the impact of the story on the widows and is struck with a sense of the continuity of history down through the ages.
- A brief meditation on religion and nature.
8
269 1894-07 The Teacher of Literature

9,200-word novelette
The Russian Teacher a teacher’s thoughts on life We follow the young teacher Nikitin as he hesitatingly courts Masha, an eighteen-year-old beauty with whom he is madly in love, as he finally works up the courage to kiss her and propose to her, as he gets married, as he contemplates his happiness and new-found material ease thanks to her dowry, and finally as he comes to grips with his mediocrity and his mediocre fate as a not-particularly-gifted teacher in an unimportant town far from the vibrant intellectual centres of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
- A very evocative, almost poetical description of the social life of the time in a small town that ends surprisingly abruptly with the central character’s sudden and somewhat surprising disillusioned introspection.
9
270 1894-08 At a Country House conversation about blue blood Pavel Rashevitch is entertaining a young magistrate, Meier, who is a potential suitor for one of his two unmarried daughters, and makes the grievous mistake of holding forth incessantly on one of his favourite subjects, the inherent quasi-genetic superiority throughout the ages of those with blue blood, the aristocracy. The guest tries leave after a while but Pavel insists that he stay for supper with his daughters, when he continues with his monologue. Not only does it upset the guest, who tells him that he is of plebeian origin and who finally leaves in a huff, but also his daughters who realize that the young man will never come back, and Pavel’s relations with his daughters will never be the same.
- Yet another example of the tendencies of so many of Chekhov’s characters to talk so much that not only the reader tires of them but everyone in the story too.
- We note in passing the prophetic declaration: “What out forefathers gained in the course of ages will be tomorrow, if not today, outraged and destroyed by these modern Huns...
7.5
271 1894-12 The Head Gardener’s Story The Head-Gardener’s Story fable on crime and punishment The narrator participates in a conversation after a flower-sale at a horticulturalist’s where, when the subject of crime came up, a Swedish gardener recounts a fable from his home country about how the murder of a particularly noble and beloved doctor was so incomprehensible to the citizens of the town that the magistrate decided to let the proven killer go free as a gesture of his faith in humanity.
- An admirable little fable about the need for faith in the essential goodness of human nature (?).
8.5
272 1895-00 His Wife  The Helpmate marital drama Nikolay, a surgeon with failing health - he has consumption (!) - discovers a telegram in his wife’s room from her lover in Nice and confronts her with it when she finally arrives home at five in the morning after yet another night out. She admits that she is in love with the fellow and wants to go to live with him, but when he offers her a divorce on her terms her attitude is surprising to say the least.
- A stark account of a stark situation, smoothly recounted.
9
273 1885-12 The Murder

12,000-word novelette
Murder religiosity Matvey, a former factory worker, is a devoutly religious man who loves singing and talking to one and all about his cherished religion. His cousin Yakov, who has inherited the family’s money and owns the tavern where Matvey sleeps, is also intensely religious but in an extremely individualistic way, performing his own services at home as he considers the church priests and their services to be impure. The difference of beliefs between the two is heightened by the constant reproaches of Matvey to his cousin and tragedy for all of them strikes when words turn to blows and Matvey ls fatally struck on the head during the struggle.
- A penetrating study of the ultra-religious mind, a surprisingly engrossing work of considerable power.
9
274 1895-00 Three Years
(Story)

35,000-word novella
marriage and its pitfalls Laptev, the wealthy son of a very successful Moscow businessman, is completely in love with Yulia Sergeyevna, who is some fifteen years younger than him, and after a first unsuccessful attempt to reveal his feelings for her he finally manages to brusquely blurt out a marriage proposal. Completely taken aback by this unexpected offer from someone so old, so ugly, and so unknown to her she initially refuses, but changes her mind the next day for material reasons. We follow them to Moscow where she begins to feel at home, especially with Laptev’s somewhat younger friends, although her feelings towards her husband have grown no warmer. They discuss a lot, she eventually has a baby, the baby gets sick and dies, they become reconciled and Laptev continues to wonder about life and love and what use it is having so much money.
- A long, a very long, a too-long tale of dissatisfaction and ennui, by far the least successful of the author’s longer works of prose fiction, in our humble opinion.
6
275 1895-10 Anna on the Neck The Order of St. Anne marriage and honours Anna is a young eighteen-year-old who has married Modest Alexeitch, a wealthy government official of fifty-two. She is dismayed on realising during their honeymoon trip to a monastery (!) that her husband is a terrible skinflint and that she has even less money after her marriage than before. But he does dream of honours and of gaining His Excellency’s favour, so when the yearly charity ball takes place he gives her money for a gown that she looks wonderful in. The tremendous success she has at the ball leads her to a whirlwind social life, her husband finally acquires the coveted Order of Saint Anne, and she has learned how to put her husband in his place.
- A fable with a certain charm and a certain bite.
8.5
276 1895-11 Whitebrow wolf story The story follows an ageing and famished she-wolf on the prowl for food for her three cubs as she breaks into the hut of the semi-senile forest surveyor Ignat and grabs in the dark what she mistakes for a lamb, only to find out that it is the large puppy-dog of the title, Whitebrow, all black with a white patch on the brow and scarcely edible, who follows her back to he lair and plays with her cubs. The next night she tries to break in again but the pup had followed her and jumps through the hole she had made in the roof, rousing all the animals and Ignat, who thinks that the pup had made the hole in the first place and trains him with smacks to go into the hut by the front door instead. That’s it!
- An animal story somehow lacking substance that can perhaps be regarded as a precursor of Jack London’s masterful stories about dogs and wolves only a few years later.
6
277 1895-12 Ariadne

10,000-word novelette
a lovely lady’s love affairs On a seamer from Odessa to Sebastopol the narrator is approached by a certain Shamohin, who declares to him that when Russians get together they always talk about women and abstract subjects because they are idealists. He proceeds to recount the story of his love for the vivacious young Ariadne, a neighbour near his father’s country estate who had run away with an older married man, Lubov, to live with him on a shoestring in Italy, borrowing money from everyone including Shamohin, who finally was summoned by her to join her there. Where the cynical Lubov, who “borrows” more money from him, comes up with the following memorable line: “To get on terms with a woman is easy enough, you have only to undress her; but afterwards what a bore it is, what a silly business!”. Shamohin went back to cold Russia, was summoned again by Ariadne to Rome where Lubov had abandoned her, they travelled around Italy as man and wife on funds sent by Shamohin’s father who had mortgaged all his properties for him, and finally they were on their way on this boat to southern Russia where he felt honour-bound to marry Ariadne even though there was no trace left of his old love for her. The story ends in Sebastopol with Shamohin hoping that Ariadne will be taken away from him by one of her many admirers.
- An fairly interesting story about fairly interesting people.
8
278 1896-04 The House With the Mezzanine An Artist’s Story;
A Painter’s Story
summer romance The narrator is an artist who is passing a particularly idle summer in a villa in the countryside. He discovers at the end of a tree-lined avenue nearby a large house where two young women live with their mother, and starts visiting them every day, arguing about values and art and science and society with the socially very active elder daughter and walking along the beautiful country paths with the younger sister. When he makes a declaration of love to the latter, she rushes off to talk things over with her family - and has left for good the following day with her mother, as ordered by the elder sister. The narrator never sees any of them again.
- A touching tale, with a strong infusion of poetics and politics, of what might have been (if only one hadn’t been so opinionated!).
9
279 1896-12 My Life
The Story of a Provincial

37,000-word novella
a nobleman becomes a worker The narrator is the black sheep of the leading architect of the town, in disgrace because he has been dismissed from nine different jobs. Earlier, his friends had advised him to either go into the army, work at a pharmacist’s or in a telegraph office, but now that he is over twenty-five and has done all of that most unsuccessfully, his family have pretty well given up on him. He himself can see no reason why he shouldn’t take up a manual working-class job in spite of his noble parentage, and for the essence of this account of his career he works as a labourer or a house-painter in spite of the violent opposition of his father and the general mockery of the town’s citizens, whom he despises because of their lack of culture, of morality and of elevated ideas. He lives in poverty and is happy to be applying his ideals of universal equality and the elimination of privilege to his own life, as he ceaselessly explains to one and all, notably to his sister, to his fellow workers, to his employers and to Misha, the woman in his life. He eventually marries her although that ends badly, and his sister has an affair with a married doctor that ends even worse. Finally we see how contented he is with his life as a working man, as he feels that he is showing the way towards humanity’s future.
- A long, too-long account of a life spent searching for meaning in the lower level of society, in spite of the material and social difficulties involved in that quest, a direction that no doubt touched a chord in many a reader in the Russia of the times, although probably less so in more recent days. But on the purely literary level it is undeniably flat, repetitive, wordy, uneventful and generally lacks the shine present in so many of the master’s other long later works of fiction.
7
280 1897-04 Peasants

13,000-word novelette
The Moujiks;
The Muzhiks
life in a poor village Nikolay, a waiter in a Moscow hotel, has been taken ill and has had to leave his job. Unemployed and penniless, he returns to his home village with his wife and little daughter, but life there is far from the snug memories he had retained from his childhood. They live with the rest of his large family in a small hut at the edge of a very poor village, where dirt, poverty, grossness, violence and alcoholism are everywhere. There is very little food, what there is is awful, foul language is the rule and the children, regularly beaten, are quite deprived of any proper education. At the end their lot is so bad that the survivors – Nikolay is not one of them – leave to look for work as servants in Moscow.
- A grim vision – some at the time, like Tolstoy, thought it was too grim – of the social situation in the countryside in pre-revolutionary Russia, realistically conveyed with talent and understanding.
9
281 1897-11 The Petcheneg The Savage;
The Petchenyeg
a night on a farm in the Ukraine A gentleman on a train in the Ukraine accepts the offer of his fellow traveller Ivan Zhmuhin, a retired Cossack officer, to stay the night at his home before continuing on his journey by carriage to a nearby village on legal business. After a long evening discussing life and values with Ivan and seeing the lifestyle of his family, he learns why they had been called Petchenyegs – savages – by a land surveyor who had also spent a night there several years previously.
- A fascinating account of the lifestyle in a Cossack farm in the Don valley.
9
282 1897-11 At Home returning home on the steppe Vera is a vigorous, well-educated young woman who returns to her family home on the steppe in the Ukraine after the death of her parents. It is as beautiful as she remembers, her aunt and her elderly grandfather greet her kindly and there are many neighbours and visitors, but the way of life is very different from the elegant big-city life she had been brought up in, the family finances are not brilliant, she does not fit in with the people she has to frequent, notably a close-mouthed manager of a nearby factory who seems very interested in her, and existential ennui sets in. She finds a way out of her unhappiness and dissatisfaction, though.
- An example of the master’s narrative art at its best.
9.5
283 1897-12 In the Cart The Schoolmistress a day in the life of a teacher in the countryside Marya Vassilyevna, who has been brought up in Moscow but has been a schoolmistress in a village for thirteen years, is driving to town to collect her monthly salary when her cart is overtaken by that of a neighbouring landowner, Hanov, a man of forty showing signs of decline although still handsome and even attractive to her. But the lot of a country schoolmistress is a difficult one, the material conditions are very poor, the roads are very bad, the peasants are reluctant to pay the costs, there is corruption everywhere, she is frustrated in her vocation at every turn, she does not get the recognition she knows she merits, and although the encounter wit Hanov sets off a long train of thought about her condition, life must carry on as usual, somehow.
- A most evocative account of a teacher’s lot in life in the provinces, a small masterpiece.
9
284 1898-02 All Friends Together A Visit to Friends;
With Friends
a man goes back to his past, unsuccessfully Podgorin, a thirty-year-old lawyer, receives a mail from Tatyana and Varya, two young women of his age with whom he had been very close ten years previously, asking him to come for a visit to Tatyana’s family home, where she lives with husband and two young children and her young sister Nadezhda. He feels obliged to go, knowing that the husband is a wastrel and a profligate and that they probably have financial problems. Which certainly is the case as they are bankrupt, the estate is about to be sold, and Ta and Va and Na are desperate at the prospect of being deprived of the ancient family home. They ask him for legal help, the husband asks him for a loan and the young sister would clearly like to bring him into their family. They talk, they dance, they sing, they recite poetry and go for walks, but Podgorin can’t help them and cuts short his visit the next morning.
- A sad story, even though the women in the story are impractical and the husband is a weakling and a loser, a story possibly symbolic of decline and loss of things in general and of past attachments in particular, recounted in a straightforward and realistic manner.
9
285 1898-07 The Man in a Case A Hard Case;
The Encased Man;
The Man in the Shell;
The Man in the Case
the mindset of a very conservative teacher Two sportsmen are spending the night in a barn and exchanging stories while they wait for dawn to break. One of them is a high-school teacher who tells how one of his colleagues, a teacher of ancient Greek, lived as if he were hiding from the world – wearing high collars and a low hat, never speaking to others during social visits, sleeping with curtains around his bed and above all being extraordinarily disapproving of anything that wasn’t in strict accordance with tradition and administrative and religious rules and regulations. He was unmarried, of course, and his colleagues and especially their wives decided one day to make a match for him with the gay, attractive sister of a new teacher in the town. Everyone participated in the effort, arranging outings and parties, and all was going well until the day when the young woman came riding by on a bicycle with her brother. That was too much modernity for the teacher of classical languages and believer in old-time ways, and the clash that followed with the brother put a definitive and quite tragic end to the story.
- A portrait of the life of teachers in a provincial community cleverly integrated into a fable about the pitfalls of conservatism.
9
286 1898-00 Gooseberries country life Two friends, Burkin and Ivan Ivanovitch, are walking through the countryside admiring the scenery when a rainstorm breaks and they seek shelter in the nearby farm of another friend, Alehin, who welcomes them warmly and provides them with a bath, a change of clothes and tea with jam. Ivan then tells them the story of his brother Nikolay, a modest civil servant in Moscow who had saved up all his life and then married an elderly heiress to be able at long last to achieve his life’s ambition of buying a country estate with its own garden and especially with his beloved and long-dreamed-of gooseberry bushes. His new life suited him admirably, but when Ivan went to visit him he found him to be a completely self-centred egotist putting on airs and perfectly adapted to the shallow, uncharitable life of a country notable.
- Very nicely evoking the Russian countryside, impregnated with a strong moral hue in favour of social justice not to say socialism, the story abounds in memorable phrases such as:
Once a man has fished, or watched the thrushes hovering in flocks over the village in the bright, cool, autumn days, he can never really be a townsman", and
“Once a man is absorbed by an idea there is no doing anything with him", and
Money, like vodka, makes a man queer”, and
A change to good eating and idleness always fills a Russian with the most preposterous self-conceit", and
the illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths” (Pushkin), and
a happy man only feels so because the unhappy bear their burden in silence, but for which happiness would be impossible.”.
9.5
287 1898-09 About Love Concerning Love unhappy love story With the charming phrase “from the window we could see a grey sky, trees drenched in the rain; in such weather we could go nowhere, and there was nothing for us to do but to tell stories and to listen”, the narrator proceeds to recount how his host, a hard-working landowner, tells his guests about the warm welcome he had received in the neighbouring town from a judge and his lovely and very friendly wife, and how he had waited – too long – to let the lady know how he really felt about her, just as she was leaving the town for ever with her husband and two children.
- A quite moving tale of repressed feelings that has a most authentic ring to it.
9
288 1898-09 Ionitch Ionych; Doctor Startsev small-town life When the doctor Dmitri Ionitch Startsev was appointed district doctor near the town of S---, he was informed that although there weren’t many distractions in the town there was a library, a theatre, a club and a number of interesting families, notably the Turkins, the leading citizens of the town. When he finally got around to visiting them he had a rather boring time listening to the father of the household telling jokes, to the mother reading her own novels, and to the daughter playing interminably and very loudly on the piano. The latter was attractive though, and he ended up becoming more and more fascinated with her although the feeling was not really mutual, and one night he actually proposed to her – to no avail as she had her heart set on getting away from the town and her parents and studying music in Moscow. That didn’t work out as planned, but by the time she came back to live with her parents, the doctor had become more prosperous and stouter and had learned to live without her.
- A sophisticated critique of small-town society and the people in it that no longer has the impact it might have had originally.
8.5
289 1898-12 A Doctor’s Visit A Case History;
A Medical Case
A doctor on a mission in a large factory A renowned doctor in Moscow is summoned by the owner of a large factory in the region to come to the aid of her ailing daughter, and sends his assistant Korolyov on the mission. Korolyov finds that the young woman, who lives alone with her mother and a governess, is healthy but neurasthenic, and stays the night at the factory at the pressing request of the anxious mother. He is struck by the eerie atmosphere of the gigantic garment factory, and has an intense dialogue with the young woman about the inherent fruitlessness of her mercantile and oppressive role in society. The visit ends inconclusively.
- A heartfelt and quite intense sociological critique of the inherent inequality of wealth in modern society, infused with lofty thoughts about the ideals of the younger generation such as “We, our generation, sleep badly, are restless, but talk a great deal, and are always trying to settle whether we are right or not" and “Life will be good in fifty years’ time … It would be interesting to have a peep at it.” and “Korolyov … thought of the time, perhaps close at hand, when life would be as bright and joyous as that still Sunday morning.”.
9.5
290 1899-01 The Darling a light-headed woman Olenka is a tender-hearted young woman appreciated by everyone and called affectionately by one and all “You darling!”. She falls in love with her lodger, a theatre manager, and enthusiastically takes up the life of the theatre, soon talking constantly like him about his problems with the theatre business, with the inclement weather, with the actors, and so on. But there was a void in her life when he died, that was rapidly consoled by a neighbour, a portly timber merchant, whom she married and with whom she similarly took up all his cares about the timber business to the exclusion of everything else. When he died in turn she got in the habit of conversing at length with a veterinary surgeon, with whom a relationship sprung up in spite of the fact that he was still married and had a son. She took up all his comments about animal diseases and was happy with him until he went back to his wife and son. Then when the surgeon came back with the boy she took in the young fellow, now a high-school student, incessantly repeating all his comments about the school and the teachers. But she was happy and was called “Darling” by the neighbours again.
- A slightly amusing fable about the feminine condition that has not well passed the test of time.
7
291 1899-01 The New Villa cohabitation with peasants The engineer Kutcherov is in charge of the construction of a new railway bridge and builds a villa nearby for his family. But although his wife tries to help the peasants in the neighbourhood, there are constant conflicts with them over encroachment of their cattle in his gardens and over petty thefts, and he and his family are considered to be unwanted strangers by the unruly, uneducated and poverty-stricken locals. When the bridge is finished he moves away and sells the villa to a local official, who is accepted by the peasants as a neighbour although he ignores them completely.
- A striking tale of class friction with a strong streak of realism not to say cynicism about the noble nature of the peasantry so dear to the hearts of the big-city intelligentsia of the time.
9
292 1899-01 On Official Duty On Official Business;
On Duty
a routine official enquiry A magistrate and a district doctor are detained by a snowstorm and arrive late in the village where they are on an official inquest into the suicide of an insurance agent, and are obliged to spend the night there to be able to interrogate the witnesses the following morning. The magistrate, a young man who had graduated only two years previously, decides after a moment of hesitation and a long conversation with the elderly local constable not to stay the night in the sinister council building where the suicide had taken place, and goes with the doctor to the house of a colleague nearby where they arrive in time for supper and card-playing, dancing and flirting with the numerous young women in the household. The storm becomes even more severe and it is only two days later that the magistrate and the doctor finally leave the haven of comfort – where the constable is treated with contempt by their hosts – to continue with the formality of the inquest.
- An intense and vivid meditation on the contrast between the sophisticated life in the metropolis and the simpler way of life, even for well-off and well-educated people, in remote districts.
9
293 1899-12 The Lady with the Dog Lady with a Lapdog;
The Lady with the Toy Dog
man meets lady on the seashore Gurov, a married man with a family, is on holiday on his own in Yalta where he is attracted to a woman who has just arrived there alone except for a small lapdog. He strikes up a conversation with her and proceeds to apply his practiced charm on her while accompanying her on excursions on the seafront and in the region. She succumbs, as expected, and they separate after a while when she is summoned back to her home by her husband. But when Gurov returns to his beloved big-city life in Moscow he starts to find things unexpectedly tiresome, and he realises that he misses the lady with the lapdog – to the extent that he seeks her out in her home town and renews their relationship, unexpectedly profound for both of them.
- A moving account of a relationship of surprising intensity, masterfully recounted. Without a doubt one of the master’s finest masterpieces.
10
294 1900-01 At Christmas Time a peasant writes to her daughter Vasilisa, an illiterate peasant woman, gets a local scribe to write a letter for her at Christmas time to her daughter Yefima, whom she hadn’t seen since she had left their village with her husband after their marriage four years beforehand to find work in Moscow. The letter arrives on New Year’s Day and we discover that Yefima now has three little children and dreams of returning to her home village, but lives in permanent terror of her authoritative husband who is a porter in a medical establishment and who keeps forgetting to mail his wife’s letters to her parents.
- A possibly caricatural excursion into the mindset of (very) uneducated poor folk of the time, no doubt of sociological interest but necessarily limited otherwise.
8
295 1900-01 In the Ravine

20,000-word novella
In the Hollow;
In the Gully
village life In the remote village of Ukleevo in the Ukraine (aka Little Russia) the only notable event that has happened over the past twenty years was when the deacon had gobbled up all four pounds of the caviar at a wedding. There are three cotton factories and a tanning-yard next to the village, where there is a grocer’s shop run by Grigory Tsybukin, who sells legally or illegally everything that there is a market for and who has a large family whose comings and goings are followed in detail throughout this saga.
- An in-depth account of life in a remote village, of considerable interest.
8.5
296 1902-04 The Bishop a bishop’s final days Bishop Pyotr is celebrating the service on the eve of Palm Sunday and is seized with such emotion by the occasion, by his general state of ill-health, and by the glimpse he has had, or thought he had had, of his old mother in the crowd that he starts weeping, and everyone in the crowd starts weeping with him. After the service he returns to the monastery where he is staying and finds that in fact his mother, who had really been in the audience, had come to see him with one of his many nieces (his mother has had nine children and about forty grandchildren!). He is not feeling at all well, and he thinks about his mother and her strange, excessively respectful attitude towards him because of his elevated function, about his childhood and about his religious life. He soon dies from the consumption he had long been suffering from, and is soon forgotten by everyone except his old mother.
- A delicate, sensitive account of the last few days of a delicate, sensitive person.
9.5
297 1903-12 Betrothed

7,600-word novelette
A Marriageable Girl;
The Fiancée;
The Bride
a pre-wedding crisis Nadya is a twenty-three year-old young woman engaged to be married, and we follow her as she meditates on her future, listens to her old family friend Sasha on visit from Moscow who is critical of her family’s idle life in this provincial town, and realises that she no longer loves her kindly and intelligent fiancé, who is as idle and uninteresting as the other people in her life – her neurasthenic mother and her dominating grandmother. She finally flees from the mediocre life that was waiting for her there to study at the university in Saint Petersburg, and at the end of the story she sees Sasha again, who is dying of consumption, and her mother and grandmother one last time.
- A sombre story of a young woman’s dreams, doubts and determination to control her own destiny, recounted with grace and empathy.
9
298 1925 To Speak or Be Silent: A Tale
(A Tale)
encounters on a train Krueger and Smirnov are travelling together and Krueger, who has an outgoing personality, starts chatting with a young woman in the carriage and even gets off with her for a good while at the next station. He explains to the admiring Smirnov afterwards that one has to be talkative with people, and Smirnov puts the recipe into practice with unpleasant results, whereupon Krueger tells him that one has to know when to be silent.
- A simplistic two-pager that does, however, manage to raise a smile, it must be said.
7.5
299 ? À l’Américaine [3] mock marriage advertisement A fellow announces his intention of finding a suitable bride, first outlining his own many qualities and some defaults (small, bad teeth, ugly, graceless, poor) then listing those of his future better half: female, 15-30, blond, blue-eyed, slim, must not be garrulous, must love the magazines he writes for, etc., etc., and above all must have a minimum of two hundred thousand roubles in silver.
- A very simple, basic little skit.
6
300 ? Salon des Variétés [3] visit to a night-club The tipsy narrator (he declares that one has to be tipsy before going into one of these places) describes the various kinds of people one meets in a low-life night-club, and concludes that it is a wonderful place to leave.
- Not funny, not interesting, not worth the trouble.
5
301 ? An Idyll - But Alas! [3] comedy about an inheritance Grish, an impoverished friend of the narrator’s, invites him to visit his uncle of whom he is always speaking lovingly and who has left everything to Grish in his will. The narrator visits the wizened old man, who is surrounded with the loving attentions of Grish and Grish’s attentive fiancée, and who is regaling everyone with the tales of how he had accumulated all his riches in the frontier town of Skopin. But the narrator has brought the day’s newspaper which announces the bankruptcy of Skopin’s only bank, and the joyful reunion comes to a rapid close. A week later he learns from Grish that all relations had been cut off with the now-penniless old man (who was only his stepmother’s third cousin thrice removed), as well as with the former fiancée, who had been counting on the old fellow’s fortune.
- A simple tale of greed and deception that somehow seems less amusing today than it might have seemed at the time.
6
302 ? A Doctor’s Romance [3] a mock-medical vision of a marriage A doctor analyses in mock-medical terms his wife’s constitution and concludes that her only deviation from the norm is that she is chatty and somewhat loud. As his mother-in-law suffers from the same ailments, when the two of them spend twenty-three hours out of twenty-four shouting at the top of their lungs, he himself shows signs of mental derangement, combined with suicidal tendencies. The recommended solution to the problem is … amputation of the tongue (!), which the doctor proceeds to discuss in a favourable light.
- Not at all funny, not even then probably or rather hopefully.
4
303 ? An Editor’s Romance [3] marital farce An editor talks about his wife in technical terms: “delightful hair, exquisite eyes - not a single typographical error. I line-edited her and we married”. But things went rapidly downhill and she was soon found kissing cadets, although the editor had forbade her any general distribution. To no avail, so he let her go (back to her parents).
- What might have initially seemed a good idea didn’t work out well.
5
304 ? The Turnip [3]
(A Folktale)
mock folk-tale Starting with “Once upon a time” we learn that a little old man and his wife lived happily and had a son with a fat turnip instead of a head. When he was grown up they got all their relatives and friends and acquaintances to form a chain to all pull together on the turnip, and it became a great state councillor.
- This might imply that all great state councillors are turnip-heads, but that seems a bit excessive.
3
305 ? Easter Greetings [3] skit on the ceremony of signing the visitor’s book at Easter In an anteroom visitors come in one by one on Easter Day to sign their names in the visitor’s book of their supervisor. But he isn’t satisfied with the authenticity of the signatures and sends his servant to everyone’s residence to get them to come back and sign again. The next day the signature sheet is empty, so the supervisor forges all the signatures himself to save face.
- This might have been meant to be a cruel satire of a pretentious ceremony, but it was a paltry effort nonetheless.
4
306 ? Twenty-Six [3] marital farce In a few brief diary entries the supervisor of an office describes his conflicts with his wife who has a clear preference for one of his clerks, if not all of them.
- Of no interest.
3
307 ? My Nana [3] romantic intrigue The narrator writes a love-struck letter to a courtisane who has trouble fitting him into her busy schedule. But her maid, an acquaintance of the narrator, arranges things and he does manage to have a satisfying interview with the lady.
- A very short skit obviously written in a very short period of time.
5
308 ? Flying Islands [3]
by Jules Verne
Translated by A. Chekhonte
a spoof of Jules Verne’s novel “From the Earth to the Moon” John Lund is a young scientist who gives a forty-hour talk to the Royal Geographic Society in London on the subject of “Drilling Through the Moon with a Giant Drill” and is then approached by a mysterious inventor who proposes to accompany him to the moon in his special balloon-driven apparatus. They run into mysterious islands floating around the moon on which nothing grows except a tree smelling of Russian vodka and a manuscript written in a barbaric language, probably Russian. When they get back to Earth John continues to devote himself to the project of drilling a hole through the moon that will belong to Great Britain.
- One prefers the original version by Jules Verne.
4
309 ? A Children’s Primer [3] mock morality lessons A series of nonsense stories each supposedly meant to illustrate a morality theme in a lesson-book for children (Miserliness Does Not Pay; Taunt Not Thy Neighbour; Blatant Ingratitude, etc.), with the conclusion: And so my dear children, do good and you shall triumph. Needless to say, the stories cynically do not at all illustrate their theme in the sense intended.
- A set of silly stories that might amuse some.
6
310 ? The Vaudevillian [3] mock-romantic skit The actor Ivan Akimovich is visiting Maria Andreyevna, an ingénue actress, and has been standing for five minutes just looking out the window without saying anything. He then declares in ever more awkward and embarrassed terms that he has something to ask her but just can’t bring himself to blurt out his request like a lout. Maria is certain that he wants to propose to her, just as several of his colleagues had done recently, and is not at all interested as he has too many defects. But as he continues to hesitate and wander fruitlessly around, she begins to progressively think that perhaps she could marry him after all, then that maybe a ring wouldn’t be indispensable. However, when he finally does make his request there is an awful come-down for Maria.
- A short, clever gag that could have been a theatrical sketch except for the interesting thought process of the ingénue. Quite amusing in any case.
8
311 ? Russian Coal [3] misadventures of a German engineer in Russia Count Tulupov meets a young German engineer on a cruise on the Rhine, and on learning that he is a specialist in coal mining he invites him to come to Russia to visit the vast unexploited coal fields on the count’s estate in the Don Valley. The young German meets up with the Count in Moscow, where he is given 200 roubles to travel to the estate and write a report on the coalfields there, which he does, reporting three months later that the coalfields are worthless and asking for money to enable him to go back to Germany. The Count sets off for Italy however without replying, and the German has to walk a long way and sleep in the fields before finding someone to lend him the money to go back home.
- A flimsy story with little or no meat.
6
312 ? A Problem [3] (unfunny) comical episode At two in the morning the narrator leaves a party in a tipsy state with his wife and his mother-in-law, and as his wife is expecting he orders a cab in spite of the objections of the penny-pinching mother-in-law. But the cab was a small one and there wasn’t seating space for all three, so there was a problem – that the narrator solved by getting the wife to stand up the whole way back home.
- Was that supposed to be funny??
3
313 ? Man and Dog Converse [3] confrontation with a dog Alexei is under the influence and starts off a monologue about man being first ashes and dust and then the crown of creation. When he hears a dog growling in front of his own doorway he takes that as a contradiction and breaks down, confessing tearfully to his many defaults and wrong-doings. The conversation with the dog becomes physical and Alexei is in very poor shape when he wakes up the following morning.
- Somewhat clever although definitely not funny.
6
314 ? May Day at Sokolniki [3] party incident Towards evening a man in a top hat, exceedingly drunk, wants to go home but his lady says no because she doesn’t want the other people at the party to see how drunk he is, as he cannot walk a straight line. When he finally just has to leave she helps him, most embarrassed until she looks around and realises that everyone else is as inebriated as he is.
- Perhaps this was more funny at the time, at least in Russia, than it seems to be here and now.
5
315 ? The Foolish Frenchman [3] gastronomic comedy A short sketch about a Frenchman who has gone into one of Moscow’s most famous restaurants and observes his rather young table neighbour devouring such a phenomenal quantity of blinis, sturgeon, caviar, salmon, soup and other foodstuffs that he thinks he is deliberately committing suicide. He finally goes over to him to comfort him in his distress, but the fellow shows him that everyone else in the restaurant is eating just as much, and the Frenchman leaves in a daze at the miraculous bellies of the Russian people.
- A gastronomically impressive comedy.
8.5
316 ? The Proposal [3] comical scene The young landowner Valentin Petrovich puts on his best clothes to pay a visit to the estate of his neighbour, the very beautiful Princess Vera Zapiskina. He mumbles and hems and haws, and finally blurts out that he has a proposal to make. Contrary to what the Princess is expecting, he proposes to set up a jointly-owned factory on their estates to process lard.
- A short but amusing tale.
7
317 ? Man [3] boy meets girl A one-page story about a young man at a ball who is feeling depressed by the endless rounds of ladies and flowers and champagne in his life, is asking himself why he is there and is telling himself that the lot of man is indeed an unhappy one. But just as he begins to think that he will be happy when he ceases to be, a young woman of remarkable beauty comes over and asks him for a glass of water, and he hurries off to fetch one.
- Short, very very short, but effective.
7
318 ? Words, Words, Words [3] conversation with a fallen woman Gruzdev, a young telephone operator, is lounging on a sofa in a hotel room, asking a young women how she had become a fallen woman. She tells him all about it and he is so moved by her story that she begins to think of a novel she had once read about a fallen woman being saved by someone like Gruzdev. But then she undid three of her top dress-buttons and the story fades away.
- A not very original treatment of an ancient theme.
6
319 ? The French Ball [3] a reporter’s mission Pyotr Semyonich receives a telegram from his editor instructing him to go straight away to the fancy French Ball. He is reluctant to go because the pay is so low, and rests a moment, promptly falling asleep and having a spectacular dream about the ball where he is treated like royalty, meets a dazzling Frenchwoman (and “the painter Chekhov”) and wins the gala prize. When he wakes up it is too late to go to the ball, but that is no problem for this resourceful journalist.
- Quite a lot of fun!
8

2. OTHER WORKS INCLUDED IN SOME ANTHOLOGIES OF CHEKHOV’S STORIES

no. date pub. English_Title_______________________ Genre Synopsis/Comments______________________________________________­_____
1 1880-07 Elements Most Often Found in Novels, Short Stories, etc. [4] humorous list A 2-page list of elements found in the works of fiction referred to in the title: “a Count, a Countess,.. fair-headed friends and red-haired foes,... a rich uncle,... a doctor with a serious face,… a butler,…. The end.”
2 1882-02 Questions Posed by a Mad Mathematician [4] humorous questions A one-page list of eight rhetorical and nonsense questions such as “I was chased by 30 dogs, 7 of which were white, 8 grey, and the rest black. Which of my legs was bitten, the right or the left?; and “What is the sum of the following numbers?”; and “My mother-in-law is 75, and my wife 42. What time is it?”
3 1882-02 Supplementary Questions for the Statistical Census [4]
Submitted by Antosha Chekhonte
satirical questions Ten brief wacky questions proposed for the census, such as “Are you a clever person, or are you an idiot?”; and “Is your wife a blond? A brunette? A starlet? Or a red-head?”; and “What were you thinking about the night you filled in these census forms?”, etc.
A one-page joke.
4 1883-01 Bibliography [4] humorous list A one-page list of eight wacky book titles that supposedly have just been published, such as “On the Abolition of Customs Duties on Bamboo Sticks Imported from China.”; “Coffee-table Book for Military Quartermasters and Cashiers.”; and “How to Pinpoint the Universe.
5 1883-02 Questions and Answers [4] jokes This tiny text entirely consists of the following four questions and answers:
1) Q: How can you tell what she’s thinking? A.: Search her premises.
2) Q: What can an illiterate man read? A.: A heart.
3) Q: Does the wife love me? A.: Whose wife?
4) Q: When can you sit and stand at the same time? A.: When you’re sitting in jail.
6 1885-11 Marriage in 10-15 Years’ Time [4] satirical essay In the form of a short sketch prefaced and suffixed with the author’s satirical comments on the question, the author extrapolates current tendencies for marriage negotiations somewhat into the future, highlighting the purely commercial nature of the event and with an implied criticism of unthinking female acquiescence to male dominance.
7 1886-02 Bliny [4] essay on cuisine An light-mannered essay on the thousand-year-old traditional way of preparing that quintessential Russian dish, bliny.
8 1886-07 A Glossary of Terms for Young Ladies [4] humorous aphorisms A one-page list of the following seven farcical aphorisms on different kinds of love:
If a diligent schoolgirl loves studying physics, then this is physical love.”;
“When young people declare love in a car, it’s carnal love.”;
“If a young lady doesn’t love you, but your brother, then it’s brotherly love.”;
“When people love spraying themselves with scents, then this is sensual love.”;
“When an elderly maid loves dogs, cats, and animals in general, then this is an animalIstic love.”;
“Husband is the word for a man who, out of pity and by police injunction, helps fathers feed and clothe their daughters.”;
“A rutting life is postmen and coachmen in autumn down broken, rutted roads.”
9 1892-05 From a Retired Teacher’s Notebook [4]
aka From a Retired Teacher’s Diary
humorous aphorisms A one-page, 240-word series of six humorous aphorisms on education, such as “As the vocative case and certain rare letters of the Russian alphabet are practically obsolete, teachers of Russian should in all fairness have their salaries reduced, inasmuch as this decline in cases and letters has reduced their work load.” and “When teaching science one should above all ensure one’s pupils have their books bound, inasmuch as one cannot bang them on the head with the spine of an unbound book.”
10 1930 A New Illness and an Old Cure [4] humorous essay A 100-word text about the symptoms of medical students facing a dissection. Here it is in full: “Operations on the body produce symptoms analogous to bouts of fitful fever (febris intermutens). Before making the incision, spasms of the peripheral vessels induce pallor. Pupils dilate. Our general deduction is that the sight of the approaching specialists agitates the vascular motor center and the nervus oculomotorius. A chill ensues. During the incision, we note a rise in body temperature and hyperestesia of the skin. After the incision has been performed there is a fever. Sweat breaks out.
On the basis of this analogy, I propose that all medical students dissecting a cadaver take a dose of quinine before corn­ing to school.
11 ? The Temperaments [5]
(According to the Latest Science)
humorous essay An analysis of the characteristics of the various types of temperaments to be found in men and in their female counterparts: The Sanguine Man; The Choleric Man; The Phlegmatic Man; The Melancholic Man; The Choleric-Melancholic Man.
12 ? The Philadelphia Conference [5] mock scientific debate about Darwinism A three-page mock account of an academic conference debating Darwinism and the inherited characteristics of the main European nations.
13 ? A Brief Anatomy of Man  [5] humorous mock-medical essay A brief overview of various parts of the human anatomy, with flippant remarks about each of them: A face – the mirror of the soul (except in the case of lawyers).; The eyes – these are the police commissioners of the head.. The tongue – an enemy of man and a friend of the devil and women., etc.
14 ? Soothsayer and Soothsayeress  [5] humorous sketches about fortune-tellers Five brief one-paragraph scenes where soothsayers predict someone’s future, usually to the satisfaction of the customer, for example: The doctor’s wife is looking into the future with the help of a mirror and sees … coffins. “That can only mean somebody will die,” she thinks. “Or … that my husband’s practice will flourish this year.”
15 ? Dirty Tragedians and Leprous Playwrights [5] nonsensical theatre play Featuring a theatre impresario, a playwright who is on nodding terms with devils, witches,whales and crocodiles, the King of Sweden, a Baroness, a General and many others, we follow the dilemma of the impresario as he tries to thing of a plot, then the arrival of the playwright accompanied by the witches and all the others who come to help him and so on ad absurdum.
16 ? Maria Ivanovna [5] an author’s monologue about authors A monologue by an author who wants to write a story about the eponymous Maria but is feeling feverish and out of sorts and explains why authors have to write even in such cases as otherwise they would be replaced by even sillier people wanting to recount their love affairs. A tongue-in-cheek essay on a writer’s vocation.
17 ? Troubling Thoughts [5] humorous essay A classics professor, whenever he oversees student presentations or attends teachers’ meetings, mentally asks himself insolvable questions such as “What would happen if the floor were the ceiling and the ceiling the floor? Are ancient languages profitable or unprofitable?” and so on. He elaborates at length on the possible answers to “What would happen if men dressed like women?”.
18 ? Lettter to a Reporter [5] humorous letter A one-page letter to a reporter telling him that the author of the letter already knew all the faits divers (crimes, accidents, fires and so on) that had appeared in the paper that day, ending with a very mild insult.
19 ? The Eclipse [5] satire on officialdom An official writes to the Governor of a district to suggest that street-lights be turned on so that citizens could better view a forthcoming eclipse of the moon, and the Governor writes back that his district didn’t have any street lanterns to light up, to which the first official replies that in his district the eclipse wasn’t visible anyway. Possibly intended as a satire on officialdom.
20 ? On the Characteristics of Nations [5] humorous essay A text that purports to outline the national characteristics of various nationalities – the French (frivolous), Swedes (live in remote areas), Greeks (traders), Spaniards (strum guitars and fight duels), Circassians drink and brawl), Persians (wage war on Russian bedbugs) and the British (whi value time and have no time for dinner). Has not dated well
21 ? A Modern Guide to Letter-Writing [5] humorous essay An essay on letters that starts with the definition “A letter is a noun without which postal clerks would end up jobless and stamps unsold.”, and continues with sample letters on various themes: “A letter to one’s superior”; “A letter to one’s inferior”; “A love letter”; “A letter to a friend”; “A business letter”, “A risky letter”; “A letter of invective” and finally “A letter to a writer”.
22 ? Feast-Day Gratuities [5]
(From the Notebook of a Provincial Scrounger)
humorous text A list of comments by a house porter on the tenants of several buildings who do or do not give him adequate tips on the occasion of a feast-day.
23 ? The Marriage Season [5] humorous text A two-page list of mock newspaper advertisements by people looking for a mate, all with dubious declarations or outrageous demands on the prospective partner (“dowry of fifteen to twenty thousand roubles”, “not over the age of twenty-five, must have capital”; “will bring in two thousand a year”; “although she is a widow is in fact a virgin”; etc.
24 ? Letters to the Editor [5] humorous text Three comical letters to editors of various journals.
25 ? Visiting Cards [5] humorous text A one-page list of the visiting cards that the author has been graced with on New Year’s Day by his acquaintances, all either from people with either farcical names or titles.
26 ? Persons Entitled to Travel Free of Charge on the Imperial Russian Railways [5] humorous list A two-page list of the many different kinds of people entitled to free passage on first- and second-class carriages, concluding with those entitled to free passage in the third class: “All passengers who have purchased tickets for first- or second-class carriages, but cannot secure a place as said carriages are filled with passengers travelling for free.”
27 ? Nadia N.’s Vacation Homework [5] humorous text A list of homework questions with farcical answers, such as: “Give five examples of relative clauses." A. "The railroad is screechy, carries people, and is maid of rails and materials.”

3. INDEX OF STORIES IN ALPHABETIC ORDER

A Bad Business
A Blunder
A Boring Story
A Brief Anatomy of Man
A Calamity
A Case History
A Case in Court
A Chameleon
A Children’s Primer
A Classical Student
A Country Cottage
A Cure for Drinking
A Daughter of Albion
A Day in the Country
A Dead Body
A Defenceless Creature
A Dissertation on Drama
A Doctor’s Romance
A Doctor’s Visit
A Drama
A Dreadful Night
A Dreary Story
A Dull Story
A Father
A Fishy Affair
A Fool, or The Retired Sea Captain
A Forced Declaration
A Fragment
A Gentleman Friend
A Glossary of Terms for Young Ladies
A Happy Ending
A Happy Man
A Hard Case
A Horsey Name
A Hypnotic Seance
A Joke 
À l’Américaine
A Lady’s Story
A Lawyer’s Romance: A Protocol
A Letter to a Learned Neighbour
A Living Calendar
A Living Chattel
A Living Chronology
A Malefactor
A Man of Ideas
A Marriageable Girl
A Matter of Classics
A Medical Case
A Misfortune
A Misfortune
A Modern Guide to Letter-Writing
A Mystery
A Naughty Boy
A Nervous Breakdown
A New Illness and an Old Cure
A Nightmare
A Painter’s Story
A Peculiar Man
A Pink Stocking
A Play
A Prelude to a Marriage
A Problem
A Problem
A Rash Thing to Do
A Seance
A Serious Step
A Sign of the Times
A Slander
A Story Without a Title
A Story Without An End
A Tedious Story from an Old Man’s Journal
A Tedious Story
A Transgression
A Trifle From Life
A Trifle From Real Life
A Tripping Tongue
A Trivial Incident
A Troublesome Guest
A Troublesome Visitor
A Visit to Friends
A Wayfarer’s Story
A Woman’s Kingdom
A Woman’s Revenge
A Work of Art
Aborigines
About Love
Advertisement
Advice
After the Fair
After the Theatre
Agafya
All Friends Together
America in Rostov on the Don
An Actor’s End
An Adventure
An Anonymous Story
An Artist’s Story
An Attack of Nerves
An Avenger
An Awkward Business
An Editor’s Romance
An Enigmatic Nature
An Idyll - But Alas!
An Inadvertence
An Incident at Law
An Incident
An Inquiry
An Unsuccessful Visit
An Upheaval
Anna on the Neck
Anyuta
Ariadne
Art
Artists’ Wives
At a Country House
At a Patient’s Bedside
At a Summer Villa
At Christmas Time
At Home
At Sea
At the Barber’s
At the Bathhouse
At the Mill
At the Patient’s Bedside
At the Pharmacy
At the Sickbed
Bad Weather
Because of Little Apples
Betrothed
Bibliography
Bliny
Boa Constrictor and Rabbbit
Boots
Boys
Calchas
Champagne
Children
Choristers
Concerning Love
Confession, or Olya, Zhenya, Zoya
Darkness
Daydreams
Death of an Actor
Difficult People
Dirty Tragedians and Leprous Playwrights
Doctor Startsev
Doctor’s Advice
Dreams
Drowning
Drunk
Easter Eve
Easter Greetings
Easter Night
Edison and Chekhov
Elements Most Often Found in Novels, Short Stories, etc.
Enemies
Excellent People
Expensive Lessons
Fat and Thin
Fear
Feast-Day Gratuities
First Aid
Flying Islands
Foiled!
Fortune
Fragment
From a Retired Teacher’s Notebook
From the Diary of a Violent-tempered Man
From the Diary of a Young Girl
From the Diary of an Assistant Bookkeeper
Frost
Goat or Scoundrel?
Gone Astray
Gooseberries
Goussiev
Green Scythe
Grief
Grisha
Gusev
Happiness
Heights
Her Husband
His Wife
Home
How I Came to Be Lawfully Wed
Hush!
Hydrophobia
In a Hotel
In a Strange Land
In an Hotel
In Autumn
In Exile
In Learned Society
In Passion Week
In the Cart
In the Coach-House
In the Court
In the Dark
In the Graveyard
In the Gully
In the Hollow
In the Ravine
In Trouble
Intrigues
Ionitch
Ionych
Ivan Matveyich
Joy
Kashtanka
Kids
Ladies
Lady with a Lapdog
Late-blooming Flowers
Lean and Fat
Let Me Sleep
Letter to a Scientific Neighbour
Letters to the Editor
Lettter to a Reporter
Life as a Series of Questions and Exclamations
Lights
Little Apples
Love
Malingerers
Man and Dog Converse
Man
Mari d’Elle
Maria Ivanovna
Marriage in 10-15 Years’ Time
Martyrs
May Day at Sokolniki
Mayonnaise
Minds in Ferment
Mire
Misery
Misery
Mr. Gulevich, Writer, and the Drowned Man
Murder Will Out
Murder
My Life
My Love
My Nana
My Talk with Edison
My Wife
Nadia N.’s Vacation Homework
Natalia Vladimirovna
Neighbours
Nerves
No Comment
Not Wanted
Notes from the Journal of a Quick-Tempered Man
O Women, Women!
Oh! The Public
Old Age
On Duty
On Easter Eve
On Mortality: A Carnival Tale
On Official Business
On Official Duty
On the Characteristics of Nations
On the Road
On the Sea
On the Train
Other People’s Misfortune
Overdoing It
Overseasoned
Overwhelming Sensations
Oysters
Panic Fears
Peasant Wives
Peasants
Perpetuum Mobile
Persons Entitled to Travel Free of Charge on the Imperial Russian Railways
Polinka
Questions and Answers
Questions Posed by a Mad Mathematician
Rapture
Reading
Requiem
Revenge
Robbers
Romance With Double-Bass
Rothschild’s Fiddle
Rothschild’s Violin
Russian Coal
Saintly Simplicity
Salon des Variétés
Sarah Bernhardt Comes to Town
Sergeant Prishibeyev
Shrove Tuesday
Slander
Sleepy
Sleepyhead
Small Fry
Soothsayer and Soothsayeress
Sorrow
Strong Impressions
Supplementary Questions for the Statistical Census
Surgery
Talent
Terror
That Wretched Boy
The Album
The Bad Good Man
The Beauties
The Beggar
The Bet
The Bird Market
The Bishop
The Black Monk
The Boys
The Bride
The Burbot
The Butterfly
The Cat
The Cattle-dealers
The Chameleon
The Chemist’s Wife
The Chorus Girl
The Coach-House
The Cobbler and the Devil
The Cold Blood
The Collection
The Complaints Book
The Cook’s Wedding
The Cossack
The Cross
The Darling
The Daughter of Albion
The Death of a Civil Servant
The Death of a Government Clerk
The Decoration
The Dental Surgeon
The Dependents
The Doctor
The Duel
The Eclipse
The Encased Man
The Examining Magistrate
The Father of a Family
The Fiancée
The Fidget
The First-Class Passenger
The Fish
The Fit
The Foolish Frenchman
The French Ball
The Good German
The Grasshopper
The Grateful German
The Head Gardener’s Story
The Head of the Family
The Head-Gardener’s Story
The Helpmate
The Horse-Stealers
The House With the Mezzanine
The Huntsman
The Husband
The Jeune Premier
The Kiss
The Lady with the Dog
The Lady with the Toy Dog
The Letter
The Lion and the Sun
The Little Joke 
The Lodger
The Looking Glass
The Lottery Ticket
The Man in a Case
The Man in the Case
The Man in the Shell
The Marriage Season
The Marshal’s Widow
The Moujiks
The Murder
The Muzhiks
The Name-day Party
The New Villa
The Night Before Easter
The Objet d’Art
The Old House
The Orator
The Order of St. Anne
The Party
The Petcheneg
The Petchenyeg
The Philadelphia Conference
The Philosopher
The Pipe
The Post
The Potato and the Tenor
The Princess
The Privy Councillor
The Proposal
The Reed-Pipe
The Requiem
The Runaway
The Russian Teacher
The Safety Match
The Savage
The Schoolmaster
The Schoolmistress
The Seizure
The Shoemaker and the Devil
The Siren
The Skit
The Slanderer
The Stationmaster
The Steppe
The Story of a Commercial Venture
The Story of a Nobody
The Story of an Unknown Man
The Student
The Swedish Match
The Teacher of Literature
The Telephone
The Temperaments
The Thinker
The Trial
The Trousseau
The Turnip
The Tutor
The Two Volodyas
The Vaudevillian
The Village Elder
The Wife
The Witch
The Wolf
The Writer
Thieves
This and That: Four Vignettes
Three Years
To Cure a Drinking Bout
To Speak or Be Silent
Too Early!
Tragic Actor
Trickery: An Extremely Ancient Joke
Trouble
Troubling Thoughts
Twenty-Six
Two in One
Two Letters
Two of a Kind
Typhus
Uprooted
Vanka
Verochka
Verotchka
Village Doctors
Vint
Visiting Cards
Volodya
Ward 6
Ward No. 6
What is to be Done?
Whist
Whitebrow
Who Was To Blame?
With Friends
Woe
Women Make Trouble
Women’s Good Fortune
Women
Words, Words, Words
Worldly Trifle
Worse and Worse
Zinotchka


4. REFERENCES

4.1. SITES

- Project Gutenberg: downloadable Chekhov stories in English
(with 215 stories translated into English)

- Anton Chekhov in Wikipedia (in English)
(identifying 289 stories [6])

4.2. ANTHOLOGIES

-  Complete Works of Anton Chekhov, tr. by Constance Garnett, Delphi Classics (2016)
(with 204 stories translated into English);

-  The Unknown Chekhov, stories and other writings, tr. by A. Yarmolinsky, ed. Peter Owen (1959)
(with 20 stories newly-translated into English).

-  The Undiscovered Chekhov, tr. by Peter Constantine, Duck Editions (2002)
(with 51 stories newly-translated into English).

-  Anton Chekhov, Little Apples and other early stories, tr. by Peter Constantine, Seven Stories Press (2016)
(with 40 stories newly-translated into English)


Footnotes

[1Chekhov’s novels were Untimely Victory (1882) and The Shooting Party (1884).

[2Chekhov’s plays were Platonov (1881), On The High Road (1884), On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco (1886), Swansong (1887), Ivanov (1887), The Bear (1888), The Marriage Proposal (1889), A Tragedian In Spite of Himself (1889), The Wedding (1889), Tatiana Repina (1889), The Wood Demon (1889), The Festivities (1891), The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1900), Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904).

[4identified as a story in Wikipedia.

[5identified as a story in Anton Chekhov, Little Apples and other stories (2016), undated.

[6the difference between the number of Chekhov storied identified in the Wikipedia article (289) and our count (319) is because:

Thus the two counts are reconciled:
289-10+5+14+21 = 319