Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Foray into Chekhov

I don't read many short stories. I generally like them, but oddly they seem to take more work than novels. You have to consciously sit down to a short story when you want to read one, whereas you can always have a novel on the go and pick it up at any time, anywhere. Recently I've started up a new DailyLit book, though, Classic Shorts: Eight Stories for Summer, which I'm getting in my email three days a week. I've now finished the first story, which was "A Doctor's Visit", by Anton Chekhov. It was written in 1898, and is apparently also called "A Case History" or "A Medical Case" (so Wikipedia informs me). I've never read any other Chekhov, and this is an interesting introduction.

The daughter of a factory owner is ill, and the doctor is called to a factory just outside Moscow to see to her. Her illness, of course, is more mental than physical, a matter of her circumstances. But the story seems to have no real resolution. "A Doctor's Visit" is really all this story is, there and back. It is a passing meeting in different lives. A connection is made, perhaps, but it is not a connection that one expects to come to anything, and it may or may not do any good. But there is some simple beauty in the meeting, even in the factory and the uneducated, ordinary workers.

I've noticed before that I don't tend to enjoy reading stories set in Russia. I enjoyed this, though, so I think it's not the country but the cold. I don't like reading about cold climates in their cold seasons. This story is set in the spring, though, and I think that's what made the difference. An odd preference in my reading. I just like colour and brightness too much.

I may have to devote some time this summer to reading short stories. I'm looking forward to the rest in this collection.

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