#156 A Dreary Story: From the Notebook of an Old Man

Today’s 24,250 word novella here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/156.html

Travis review:

With Chekhov’s track record, a title like “A Dreary Story” should not turn off the reader. Misery is one of the most powerful stories I’ve read, and A Misfortune and Mire are also great. With over 24k words in this novella, it feels like Chekhov was trying to do what Dostoevsky and other Russians writers have done: add lengthy social commentary to a story. He does this through an accomplished and renowned professor at the end of his years. Nikolay Stepanovitch criticizes the state of science, literature, theater and the barbarism of women among other topics like a cantankerous old man, but while being simultaneously aware of his crabbiness and discontent. He is more than ready for die and doesn’t seem to care much for his family or his colleagues any more. Much a like King Solomon’s vanity of vanities line, he’s lived a successful life and now he shrugs his shoulders at it all. He is close to being a bitter old man, except for his relationship with his goddaughter, Katya. A firebrand independent, she has lived off her father’s inheritance and is shunned by most women and proper society. Their relationship is the most interesting part, yet Katya doesn’t come up until 25% of the way through the story. I thought the plot would concern Nikolay traveling to find out if his daughter’s suitor was of noble standing or not, but that was secondary to his relationship with Katya. It was as if Chekhov added the character on a whim and then she overtook the rest of the story. While I enjoyed most of this story, even with the multiple meanderings on social conventions and experiences, I was disappointed with the end. It is the end of a relationship and a little melodramatic compared the rest of Chekhov’s works. As long as this story was, I wanted it to go a little further with a visit to the town and even a vain attempt at reconciliation.  

Rating: 6

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