#172 Rothschild’s Fiddle

Please find today’s 4,117 word story here http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/172.html

Travis review:

Today’s story has antisemitism, misogyny, complete misanthropy and in the end regret. Yakov Ivanov embodies self-loathing at it’s worst. He is a miserly, miserable undertaker. Chekhov sets the tone with this great opening line:  “The town was a little one, worse than a village, and it was inhabited by scarcely any but old people who died with an infrequency that was really annoying.” Chekhov gives us the details of Yakov’s abusive, self-pitying lifestyle and then gives the undertaker a talent which causes people to put up with this malcontent. If he could not play his fiddle so well, I’m sure Yakov would’ve been a hermit, scraping a living in his hut with his wife. One of things that makes this story so good is the compactness. After several long stories, Chekhov creates a memorable character in a few scenes and gives a strong, powerful ending. Although Yakov and his wife Marfa’s relationship is eventually spelled out, Chekhov writes a great introduction to it: “Her face was rosy with fever, unusually bright and joyful-looking… It looked as if she really were dying and were glad that she was going away for ever from that hut, from the coffins, and from Yakov. . .  her expression was one of happiness, as though she saw death as her deliverer…” For a man so obsessed in the minutiae of potential losses, he missed in his calculations one of his big assets until it is too late. His dealings with Rothschild and the way the town children treat Jews is horrific. It is late in the story, but wonderful to see Yakov develop a conscious and bequeath something precious to a deserving man.

Rating:  8

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