Find our 75th story here: 

Travis Review:

Today’s 2008 word story should not be confused with the 2008 French film bearing the same name that I’ve refused to watch, because, as I understand it, once you’ve seen the disturbing flick, you cannot unsee it. This story is about a psychosomatic socialite caught up in the drama of being ill until there is something else to grab her attention. Whether she really was ill to begin with or not is hard to tell. I think it is the latter. While Lizotchka is frivolous and self-absorbed, Varya is complicitous in her act and suffers several sleepless nights for it. He should know better, but it seems like he is caught under the spell of her antics. The only redeeming moment in this story is when Varya’s boss is sympathetic to his plight, almost creating another circle of care. But unlike Lizotchka, Varya really needs the rest. Overall, the story is not very memorable outside of Varya acting as a Jew to amuse his wife, “”Does your vatch vant mending?” he asks.” This scene reveals Varya’s desperation to make his wife happy as well as documents antisemitic humor of that time. It is interesting that the title of the story is “Martyrs” plural, because Lizotchka believes herself to be one, while Varya actually is.

Review: 5

Steve Review:

Today’s story revolves around Lizotchka, a “young married lady who had many admirers.”  She is a social butterfly and aspiring actress who has recently taken ill.  We are given a glimpse into her thoughts as Chekhov reveals the story of her illness as though she were telling the story.  As if to punctuate her own popularity, the short story she tells is filled with at least 7 different personalities who never show up again in the rest of the tale.  Her illness resulted from a night of revelry but it is never quite clear what she has.  She calls it a “cold” but upon completion of her story we are told she has “spasms” necessitating a visit from the doctor.  Her poor husband, Varya, sits by her side throughout her ordeal.  We are told twice by Chekhov how she acts like a martyr but it is never quite clear for what cause she is suffering, other than the attention she gets from her husband and admirers.  The embellished symptoms persist so long as she is not distracted by another opportunity for attention.  The cure seems to have come from a rehearsal that she couldn’t miss but the doctor insists she spend one more day in bed.  I wondered if this prescription was more to dissuade her from future psychosomatic claims or if the doctor was genuinely incompetent.  It has been my experience that patients who are prone to pscyhosomatic symptoms tend to have a flare for theatrics and are often very imaginative in personal life.  Chekhov did a wonderful job of illustrating this and I wonder if he based the story on a particular patient encounter from his own experience.  The vivid description of Lizotchka’s imagined funeral, where even the corpse was starved for attention, was particularly well done.  The reference to Jewish jokes can only be tolerated as a sign of humor at the time and were meant to illustrate the length that Varya would go to entertain his “ailing” wife.  I also found it interesting that the title was plural.  The depth of significance of Travis’s observation that Lizotchka believes herself to be a martyr whereas Varya actually was is made even more clear when you consider who was actually sick–it follows the same pattern.  My favorite line was when her “admirers” gather around her bed:  “The admirers of her talent see her husband, but readily forgive his presence: they and he are united by one calamity at that bedside!”  Of course the real calamity is her false martyrdom and the sacrifice she makes of her admiring husband.

Rating:  5