Find today’s 2401 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/119.html
Readers get to spend a day with an irritable veteran of Polish descent complaining about the lazy Russians to his friend, a German architect. Lyashkevsky has a head injury so this story could be seen as a sad tale of mental illness. Yet the tone reminded me more of Chekhov’s earlier work with comic irony. The comedy plays out by watching a hypocrite who does nothing all day but play card games and eat while complaining about the laziness of others. At the Barber’s featured a similar man without any self reflection and the story ended with a sight gag. Lyashkevsky also rails against his friend (“The German pig”!) after he leaves. The irony being that it was Lyashkevsky who entreated Finks to stay and play picquet and then to stay for dinner, keeping him from doing his job. So is it comedy or tragedy? By the time the veteran heads for bed “[t]here is no one to grumble at, and for the first time in the day he keeps his mouth shut, but ten minutes passes and he cannot restrain the depression that overpowers him, and begins to grumble, shoving the old shabby armchair:”You only take up room, rubbishly old thing! You ought to have been burnt long ago…”” With the bed taking his wrath next, it is clear to see that he is mentally damaged, but in previous stories Chekhov writes raging old men as a comedy. Sort of like the popular Simpsons meme Old Man Yells At Cloud. Another interesting point is that the narration is distant, observational, and for the most part, non-judgmental. The word “native” is used 15 times and “aborigines” 3 times including the title, but only by the narrator. Much like an anthropologist taking notes in the field. Overall I didn’t care much for the story, neither laughing or feeling too sad.