#121 Happiness

Find today’s 4000 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/121.html

Travis review

Hmm. I wasn’t blown away by today’s story. An 80 year old shepherd and his grandson, Sanka, sit below the slumbering stars of the Milky Way as a herd of sheep sleep. Panteley, the overseer, comes up and listens to the old man’s tale of Yefim Zhmenya. “Aye, he was a cursed old man, he was!” So goes this long tale of conjectures and rumors about the evil man and the treasure he has hidden “under a charm.” The overseer agrees with the old man’s stories and adds some details about gold be being hidden by robbers and Cossacks. But the “happiness” of the title only comes in towards the final third. The word is only used three times. The most significant use is when the overseer leaves, saying: “Yes, so one dies without knowing what happiness is like … [a] younger man may live to see it, but it is time for us to lay aside all thought of it.” He is talking about how finding the treasure and without they have not known happiness. At this point the story reverts to Sanka meditation on “why was it only old men searched for hidden treasure, and what was the use of earthly happiness to people who might die any day of old age?” This thought didn’t engage me as it’s hard to believe that young men would not be interested in treasure and the opportunities it could bring. Sanka ponders on “the fantastic, fairy-tale character of human happiness” for the final few sentences. In the end I shrugged and didn’t care. This story reminds me of what I don’t like about The New Yorker/modern literature stories. Chekhov has been accused of writing stories where nothing happens. I would argue against that belief with this and a few others being the exception.  

Rating: 4

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