#139 Expensive Lessons

Find today’s 2389 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/.html

Travis review:

This is the story about a slob who likes the idea of being multilingual and believes himself to be superior to his tutor, but his ideals versus reality are very far apart. Typically when Chekhov has a character being cheated by wily peasants (Malingers) or used selfishly (Anyuta) I have sympathy for the victim. Although Vorotov wastes his money on a lovely, but manipulative French tutor, it is hard to feel sorry for him. His arrogance, laziness, and cowardliness seems to justify Alice’s fleecing with worthless lessons. The story reminds me of Chekhov’s earlier comic and satirical writings. I also think Chekhov, beyond giving his main character a hard time was also poking fun at French literature and probably the business of translating in real time. These two translated lines made me laugh:

“” ‘He was walking the street and meeting a gentleman his friend and saying, “Where are you striving to seeing your face so pale it makes me sad.” ‘ “
“”Oh, young gentleman, don’t tear those flowers in my garden which I want to be giving to my ill daughter…’ “
The story was fun, but not memorable.
Rating: 5

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  • Wernfried says:

    Hopefully the blog is still alive!
    Thanks for the insightful comment!
    One might want to add one or two things: 1. The story appears to be told mainly from Vorotov’s point of view, with instances of an omniscient narrator as well. So all we read about the girl, or most other things/persons is filtered through his mind and understanding. For the reader it’s consequently hardly possible to be sure about much else than V’s views, opinions, experiences the way he sees them!
    2. Language is about contact, communication, learning, and ultimately understanding. From the ending we can conclude that V. hasn’t progressed beyond stage 1, contact. That however, he seems to be keeping up. So there’s still hope to arrive at s2 … and, who knows, get even to s4. 3. The lessons are not cheap at today’s value of some 30-100$/h, but still much less expensive than a marriage. If V. can only see that it takes a good pupil, not a good teacher, to learn. And the same goes for the reader. So at least 8-9/10!

    • Travis Richardson says:

      Those are good points. I might have been harsh on the rating, but the story still felt like a trifle compared to other stories. Maybe 6 or a 7. I agree that a willing, participating student makes more than half the difference when it comes to learning. Vorotov is 4 books in and has only learned one word while he leers at Alice or daydreams. And Alice doesn’t seem to care what Vorotov learns as long as she gets her ruble. Thanks for the comment.