Find today’s 40,842 word novel here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/160.html
In The Duel, Chekhov tries to cram all of humanity into a single novella and largely succeeds. Like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, well realized characters representing different sides of Russian culture are presented, but with less words than Chekhov’s contemporaries. Set in a small seaside town, Chekhov gives us a tremendous cast of characters in 21 chapters including: Dr. Samoylenko, a benevolent, pleaser who bends over backwards to help others, even at his own peril; Von Koren a scientist, intolerant to human weakness and behavior; Pobyedov, a deacon who is whimsical, believing in God, but without strong convictions as it is more a family business; Nadyezhda, a vain, pampered adulteress who cannot stay loyal to her current lover; Laevsky,defined by himself and others as a man of wasted talents hampered by selfish and self-destructive motivations; Marya, a conflicted mother worried about having a friendship with an adulteress; Kirilin is a sensitive, jilted chief of police determined to be nobody’s fool; and Atchmianov, a love-sick grocer. Since this story crosses the novella threshold of 40,000 words, it is a novel, but compact. Chekhov explores the human condition as men and women discuss their problems and battle with conflicting thoughts and emotions. Most of the book centers on Laevsky as he tries to flee responsibility of debt and marriage. Von Koren is cast as an unrelenting obstacle to him and Samoylenko is caught between the two men. I could write pages about this book, but since this review is long overdue I’ll say that I felt this had the same fullness and completeness as Brothers Karamazov, a 364,153 word classic.