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Chekhov, Anton

short ivan story ryabovich

(Russian, 1860–1904)

Chekhov began composing short, humorous sketches for journals while studying medicine in Moscow. Although pressured to take up more ‘serious literary work’ Chekhov stayed loyal to the short story even after he began writing plays, for which he is perhaps better known. With his subtle blend of naturalism and symbolism, Chekhov revolutionized the short-story form, influencing writers as different as Kafka, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, and Somerset Maugham. Start with ‘The Kiss’ (1887), the story of Ryabovich, an unprepossessing army officer whose brigade is invited to have supper with a retired general. Shy and withdrawn from the merriment, Ryabovich loses himself in the huge house, eventually finding himself in a dark room. There he is suddenly kissed by a young woman obviously awaiting a rendezvous with a lover. Although an accident, the incident transforms Ryabovich's outlook. In ‘Gooseberries’ (1898), Ivan Ivanovich tells how his brother, a minor official, aspires to enter the gentry, enduring decades of hardship and deceiving his wife for the dream of owning a country estate where he can grow gooseberries. Ivan meets his brother after he has finally achieved this goal and ends his tale with a strange, despairing diatribe on the nature of happiness, seeing it as a selfish, self-hypnotized state. Despite their brevity these stories are best read one at a sitting, and can be as thought-provoking as the strongest novels.

Ivan Turgenev, Katherine Mansfield, Raymond Carver. See SHORT STORIES  RP

Chesterton, G(ilbert) K(eith) [next] [back] Cheever, John

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