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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Steppe and Other Stories - Anton Checkov

I found out about Blog a Penguin Classic and signed up. It was pretty cool. If you agree to read and then post a review on the book, Penguin would send a random classic to you. It's pretty scary since some of them are pretty intense. I was lucky and got a The Steppe and Other Stories, 1887-1891 by Anton Checkov. I've been wanting to read more of the Russian classic authors so this was great!

And I LOVED them. After trying to read Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift (my husband's Penguin pick) and repeatedly falling asleep on the subway, I switched to Checkov's stories and just loved them.

Here's a brief synopsis of the stories that are included:

The Steppe - a story of a young boy's trip through the steppe in Russia on his way to school. I loved this one because Checkov depicted the steppe as though it was a character in of itself. The people, the weather, the landscape all beautifully arrayed. And it's through this first story that I found that Checkov could depict any character, man or woman, at any age.

Panpipes - a short story, my least favorite, just a discussion between a shepherd and a bailiff

The Kiss - a story of a soldier who happens to get kissed and all the thought and emotions that go along with that. It's pretty funny actually. And I love the preface that mentions that when Checkov wrote the story, he sent it to a military commander to make sure his details of military formation and life were correct. The officer had a hard time believing the story wasn't written by someone in the military it was so believable.

Verochka - a bittersweet story of a young student and the daughter of the man he's working with

The Name-day Party - one of my favorite stories about a husband and wife who face some of their problems during a party at their house

A Dreary Story -
a story of an old man who contemplates his life and the world. This one was my favorite. I wanted to highlight almost everything and it was so funny and poignant. The old man could be an old man today and it all be the same.

Gusev - a story of a young man dying aboard a military ship in the ocean. The end is so powerfully depicted you just have to read it.

The Duel - a story of a man and woman living in adultery together. She leaves her husband and lives with her lover in a small town and end up falling apart. It's really a good story which ends with a duel which changes the lives of everyone involved.

Besides Panpipes, each story I read I like more then the previous . The Steppe and The Duel are the longest so if you want to check out a shorter one of his stories I'd pick one of the others first to see how you like it.

I guess I loved these stories because Checkov was young when he wrote his twenties and thirties. His writing is gorgeous, accessible, and I even forgot that I was reading someone who lived two centuries from ours

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