Rob's Reviews > Forty Stories

Forty Stories by Anton Chekhov
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Feb 05, 08

Read in February, 2008

This was an absolute joy to read! I didn't know much about Chekhov - apparently he is the 'father of the short story' - who knew? Plus, in general I am not a super big fan of short stories...BUT these are really fantastic...smooth as silk, effortless to read, and just great all the way through. Most of these are wonderful vignettes, where you feel as tho you've been plucked by the shoulder and dropped down into the middle of the lives of one of his characters - whether it's the dying soldier's remembrances, the young serf-girl who can't stay awake, the abandoned young bride, or the young government official. All are beautifully sketched where you are involved in the story from the first few lines.

I MUST give an excerpt...this is a paragraph where Chekhov describes a cat's dream...really!!...amazing...

" The kitten lay awake thinking. Of what? Unacquainted with real life, having no store of accumulated impressions, his mental processes could only be instinctive, and he could but picture life in accordance with the conceptions that he had inherited, together with his flesh and blood, from his ancestors, the tigers (vide Darwin). His thoughts were of the nature of day-dreams. His feline imagination pictured something like the Arabian desert, over which flitted shadows closely resembling Praskovya, the stove, the broom. In the midst of the shadows there suddenly appeared a saucer of milk; the saucer began to grow paws, it began moving and displayed a tendency to run; the kitten made a bound, and with a thrill of blood-thirsty sensuality thrust his claws into it.

When the saucer had vanished into obscurity a piece of meat appeared, dropped by Praskovya; the meat ran away with a cowardly squeak, but the kitten made a bound and got his claws into it. . . . Everything that rose before the imagination of the young dreamer had for its starting-point leaps, claws, and teeth. . . The soul of another is darkness, and a cat's soul more than most, but how near the visions just described are to the truth may be seen from the following fact: under the influence of his day-dreams the kitten suddenly leaped up, looked with flashing eyes at Praskovya, ruffled up his coat, and making one bound, thrust his claws into the cook's skirt. Obviously he was born a mouse catcher, a worthy son of his bloodthirsty ancestors. Fate had destined him to be the terror of cellars, store-rooms and cornbins, and had it not been for education . . . we will not anticipate, however. "

A kitten attacking a retreating saucer of milk in its' dreams - who in the world can pull that off so wonderfully?!
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