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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > Christmas Around the World: Russia

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message 1: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  Paullin | 749 comments Mod
Russia - At Christmas Time (1900) by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov's story At Christmas Time (1900) is about a married daughter estranged from her illiterate parents in the country, all the time her letters from St. Petersburg were never mailed by her husband. Finally, at Christmas time the mother pays a man in their village to write a stilted message (more his words than hers), which reaches their daughter. Chekhov employs an interesting double-meaning for the last line in the story: "Chacot duche" -- which is a restorative bath intended to stimulate the vascular and lymphatic systems -- also represents the prospect of healing the heartsick daughter with an imminent reunion.

message 2: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4487 comments Mod
I’m a plot and character driven reader so Chekhov has always been a bit frustrating for me. I know he gives you a slice of life, but so many pieces are left out for me. Why is she afraid? Why has there been no communication when it appears the daughter loves her parents and the country?

message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2892 comments Mod
I feel the same way about Chekhov. The only work of his that I truly enjoyed reading were his memoirs.

message 4: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4487 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I feel the same way about Chekhov. The only work of his that I truly enjoyed reading were his memoirs."

Thank you for saying this. I’ve always felt like I’m the only one.

message 5: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1369 comments Mod
I normally love Chekhov, but this story was a bit sparse for me. I wanted to know if the daughter would be able to visit her parents (her husband seems to be abusive and she is not happy in the city with him). And I didn't quite understand what the barman was writing.

message 6: by Wendel (last edited Dec 19, 2018 08:53AM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments In literature Chekhov is my first love. The stories I found as an adolescent just blew me away. Since then I have read almost every one he wrote, most several times over. Every five year or so I get the Chekhov fever and I just have to read at least one volume of his works. Nothing that’s written is so utterly satisfying. So much is suggested in such a sparse setting, and it feels so true. Moreover, what a man (for me reading is always personal).

This story is certainly not one of his best, and yet, it's a miracle. What we learn is that sometimes the gesture is more important than precisely we it means - that’s encouraging, because little of what we say and do has any meaning.

The other thing is that men (the ones in this story) are either idiots or brutes, or both. Therefore the prospects of an early reunion seem really small - with Chekhov happiness is a fleeting thing and comes only when least expected. It is probably not really a Christmas story.

PS: When Chekhov is writing a bit below his usual standard one wonders how he gets away with his sentimentality. It somehow never rings false, as occasionally happens with Dickens.

PS2: The barman was writing gibberish, the kind that lives in the military mind, while relieving a poor elderly couple of their last 15 kp.

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