What perfume should i wear

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what perfume should i wear

The Witch and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov

The short story does not simply differ from the novel (or novella) in length, although brevity is one of its defining characteristics. It does not have the development of characters and narrative that you find in the longer forms of fiction. It must offer the reader a different experience. In its purest form, it is like a memory recalled, often no more than an incident or encounter where it may seem that little or nothing happened. Its essence lies in the detail: a single word or sentence may create an image or feeling that opens up a wider world left to the readers imagination. Little may occur dramatically in a short story, but often by the end something has changed significantly, and a greater understanding has been reached by one or more of the characters - and the reader.

Available free on iBooks, this collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov is a good starter for anyone reading his works for the first time. In addition to his 14 plays (of which the last 4 are classics) and 6 novellas, Chekhov wrote well over 200 short stories and he is generally considered to be among the greatest practitioners of this art form.

The stories in this collection show the range of Chekhovs writing. The title story - The Witch - is like a one-act play, with just four characters sharing a dwelling during a single night. A post carriage is forced to seek shelter from a lethal snowstorm which may or may not have been created by the sorcery of the woman of the house. There are short, vivid descriptions of the weather and the bleak setting of this brief tale, but much of the writing consists of dialogue, as in a play. Although there is the potential for much to happen, very little action takes place. At the end we feel that the man and his wife are still both locked in their own private hells.

The second story - Peasant Wives - opens up wider possibilities for its varied characters. It too unfolds over the course of a single night, but here the story takes you back to events long in the past, as well as toying with possible choices for the future, even if we are left feeling that probably nothing much will change in the lives of Chekhovs characters. There is a story within a story, bitterly told from a male perspective, yet it is the women in this story who capture the imagination: unloved, abused, exploited, but not wholly passive as they seek to shape their own destinies. The story suggests many other untold stories, with each character having a backstory that we can expand in our imagination from the hints we are given. The revelation in the penultimate sentence is heartbreaking, and opens our minds to untold horrors: “Kuzka brushed the hay off it with his sleeve, put it on, and timidly he crawled into the cart, still with an expression of terror on his face as though he were afraid of a blow from behind.” There is so much hidden depth in the 23 or so pages here, that in our minds this short story becomes an epic.

Of the other 13 stories in this collection, some personal favourites of mine are The New Villa (a mini-saga novel in 5 chapters, describing how the attempts of an engineer and his wife to build social bridges with local villagers are met with suspicion, ignorance, and rebuttal, leading to their departure); At Christmas Time (the perfect short story, told in two chapters each just a few pages long: the first about the writing of a letter in a rural village, the second about its receipt in St Petersburg); Gusev (an episodic account of sick troops on a homeward bound steamer, on a journey the two main protagonists will not complete - the ending is extraordinary!); In the ravine (the longest piece in this collection, telling in 9 episodes how a bourgeois, village family comes together before disintegrating through corruption, ambition, and cruelty); and Peasants (the final story in this collection, told in 9 short chapters, describing how a young Muscovite and his family are forced through his ill-health to return to the rural village of his childhood where relentless poverty confronts their aspirations and faith - a graphically harsh and unromantic view of rural peasant life in Russia in the late 19th century).

There are a number of common themes running through Chekhovs stories: the failures of his characters to communicate and connect; the way social conventions (class, religion, superstition) restrict human relationships and prevent personal development; the social oppression of women; the deadening and abrasive effects of a harsh environment on its inhabitants; how poverty brutalises the human spirit; the stifling effect of ignorance and superstition on change and progress ... There is very little warmth or joy here, which is undoubtedly an accurate reflection of what life was like for the majority of people in Tzarist Russia at that time. But Chekhov writes with wit and a belief in the perseverance of the human spirit, and the reader can find a sharply detailed insight into human behaviour and its frailties. Chekhovs themes are timeless, sharply observed and beautifully written, and subtly woven through these seemingly simple stories.

Having read this collection, I put Chekhov up there with Hemingway, Lawrence, Joyce, Borges and Poe as my favourite short-story writers.

QUOTES:

“The clerk and the elder of the rural district who had served together for fourteen years, and who had during all that time never signed a single document for anybody nor let a single person out of the local court without deceiving or insulting him, were sitting now side by side, both fat and well-fed, and it seemed as though they were so saturated in injustice and falsehood that even the skin of their faces was somehow peculiar, fraudulent”
Excerpt from: In The Ravine

“Aksinya had naive grey eyes which rarely blinked, and a naive smile played continually on her face. And in those unblinking eyes, and in that little head on the long neck, and in her slenderness there was something snake-like; all in green but for the yellow on her bosom, she looked with a smile on her face as a viper looks out of the young rye in the spring at the passers-by, stretching itself and lifting its head”
Excerpt from: In The Ravine

“the ancient barrows, once watch-mounds and tombs, which rose here and there above the horizon and the boundless steppe had a sullen and death-like look; there was a feeling of endless time and utter indifference to man in their immobility and silence; another thousand years would pass, myriads of men would die, while they would still stand as they had stood, wit h no regret for the dead nor interest in the living, and no soul would ever know why they stood there, and what secret of the steppes was hidden under them.”
Excerpt from: Happiness
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Published 09.10.2019

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Unerabbe says:

    Should You Switch Your Perfume In The Summer? 8 Rules From Experts - HelloGiggles

  2. Piningunbbe1978 says:

    A fragrance is an unseen accessory and should be something that complements your personality. It can act as your personal trademark.

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