Monday, June 13, 2011

Short Story Monday: "Overseasoned" by Anton Chekhov

There's a hole in my short story reading where Anton Chekhov belongs. Widely regarded as one of the greatest short story writers, he has never been mentioned here at Lakeside Musing.  At least one or two of his collections appear on my amazon wish list, I've read articles and reviews about his stories, but don't recall ever reading an actual story. Surely, he must have been assigned in high school?

A couple of weeks ago, we moved our oldest daughter into her NYU summer housing and I jumped at the opportunity to spend a few minutes at Strand Books. Working under time pressure, I found three books in five or ten minutes (though my husband claims it was closer to thirty), including this edition of Wordsworth Classics Selected Stories.

The first story, "Overseasoned" (1885),  seemed vaguely familiar. A surveyor arrives at a station, only to find that his business is still another thirty or forty miles farther. With no post horses are available, he warily enlists the services of a willing peasant.
They left the station at dusk. To the right stretched a cold, dark plain so boundless and vast that if you crossed it no doubt you would come out the Other End of Nowhere. The cold autumn sunset burnt out slowly where the edge of it melted into the sky. To the left, in the fading light, some little mounds rose up that might have been trees or last year's haystacks. The surveyor could not see what lay ahead, for here the whole landscape was blotted out by the broad, clumsy back of the driver. The air was still, but frosty and cold.
What a vivid picture Chekhov paints! The surveyor soon becomes uncomfortable and more than a little nervous. He begins boasting (falsely) to the driver about a revolver he claims to be carrying, his physical prowess in fighting off would-be robbers, and a group of his friends trying to catch up with the wagon. In a comic twist, his bravado backfires and causes the driver to become afraid of the surveyor.

I have probably read this story before and am curious to see if the others produce a similar feeling of deja vu. A different translation of this story can be read online. Interestingly, it is more aptly titles as "Overdoing It".

Short Story Monday is hosed by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.


19 comments:

  1. I read the exact same edition for the classics circuit last year - also my introduction to Chekhov. It sounds like you're off to a good start, and I hope you enjoy the collection as a whole as much as I did!

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  2. I've never read any Chekov - I have so many holes in my classic literature!

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  3. Sounds like another Chekhov winner. I, too, have not read much of his work. Between The Bet and this one, I feel like I have made a good start now. Thanks! (By the way, I see you are reading A Moveable Feast. Love it!)

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  4. I've never read anything by Chekov. Sounds like I need to pick up a collection of his work.

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  5. I just finished reading the quote you gave us for the third time. It is such a beautiful example of his writing. You've made me put this on my wish list.

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  6. The only Chekhov I've read was the play The Cherry Orchard. It was a very interesting look at changes in Russian society in the late 19th century.

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  7. I for sure need to read more Chekhov-I guess really I need to read all his fiction-great review

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  8. I've never read any Chekhov before (and I'm pretty sure that even after I read some I won't experience deja vu). But you've convinced me that I need to remedy this situation. I think Librivox has some Chekhov I can "read" while I'm at work.

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  9. What a treat, two Chekhov story reviews on the same day. An author I want to read more of!

    I reviewed: http://teddyrose.blogspot.com/2011/06/jelly-bean-by-f-scott-fitzgerald.html

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  10. I've not had a lot of luck with Checkhov. Didn't really get "Easter Eve" and didn't enjoy "the Bet." But I haven't given up on him entirely!

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  11. Nymeth - I was trying to remember where I'd seen a review of this! So far, the first few stories are very good.

    Tiny Library - LOL! Here's to plugging a few of those holes!

    Julie - "The Bet" is not in this collection, but I can read it online. I'm intrigued! I'm really enjoying A Moveable Feast. Makes me wish I could visit Paris, too!

    Carol - You can read most of his stories online, too.

    Margot - I think I'm going to enjoy these stories! The translation I linked to was different and, imo, not as beautiful.

    E.L. Fay - I've been trying to come up with some plays to read...will check into The Cherry Orchard. Thanks.

    Mel u - I know I'll be reading more!

    Lisa - Lucky you! I'll be curious to hear how Chekhov is on audio.

    Teddy Rose - I guess Julie and I must have been on the same wavelength this weekend:-)

    John - "Easter Eve" is one of the next stories in the collection... now I'm curious!

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  12. I read Chekhov many years ago & sadly not since. Your post & this story reminds me what I'm missing. He's an amazing writer.

    So you might be in NYC frequently...maybe we'll meet up some time for a little book shopping!

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  13. Amy - I hope to get to NYC at least once more while my daughter is there this summer. She will be a college senior in the fall and would like nothing better than a job in NYC when she graduates. If that happens, I'll be spending quite a bit of time there. Would love to meet up for some book shopping and conversation!!

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  14. I really would like to add short stories to my reading list. I have purchased several volumes but never read them!!

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  15. Staci - I have several unread collections, too. It seems to work better for me when I approach them with the idea of just reading one story and not the whole book... the a al carte approach ;-)

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  16. I still haven't come around to reading anything by Chekhov. I guess I might go back to the classics of the short story once I finish my Canadian tour.
    I'm sure some would sound quite familiar as I've read so many analysis/mentions of his work...

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  17. emeire - The classic stories I've been reading lately have been a lot of fun... surprising that several (like this one) have familiar feel.

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  18. I just started reading a collection of Chekhov's stories and have enjoy them immensely. So much in fact that I've decided to make Chekhov my little summer reading project and read through as many of them as I can over the course of the summer. "Overseasoned" isn't included in the collection that I'm reading but I'm thinking about reading the collection translated by Pevear next so perhaps it will be in that one.

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  19. everybookandcranny - I'm really enjoying these stories. Will look forward to following your Chekhov adventures - Pevear is such a wonderful translator!

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