“Chekhov Shorts”: A Malefactor

Title: A Malefactor
Date Read: 11 March 2009
Word Count: 1437
Briefly: Denis Grigoryev stands before the judge charged with breaking Article 1081 of the Penal Code – the willful damage of a railway line. Or to be more exact, unscrewing the nuts that hold down the railway line. Denis soon reveals why he does such a thing and it turns out to be a practice that’s a bit more widespread than first thought.
Afterthoughts: Emm I don’t know whether Chekhov was having an ‘off day’ when he scribed this short, and/or whether the English translator Constance Garnett may have been as well, because this story just didn’t have the flow that other Chekhov stories seem to have. The humour is weak, the storyline shallow and the translation just feels a bit awkward. Then again maybe it’s just me on a reading ‘off day’. :o)
Notable Quote: “Denis Grigoryev!” the magistrate begins. “Come nearer, and answer my questions. On the seventh of this July the railway watchman, Ivan Semyonovitch Akinfov, going along the line in the morning, found you at the hundred-and-forty-first mile engaged in unscrewing a nut by which the rails are made fast to the sleepers. Here it is, the nut! . . . With the aforesaid nut he detained you. Was that so?”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*Story read as part of my Checkin’ Off The Chekhov Shorts reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I’ve only read Chekov’s plays, of which I am not too fond of. They’re good plots, just his writing for whatever reason bugs me. But I was younger then so maybe it was just the timing. Overall, how’s his non-dramatic writing?

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Mish – I’m sorry you don’t have a big connection with Chekhov. I guess he’s not for everyone, although I adore him, well except for this story of course. His humour is genius but at the same time simple, and I’d say that’s what makes his ‘non-dramatic’ writing special. There’s an heavy presence of the theatrical in his short stories though Mish, so they’re not too detached from his stage plays. His longer works I’ve still to read, so no comment!

    One thing I do think though, is that the quality of his work does suffers in translation. A real shame!

  3. Maybe I’ll attempt one or two of Chekhov’s shorts or try re-reading the Cherry Orchard or Three Sisters. It’s been several years since I’ve read them so who knows. In any case, they’ll fit for the drama challenge. I’ll be going from turmoil in Ireland to that in Russia.

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Mish – if you do go back to Chekhov then I’d love to hear how you get on!