Title: Old Age
Date Read: 20 May 2009
Word Count: 2059
Briefly: After eighteen years in Petersburg, architect Uzelkov returns to the town of his birth, only to find that so much has changed, and so many people that he knew are no longer there. One person who is there is the cunning lawyer Shapkin, a man whom Uzelkov had left in charge to handle a rather messy divorce settlement in his absence. It begins to emerge though that Shapkin was less than honourable in the handling of the affair, and Uzelkov begins to show his regret.
Afterthoughts: Taking the sometimes awkward translation of this story into account (Garnett seems inconsistent at times in her translation. Some stories are better translated than others), this is a very readable story. It contains one or two dashes of humour i.e. “Uzelkov slowly took off his cap and exposed his bald head to the sun. Shapkin, looking at him, took off his cap too, and another bald patch gleamed in the sunlight”, but overall the story is quite a sad one.
Notable Quote: “Do you remember how you divorced your wife? It’s nearly twenty years ago, and I dare say you have forgotten it all; but I remember it as though I’d divorced you yesterday. Good Lord, what a lot of worry I had over it! I was a sharp fellow, tricky and cunning, a desperate character. . . . Sometimes I was burning to tackle some ticklish business, especially if the fee were a good one, as, for instance, in your case. What did you pay me then? Five or six thousand! That was worth taking trouble for, wasn’t it? You went off to Petersburg and left the whole thing in my hands to do the best I could, and, though Sofya Mihailovna, your wife, came only of a merchant family, she was proud and dignified.”
*Story read as part of my Checkin’ Off The Chekhov Shorts reading challenge.