Chekhov Shorts: A Nightmare

Title: A Nightmare
Date Read: 9th March 2010
Briefly: The proposed opening of a church parish school in Sinkino brings cause for Kunin – a well-to-do member of the Rural Board for the Borisovo district – to invite the local priest Father Yakov Smirnov, to his home. Finding Father Yakov completely disheveled and without any air of ecclesiastical presence, Kunin’s impressions of the young priest aren’t favourable. And a subsequent visit to the Father Yakov’s own parish only deepens Kunin’s despair. He feels that something should be done about the priest’s torpid and unkempt manner, and that those in authority need to know about the situation.
Afterthoughts: This may be a somewhat lengthy tale from Chekhov, but it is one which holds much in the way of literary ‘delight’ for the reader. It’s size allows Chekhov to build up empathy for one of the characters, and this becomes the whole focal point of the story. Sombre, sad, and somewhat sorrowful, the reader won’t be taking away any sensations of the ‘feel good factor’ from this story. But, he/she will definitely come out of the other end of this tale knowing just how incredible Chekhov’s storytelling capabilities are. The true lesson to come from this story for the reader however, is the need for one to think (or at least find out), before one acts. Excellent stuff!
Notable Quote: There certainly was a good deal that was womanish in Father Yakov’s face: the turned-up nose, the bright red cheeks, and the large grey-blue eyes with scanty, scarcely perceptible eyebrows. His long reddish hair, smooth and dry, hung down in straight tails on to his shoulders. The hair on his upper lip was only just beginning to form into a real masculine moustache, while his little beard belonged to that class of good-for-nothing beards which among divinity students are for some reason called “ticklers.” It was scanty and extremely transparent; it could not have been stroked or combed, it could only have been pinched. . . . All these scanty decorations were put on unevenly in tufts, as though Father Yakov, thinking to dress up as a priest and beginning to gum on the beard, had been interrupted halfway through. He had on a cassock, the colour of weak coffee with chicory in it, with big patches on both elbows.

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).