Chekhov Shorts: Difficult People

Title: Difficult People
Date Read: 13th September 2011
Briefly: Yevgraf Ivanovitch Shiryaev’s family await at the dinner table for the farmer to finish washing his hands. He finally joins them and in something of a tense atmosphere, the eldest son Pyotr announces to his father that he should really be returning to Moscow for the new college term. He has a small issue however, with regards to money.
Afterthoughts: In this story Chekhov touches on the proverb ‘like father, like son’, but more significantly he explores the moment in a young man’s life when he first challenges a father’s authority. Anger, regret, fear and pride all feature strongly in this tale, while a sidewards glance is directed towards the collateral damage that can be caused to other members of a family when the head of the household clashes with an eldest son. Ultimately this turns out be rather a sad tale from Chekhov, but he is merely playing out – quite brilliantly may I add – a coming-of-age scenario which has long been played out, and continues to be so, in a million homes around the world. In that respect, this story is timeless. Very highly recommended!
Notable Quote: Shiryaev’s short, fat neck turned suddenly red as a beetroot. The colour mounted slowly to his ears, from his ears to his temples, and by degrees suffused his whole face. Yevgraf Ivanovitch shifted in his chair and unbuttoned his shirt-collar to save himself from choking. He was evidently struggling with the feeling that was mastering him. A deathlike silence followed. The children held their breath.

Rating: ★★★★½

*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. Chekhov. Must read him soon!

    By the way, check out (pun intended) the week of early Chekhov shorts over at Wuthering Expectations 🙂

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      You must indeed Tony. He will colour your life. Brilliant ‘heads up’ on the Wuthering Expectations. There speaks a true fan.