Chekhov Shorts: In the Court

Title: In the Court
Date Read: 20th September 2011
Briefly: The Circuit Court is in session, but for all members on this day – and one expects every day – it’s a mundane and lethargic affair. Even the case of peasant Nikolay Harlamov, who is charged with the murder of his wife, fails to raise the interest of the court to any level other than mild disinterest.
Afterthoughts: I found this story from Chekhov to be rather dull and and not all that interesting, which I guess fits in perfectly with the mood of the story even though it doesn’t really make for entertaining reading. The saving grace i.e. why this tale scores a three and nothing less, all comes down to the ending and a rather slight but genius twist in the tale. All in all though, a largely forgettable effort from Chekhov.
Notable Quote: At first the prisoner turned pale and coughed nervously into his sleeve, but soon the stillness, the general monotony and boredom infected him too. He looked with dull-witted respectfulness at the judges’ uniforms, at the weary faces of the jurymen, and blinked calmly. The surroundings and procedure of the court, the expectation of which had so weighed on his soul while he was awaiting them in prison, now had the most soothing effect on him. What he met here was not at all what he could have expected. The charge of murder hung over him, and yet here he met with neither threatening faces nor indignant looks nor loud phrases about retribution nor sympathy for his extraordinary fate; not one of those who were judging him looked at him with interest or for long. . . . The dingy windows and walls, the voice of the secretary, the attitude of the prosecutor were all saturated with official indifference and produced an atmosphere of frigidity, as though the murderer were simply an official property, or as though he were not being judged by living men, but by some unseen machine, set going, goodness knows how or by whom. . . .

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).