Monday, 7 March 2016

The Exclamation Mark by Anton Chekhov (5/5)

First published: 1885-6, 2008
Original title:  -
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Rosamund Bartlett, 2008

Page count: 104
The back says: A civil servant stands accused of not understanding the rules of punctuation. He begins to go through the correct use of commas and semicolons before arriving at the exclamation mark, which, he realizes, in 40 years of writing, he has never used. From here he develops a bizarre and paranoid fantasy in which everyday objects transform into malevolent exclamation marks. Written when Chekhov was on the verge of becoming a literary celebrity, this is an enlightening new selection that reveals the author’s often neglected comic talents.

The Exclamation Mark (A Christmas Story); New Year Martyrs; Competition; A Failure; On the Telephone; Kids; Grief; Conversation Between a Drunkard and a Sober Devil; The Requiem; Bliny; A Little Joke; In Springtime; A Nightmare; The Rook; Grisha; On Easter Night; A Tale; The Literary Table of Ranks; Romance With Double Bass; Superfluous People; A Little Joke (1899 revised version).

I say: I always find it hard to review a collection of short stories because, inevitably, some are going to be better that the others. However, with this collection I think I find it quite easy to recommend all the stories to everyone I’ll ever meet.

Confidently whispering that the first version of A Little Joke is better than the revised one.

The stories made me laugh out loud, made me smirk, and made me think. I didn’t love all of them, but I loved Chekhov’s writing and way of telling the stories with oftentimes humour mixed with a serious undertow of seriousness and message. 

Although I haven’t loved all of his plays, I do love his way of telling a short story.

More Chekhov for me!

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