Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lunchtime read: Russian Short Stories

It’s great reading short stories by various different authors because of the different voices and styles and for material that you want to read in a short space of time there is always that sense of achievement that you have finished the story before your time is up.

Highlights from a couple of Russian stories

The Fatalist Mikhail Lermontov
Again there is a gambling theme with one man taking bets whether predestination exists or not by raising a loaded gun to his head. The gun miss-fires leading the Vulich, to boast that he has won over fate but one of those assembled, Pechorin, says that he sees death on the gamblers face. Pechorin leaves and walks home convinced that he had recognised death on his face and is woken in the early hours having been told that Vulich has been carved almost in two by a mad Cossack later on his way home with his last words being “He was right”.

The Officer’s Belt - Sergei Dovlatov
This is a modernish story, being set in the late 1960s, and focuses on the author and his experience escorting a prisoner to the asylum after he had gone mad. On the way the other solider escorting them gets drunk and beats up Dovlatov hospitalising him. He comes to the hospital and begs repentance and together they write down all of the questions and answers he should answer in court but they forget the most obvious one “tell us what happened”. So in the court room the accused starts reeling off answers unrelated to anything (I was laughing out loud at this point) and winds the judge up and gets his deserved punishment.

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