23 March 2010

"Ward No 6" by Anton Chekhov

Let me state this upfront - I'm not writing a review. How does one write a review of one of the greatest writers who ever walked on this earth? How does one review the master himself? Of all the great writers that Russia has periodically and flawlessly managed to produce - Anton Chekhov is a revolutionary in his own way. Still you will find comparisons between him and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in abundance. But for a reader stretching to understand and make peace with the Russian masters, Chekhov will come as a much needed relief.

Chekhov does not moralize and philosophize at the drop of a hat and turn of a story like Tolstoy nor does he attempt to dig deeper and deeper into the soul till all that is left is the dark deep abyss like FD. Chekhov writes in an objective, simple and dispassionate fashion that one may have never heard of in Russian writing but yet displays the sensitivity and compassion required to draw the reader into the story.

Ward No 6 - Is less of a short story and more of a novella. Such is the way in which Chekhov writes - combining all elements that make a full blown book into a few pages of narration so rich and so full of experiences. It's story you should read in one sitting and right after that walk out into the open to let it sink in or as it did to me - let the pathos out. Ward No 6 is a heart rendering story of a psychiatric doctor (Andrey Ragin) who turns into a patient in his own asylum. Apart from the plot, it is Chekhov's classic rendering style that gets you hooked to the story.

When he talks about Andrey Ragin lying on the sofa, listening with his teeth clenched, disgust rising and mounting into his throat, you find it hard to swallow. When he wakes up, wipes his brow with his sleeve and felt that his whole face smelt of smoked fish, you get the smell too.

I'll leave you with one of Chekhov's quotes from 'The House of Mezzanine"
"My life is tedious, dull, monotonous, because I am a painter, a queer fish, and have been worried all my life with envy, discontent, disbelief in my work: I am always poor, I am a vagabond, but you are a wealthy, normal man, a landowner, a gentleman - why do you live so tamely and take so little from life?"

1 comment:

  1. Arth makes a comeback and how! The last line, my dear, is a killer. You picked just the quote to get someone hooked. As usual, you put me on the top of the borrower list for this book right?