‘The Lady with the Dog’ by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett

Chekhov, like Chopin, is an artist who expresses an exquisite and open-ended vision of the sadness, hope, and folly of our lives. ‘The Lady with the Dog’ is one of my favorite Chekhov stories (tied neck-and-neck with his dog fable ‘Kashtanka’). The tale is one of petty adultery narrated in such a non-judgmental manner that you are drawn towards the characters and into the enduring mysteries of love. Gurov, a chauvinistic and womanizing Moscow banker, is on a summer vacation in Yalta, where he is attracted to Anna, the lady with a little dog, who is visiting from a provincial town. After a swift seduction and several weeks together, they return to their respective unhappily married lives. But the interlude is no summer fling, for each has been touched, for the first time, by love. Meeting in secret, the story ends with the lovers facing with grim resilience the troubles that must lie ahead. The writing is so compassionate towards the characters and their transformation, and to the arc of time itself, that it leaves you not only with a lump in the throat but a sense that so many of us are “birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages.”

First published in 1899. Included in The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, trans. Constance Garnett, Penguin Classics, 2002. Available online here

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