Chosen by Hannah Piekarz
This is the perfect winter story – a horse-driven sledge ride through a snow blizzard, snug under layers of thick fur coats. The master, Vasili Andreevich, sets off during holiday festivities in order to get ahead with his business affairs, taking his man, peasant Nikita along for the trip. Little is spoken between them, other than discussion of where they think they are and the best way forwards. We’re treated to a moment-by-moment journey along icy tracks in fading light, as they double-back on themselves, twice. It evokes being lost in a landscape, decision-making and the endurance to continue until you encounter way markers to navigate yourself back onto the map. While the plot resembles most of my own rambles into the countryside, it is also an allegory of the speculative educated landowner versus the learnt intuition and sobriety of his worker. When the men are entirely lost, they are simultaneously isolated yet free. The cool crisp atmosphere sharpens the delivery of the story where the moral is found deep, blanketed under soft snow and warm insulation. These pages offer a restorative hug to your soul.
First published 1895. Collected in Master and Man and Other Stories, Penguin, 1977. Read it here. Hannah Piekarz writes science and for the screen, continuing the search for the universal in the specific (works in retail).