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Friday, 14 March 2014

No-phone journal: Entry 4 (with thoughts on Chekhov)

I woke up this morning with a bad dream, and a bad feeling. Most of my dreams escape me the moment I wake up, but the ones that remain are usually nightmares, in some of which I did brutal things, which leads me to believe that perhaps most of my dreams are bad and perhaps it's good that I don't remember them. This time I appeared somewhere, before a crowd, and for some reasons it turned out that everybody hated me and attacked me and I stood there, hurt and confused, with no support. What happened afterwards I remembered vaguely in the morning, but now, no more. 
An unproductive day. My mom's been sick since early in the morning, before I got up, then it was my turn after I had brunch. Felt odd, very odd, in my body, apparently as a result of being out for hours in such sentimental weather yesterday, tired and unwell, with a headache. Once I got better, other things happened. It was, I don't know, a bit primitive. I was more or less without technology for some time, as both laptops went 'sentimental' and I couldn't use the internet, whilst my mom's phone had no access to the internet, I chose not to use mine, determined not to break the 'vow' too soon. Oh how much my life depends on technology! On those machines! Those screens! But don't blame me, oh no, you can't live in Norway without the internet. Everything happens in the internet, finding information, contacting teachers and authorities, paying bills, buying tickets, registering, applying, getting questions, delivering assignments, checking schedules, seeing what films are out at the cinemas, etc. 
So, not knowing what to prepare for next classes, and seeing that my diary's out of paper, I read Chekhov and played Sudoku. Ah, the intellectual! A pseudo-intellectual, you think, and I may very well be one. 
Anyway, so far I've read 24 of the 40 stories. He, as written before, has a concise way of telling stories, never jumps in and lectures, never puts in his private sentiments, never adds unnecessarily lengthy monologues, rarely digs deep into his characters' minds but mostly focuses on the actions and the conversations. Shows instead of telling, and demonstrates his own principle, the "Chekhov's gun", i.e the idea that if there's a rifle in a story, it must go off at some point, in other words, all the details introduced must contribute to the plot. I have trouble seeing him placed, by some people, on the same rank as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. On the 1 hand, I do know writing short stories is difficult in its own way, and Chekhov's indeed a master. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky might not have been able to write stories as short and as good. On the other hand, I'm admittedly biased, in favour of novels. The short story has its own limitations. Its length doesn't allow the author to dig very deep in the characters' minds, handle all the complexities and contradictions of the characters, deal with grand subjects, etc, especially when Chekhov's stories are extremely, remarkably short. Apparently, it's such a crime that I judge 1 thing with the standard of something else completely different, but still... Another thing is, I feel that his stories should be seen together, as a body of work, showing all the various situations and types of people Chekhov has described, and can't stand alone like Kafka's "The judgment" or Herman Melville's "Bartleby" or Salinger's "A perfect day for bananafish".  
1 thing interesting I notice, Chekhov's stories have inconclusive endings. Now and then, there's a feeling that something's missing, lacking, the stories seem rather pointless even, as in the case of "Green scythe", "The little apples", "In the cemetery", "A dead body", "Who is to blame?", etc. Luckily most of the time, the endings are suggesting and I enjoy that a lot. "Joy", "The ninny", "The highest heights", "Death of a government clerk", "Surgery", "Where there's a will, there's a way", "The threat", "The malefactor", "Sergeant Prishibeyev", "A blunder", "Heartache"... are magnificent. Chekhov can be amusing, can be moving, sometimes both at the same time. His greatness, somehow, is in the very randomness and inconclusiveness of his stories. Most remarkable is that, with a few strokes, he paints very lively pictures, of Russia and Russians, of human beings, and whilst seeming to describe things on the surface, he touches us deeply, in an indescribable way. So now, it perhaps doesn't matter much any more that I have more admiration for Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, one reads them in different moods, different mindsets, and at different times in life. 
Oh the comfort of having these Russian guys as company whilst one feels lost and alone. 
I still find myself waiting for something- for what? Can't say. It overwhelms me to think that these days, having blocked the best way one may contact me, I keep imagining all the messages that may have arrived unnoticed, only to later switch it on again and collapse in disappointment finding nothing awaiting me. And as I can't tell if anything has come or not, it's impossible to plan how to act next week, when I face........ Truly, what option is worse?

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