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Without so much as a glance in your direction he beckons you on; you tiptoe as close as you dare and look over his shoulder. The words on the page, the characters, the setting seem to shift imperceptibly, rearrange themselves, to make room for you, and then they carry on doing whatever it was they were doing, as if you were not there at all. In that sphere I feel at home, but when I write a play, I feel uneasy, as though someone were peering over my shoulder. That seems to apply here.


It is the way these characters hate, desire, envy, despair of, consider and ignore each other that makes them human, makes them like us. Like us, they spend as much time thinking what they might do, or say, as they do doing, or saying, anything. Chekhov knows that our exterior, social life — the life of action — is just the tip of the iceberg, the modest, often accidental overspill of our grand interior life.

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But to the book itself. He is a monster, but he is also entirely believable. The believability of a character is second only to their likeableness or kill me now! But why? The result of love should be the elimination of all that is harmful to people in one way or another and threatens their present and future with danger.

Von Koren may consider himself the abstract representative of some moment in the history of ideas, but Chekhov never does. Likewise, when self-righteous moral guardian of the town Maria Konstantinvovna lays into Nadya Fyodorovna, her page-long diatribe starts like this:.

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You must listen to me, my dear… God takes note of great sinners, and you have been noted. Keep in mind, your outfits have always been horrible!

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These are individuals. Characters are details in the world of the story. It might even before a metaphor. To call the book The Duel — to flag up the possibility-crunching plot device that is a duel — seems to go against the way Chekhov works. Title : The Duel. First line : Napoleon I. The Conrad, though.

It just sets up its narrative premise and then moves, expeditiously, through the set of exercises that suggest themselves. The premise, expanded with much imaginative addition from a contemporary anecdote, is one of two duellists who carry on their rivalry throughout their entire career, though no one but them knows the true, and truly insignificant, event that sparked the conflict. Two characters we need, and two we get.

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Two French hussars, one embittered and aggrieved towards his rival, the other far more bewildered and reluctant. No other character is given more than a line or two of detail. You will search in vain for evocative description.

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Here is a paragraph from the retreat from Moscow:. On the outskirts of a village half buried in the snow an old wooden barn burned with a clear and an immense flame. The sacred battalion of skeletons, muffled in rags, crowded greedily the windward side, stretching hundreds of numbed, bony hands to the blaze.

The Duel by Anton Chekhov

Nobody had noted their approach. Or, later, when they are older:. This feature was no longer white and smooth as in the days of his youth; the kindly open glance of his blue eyes had grown a little hard as if from much peering through the smoke of battles.