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The Kiss, by Anton Chekhov – Review

The most ill at east of them all was Ryabovitch – a little officer in spectacles, with sloping shoulders, and whiskers like a lynx’s. While some of his comrades assumed a serious expression, while others wore forced smiles, his face, his lynx-like whiskers, and spectacles seemed to say: I am the shyest, most modest, and most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade!” -From The Kiss-

I read this masterful short story of Chekov’s for The Russian Lit Yahoo group, and found it accessible and enjoyable.

Ryabovitch and his officers are billeted in a small town and find themselves invited to tea at a General’s home. They go reluctantly, feeling perhaps they have been invited out of obligation and nothing more.

In a house in which two sisters and their children, brothers, and neighbours were gathered together, probably on account of some family festivities, or event, how could the presence of nineteen unknown officers possibly be welcome? -From The Kiss-

But once at the gathering, they begin to enjoy themselves – talking to the ladies, drinking and dancing. All, that is, but Ryabovitch – a shy, naive man who feels uncomfortable in the presence of women. When he leaves the main room and wanders into a darkened library, however, Ryabovitch is astonished when a woman rushes up to him and kisses him on the cheek. Obviously having mistaken him for a secret paramour, the woman leaves without a word – and Ryabovitch is left to wonder who she is as the darkness of the room has prevented him from recognizing her identity.

Chekhov takes this singular event and weaves a story of obsession, expectation and disappointment. Although written in the early part of the twentieth century, The Kiss feels like a modern story of intrigue and romance. Chekhov’s skill at creating character and dialogue resonates with the reader.

I read this story as part of a collection from The Essential Tales of Chekhov, edited by Richard Ford – and plan to read the rest of Chekhov’s short works before the year is out. I can highly recommend The Kiss to readers – it is a simple story, but one that delights.

8 Comments

  1. May 27, 2008    

    Sounds wonderful. I’m not a big short story reader, but this collection sounds like something I’d really like. Thanks!

  2. May 27, 2008    

    You’re welcome, Julie! I happen to really like the Russian writers – and was pleasantly surprised by how “modern” Chekhov’s stories feel. Hope you’ll enjoy the collection!

  3. May 27, 2008    

    I have a strong affinity for Russian Lit too, especially the 19th century stuff. I don’t know why, but I feel very much at home in that world.

  4. n3o n3o
    October 29, 2008    

    Hey! How can I find a criticism of “The Kiss” by Chekhov? Would you help?

  5. October 30, 2008    

    Julie: I think Russian Lit can be hard to relate to for most readers – but I generally enjoy it.

    n30: Have you tried Googling it? How did you find MY review?!??

  6. November 20, 2008    

    “Diamond” – I deleted both of your comments. You are welcome to come on and say you did not like a book, of course, but I do not allow profane language and it would be nice if you could express your opinion as to what you didn’t like in a grown up manner. Comments that are posted which are disrespectful to me or other readers are always deleted.

  7. Elmo Elmo
    May 1, 2012    

    We’re havin this short story as part of our syllabus in European Classics in Translation this semester (btw i’m doin my master in english litt). I really enjoy reading the poems, stories and novels.

  8. Nilou Nilou
    May 16, 2012    

    I like this story. I’ve read it in my lit course. But i’m searching for its lit elements like character, theme, irony and … can u help me plz?

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