08 February 2009

Anton Chekhov

The way these things typically go is that one thing leads to another which leads to yet another and so on and so on . . .

For example, I was just watching Druckfrisch, a show about new books hosted by Denis Scheck. He began with a segment on "change" in the US and went on to discuss two of Obama's favorite authors, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. I read Bellow when I was really too young to understand what I was reading; a mistake I didn't make with Roth. So I was more than interested in his discussion of the latest Roth novel to appear in Germany, Empörung (Indignation). I was a bit annoyed because this book had slipped off of my radar, so I went searching for reviews, etc.

That's how I found the following quote from Anton Chekhov, which was in the review* of Indignation in The New York Review of Books:
There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man some one standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her claws sooner or later, trouble will come for him—disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others. (Italics are mine.)

I love Chekhow, and he's one of my go-to guys when I'm feeling miserable and want to feel worse. This quote is taken from a story called "Gooseberries," which is in the collection The Wife and Other Stories. This passage makes clear that things haven't really changed that much since 1898.

It also makes me want to swing my hammer.

*It's a very detailed review, so if you're interested in reading Indignation and don't want to know everything that happens, skip it.

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