March 7th – A Failure – Anton Chekhov
Another story from The Exclamation Mark, A Failure tells of two parents eager to marry off their daughter to the district school teacher. They eavesdrop on their daughter’s meeting with the teacher, planning to entrap him using a blessing with religious icons that he may not then break. The custom with the icon firmly places the story in the Russian culture of the time yet the structure and dialogue feel contemporary. The story is short enough to be considered a piece of flash fiction and the fast-paced interchange of dialogue and the simple, direct description easily fulfil the expectations of modern readers. Another example of Chekhov’s brilliance.