I first encountered Chekhov when Katherine Mansfield made reference to him in her short story Bliss. Aware of the fact that Anton Chekhov is one of the most celebrated authors in Russian Literature, I purchased a copy of the book A Nervous Breakdown I found from an online marketplace. The previous owner of the book included a sticky note with a message “I hope it can also give you the comfort I had reading this book”. It made me even more intrigued.
Guessing from the title, it obviously has something to do with one’s mental health. A nervous breakdown, or panic, is something that all of us have experienced at least once in our lives, hence we could somehow relate to Vasilyev.
But to my surprise, I did not only got to read a perfect, fictional description of what a nervous breakdown feels like and how it was handled by Vasilyev, but I also got a picture of the 1800s Russian society, the state of prostitution, and debates about morality in this short story. There are a lot of subjects of discussion that can be extracted from this short story (including the Russian winter and their vodka culture, even themes of burnout and one’s moral obligations on humanity), which makes this more than impressive.
Now I’m looking forward to reading more of Chekhov’s works and more of Russian classic literature.
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