The Duel – 4/5 Stars
I often tell my students that if they’re stuck in an English class and can’t figure out what to say about a text they’re reading for class to think about the title and what it means. You can even make the comment: “I think it’s really interesting that it’s called “The Duel” and not something else.” This seemingly trite statement gets to the heart of authorship or translation or publication in some interesting ways. For one, what does it say to call something “The Duel”? For one, it creates an automatic sense of momentum in the plot. We know what’s going to happen, or at least form an idea of what we expect, so whether that expectation is founded or not, we get a return on our investment. The title looms over the story and keeps forcing you to make inferences about who is involved in this would-be Duel or what it might be about, and in the case where’s there’s no violence, to make sense of what was even the Duel.
There’s a Duel here though, don’t worry.
This short novel deals with a man who is shacked up with a woman whose husband is off soldiering. He’s stopped loving her and wants out, but also he’s found out her husband has recently died and she doesn’t know, and he’s worried she will want to marry him when she finds out to become legit. She, unbeknownst to him, doesn’t love him or at least is bored with him and wants to move on. Her looming husband is also an issue. Enter a third party who hates him for being an unserious libertine, and you can see where this is going.
The Cherry Chekhov – 4/5
Do you think the Cherry Orchard is a symbol???
Yes, it is. This play involves the passing of time and wealth and status from one generation to the next. In an ironic and sometimes almost farcical way, the play then narrates what happens as a family decides it must part with a deeply symbolic vision of their status as gentry, an enormous cherry orchard (that, consequently, is never harvested for the fruit).
The orchard is a symbol of modernity in the wake of the industrial revolution. What had been a luxurious representation of wealth and agriculture without necessary sustenance–you can’t make bread with cherries. And so with the closing of serfdom and landed gentry, the cherry orchard needs to become a money making venture, first as a sale, and then as either a product or plowed over for modernization.
And of course, despite all the attempts, you can’t buy your way into respectability. At the death of aristocracy, there’s a kind of ironic equation: for the first time the product of the aristocracy are for sale, but in their availability, they no longer have their value. It’s interesting to me because this was never a world I lived in or saw, and can only read about.