Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harold Bloom...

…That is all Chekhov gives us, but he reverberations go on long after this conclusion that concludes nothing. Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna are evidently both somewhat changed, but not necessarily for the better. Nothing either can do for the other is redemptive: what then redeems their story from its mundane staleness? How does it differ from the tale of every other hapless adultery?

Not by our interest in Gurov and Anna, as any reader would have to conclude; there is nothing remarkable about them. He is another womanizer, and she another weeping woman. Chekhov’s artistry is never more mysterious than here, where it is palpable yet scarcely definable. Clearly Anna is in love, though Gurov is hardly a worthy object. Just how to value the mournful Anna, we cannot know. What passes between the lovers is presented by Chekhov with such detachment that we lack not information but judgment, including our own. For the story is weirdly laconic in its universalism. Does Gurov really believe that at last he has fallen in love? He has no clue, nor does the reader, and if Chekhov knows, he won’t tell us. As in Shakespeare, where Hamlet tells us that he loves, and we don’t know if we can believe him, we are not tempted to trust Gurov’s assertion that this at last is the real right thing. Anna complains bitterly that theirs is a “dark secret love” (to use William Blake’s great phrase from his “The Sick Rose”), but Gurov seems to revel in the secret life, which he thinks uncovers his true self. He is a banker, and doubtless many bankers have true selves, but Gurov isn’t one of them. The reader can credit Anna’s tears, but not Gurov’s “How? How? How?” as he clutches his head. Chekhov-in-love parodied himself in The Seagull’s Trigorin, and I suggest that Gurov is a more transposed slef-parody. We don’t much like Gurov, and we want Anna to stop crying, but we cannot cast their story off, because it is our story. 

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