“Well, like much of Chekhov, it’s powerful in part because, although there is a moral undertone, no moral arguments are made, he’s not a moraliser. It’s about this guy who gets drawn into a duel so ridiculous that it’s impossible, even if you’ve just read the story, to remember exactly what it was they were duelling about. It’s often true of duels that people are prickly and they think their honour is being abused and they end up fighting. What happens is this man who is leading a rather meaningless life, fights a duel and doesn’t get killed and that turns him around and he pulls himself together. It’s just so marvellous, the description of these professional-class Russians, far, far away from Moscow in the provinces, and their preoccupation with status and all that, and these two guys in a completely pointless duel. It’s not just Chekhov creating an interesting narrative moment; it really was so common with these duels that it was extremely difficult to say in a short paragraph exactly what they were about.” Read more...
The best books on Honour
Kwame Anthony Appiah,