The Brute is a funny Russian drama!

Akshat Jiwan Sharma, Sun Aug 02 2015

"Enchante, madame! Merci beaucoup for not paying zee money, madame! Pardonnez-moi if I 'ave disturbed you,madame! How charmante you look in mourning,madame!"

A frustrated bite from a proud banana. There are times in a chappie's life when he wonders if he has understood life as well as he thought. Why it was only a few days ago when one was negotiating life's volleys with a blissful carelessness, with a joyful spring in one's step and a radiant smile on one's face. It was all sunshine and roses. The birds were singing and the scent of flowers was in the air. One felt as happy as a dog rolling on the grass field on a sunny day. And now when one looks outside the window what does one find? Can one smell the flowers? "No". Does one hear the birds singing? "No". What about the sunshine that never fails to lift the spirit? "Everything seems to be covered in a curtain of mist". One wonders what brought upon this change in one's attitude?

"Contemplative smoke from a cogitative cigarette"

A Russian drama that's what. Having read about half of war and peace, a few paragraphs of Dostoevsky's notes from the underground and the blurb on the back cover of the Dead souls I felt that it would not be an exaggeration to call myself as somewhat of an expert on Russian literature. I've taken pains to carefully arrange Russian books in my room (one on the table, two near the window and one upon the TV) to impress my friends. I dust them every week and sometimes purposefully smear the pages so that it looks like they have been read. But to be honest I try to keep away from them as they are too depressing. When it comes to Russian books I have the following maxims:-

  1. Don't read them at night.
  2. Don't read them alone.
  3. Lock away all the sharp objects and give the key to a friend before you start reading them.

"Enough with the yapping I'm here to know more about the book"

I was coming to that. The book,yes? Most certainly. Recently I came upon this drama called The brute written by the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov. As soon as I read the title I assumed the worst. Immediately my mind pictured men hanging by the neck in wine cellars, my ears heard gunshots and my eyes turned to the window desperately seeking some light. A prudent move would have been to leave the premises altogether and not think about the book any more. But weak as I am, I'm ashamed to admit, in the presence of a juicy paperback, I gave in to the temptation and decided to flip it's covers. Temporary insanity, that's what it was.

Characters in The Brute

Mrs Popov :- Widow. In mourning for seven months. Suffering with an acute Miss Havisham syndrome. Apparently she loved and lost. Mr Popov her husband died after having cheated on her. But it seems that her love is still alive and thriving. She has vowed to never see the light of the day again. She does not like to meet with anyone. Stopped seeing the neighbours altogether and refuses to entertain them when they call. Not good with names of people. Gets upset quite easily. She will never rid her body of that raiment of death (the mourning dress she is in). She will remain by her husband's side till death do them part. Furthermore she is of the opinion that after death she will reunite with her husband who shall take her back gladly after seeing her loyalty.

Luka:- Timid butler. Wishes everyone well. Wants Mrs popov to have a good life. Advises her to go out more often. Diligently compiles a list of places for her to go that includes a ballroom where soldiers come to relax. Farsighted. Tells Mrs popov that if she does not act now then in ten years when she may want to "strut and show her feathers" it will be too late.

Toby:- Horse. Likes oats. Insignificant.

Smirnov:- The Brute. Quick temper. Known to break furniture when in a rage. Prefers vodka to water. Knows a lot about women. Has been in love many times. Considers women to be creatures of poetry and romance. Has jilted 12 and has been jilted by 9. Burning eyelashes and soft whispering does not affect him any more. Has vowed never to fall in love again. It's been 5 years since he was last in love. Creditor by profession. Frustrated that none of his debtors were paying up. Had also lent some money to Mrs Popov. Wants it back today. Refuses to leave the estate unless Mrs. Popov pays up. Challenges her to a duel. Falls in love the moment she picks up a gun.

My thoughts on The Brute

It was very refreshing. I have read Chekhov before but his stories are usually heavy and brooding so something light and funny was totally unexpected. It also made me wonder if I had all of my facts about life wrong or if only some of them were wrong and if it was the latter case then which ones were wrong and which ones were right? If you like humour you should definitely read The Brute. For some reason it is called The Bear in Gutenberg version that I linked above and the translation is a bit different from the one that I read but the story is the same.


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