A secret terrorist group infiltrates the household of a government official’s son, with a view to spying on the father and, ultimately, assassinating him. But the young man entrusted with the task – an ailing, world-weary “nobody” – seized with the purposelessness of life and a sense of his own impending death, gradually becomes disillusioned with his mission, and decides to embark on a new path which will lead him to tragedy.
Combining psychological detail with a strong sense of place and time, The Story of a Nobody bears all the hallmarks of Chekhov’s genius, and perfectly captures the political and social tensions of its day.
Revived in this sure-footed translation by Hugh Aplin, Chekhov’s novella deserves to be much better known.
This story is … a wonderful piece of literature. I know this because I have read it several times, and it is only excellent writing that improves with rereading.
Louis de Bernières
Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) is one of the giants of modern literature, exerting a strong influence on many present-day novelists and dramatists. As a playwright, he ranks in popularity second only to Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. As a prose writer, he was one of the first to use the stream-of-consciousness technique, and his anti-heroic realism, full of ambiguity and allusion, provides no easy moral conclusions and results in a new kind of narrative approaching real life in a way no writer had achieved before him.