In An Enigmatic Nature, Anton Chekhov writes:

"I am a suffering soul in some page of Dostoevsky. Reveal my soul to the world, Voldemar."


"Happiness comes tapping at my window, I had only to let it in - but -"

And later concludes the story with the following passage:

"But what—what stands in your way? I implore you tell me! What is it?"

"Another old general, very well off——">>

The broken fan conceals the pretty little face. The author props on his fist his thought—heavy brow and ponders with the air of a master in psychology. The engine is whistling and hissing while the window curtains flush red with the glow of the setting sun.

My questions are:

(1) Why does she voluntarily seek out "Another old general, very well off", when she had just gained wealth on the death of the previous one, and had intended to marry the person she actually loved after his death?

(2) And how does Fyodor Dostoyevsky relate to the character(the Lady)?

1 Answer 1


This short story is a hilarious caricature on the--oh so typical--characters. Both of them are pathetically "ignoble1, repulsive, and senseless", and being such, they of course blame the world on it. Exposing these traits is the centrepoint of much of Chekhov's output.

So this "another old general" is the punch line, so to speak. Like everything else, this "obstacle" is blamed (implicitly or explicitly) on the circumstances, on the "environment". Yeah, really?

With inevitable simplification, it can be said that Dostoyevsky was an antithesis of Chekhov. (Or rather, the other way round, of course). Dostoyevsky (apparently) prided himself, and was/is respected by many, for his psychologism, but Chekhov's take on it was akin to You want some one to saw my finger with a blunt saw while I howl at the top of my voice -- that's what you mean by psychology" (from his The Teacher of Literature). So throwing Dostoyevsky in ("suffering in a manner of Dostoyevsky") is yet another indication of fake and pathetic "psychologism" of the characters.

1 The original word that is used here sums up the whole spectacle perfectly, but even Nabokov struggled to translate it.

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