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  • The Duel (Movie Tie-in Edition)
  • Written by Anton Chekhov
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307742964
  • Our Price: $9.99
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The Duel

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Written by Anton ChekhovAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Constance GarnettAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Constance Garnett
Introduction by Aleksandar HemonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Aleksandar Hemon

eBook

List Price $11.00

On Sale: August 16, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61219-070-9
List Price $9.99

On Sale: August 10, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-74296-4
List Price $2.99

On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-43215-5
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Includes a new forward by the screenwriter Mary Bing 

In Anton Chekhov’s The Duel the escalating animosity between two men with opposed philosophies of life is played out against the backdrop of a seedy resort on the Black Sea coast.

Laevsky is a dissipated romantic given to gambling and flirtation; he has run off with another man’s wife, the beautiful but vapid Nadya, and now finds himself tiring of her. The scientist von Koren is contemptuous of Laevsky; as a fanatical devotee of Darwin, von Koren believes the other man to be unworthy of survival and is further enraged by his treatment of Nadya. As the confrontation between the two becomes increasingly heated, it leads to a duel that is as comically inadvertent as it is inevitable. Masterfully translated by the award-winnning Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Duel is one of the most subtle examples of Chekhov’s narrative art.

Excerpt

“Laevsky played, drank wine and thought that the duel was basically foolish and pointless, as it does not resolve the question, but only complicates it further, however such things are unavoidable at times.”—Anton Chekhov, The Duel
Anton Chekhov|Aleksandar Hemon

About Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov - The Duel
Anton Chekhov was the author of hundreds of short stories and several plays and is regarded by many as both the greatest Russian storyteller and the father of modern drama.

About Aleksandar Hemon

Aleksandar Hemon - The Duel

Photo © SA Schloff

Not only is English his second language, but Alexsandar Hemon moved to the United States just eight years ago, and then with a minimal grasp of the language. He has since perfected his English and penned the much-talked-about The Question of Bruno, a book of interwoven stories deftly linked by character, location, and subplot.
Praise

Praise

 "I would save it from a burning house before everything else I've ever read." -- David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Like much of Russian literature from the nineteenth century, The Duel deals explicitly with ideas and ideologies and how they function in the “real world” depicted in the novel. Chekhov’s story plots the conflict between two protagonists who espouse antithetical worldviews: Von Koren and his Social Darwinism, in which only the fittest should survive, and Laevsky and his “Hamletism” (“My indecision reminds of Hamlet”), that is, his tendency to blame his own hypocrisy and moral turpitude on the corrupting influences of his time and civilization. Identify and discuss some of the passages in which the two characters discuss their own and, more important, each other’s worldviews. In what ways do these two protagonists embody their self-professed beliefs?

2. What makes The Duel interesting is that neither of the two main characters prevails: Laevsky proves himself wrong, discovering that he is actually capable of modest and useful work, and is reconciled to Nadezhda Fyodorovna. Von Koren’s belief in the irredeemableness of “socially inferior” personalities is disproved, and the scientist willingly apologizes to his former enemy, admitting that he had wrongly judged him. If the worldviews of the two main characters fail, who, then, is right in the story? Whose views prevail? What is the moral of this explicitly moral, fable-like story?

3. Chekhov was notoriously self-effacing. At least on an initial reading his stories can seem, as the critic Ernest J. Simmons put it, “gentle, penetrating, unifying and poetic,” which is an indirect and perhaps over-nice way of saying that there is little of the gutsy philosophizing for which Russian literature is justly famous. Furthering the impression of his indifference, Chekhov said relatively little about his own views in his letters or diary. Probably his most famous pronouncement on the public’s perception of him as a thinker was penned in 1889, about a year before he began working on The Duel:

I should like to be a free artist and nothing more, and I regret that God has not given me the power to be one. I hate lying and violence in all their forms. . . . Pharisaism, stupidity and despotism reign not in merchants’ houses and prisons alone. I see them in science, in literature, in the younger generation. . . . That is why I have no preference either for gendarmes, or for butchers, or for scientists, or for writers, or for the younger generation. I regard trade-marks and labels as a superstition. My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom–freedom from violence and lying, whatever forms they may take. This is the programme I would follow if I were a great artist.*

How does Chekhov’s artistic “programme” comment on the message of The Duel, and vice versa?

4. When The Duel begins, Laevsky is complaining to Somoylenko that he has fallen out of love with his mistress, Nadezhda Fyodorovna. Chekhov paints a penetrating portrait of seemingly irreconcilable mutual isolation between the two, and as the story progresses, and Laevsky discovers Nadezhda Fyodorovna’s unfaithfulness, the grounds for their isolation seem to grow. Yet, by the end of the novel the two have reconciled. What exactly causes Laevsky’s change of heart? How convincing is the reconciliation?

5. The deacon–despite his frivolousness–plays a pivotal and serious role in The Duel, namely, preventing Von Koren from killing Laevsky. While sitting in the bushes and watching the unfolding duel, the deacon mutters “Moles,” a reference to an earlier conversation he had had with Von Koren. Reread the conversation (in chapter XVI) between the two, and discuss why the deacon recalls it while watching the duelists. What sort of person is the deacon? In what ways does he differ from Von Koren and Laevsky? Why is he always giggling?


*The letter is to A. N. Pleshcheyev, dated October 1889. Letters of Anton Chekhov to His Family and Friends, trans. Constance Garnett. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.


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