In this affecting (1892-93) novella, which shares many of the structural and tonal qualities of its author's later plays, an aging and ailing terrorist (the story's narrator) finds employment as a servant in a household promising access to the enemy he plans to assassinate: the "famous statesman" who is his employer Orlov's elderly father. The narrator's plot never comes to fruition. Instead, his idealism is gradually eroded by his involvement with the egoistic Orlov, the latter's sycophantic and foolish friends, and particularly the weak Zinaida Fyodorovna, who leaves her husband, only to be betrayed and abandoned by her lover. A compact symphony of frustrated emotions, incompatibility and estrangement, destroyed dreams and bitter compromises: the very essence of Chekhov.
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