What trifles, if you think of it, will sometimes disturb any one! (16)Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring―it was peace.― Milan Kundera
Turgenev, another master of the unpredictable. He started this short story with the description of an old lady; a widow with joyless and gloomy days, and now with evenings blacker than night. The air was made of sadness and uncertainty. I always feel bad when old people are left alone in the world. Although she was surrounded by many servants, they were not their family, their blood. Even when the lady had the most remarkable servant, Gerasim, deaf and dumb from birth but extremely strong and with great sense of responsibility. He was used to hard work, to the village life, but, all of a sudden, he found himself in Moscow, in the old lady's house, working as a porter. And since “man gets used to anything”, Gerasim got used to living in town as well. And yet, that would be the first wound of his life.
The story goes on and Turgenev presents us a shoemaker that also worked at the widow's house. Kapiton Klimov, a sad drunkard led to the bottle by his own sorrow (sorrow has many ways to make a human being explode; you could prefer depressing music and a pint of ice cream, but to each his own) made the old lady a bit uneasy. She took pity on him and decided he should marry Tatiana, a laundress with a tragic past. That decision—that apparently came from a kind-hearted old lady that wanted to regenerate a lost man—had repercussions on several aspects. One of those consequences was the second wound of Gerasim. The third wound concerns a dog, Mumu, the inspiration for this short story's title. One of the few things you will regard as pure and honest and that, eventually, will break your literary heart.
I can't mention all the particulars because this is a very short story and I don't want to spoil everything, even if you can find the details in a million websites. They will not come from a review of mine!
So, let's just say that even though Turgenev amuses us with some fine irony while describing these Russian fellas...
‘Here you’ve been drunk again,’ Gavrila began, ‘drunk again, haven’t you? Eh? Come,answer me!’‘Owing to the weakness of my health, I have exposed myself to spirituous beverages, certainly,’ replied Kapiton. (8)
...there is an oppressive atmosphere you cannot escape from.
...she watched him confidingly and without any fear, faintly wagging her tail. He turned away, frowned, and wrung his hands... (23)
An intense sorrow that I am sure will not lead you to a bottle (well, I hope), but will make you contemplate your own surroundings, your own actions and attitudes towards other people.
Nothing is what it seems. Not even an old lady.
Russian authors seemed to have found the exact amount of humor and tragedy that life can bear. They put everything on paper and created the most magnificent pieces of literature that make everything else so unnecessary. When I think about it, when I take time for myself and ponder about my own existence, happiness doesn't seem so far away. A book, coffee, light, a rainy day.
And loneliness, for a while, is nothing but a word.
- Note: I read this story last year, from Aug, 2 to 9 but I'm reviewing the last couple of books I couldn't review before, so yes, I had to re-read it. My memory is not that good. And this was not a good time to re-read it, let me assure you. For numerous reasons that are not relevant to you, person that's reading this, I'm not living with my beloved cat anymore. A relative is taking care of him and I visit him every week. There are not many words to describe what the separation meant to me. You also can't imagine the impact that reading this short story had on me, now. There is a time for everything, I always say. Last year, this story was a somewhat funny and moving read. Today... today is a story that left my soul grieving.