18 October, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Celebrating Females of Fiction

Memo to Anna Sergeyevna


I do hope things are better than when we last saw you at the Slaviansky Bazaar. As you recall, that is where Chekhov left your story that afternoon, and where your future with Dmitri Gurov awaited. By now things between you and Gurov have hopefully advanced, though this reader is guessing Madame Gurov was far from accommodating in the breakup of her marriage.

As you know, problems can arise when a young married woman travels alone, especially to seaside resorts like Yalta. But that, as they say, is history. Events have already played themselves out and the outcome of your affair summed up in your story’s solemn final line: “…that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning.”

Sadly, it’s too late for you Anna Sergeyevna, but there are others out there I’m sure—young women with small dogs, disposable income and time on their hands who could use a list of what to look out for when they find themselves in uncertain circumstances. With that in mind, here are a few tips of what not to do when one finds oneself a lady with a dog in Yalta:

1. First, leave the Pomeranian at home. A cad’s favorite icebreaker is a dog.

2. Also, probably best not to wear a beret. All but says you’re available.

3. In the small talk that takes place early on, avoid “diffidence” and “angularity.” When pressed to have “syrup and water or an ice,” decline.

4. Decline any invitation to Yalta’s seaside groyne to “watch the steamer come in.” Oldest line in the book.

5. Once the affair begins, do not express regret. And by all means, don’t ask for forgiveness for your role in the affair. He’ll simply cut another slice of watermelon and ignore you.

6. When the two of you part at the Yalta train station, better to not say “We ought never to have met.” That will only encourage him.

7. Once you’ve returned to your home town of S—, keep busy. And if you’re going to the theater, avoid the performance advertised on handbills throughout the city.

8. When Gurov finds you in the theater, and he will (absence makes the heart, etc.), don’t steal away with him and weep in his arms. And don’t order him away. That will only fuel his ardor.

9. Do not, travel to Moscow to see Gurov. If you do, you’ll end up wasting away in a cheerless second-floor room over a storefront with only your middle-aged paramour and an endless spiral of bleak conversations to look forward to.

10. When Gurov visits your room above the Slaviansky Bazaar wear gray, the color your hair is turning, the color of the Moscow sky. Hope that things get better. Things will never get better.

Read Anna Sergeyevna’s full story, also known as Chekhov’s “The Lady With the Dog,” here.

—Lauren Alwan

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