1001 Passions, or a Dreadful Night by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Review

the text "1001 Passions, or, a Dreadful Night by anton chekhov" written next to the portrait of anton chekhov

Yesterday my second son was born, I was so happy I hanged myself.

I read this, and I was completely creeped out. What! Really? Until the dormant little me kicked in, saying it could have been a dream.. and yes, it was. Thankfully! Not mine, but of the protagonist from Chekhov’s short story 1001 Passions or a Dreadful Night. 

The story was first published in July 1880 in The Dragonfly. It is now available as part of a short story collection called ‘Prank’ published by The New York Review books translated by Maria Bloshteyn.

1001 Passions or a Dreadful Night: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens in a somewhat surreal setting at midnight. It’s raining heavily, and thunder leveled buildings around. The wind is howling, and a meteor shower is happening at the same time. A bell tolls ominously somewhere distant, and the elements are at battle with each other. 

The protagonist Antonio is out with Theodore, husband of a woman Antonio loves. He plans to kill Antonio and have his wife all for himself. He kills both Antonio and the coachman by pushing them onto a volcano and falls to the ground weeping.

Antonio then goes to see the woman at her apartment, kills the maid. The woman gets to see the death of her husband in Antonio’s eyes and falls in love with her. She then asks Antonio to forgive the enemies that he killed. They are blessed with a baby boy who looks like his mother, and then have a second one shortly after. It was later revealed that all of it was a dream.

See for yourself!

My little boy reaches out his hands to the readers, exhorting them not to listen to his Papa. His papa had no children, his papa had no wife. His papa fears marriage like the plague. My boy doesn’t lie. He is an infant. Believe him. Infancy is a holy age. None of this ever happened…. Good night.

1001 Passions or a Dreadful Night: Review and My Thoughts

The story was absurd to begin with. None of it was making any sense, and that made me more and more restless. It was bizarre (and surreal?)

There was a bit Kafkaesque glimmer somewhere, and then it went too far to sound real anymore. The story was super absurd and fast-paced, but there were so many poetic expressions, I found myself fan-girling over.

Rain and snow – those two sodden brothers – battered our faces with terrible force.

Who doesn’t tremble before nature’s grandeur?

The elements battled each other. Unseen forces strove to achieve a terrifying harmony of the elements. What are these forces? Will mankind ever know them?

Death is both fetters and freedom from fetters

The gaze is the sword of the soul.

The groaning of the wind – what is it but a conscience groaning under the weight of horrific crimes?

Dreams are fascinating, but of course! You don’t need someone else telling you that; you already know! However young or old you are, there would have been occasions where you would have recounted your dream in front of a close friend or a family member, beginning with ‘I had the weirdest dream!’. 

I have done that too, but not lately, not since my brother has become intelligent enough to start policing me on it. ‘ Who doesn’t have weird dreams, come on!’. 

He’s got a point, but I don’t tell him that.

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