In `The Death of a Civil Servant', an administrative clerk accidentally sneezes on a hierarchical superior at the opera, which results in great embarrassment and hilarious and futile attempts at atonement. The other short stories included in this volume, `A Calculated Marriage', `The Culprit', `The Exclamation Mark', `The Speech-Maker', `Who Is to Blame?' and `A Defenceless Creature' are in the same absurdly comical vein.
This short collection shows Chekhov in an amusing, playful light, poking fun at the greed, sycophancy and ignorance of his characters, with the moral detachment that also characterizes his major, serious works.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) is one of the giants of modern literature, exerting a strong influence on many present-day novelists and dramatists. As a playwright, he ranks in popularity second only to Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. As a prose writer, he was one of the first to use the stream-of-consciousness technique, and his anti-heroic realism, full of ambiguity and allusion, provides no easy moral conclusions and results in a new kind of narrative approaching real life in a way no writer had achieved before him.