Book Review, “The Black Monk” by Anton Chekhov

The Black Monk

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of Chekhov’s novelas, The Black Monk explores the contrast between “the mania of greatness”, or what we today might call grandiosity or even narcissism, and the joy that comes from selfless devotion to one’s work and family. Kovrin receives a visit from the Black Monk, a vision from the distant past, who tells Kovrin that he is one of the great and is highly favored by God. This becomes an obsession and the Black Monk’s visits become more frequent. Kovrin’s new wife and father-in-law suffer as Kovrin’s madness is discovered and treated and Kovrin sinks into a sort of bitter depression. “How happy were Buddha, Mohammed, and Shakespeare, that their relations and doctors did not try to cure them of their ecstasies and inspirations!” Kovid relays to his well-meaning and shattered family.
The Black Monk is a very thoughtful exploration of the individual and society and has much value in our current age where self-centered individualism is often celebrated.

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