“The Lady from Monte Carlo” by Dovid Knut – Selection 47 of #DealMeIn2018

Deal Me In, Catch Me Up!

Though I haven’t been writing many blog posts this year, I have been keeping up with my reading of the stories on my Deal Me In list. I only have five to go now, and a couple recent reads were very good – or at least though-provoking – so I thought I should break my silence. I’m also beginning to think about next year’s Deal Me In chalenge. Are you? I will be posting an invitation to join post on December 21st (the “SHORT”est day of the year, of course – at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere!)

The Card: ♣3♣  Three of Clubs.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky. I’ve long been a sucker for short stories written by Russian authors, and this volume has provided several more that were memorable for me.

The Author: Dovid Knut, who I’ve never read – nor even heard of – before. He lived from 1900 – 1955 and, after the Bolshevik Revolution, spent a lot of time in Paris. He was actually born in what is now Moldova and also lived in Romania for a while. His personal bio information in Wikipedia was interesting to read through.

The Selection: “The Lady from Monte Carlo” I own this story as part of the great anthology “Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky.” I had no particular reason for picking this story as one of the thirteen from the volume I would read for the challenge.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

(below: the city of Monte Carlo today, from Forbes Travel Guide)

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The Lady from Monte Carlo

“For the love of God, my dear boy. Leave this place. Go. Trust me, you must leave at once.”

I was a little confused, initially at least, as to what this story was “about.”  But eventually I decided it was about the giving of advice, and how frequently advice – particularly good advice – is ignored. I’ve been guilty of not taking good advice throughout my life and I’m sure, if you’re being honest, you’ve – at least at times – done the same.

Why do we do it, though? Our reasons may vary but the end result is usually to our detriment. Do we think we know more than the advice-giver? Do we not trust the advice-giver? Do we just not like to think we need to be told what to do or how to behave? I think I’m guilty on all of these accounts in the many instances of my being heedless. What are some other reasons?  Do we pick the advice we like the best, ignoring the rest, often because the path of following the most correct advice is more work or more difficult? What do YOU think?

Our narrator for this tale is a rather dissolute young man, and we find him in Monte Carlo at the tables. All is rosy at first, as he is having “one of those nights” noting that his ‘luck was in.’ I think the author communicates this rare state of euphoria well, as the narrator notes that “I began to feel a definite pride – the pride of a successful gambler (I was sure I was in some way worthier, more gifted, more intelligent than my neighbours at the table, whom I probably – I could now swear to this – regarded with disdain).” Of course, as with most lucky streaks, it can’t go on forever and – imagine this! – he doesn’t quit while he’s ahead.

While he’s in town (and Monte Carlo is probably not the best city to be in if you have a gambling problem!) he sees an old lady who, for reasons he initially doesn’t know, seems to take an interest in him. She tells him of her her life, which “was an essentially uncomplicated story, yet I listened intently to ‘The Lady from Monte Carlo’, never taking my eyes off her.”

He learns that she came to Monte Carlo at the age of twenty, and that she had been exceptionally beautiful. She had visited the casino “out of boredom” and – surprise! – lost all her money, deciding never to do something so foolish again. Those who have a little knowledge of gambling addiction can probably guess that she did not stick to that decision. In her own time of need, she is saved by a kindly old gentleman and now she is presumably intent on ‘paying it forward’ to this contemporary young man, who seems to be careening down the same road she took in her youth.

What I began to see emerge in the story was a kind of multi-generational cycle of advice givers, advice ignorers, and advice “acceptors.” This was a pleasing idea to me that, in the midst of this city where these temptations thrived there was a kind of “lineage” (the kindly old gentleman seems to be part of it) of those who sought to help and and spare others what they themselves had suffered.

The Lady even has a Hamlet-worthy soliloquy near the end:

“I had a beloved, a sister, interesting work, hobbies, youth, beauty, life – and I gave it all up, do you hear? All of it. Do you know what that means? All, all, all of it for this money. I turned into a machine for accumulating money. I was loved – now I am despised. By everyone. I was surrounded by people; now I am alone, or surrounded by monsters. I was once beautiful – I became ugly. I was once alive – but I very nearly became a corpse.”

I wondered while reading if there are other stories centered around gambling that an organization like Gamblers Anonymous would present as cautionary tales. Do you know of any, or even just any good stories where gambling plays a major part?

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