This essay argues that Chekhov’s novel, The Shooting Party (Drama na Okhote) (1884–1885), featuring a protagonist who views murder in aesthetic terms, is a heretofore overlooked source for Nabokov’s exploration of the relationship between art and crime in his novel Despair as well as in his later works. I propose that Chekhov’s formal experimentation in The Shooting Party spurred Nabokov’s inquiry into the links between art and iniquity; in Despair Nabokov directly addresses the interplay between artistic creation and criminality. I sketch the ethical concerns raised by the popular crime fiction that inspired Chekhov’s Shooting Party . I then address the sensationalistic plot, formal inventiveness, and metaliterary aspects of Chekhov’s novel. Finally, I note the thematic and stylistic parallels between Nabokov’s Despair and Chekhov’s novel; in so doing, I seek to shed new light on the juxtaposition of aesthetic and ethical categories that is one of the most distinctive features of Nabokov’s fiction. In both The Shooting Party and Despair , a murderer constructs a written narrative about the murder that he committed, seeking profit and glory by turning crime into art; the narrative then falls into the hands of a reader who alters the manuscript and thereby enacts a power struggle with the criminal to establish his own ethical and aesthetic superiority. The Shooting Party and Despair both depict an artist-murderer who demotes his human victim to the status of an artistic medium—text or image— that he is entitled to manipulate at will; Chekhov and Nabokov then strive to construct an inquisitive reader-detective whose empathy is diametrically opposed to the dehumanizing mindset of their protagonists.
It is also possible to read the text from a psychoanalytic perspective.  Akaky’s libido is repressed and sublimated into the task of copying. After he acquires the coat, he expresses sexual interest. Akaky “even started to run, without knowing why, after some lady.”  He also “halted out of curiosity before a shop window to look at a picture representing a handsome woman…baring her whole foot in a very pretty way.”  He laughs and doesn’t know why because he experiences previously unknown feelings. Akaky also treats the coat with the tenderness and obsession of a lover. When the construction of the coat is first commissioned Akaky feels that his existence became “fuller, as if he were married.” 
By this time, the Nazi offensive was running out of fuel, literally and figuratively. The Germans had waited for bad winter weather to launch their attack, to diminish the ability of Allied aircraft to support the ground troops. The weather also slowed the German advance, however, and this, the narrow roads and stubborn resistance wrecked their timetable. Improving weather conditions allowed Allied planes to take to the skies again and support the counterattacks that began pushing back the Germans. Despite a Luftwaffe offensive in Holland and a second major ground offensive the Germans launched in Alsace on January 1, the Third Reich could not regain the initiative. The Battle of the Bulge is officially considered to have ended January 16, exactly one month after it began, although fighting continued for some time beyond that date. By early February, the front lines had returned to their positions of December 16.