Anton Chekhov
Overview
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull
The Seagull
The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be the four major plays by the Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov. The Seagull was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896...

in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre
Moscow Art Theatre
The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow that the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded in 1898. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas...

, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya is a play by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It was first published in 1897 and received its Moscow première in 1899 in a production by the Moscow Art Theatre, under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski....

and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

and The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

.
Quotations

The unhappy are egotistical, base, unjust, cruel, and even less capable of understanding one another than are idiots. Unhappiness does not unite people, but separates them.

Enemies

Each of us is full of too many wheels, screws and valves to permit us to judge one another on a first impression or by two or three external signs.

Ivanov|Ivanov, Act III, sc. vi (1887)

You look at any poetic creature: muslin, ether, demigoddess, millions of delights; then you look into the soul and find the most ordinary crocodile!

The Bear, sc. viii (1888)

It is not only the prisoners who grow coarse and hardened from corporeal punishment, but those as well who perpetrate the act or are present to witness it.

A Journey to Sakhalin (1891)

No matter how corrupt and unjust a convict may be, he loves fairness more than anything else. If the people placed over him are unfair, from year to year he lapses into an embittered state characterized by an extreme lack of faith.

A Journey to Sakhalin

Encyclopedia
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull
The Seagull
The Seagull is the first of what are generally considered to be the four major plays by the Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov. The Seagull was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896...

in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre
Moscow Art Theatre
The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow that the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded in 1898. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas...

, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya is a play by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It was first published in 1897 and received its Moscow première in 1899 in a production by the Moscow Art Theatre, under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski....

and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

and The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text."

Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 and other modernists
Modernist literature
Modernist literature is sub-genre of Modernism, a predominantly European movement beginning in the early 20th century that was characterized by a self-conscious break with traditional aesthetic forms...

, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

Childhood

Anton Chekhov was born on 29 January 1860, the third of six surviving children, in Taganrog, a port on the Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov
The Sea of Azov , known in Classical Antiquity as Lake Maeotis, is a sea on the south of Eastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded on the north by Ukraine mainland, on the east by Russia, and on the west by the Ukraine's Crimean...

 in southern Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. His father, Pavel Yegorovich Chekhov, the son of a former serf
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

, ran a grocery store. A director of the parish choir, devout Orthodox Christian, and physically abusive father, Pavel Chekhov has been seen by some historians as the model for his son's many portraits of hypocrisy. Chekhov's mother, Yevgeniya, was an excellent storyteller who entertained the children with tales of her travels with her cloth-merchant father all over Russia. "Our talents we got from our father," Chekhov remembered, "but our soul from our mother."
In adulthood, Chekhov criticised his brother Alexander's
Alexander Chekhov
Alexander Pavlovich Chekhov , , was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and memoirist, and the elder brother of Anton Chekhov.-Biography:...

 treatment of his wife and children by reminding him of Pavel's tyranny:
Chekhov attended a school for Greek boys, followed by the Taganrog gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

, now renamed the Chekhov Gymnasium
Chekhov Gymnasium
The Chekhov Gymnasium in Taganrog on Ulitsa Oktyabrskaya 9 is the oldest gymnasium in the South of Russia. Playwright and short-story writer Anton Chekhov spent 11 years in the school, which was later named after him and transformed into a literary museum...

, where he was kept down for a year at fifteen for failing a Greek exam. He sang at the Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 monastery in Taganrog and in his father's choirs. In a letter of 1892, he used the word "suffering" to describe his childhood and recalled:
In 1876, Chekhov's father was declared bankrupt after over-extending his finances building a new house, and to avoid the debtor's prison
Debtor's prison
A debtors' prison is a prison for those who are unable to pay a debt.Prior to the mid 19th century debtors' prisons were a common way to deal with unpaid debt.-Debt bondage in ancient Greece and Rome:...

 fled to Moscow, where his two eldest sons, Alexander and Nikolay, were attending university. The family lived in poverty in Moscow, Chekhov's mother physically and emotionally broken. Chekhov was left behind to sell the family possessions and finish his education.

Chekhov remained in Taganrog for three more years, boarding with a man called Selivanov who, like Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, had bailed out the family for the price of their house. Chekhov had to pay for his own education, which he managed by—among other jobs—private tutoring, catching and selling goldfinches
European Goldfinch
The European Goldfinch or Goldfinch is a small passerine bird in the finch family.-Habitat and range:The goldfinch breeds across Europe, North Africa, and western and central Asia, in open, partially wooded lowlands. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates from colder regions...

, and selling short sketches to the newspapers. He sent every ruble
Ruble
The ruble or rouble is a unit of currency. Currently, the currency units of Belarus, Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, and, in the past, the currency units of several other countries, notably countries influenced by Russia and the Soviet Union, are named rubles, though they all are...

 he could spare to Moscow, along with humorous letters to cheer up the family. During this time, he read widely and analytically, including Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written...

, Turgenev
Ivan Turgenev
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His first major publication, a short story collection entitled A Sportsman's Sketches, is a milestone of Russian Realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century...

, Goncharov
Ivan Goncharov
Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov was a Russian novelist best known as the author of Oblomov .- Biography :Ivan Goncharov was born in Simbirsk ; his father was a wealthy grain merchant and respected official who was elected mayor of Simbirsk several times...

, and Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

; and he wrote a full-length comedy drama, Fatherless, which his brother Alexander dismissed as "an inexcusable though innocent fabrication." Chekhov also enjoyed a series of love affairs, one with the wife of a teacher.

In 1879, Chekhov completed his schooling and joined his family in Moscow, having gained admission to the medical school at Moscow University
Moscow State University
Lomonosov Moscow State University , previously known as Lomonosov University or MSU , is the largest university in Russia. Founded in 1755, it also claims to be one of the oldest university in Russia and to have the tallest educational building in the world. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy...

.

Early writings

Chekhov now assumed responsibility for the whole family. To support them and to pay his tuition fees, he wrote daily short, humorous sketches and vignettes of contemporary Russian life, many under pseudonyms such as "Antosha Chekhonte" (Антоша Чехонте) and "Man without a Spleen" (Человек без селезенки). His prodigious output gradually earned him a reputation as a satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 chronicler of Russian street life, and by 1882 he was writing for Oskolki (Fragments
Fragments (magazine)
Fragments was a Russian humorous, literary and artistic weekly magazine published in St Petersburg from 1881 to 1916.From 1881 to 1906 Fragments was published by the popular writer Nikolay Leykin. From 1906 to 1908 it was ran by the humorist Viktor Bilibin.In the 1880s Fragments was known as the...

), owned by Nikolay Leykin
Nikolay Leykin
-Biography:Leykin was born in Saint Petersburg into a merchant family. The merchant class was the subject of the majority of his fiction. His popular work Our Folk Abroad, set in Paris, which went through twenty-five editions, was a light satire on the ignorance and boorishness of Russian business...

, one of the leading publishers of the time. Chekhov's tone at this stage was harsher than that familiar from his mature fiction.

In 1884, Chekhov qualified as a physician, which he considered his principal profession though he made little money from it and treated the poor free. In 1884 and 1885, Chekhov found himself coughing blood, and in 1886 the attacks worsened; but he would not admit tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 to his family and friends, confessing to Leikin, "I am afraid to submit myself to be sounded by my colleagues." He continued writing for weekly periodicals, earning enough money to move the family into progressively better accommodation. Early in 1886 he was invited to write for one of the most popular papers in St. Petersburg, Novoye Vremya
Novoye Vremya (newspaper)
Novoye Vremya was a Russian newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1868 to 1917. Until 1869 it came out five times a week; thereafter it came out every day, and from 1881 there were both morning and evening editions...

(New Times), owned and edited by the millionaire magnate Alexey Suvorin, who paid per line a rate double Leikin's and allowed him three times the space. Suvorin was to become a lifelong friend, perhaps Chekhov's closest.

Before long, Chekhov was attracting literary as well as popular attention. The sixty-four-year-old Dmitry Grigorovich
Dmitry Grigorovich
- Early life :Grigorovich was born in Simbirsk, where his family were members of the landed gentry. His father was Russian and his mother French. From 1832 to 1835 he studied at several French and German private schools in Moscow...

, a celebrated Russian writer of the day, wrote to Chekhov after reading his short story The Huntsman, "You have real talent—a talent which places you in the front rank among writers in the new generation." He went on to advise Chekhov to slow down, write less, and concentrate on literary quality.

Chekhov replied that the letter had struck him "like a thunderbolt" and confessed, "I have written my stories the way reporters write up their notes about fires—mechanically, half-consciously, caring nothing about either the reader or myself." The admission may have done Chekhov a disservice, since early manuscripts reveal that he often wrote with extreme care, continually revising. Grigorovich's advice nevertheless inspired a more serious, artistic ambition in the twenty-six-year-old. In 1887, with a little string-pulling by Grigorovich, the short story collection At Dusk (V Sumerkakh) won Chekhov the coveted Pushkin Prize
Pushkin Prize
The Pushkin Prize was established in 1881 by the Russian Academy of Sciences to honor one of the greatest Russian poets Alexander Pushkin . The prize was awarded to the Russian who achieved the highest standard of literary excellence. The prize was discontinued during the Soviet period. It was...

 "for the best literary production distinguished by high artistic worth."

Turning points

That year, exhausted from overwork and ill health, Chekhov took a trip to Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 which reawakened him to the beauty of the steppe
Pontic-Caspian steppe
The Pontic-Caspian steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the north of the Black Sea as far as the east of the Caspian Sea, from western Ukraine across the Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan,...

. On his return, he began the novella-length short story The Steppe, "something rather odd and much too original," eventually published in Severny Vestnik
Severny Vestnik
Severny Vestnik was an influential Russian literary magazine founded in Saint Petersburg in 1885 by Anna Yevreinova, who stayed with it until 1889.-History:...

(The Northern Herald). In a narrative which drifts with the thought processes of the characters, Chekhov evokes a chaise
Chaise
A chaise, sometimes called chay or shay, is a light two - or four-wheeled traveling or pleasure carriage, with a folding hood or calash top for one or two people....

 journey across the steppe through the eyes of a young boy sent to live away from home, his companions a priest and a merchant. The Steppe, which has been called a "dictionary of Chekhov's poetics", represented a significant advance for Chekhov, exhibiting much of the quality of his mature fiction and winning him publication in a literary journal rather than a newspaper.

In autumn 1887, a theater manager named Korsh commissioned Chekhov to write a play, the result being Ivanov, written in a fortnight and produced that November. Though Chekhov found the experience "sickening", and painted a comic portrait of the chaotic production in a letter to his brother Alexander, the play was a hit and was praised, to Chekhov's bemusement, as a work of originality. Mikhail Chekhov considered Ivanov a key moment in his brother's intellectual development and literary career. From this period comes an observation of Chekhov's which has become known as "Chekhov's gun
Chekhov's gun
Chekhov's gun is a literary technique whereby an apparently irrelevant element is introduced early in the story whose significance becomes clear later in the narrative. The concept is named after Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, who mentioned several variants of the concept in letters...

", noted by Ilia Gurliand from a conversation: "If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act."

The death of Chekhov's brother Nikolay from tuberculosis in 1889 influenced A Dreary Story, finished that September, about a man who confronts the end of a life which he realizes has been without purpose. Mikhail Chekhov, who recorded his brother's depression and restlessness after Nikolay's death, was researching prisons at the time as part of his law studies, and Anton Chekhov, in a search for purpose in his own life, himself soon became obsessed with the issue of prison reform.

Sakhalin

In 1890, Chekhov undertook an arduous journey by train, horse-drawn carriage, and river steamer to the far east of Russia and the katorga
Katorga
Katorga was a system of penal servitude of the prison farm type in Tsarist Russia...

, or penal colony, on Sakhalin Island
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

, north of Japan, where he spent three months interviewing thousands of convicts and settlers for a census. The letters Chekhov wrote during the two-and-a-half month journey to Sakhalin are considered to be among his best. His remarks to his sister about Tomsk
Tomsk
Tomsk is a city and the administrative center of Tomsk Oblast, Russia, located on the Tom River. One of the oldest towns in Siberia, Tomsk celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2004...

 were to become notorious.
The inhabitants of Tomsk later retaliated by erecting a mocking statue of Chekhov.

What Chekhov witnessed on Sakhalin shocked and angered him, including floggings, embezzlement of supplies, and forced prostitution
Sexual slavery
Sexual slavery is when unwilling people are coerced into slavery for sexual exploitation. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO, with the cooperation of various international agencies...

 of women. He wrote, "There were times I felt that I saw before me the extreme limits of man's degradation." He was particularly moved by the plight of the children living in the penal colony with their parents. For example:
Chekhov later concluded that charity and subscription were not the answer, but that the government had a duty to finance humane treatment of the convicts. His findings were published in 1893 and 1894 as Ostrov Sakhalin (The Island of Sakhalin), a work of social science – not literature – worthy and informative rather than brilliant. Chekhov found literary expression for the "Hell of Sakhalin" in his long short story The Murder, the last section of which is set on Sakhalin, where the murderer Yakov loads coal in the night, longing for home.

Melikhovo

In 1892, Chekhov bought the small country estate of Melikhovo
Melikhovo
Melikhovo was the country estate of the Russian playwright and writer Anton Chekhov, where he lived from March 1892 until August 1899, and where he wrote some of his most famous plays and stories, including The Seagull and Uncle Vanya. It is located about forty miles south of Moscow...

, about forty miles south of Moscow, where he lived until 1899 with his family. "It's nice to be a lord," he joked to his friend Ivan Leontyev (who wrote humorous pieces under the pseudonym Shcheglov), but he took his responsibilities as a landlord seriously and soon made himself useful to the local peasants. As well as organising relief for victims of the famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 and cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 outbreaks of 1892, he went on to build three schools, a fire station, and a clinic, and to donate his medical services to peasants for miles around, despite frequent recurrences of his tuberculosis.

Mikhail Chekhov, a member of the household at Melikhovo, described the extent of his brother's medical commitments:
Chekhov's expenditure on drugs was considerable, but the greatest cost was making journeys of several hours to visit the sick, which reduced his time for writing. Chekhov's work as a doctor, however, enriched his writing by bringing him into intimate contact with all sections of Russian society: for example, he witnessed at first hand the peasants' unhealthy and cramped living conditions, which he recalled in his short story Peasants. Chekhov visited the upper classes as well, recording in his notebook: "Aristocrats? The same ugly bodies and physical uncleanliness, the same toothless old age and disgusting death, as with market-women."

Chekhov began writing his play The Seagull in 1894, in a lodge he had built in the orchard at Melikhovo. In the two years since moving to the estate, he had refurbished the house, taken up agriculture and horticulture, tended orchard and pond, and planted many trees, which, according to Mikhail, he "looked after… as though they were his children. Like Colonel Vershinin in his Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

, as he looked at them he dreamed of what they would be like in three or four hundred years."

The first night of The Seagull on 17 October 1896 at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in Petersburg was a fiasco, booed by the audience, and the play's reception stung Chekhov into renouncing the theatre. But the play so impressed the theatre director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko
Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko
Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko was a Georgian-born Russian theatre director, writer, pedagogue, playwright, producer and theatre organizer, who founded the Moscow Art Theatre with his colleague, Konstantin Stanislavsky, in 1898.-Biography:Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko was born...

 that he convinced his colleague Constantin Stanislavski to direct it for the innovative Moscow Art Theatre
Moscow Art Theatre
The Moscow Art Theatre is a theatre company in Moscow that the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded in 1898. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas...

 in 1898. Stanislavski's attention to psychological realism and ensemble playing coaxed the buried subtleties from the text and restored Chekhov's interest in playwriting. The Art Theatre commissioned more plays from Chekhov and the following year staged Uncle Vanya, which Chekhov had completed in 1896.

Yalta

In March 1897 Chekhov suffered a major hemorrhage of the lungs while on a visit to Moscow. With great difficulty he was persuaded to enter a clinic, where the doctors diagnosed tuberculosis on the upper part of his lungs and ordered a change in his manner of life.

After his father's death in 1898, Chekhov bought a plot of land on the outskirts of Yalta
Yalta
Yalta is a city in Crimea, southern Ukraine, on the north coast of the Black Sea.The city is located on the site of an ancient Greek colony, said to have been founded by Greek sailors who were looking for a safe shore on which to land. It is situated on a deep bay facing south towards the Black...

 and built a villa
White Dacha
The White Dacha, is the house that Anton Chekhov had built in Yalta and in which he wrote some of his greatest work. It is now a museum.-Building:...

 there, into which he moved with his mother and sister the following year. Though he planted trees and flowers in Yalta, kept dogs and tame cranes, and received guests such as Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 and Maxim Gorky
Maxim Gorky
Alexei Maximovich Peshkov , primarily known as Maxim Gorky , was a Russian and Soviet author, a founder of the Socialist Realism literary method and a political activist.-Early years:...

, Chekhov was always relieved to leave his "hot Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

" for Moscow or travels abroad. He vowed to move to Taganrog as soon as a water supply was installed there. In Yalta he completed two more plays for the Art Theatre, composing with greater difficulty than in the days when he "wrote serenely, the way I eat pancakes now"; he took a year each over Three Sisters
Three Sisters (play)
Three Sisters is a play by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, perhaps partially inspired by the situation of the three Brontë sisters, but most probably by the three Zimmermann sisters in Perm...

and The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard
The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it does contain some elements of farce; however, Stanislavski insisted on...

.

On 25 May 1901 Chekhov married Olga Knipper
Olga Knipper
Olga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova was a Russian stage actress. She was married to Anton Chekhov.Knipper was among the 39 original members of the Moscow Art Theatre when it was formed by Constantin Stanislavski in 1898...

—quietly, owing to his horror of weddings—a former protegée and sometime lover of Nemirovich-Danchenko whom he had first met at rehearsals for The Seagull. Up to that point, Chekhov, called "Russia's most elusive literary bachelor", had preferred passing liaisons and visits to brothels over commitment; he had once written to Suvorin:
The letter proved prophetic of Chekhov's marital arrangements with Olga: he lived largely at Yalta, she in Moscow, pursuing her acting career. In 1902, Olga suffered a miscarriage; and Donald Rayfield
Donald Rayfield
Donald Rayfield is professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary, University of London. He is an author of books about Russian and Georgian literature, and about Joseph Stalin and his secret police...

 has offered evidence, based on the couple's letters, that conception may have occurred when Chekhov and Olga were apart, although Russian scholars have conclusively refuted that claim. The literary legacy of this long-distance marriage is a correspondence which preserves gems of theatre history, including shared complaints about Stanislavski's directing methods and Chekhov's advice to Olga about performing in his plays.

In Yalta, Chekhov wrote one of his most famous stories, The Lady with the Dog
The Lady with the Dog (short story)
"The Lady with the Dog" is a short story by Anton Chekhov first published in 1899. It tells the story of an adulterous affair between a Russian banker and a young lady he meets while vacationing in Yalta...

(also called Lady with Lapdog), which depicts what at first seems a casual liaison between a married man and a married woman in Yalta. Neither expects anything lasting from the encounter, but they find themselves drawn back to each other, risking the security of their family lives.

Death

By May 1904, Chekhov was terminally ill with tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. Mikhail Chekhov recalled that "everyone who saw him secretly thought the end was not far off, but the nearer [he] was to the end, the less he seemed to realise it." On 3 June he set off with Olga for the German spa town of Badenweiler
Badenweiler
Badenweiler, a health resort and spa of the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, historically in the Markgräflerland. It is 28 kilometers by road and rail from Basel, 10 kilometers from the French border, and 20 kilometers away from Mulhouse...

 in the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

, from where he wrote outwardly jovial letters to his sister Masha describing the food and surroundings and assuring her and his mother that he was getting better. In his last letter, he complained about the way the German women dressed.

Chekhov's death has become one of "the great set pieces of literary history", retold, embroidered, and fictionalised many times since, notably in the short story Errand by Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver
Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s....

. In 1908, Olga wrote this account of her husband's last moments:
Chekhov's body was transported to Moscow in a refrigerated railway car for fresh oyster
Oyster
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified....

s, a detail which offended Gorky
Maxim Gorky
Alexei Maximovich Peshkov , primarily known as Maxim Gorky , was a Russian and Soviet author, a founder of the Socialist Realism literary method and a political activist.-Early years:...

. Some of the thousands of mourners followed the funeral procession of a General Keller by mistake, to the accompaniment of a military band. Chekhov was buried next to his father at the Novodevichy Cemetery
Novodevichy Cemetery
Novodevichy Cemetery is the most famous cemetery in Moscow, Russia. It is next to the 16th-century Novodevichy Convent, which is the city's third most popular tourist site. It should not be confused with the Novodevichy Cemetery in Saint Petersburg....

.

Legacy

A few months before he died, Chekhov told the writer Ivan Bunin he thought people might go on reading him for seven years. "Why seven?" asked Bunin. "Well, seven and a half," Chekhov replied. "That's not bad. I've got six years to live."

Always modest, Chekhov could hardly have imagined the extent of his posthumous reputation. The ovations for The Cherry Orchard in the year of his death showed him how high he had risen in the affection of the Russian public—by then he was second in literary celebrity only to Tolstoy, who outlived him by six years—but after his death, Chekhov's fame soon spread further afield. Constance Garnett
Constance Garnett
Constance Clara Garnett was an English translator of nineteenth-century Russian literature...

's translations won him an English-language readership and the admiration of writers such as James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

, and Katherine Mansfield
Katherine Mansfield
Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield left for Great Britain in 1908 where she encountered Modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and...

. The issues surrounding the close similarities between Mansfield's 1910 story The Child Who Was Tired and Chekhov's Sleepy are summarised in William H. New's Reading Mansfield and Metaphors of Reform The Russian critic D.S. Mirsky, who lived in England, explained Chekhov's popularity in that country by his "unusually complete rejection of what we may call the heroic values." In Russia itself, Chekhov's drama fell out of fashion after the revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 but was later adapted to the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 agenda, with the character Lopakhin, for example, reinvented as a hero of the new order, taking an axe to the cherry orchard.

One of the first non-Russians to praise Chekhov's plays was George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

, who subtitled his Heartbreak House "A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes" and noted similarities between the predicament of the British landed class and that of their Russian counterparts as depicted by Chekhov: "the same nice people, the same utter futility."

In America, Chekhov's reputation began its rise slightly later, partly through the influence of Stanislavski's system of acting, with its notion of subtext
Subtext
Subtext or undertone is content of a book, play, musical work, film, video game, or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds. Subtext can also refer to the thoughts...

: "Chekhov often expressed his thought not in speeches," wrote Stanislavski, "but in pauses or between the lines or in replies consisting of a single word… the characters often feel and think things not expressed in the lines they speak." The Group Theatre, in particular, developed the subtextual approach to drama, influencing generations of American playwrights
Theater in the United States
Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons.- Early history:...

, screenwriters, and actors, including Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

, Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was an American director and actor, described by the New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history". Born in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to Greek parents originally from Kayseri in Anatolia, the family emigrated...

 and, in particular, Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg
Lee Strasberg was an American actor, director and acting teacher. He cofounded, with directors Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the Group Theatre in 1931, which was hailed as "America's first true theatrical collective"...

. In turn, Strasberg's Actors Studio
Actors Studio
The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights at 432 West 44th Street in the Clinton neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. It was founded October 5, 1947, by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, Robert Lewis and Anna Sokolow who provided...

 and the "Method" acting
Method acting
Method acting is a phrase that loosely refers to a family of techniques used by actors to create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances...

 approach influenced many actors, including Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

 and Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, Jr. is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973...

, though by then the Chekhov tradition may have been distorted by a preoccupation with realism. In 1981, the playwright Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

 adapted The Seagull as The Notebook of Trigorin
The Notebook of Trigorin
The Notebook of Trigorin is a play by American playwright Tennessee Williams. It is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.The play was first produced in 1981 by the Vancouver Playhouse in Vancouver, British Columbia...

.

Despite Chekhov's eminence as a playwright, some writers believe his short stories represent the greater achievement. Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver
Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s....

, who wrote the short story Errand about Chekhov's death, believed Chekhov the greatest of all short-story writers:
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, another writer influenced by Chekhov, was more grudging: "Chekhov wrote about 6 good stories. But he was an amateur writer." And Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

 once complained of Chekhov's "medley of dreadful prosaisms, ready-made epithets, repetitions." But he also declared The Lady with the Dog "one of the greatest stories ever written" and described Chekhov as writing "the way one person relates to another the most important things in his life, slowly and yet without a break, in a slightly subdued voice."

For the writer William Boyd
William Boyd (writer)
William Boyd, CBE is a Scottish novelist and screenwriter.-Biography:Of Scottish descent, Boyd spent his early life in Ghana and Nigeria, in Africa...

, Chekhov's breakthrough was to abandon what William Gerhardie
William Gerhardie
William Alexander Gerhardie was a British novelist and playwright.Gerhardie was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s . H.G. Wells also championed his work...

 called the "event plot" for something more "blurred, interrupted, mauled or otherwise tampered with by life."

Virginia Woolf mused on the unique quality of a Chekhov story in The Common Reader (1925):

See also

  • Melikhovo
    Melikhovo
    Melikhovo was the country estate of the Russian playwright and writer Anton Chekhov, where he lived from March 1892 until August 1899, and where he wrote some of his most famous plays and stories, including The Seagull and Uncle Vanya. It is located about forty miles south of Moscow...

    , Chekhov's country estate near Moscow
  • Alexander Chekhov
    Alexander Chekhov
    Alexander Pavlovich Chekhov , , was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and memoirist, and the elder brother of Anton Chekhov.-Biography:...

  • Maria Chekhova
    Maria Chekhova
    Maria Pavlovna Chekhova was the sister of playwright Anton Chekhov, a teacher, artist, founder of the Chekhov Memorial House museum in Yalta, and a recipient of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.- Biography :...

  • Nikolay Chekhov
  • Flash fiction
    Flash fiction
    Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category...

  • List of short stories by Anton Chekhov
  • Physician writer
  • White Dacha
    White Dacha
    The White Dacha, is the house that Anton Chekhov had built in Yalta and in which he wrote some of his greatest work. It is now a museum.-Building:...

    , Chekhov's House in Yalta

Sources

  • Allen, David, Performing Chekhov, Routledge (UK), 2001, ISBN 978-0-415-18934-7
  • Bartlett, Rosamund, and Anthony Phillips (translators), Chekhov: A Life in Letters, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 978-0-14-044922-8
  • Bartlett, Rosamund, Chekhov: Scenes from a Life, Free Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7432-3074-2
  • Benedetti, Jean (editor and translator), Dear Writer, Dear Actress: The Love Letters of Olga Knipper and Anton Chekhov, Methuen Publishing Ltd, 1998 edition, ISBN 978-0-413-72390-1
  • Benedetti, Jean, Stanislavski: An Introduction, Methuen Drama, 1989 edition, ISBN 978-0-413-50030-4
  • Chekhov, Anton, About Love and Other Stories, translated by Rosamund Bartlett, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-19-280260-6
  • Chekhov, Anton, The Undiscovered Chekhov: Fifty New Stories, translated by Peter Constantine
    Peter Constantine
    Peter Constantine is a British and American award-winning literary translator who has translated literary works from German, Russian, French, Modern Greek, Ancient Greek, Italian, Albanian, Dutch, and Slovene.-Biography:...

    , Duck Editions, 2001, ISBN 978-0-7156-3106-5
  • Chekhov, Anton, Easter Week, translated by Michael Henry Heim, engravings by Barry Moser, Shackman Press, 2010
  • Chekhov, Anton, Forty Stories, translated and with an introduction by Robert Payne
    Pierre Stephen Robert Payne
    Pierre Stephen Robert Payne , was a novelist, historian, poet, and biographer.Born in Cornwall, the son of an English naval architect, and with a French mother. He worked as a shipbuilder and then for a time with the Inland Revenue. In 1941 he became an armament officer and chief camouflage...

    , New York, Vintage, 1991 edition, ISBN 978-0-679-73375-1
  • Chekhov, Anton, Letters of Anton Chekhov to His Family and Friends with Biographical Sketch, translated by Constance Garnett
    Constance Garnett
    Constance Clara Garnett was an English translator of nineteenth-century Russian literature...

    , Macmillan, 1920. Full text at Gutenberg. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  • Chekhov, Anton, Note-Book of Anton Chekhov, translated by S. S. Koteliansky
    S. S. Koteliansky
    S.S. Koteliansky, or Samuel Solomonovich Koteliansky, was born in the small Jewish shtetl of Ostropol in the Ukraine, where his first language almost certainly was Yiddish. He was educated and attended university in Russia.-Biography:By 1911, he had moved to London, where he became a great friend...

     and Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Sidney Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.-Early life:...

    , B.W. Huebsch, 1921. Full text at Gutenberg. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  • Chekhov, Anton, The Other Chekhov, edited by Okla Elliott and Kyle Minor
    Kyle Minor
    Kyle Minor is an American writer. Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Minor lived in Indiana and Kentucky before settling in Columbus, Ohio...

    , with story introductions by Pinckney Benedict, Fred Chappell, Christopher Coake, Paul Crenshaw, Dorothy Gambrell, Steven Gillis, Michelle Herman, Jeff Parker, Benjamin Percy, and David R. Slavitt. New American Press, 2008 edition, ISBN 978-0-9729679-8-3
  • Chekhov, Anton, Seven Short Novels, translated by Barbara Makanowitzky, W.W.Norton & Company, 2003 edition, ISBN 978-0-393-00552-3
  • Finke, Michael C., Chekhov's 'Steppe': A Metapoetic Journey, an essay in Anton Chekhov Rediscovered, ed Savely Senderovich and Munir Sendich, Michigan Russian Language Journal, 1988, ISBN 9999838855
  • Finke, Michael C., Seeing Chekhov: Life and Art, Cornell UP, 2005, ISBN 978-0-8014-4315-2
  • Gerhardie, William, Anton Chekhov, Macdonald, (1923) 1974 edition, ISBN 978-0-356-04609-9
  • Gorky, Maksim, Alexander Kuprin, and I.A. Bunin, Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov, translated by S. S. Koteliansky
    S. S. Koteliansky
    S.S. Koteliansky, or Samuel Solomonovich Koteliansky, was born in the small Jewish shtetl of Ostropol in the Ukraine, where his first language almost certainly was Yiddish. He was educated and attended university in Russia.-Biography:By 1911, he had moved to London, where he became a great friend...

     and Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Sidney Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.-Early life:...

    , B.W.Huebsch, 1921. Read at eldritchpress. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  • Gottlieb, Vera, and Paul Allain (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-521-58917-8
  • Jackson, Robert Louis, Dostoevsky in Chekhov's Garden of Eden—'Because of Little Apples', in Dialogues with Dostoevsky, Stanford University Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-8047-2120-2
  • Klawans, Harold L., Chekhov's Lie, 1997, ISBN 1-888799-12-9. About the challenges of combining writing with the medical life.
  • Malcolm, Janet, Reading Chekhov, a Critical Journey, Granta Publications, 2004 edition, ISBN 978-1-86207-635-8
  • Miles, Patrick (ed), Chekhov on the British Stage, Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-521-38467-4
  • Nabokov, Vladimir, Anton Chekhov, in Lectures on Russian Literature, Harvest/HBJ Books, [1981] 2002 edition, ISBN 978-0-15-602776-2.
  • Pitcher, Harvey, Chekhov's Leading Lady: Portrait of the Actress Olga Knipper, J Murray, 1979, ISBN 978-0-7195-3681-6
  • Prose, Francine, Learning from Chekhov, in Writers on Writing, ed. Robert Pack and Jay Parini, UPNE, 1991, ISBN 978-0-87451-560-2
  • Rayfield, Donald
    Donald Rayfield
    Donald Rayfield is professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary, University of London. He is an author of books about Russian and Georgian literature, and about Joseph Stalin and his secret police...

    , Anton Chekhov: A Life, Henry Holt & Co, 1998, ISBN 978-0-8050-5747-8
  • Simmons, Ernest J., Chekhov: A Biography, University of Chicago Press, (1962) 1970 edition, ISBN 978-0-226-75805-3
  • Stanislavski, Constantin, My Life in Art, Methuen Drama, 1980 edition, ISBN 978-0-413-46200-8
  • Styan, John Louis, Modern Drama in Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1981, ISBN 978-0-521-29628-1
  • Wood, James, What Chekhov Meant by Life, in The Broken Estate: Essays in Literature and Belief, Pimlico, 2000 edition, ISBN 978-0-7126-6557-5
  • Zeiger, Arthur, The Plays of Anton Chekov, Claxton House, Inc., New York, NY, 1945.

  • Tufarulo,G,M.- La Luna è morta e lo specchio infranto. Miti letterari del Novecento, vol.1- G. Laterza, Bari, 2009- ISBN 978-88-8231-491-0.

External links

Biographical
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Works
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