Chekhov is A Friend Of Mine

I finished reading a 450 page collection of Anton Chekhov's short stories today, translated by the big time famous Russian translators Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, who were made instantly wealthy by Oprah when she picked Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy for her book club.

Chekhov wrote a lot of stories about a lot of people from all walks of life. His plotting is pretty straight forward (if you guess the main character's going to die sooner or later, you're usually right) and he's brilliant at building a very visual, living atmosphere for his characters to exist in. And while Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, his Russian author predecessors, were big on moralizing in an obvious way and philosophically smacking the reader around, his touch is much gentler, almost ambiguous, and much of the fun of reading one of his stories is trying to pick out what he believes and what he doesn't believe. Critics of his time scolded him for not taking a more concrete stance (a.k.a. drugs are bad! Don't cheat on your husband!) I think it's one of the main reasons his work holds up so well today. He really helped bring along a modern form of story telling, the written short story, into the modern(ish) era.

Be careful, though. If you're not paying attention, some little story of his will wring your heart. He is Russian, after all.


Missy said...


Rami said...

I wasn't paying attention to Chekhov a few weeks ago and that bastard totally kidney punched me.

Rami said...

In fact he hurt me so badly that I couldn't type that comment correctly the first time.

David Oppegaard said...

That's okay, Rami. Life is hard.


Anonymous said...

I have often wondered if the Russians have ever written a comedy... don't quote me on this one, but I've heard that one of the rules of drama in ancient India was that you couldn't write a tragedy - the story doesn't end till it ends right.

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