Anton Chekhov (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Donald Rayfield is a professor of Russian literature at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. Among his previous books on Chekhov are Chekhov: The Evolution of His Art (1975), The Cherry Orchard: Catastrophe and Comedy (1994), The Chekhov Omnibus: Selected Stories (1994), and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and the Wood Demon (1995).
In the preface to his two-volume short-story collection, W. Somerset Maugham compares Chekhov, as a writer of short fiction, with Guy de Maupassant. According to Maugham, Maupassant wrote stories of action, complete in themselves and of a limited length; Chekhov, on the other hand, wrote stories of atmosphere, of mood, less reliant on plot and story than character, providing anecdotal fiction stripped of its trimmings and often insignificant and inane. Chekhov’s literary legacy is in his handling of the details of his fiction, which he does with a consummate touch, and in his insistence that nothing should be included in the story that does not have an organic relationship to the whole. Moreover, Chekhov’s fiction is usually narrated from an ironic perspective, one devoid of moral judgment. Because his writing had such distinctive characteristics, he not only became one of the masters of the nineteenth century short story but also exerted considerable influence over twentieth century fiction and drama.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in Taganrog in the Crimea just...
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Anton Chekhov (Magill Book Reviews)
By the end of his short life Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) was considered one of the masters of nineteenth century Russian fiction, especially of the short story, along with Lev Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Nikolay Gogol, and Ivan Turgenev. As a dramatist he has no peer in his own country and his plays, especially the masterpieces from his later years, UNCLE VANIA (1897), THREE SISTERS (1901), and THE CHERRY ORCHARD (1904), have earned him a place of international prominence as one of the founders of modern theater.
Although the Chekhovs were only one generation removed from serfdom and plagued by the family’s hereditary susceptibility to tuberculosis, they produced a remarkable family of writers, artists, civil servants, and teachers. Wracked by disease, poverty, and ongoing depression, it is small wonder that Chekhov survived his beginnings, let alone flourished to become one of the world’s greatest writers. By focusing mainly on the intimacy of the relationships with family and friends and by working from Russian archival sources, mostly ignored or under-used by previous biographers, Donald Rayfield provides a detailed, often grippingly painful, portrait of the social and historical milieu out of which Chekhov fashioned his remarkable outpouring of fiction and drama.
With ANTON CHEKHOV: A LIFE Rayfield has earned a respected place among the Russian author’s biographers—of which there have been many—and done much to augment...
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