Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

October 1, 2015 § 1 Comment


Forty Stories by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov is one of my favourite writers. Though regarded as one of the twentieth century’s great playwrights, along with Ibsen and Strindberg, I find his short stories to be on par if not better than his plays. Like his compatriot Mikhail Bulgakov, Chekhov was a physician but turned to writing, at a very early age, to make ends meet. His medical career constantly brought him in contact with people from all walks of life, and for a man who revelled in the intricacies of the human condition this was a source of immense joy.

Chekhov began writing when the greats stopped: Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, & Tolstoy. His writing is very different from that of those who preceded him: his style is stripped to the essentials, simple, and direct. His characters are nobodies. They are people he might have met on his rounds or observed on the street. Everyday people. His stories serve as conduits for the life that each of these people carried within in them: their misery; their joy; their fears. From the bashful peasant woman who is overcome with happiness at meeting her husband who abandoned her years ago, the government clerk who sneezes on a general, the bride who comes to the startling realization of how empty her life has been, to the monk who chances upon a dead body being guarded by two peasants in the middle of the night, Chekhov’s writing portrays the beauty of life. From farce, to tragic, to touching, to joyous, to the bitter; his stories incorporate all these elements in depicting the world and the people around him, often within a few pages.

The great writer of the Russian soul. High praise indeed, but apt.


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