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Book Title: The Portable Chekhov (Portable Library)|
The author of the book: Anton Chekhov
ISBN 13: 9780140150353
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 23.62 MB
Edition: Penguin Books
Date of issue: 1975
Read full description of the books The Portable Chekhov (Portable Library):Another tchek-off(!) for my reading of J. Peder Zane's "Top Ten". Still to go: James Joyce and Marcel Proust. I think that'll do it for the top ten on the list. Only about 300 to go after that! My edition is from 1965. I just checked... it's "War and Peace", not Joyce. I'll read that one soon. It's calling me... This book cover image is not the one for the 1965 edition I'm reading.
Finished the intro last night along with the first story: "Vanka" - pretty mournful stuff. Poor Chekhov might have lived longer if he'd been more serious about talking care of his health. Move to Tucson, dude! Another 18th/19th century literary TB victim.
Read "The Privy Councilor" this morning. I assume they'll all be winners. AC has that same modernist detachment as Flaubert. He doesn't say: "this is bad or evil"(or sad or funny etc.), he only has to describe it!
Last night: "The Chameleon" and "At the Mill". Short-short stories. Good stuff... from "At the Mill" the miller is are Koch-wannabe!
"... but the Lord knows what kind of soul you have. Oh Alyosha(the miller), darling, the envious have put the evil eye on you! You've been blessed in everything. You're clever and handsome and you area prince among merchants, but you're not human. You're unfriendly, you never smile or say a kind word, you're as pitiless as a beast ... They lie about you, they say that you suck people's blood, that there are evil deeds upon your soul, that with your helpers you rob passers-by at night and that you are a horse-thief. Your mill is like an accursed place." - YIKES!
Read "The Siren" and "Sergeant Prishibeyev" last night. Great stuff as always. Chekhov is the king of wry and ironic! Looks like he's have been a great food writer too.
Read "The Culprit" last night. Pretty funny and then a bit sad. Chekhov was not a fan of the ignorant peasantry. Destructive in this case. But still funny...
Moving along through "The Culprit", "Daydreams" and "Heartache" as AC continues to mine the human condition for these brief sketches of humanness. If he'd lived longer he might have hit four figures in total number of stories! The underlying theme here? It's the sad, slow shake of the head: "that's life..."
Last night "An Encounter"... Then "The Letter"...
"The Kiss" - The longest story so far and a classic. Reminiscent of the Alice Munro quote: "There are times in life when something happens; and then there are all the other times."(perhaps not totally accurate).
Read "The Name-Day Party" last night - fascinating. A young husband and wife absorbed in their unhappiness ignore the REAL issue and disaster ensues. Middle-class melodrama at its finest.
Last couple of nights: "An Attack of Nerves" - an attack of reality is more like it! And "Gusev" - a melancholy meditation on life, death and all the rest - beautiful... To call theses stories "philosophical" would be an understatement...
The bitter irony continues with "Anna on the Neck", the story of a poor girl making good and leaving the embarrassing relatives behind. I's dog-eat-dog out there!
Next up: "In the Cart" - in the same bitter, resigned vein as the rest. Where is "happiness" anyway?
Got back to this last night and read "At Home", another bittersweet tale of the inevitability of reality and the acceptance of it.
"Peasants" is longer story, almost a chronicle of misery of the hard life of poverty. Not for the squeamish or sunny-siders.
"The Man in a Shell" - A pithy tale of the way one chooses to live one's life and of how one's culture shapes the choices. Great stuff - of course!
"Gooseberries" - I'm pretty sure I read this before, probably in "Fiction 100". Another wistful/woeful tale of life's frustrations.
P.381 in this edition is a wow, a must read: "Behind the door of every contented, happy man there ought to be someone standing with a little hammer and continually reminding him with a knock that there are unhappy people, that however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show him its claws, and trouble will come to him - illness, poverty, losses, and then no one will see him or hear him, just as he neither sees nor hears others." and...
"I too would say that learning was the enemy of darkness, that education was necessary but that for the common people the three R's were sufficient for the time being. Freedom is a boon, I used to say, it is as essential as air, but we must wait a while. Yes, that's what I used to say, and now I ask: Why must we wait? ... Why must we wait I ask you? For what reason?"
"About Love" is a follow-up/next day sequel to "Gooseberries" and a great story about ... love!
"The Darling" - about a woman who's life and happiness depends on others. Risky...
"The Lady with the Pet Dog" - The author returns to a pet topic. Men and women and life in general - spiritually/emotionally speaking that is. His writing is just sooo smooth and wistful.
"At Christmas Time" - More hopelessness of the powerless and moneyless. Vulnerability to suffering...
"On Official Business" - More problems of drinking. Beautiful description of fierce winter weather.
"In the Ravine" - The last story turns out to be a mini-novel and a whopper. Devastating portrait of Mother Russia with the open question of how good a job is Mom doing for her kids! Not so great as it turns out. This is a portrait of a venal middle-class family. Be warned, as the nastiest shock of all these stories takes place here. The author seems to strongly imply that the materialistic, grasping life is bereft of spiritual reward. I'm reminded of "Things Fall Apart" where the "center cannot hold". Without some "higher authority" enforcing some kind of moral/ethical standards life looks pretty grim. On the other hand... there is beauty and serenity in this story, just not with the merchant family in the middle of it: Aksinya is a grasping, lunatic, materialistic, lusty demon in the flesh.
Started "The Cherry Orchard" last night. It's the last part of the book...
Heading for Act Three tonight in this semi-absurdist tragi-comedy. What's with the orchard? An icon of the past. Ideal beauty to be sacrificed for the sake of solvency - maybe... we'll see.
The fools dance while the orchard is sold to the local developer with big dreams. One act to go...
Finished up "The Cherry Orchard" last night. On to a few letters...
And finally done after many weeks. According to the afterword by Donald Hall it was assumed that AC would likely be forgotten a few decades after this death but the outcome was exactly the opposite. Thanks to English/American readers he became a cult figure to modernists. Easy to see why. His language at times bears the burden of awkwardness(to us) of its times(including the translations - of course) but otherwise the crystal clear prose and modernist/ existentialist realism(non-romanticism) of the stories is arresting. Chekhov = the Vermeer of writers!
Read information about the authorAnton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.
"When I think back on my childhood," Chekhov recalled, "it all seems quite gloomy to me." His early years were shadowed by his father's tyranny, religious fanaticism, and long nights in the store, which was open from five in the morning till midnight. He attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog (1867-68) and Taganrog grammar school (1868-79). The family was forced to move to Moscow following his father's bankruptcy. At the age of 16, Chekhov became independent and remained for some time alone in his native town, supporting himself through private tutoring.
In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School. While in the school, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. His publisher at this period was Nicholas Leikin, owner of the St. Petersburg journal Oskolki (splinters). His subjects were silly social situations, marital problems, farcical encounters between husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers, whims of young women, of whom Chekhov had not much knowledge – the author was was shy with women even after his marriage. His works appeared in St. Petersburg daily papers, Peterburskaia gazeta from 1885, and Novoe vremia from 1886.
Chekhov's first novel, Nenunzhaya pobeda (1882), set in Hungary, parodied the novels of the popular Hungarian writer Mór Jókai. As a politician Jókai was also mocked for his ideological optimism. By 1886 Chekhov had gained a wide fame as a writer. His second full-length novel, The Shooting Party, was translated into English in 1926. Agatha Christie used its characters and atmosphere in her mystery novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).
Chekhov graduated in 1884, and practiced medicine until 1892. In 1886 Chekhov met H.S. Suvorin, who invited him to become a regular contributor for the St. Petersburg daily Novoe vremya. His friendship with Suvorin ended in 1898 because of his objections to the anti-Dreyfus campaingn conducted by paper. But during these years Chechov developed his concept of the dispassionate, non-judgemental author. He outlined his program in a letter to his brother Aleksandr: "1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality; flee the stereotype; 6. compassion."
Chekhov's fist book of stories (1886) was a success, and gradually he became a full-time writer. The author's refusal to join the ranks of social critics arose the wrath of liberal and radical intellitentsia and he was criticized for dealing with serious social and moral questions, but avoiding giving answers. However, he was defended by such leading writers as Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Leskov. "I'm not a liberal, or a conservative, or a gradualist, or a monk, or an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and that's all..." Chekhov said in 1888.
The failure of his play The Wood Demon (1889) and problems with his novel made Chekhov to withdraw from literature for a period. In 1890 he travelled across Siberia to remote prison island, Sakhalin. There he conducted a detailed census of some 10,000 convicts and settlers condemned to live their lives on that harsh island. Chekhov hoped to use the results of his research for his doctoral dissertation. It is probable that hard conditions on the island also worsened his own physical condition. From this journey was born his famous travel book T
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