Friday Fun: Chekhov on Biography

Around 1892, journal editor V.A. Tikhonov wrote to request some biographical information from Anton Chekhov, and the author’s reply appears in Janet Malcolm’s 2001 book, Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey:

Do you need my biography? Here it is. In 1860 I was born in Taganrog. In 1879 I finished my studies in the Taganrog school. In 1884 I finished my studies in the medical school of Moscow University. In 1888 I received the Pushkin Prize. In 1890 I made a trip to Sakhalin across Siberia – and back by sea. In 1891 I toured Europe, where I drank splendid wine and ate oysters. In 1892 I strolled with V.A. Tikhonov at [the writer Shcheglov’s] name-day party. I began to write in 1879 in Strekosa.

My collections of stories are “Motley Stories,” “Twilight,” “Stories,” “Gloomy People,” and the novella “The Duel.” I have also sinned in the realm of drama, although moderately.

I have been translated into all languages with the exception of the foreign ones. However, I was translated into German quite a while ago. The Czechs and Serbs also approve of me. And the French also relate to me.

I grasped the secrets of love at age thirteen. I remain on excellent terms with friends, both physicians and writers. I am a bachelor. I would like a pension. I busy myself with medicine to such an extent that this summer I am going to perform some autopsies, something I have not done for two or three years. Among writers I prefer Tolstoy, among physicians, Zakharin.

However, this is all rubbish. Write what you want. If there are no facts, substitute something lyrical.


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