Quotable: Anton Chekhov

From a letter to Aleksey Suvorin, one of Chekhov’s most significant publishers and benefactors:

What aristocratic writers take from nature gratis the less privileged must pay for with their youth. Try to write a story about a young man – the son of a serf, a former grocer, choirboy, schoolboy and university student, raised on respect for rank, kissing the priests’ hands, worshipping the ideas of others and giving thanks for every piece of bread, receiving frequent whippings, making the rounds as a tutor without galoshes, brawling, torturing animals, enjoying dinners at the houses of rich relatives, needlessly hypocritical before God and man merely to acknowledge his own insignificance – write about this young man who squeezes the slave out of himself, drop by drop, and who, one fine morning, finds that the blood coursing through his veins is no longer the blood of a slave but that of a real human being.

Image: In the Classic Stage Company’s 2011 production of The Cherry Orchard, John Turturro starred as Lopákin, once the son of a serf and now a successful businessman.


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