Tag Archives: Chekhov


1907: Gentleman Prefer Blondes…?

By 1907, it had become clear just how the earlier Russo-Japanese War had changed the game. Russia’s defeat (just a few months after Anton Chekhov succumbed to tuberculosis) influenced, though it did not cause, the limited revolution of 1905, itself a forerunner to the sweeping revolution of 1917. The war also delayed the second Hague […]


A Free Artist

As a doctor, Chekhov sometimes had the power not only to diagnose illness but also to cure it. As a creative writer and co-inventor of the 20th century he had to content himself with the diagnosis alone, perhaps not even that. In a letter to Aleksey Suvorin, Chekhov responds to his criticism of a recently […]


More Chekhov on Writing

In Chekhov: A Spirit Set Free, biographer V.S. Pritchett writes that his subject was careful to “unself” himself in his stories. Pritchett quotes Chekhov directly as telling publisher Aleksey Suvorin that a writer “must speak and think in [the characters’] tone and must feel as a fellow-spirit, otherwise the image will become blurred.” In an […]


Art Imitates Life

Even cut free from its roots, Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard carries with it, as freight, the tragedy overhanging its author’s life. Chekhov’s tuberculosis progressed with such exquisite slowness that it resembles a metaphor of itself, a dim, gloomy background that – first intermittently, then increasingly – intruded onto Chekhov’s determinedly cheerful foreground. By the time of […]


Friday Fun: Chekhov’s Gun

In 2010, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth, The Guardian recalled his “brilliance in brief,” not only his own accomplishments but the advice he offered to other writers, the dictates he handed down: The most famous of these is commonly known as Chekhov’s Gun, which he defined in a letter to […]


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 […]


Chekhov on Writing

From an 1891 letter to writer and persistent admirer Lydia Avilova: When you want to touch the reader’s heart, try to be colder. It gives their grief as it were, a background against which it stands out in greater relief. See more here and here.

Meryl Street, The Cherry Orchard 1976

Adaptable: Chekhov

A so-called “problem” play bears little resemblance to a “problem child” – in the topsy-turvy realm of theater a problem becomes an invitation to limitless reinvention and amusement. No matter how many times the problem is “solved,” it begs a new solution to suit a new “now,” thus the enduring debate as to the proper […]


Friday Fun: The Beauties

Over at The Guardian, Philip Pullman, author of the splendid trilogy His Dark Materials reads his favorite Chekhov short story, The Beauties (online text). A taste: . . . but then I gradually forgot myself and surrendered entirely to the sensation of beauty. I no longer remembered the dreary step in the dust, no longer […]


Portraits of an Artist

There are few significant historical figures who cannot claim more than one biography, and the convenient fiction of a definitive biography enables readers to feel at once informed and pleasantly unburdened. The title of “definitive” biography appears to be still up for grabs when it comes to Chekhov and, on a whim, I chose to […]