Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov still stands out as the supreme master, one of the greatest short-story writers of the world. He was born in Taganarok, in the Ukraine, in 1860, the son of a peasant serf who succeeded in buying his freedom. Anton Chekhov studied medicine, but devoted himself largely to writing, in which, he acknowledged, his scientific training was of great service. Though he lived only forty-four years, dying of tuberculosis in 1904, his collected works consist of sixteen fair-sized volumes of short stories, and several dramas besides.

Chekhov’s works show an astounding resourcefulness and versatility. There is no monotony, no repetition. Neither in incident nor in character are any two stories alike. The range of Chekhov’s knowledge of men and things seems to be unlimited, and he is extravagant in the use of it.

Chekhov changed the genre itself with his spare, impressionistic depictions of Russian life and the human condition. His characters are average academics or commonplace country-folk, generally tragic and apathetic persons battling their own obscurity and the gradual narrowing of options as one grows older – old age, depression, declining health, loss of love, loss of loved ones, etc. In this way the appeal of his writing is universal.

The stories themselves richly describe the lives of ordinary Russians. They are portraits and mini-plots plucked out of space and time that resonate with age-old human problems. They grip you with the narrative of real people as they experience life, often in the stream of consciousness style. Chekhov peers into the minds of people that lived years ago. His characterization is so vital, one almost feels these personalities sitting alive in the room. It is these snapshots into the thought life, the manner of speaking of people long ago, that pulls you in.

His stories are famous for their ambiguous morality and their often inconclusive nature. Chekhov was a firm believer that the role of the artist was to correctly pose a question, but not necessarily to answer it.

All the stories have been translated by Constance Garnett.

Short Stories of Anton Chekhov

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