Friday, 11 April 2014

Chekhov's stories

A few weeks ago I read a book by a Dutch journalist about Russia. He is a great fan of Anton Chekhov and he used Chekhov’s life and the places he lived in to write about Russia and to draw parallels between Russia then, Russia in Sovjet Time and Russia now.
I loved this book, but it also made me fall a little bit in love with Anton Chekhov and I decided I wanted to know more about him.

Anton Chekhov was born in 1860. His father was a grocer, but not a very successful one, he was eventually so much in debt he had to leave town and go to Moscow. Anton and a brother stayed behind to finish secondary school. When he graduated Anton also moved to Moscow where he studied medicine at the university. He also began to write short stories and became very successful.
His family depended on him and he provided for them.

Chekhov believed in hard work and everywhere he lived he tried to improve living conditions, despite his own poor health (he suffered from tuberculosis). He send books to his birthtown, built schools and hospitals and when there was a cholera epidemic he did all he could to alleviate the suffering.

He was a very private person, almost never gave his opinion and was never politically involved, only when he felt he really could not stay silent. He loved gardening and was proud of the plants and trees he grew. He had two cats who often tore the house down (he always forgave them) and two dachshunds. He married late and died in 1904, only 44 years old, of consumption.

Anton Chekhov mostly wrote short stories and plays and many people consider him to be one of the best writers of all times.
And I must say I agree with that.
Short stories are not my favorite genre, but I now read my first Chekhov stories and they are beautiful.
He manages to capture a character of a situation in just a few sentences. I love his dialogue, his humor but most of all his eye for people. He writes about the poor, the farmers, the merchants, the servants, the middle class and the doctors.

Here in The Netherlands there is a publisher (Van Oorschot) who publishes many Russian classics, this collection is called The Russian library.
The works by Chekhov were translated in the fifties, but in the past years a new translation has been made and his works have been published again. This new translation is better than the old one, more modern and clean.

There are five books with his short stories and although they are very expensive I allow myself to buy one book each month. Book 5 already has its place on my shelf, and the other four will follow. These are bound editions, printed on smooth, creamy paper, very lovely and beautiful.
I cannot wait to read more of Anton Chekhov’s stories.

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