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Book Title: Повести и рассказы|
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Reader ratings: 7.4
The author of the book: Anton Chekhov
Date of issue: 1995
ISBN 13: 9782877142779
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 522 KB
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There is a vein of dull misery running through much of modern realism. It is not even tragedy, because tragedy requires that the person be suffering as a result of their actions, and that they be emotionally complex enough to understand what is happening to them, and to feel the whole of that pain.
These stories of misery have none of that, they are tales of the ignorant, of the emotionally stunted, who bumble into one stupidity after another, never realizing why or what it means. Is there a certain kind of realism in this? Sure--but fundamentally, it's only half the story.
Sure, we all might feel that way sometimes, if we're depressed, and so we look at the world and say 'it sucks out there, and always will'--and part of it is that we want that to be true, too. We want it to suck, and for us to have predicted it, because that means that none of this is our fault. If things suck, it's because that's how they're meant to be, not because we happened to fuck up.
But the world just isn't that bad. Life isn't that bad, even when we feel like wallowing in it, that's not reality, that's just our own baggage, our own coping. So, for an author to take that kind of nihilism and turn it into a book just ends up feeling silly. It's empty, it's self-centered, and it's not profound. We did Nihilism already, and found better things to supplant it.
But that's what's amazing about Chekhov, because by all rights, that is what his stories should be: these little moments of sad life for these miserable little nobodies who don't know any better. And yet, they're not. They're somehow beautiful and delicate and profound. There's this undefinable Will to Joy in each one that makes it come off as sweet and sympathetic.
And his people are so strange. Each one is a true character, because none of them are just 'types', place-fillers. That's the lesson Chekhov took from Gogol: that describing a man's head as looking like a dented pumpkin feels somehow more real than just saying it was big, and not entirely round, and somewhat over-fleshy. Making someone flat and grey doesn't make them seem miserable, because misery is vivid and colorful and overwhelming--that's what makes it such a damn bother. If it were colorless and bland, it could never roll over a human mind.
Now, I'm just as willing to hate stupid people as anyone--and back in college, I was even more ready to disregard them. Yet Chekhov's stupid little people are impossible to hate, because they seem real. Like everyone, they try to put up a front, but you can see little bits, between the seams, that show you just how vulnerable and desperate they are for something, anything, which brings out that fundamental human thought: "Oh god. Me too."
And yet, not everyone sees it. I know they don't, because one girl asked my professor "Why is Chekhov such a pessimist?" He was utterly confounded by the question, he couldn't understand where it came from, how anyone could come to that conclusion. I mean, here's an author showing you the beautiful soul of another human being, in the midst of whatever turmoil or failed search for meaning, and somehow doing it in the span of a few pages--and you call that pessimism?
But then, Nietzsche was also misunderstood in that way, as was Machiavelli. These weren't men talking about the world as they thought it should be, but the world as they saw it, every day, all around them--and their reaction to that darkness was not to give in, or fold up, but to say 'we can fight our way through this'. Not out of it, perhaps, but definitely through it.
But then, to a certain type of idealist, even admitting that things can be bad, or will be bad, is seen as pessimistic, defeatist. I don't buy that. If I'm fighting, I want to know what I'm up against. I want to know everything about them, because that's how I'm going to win. To me, optimism isn't self-delusion, it isn't being in good spirits when things are going fine--that's too easy, anyone can do that--it's pushing on even when time are hard, even knowing they will probably still be hard tomorrow.
They will be hard tomorrow. But I'll still be here, and Chekhov will still be here, and if that's not enough for you, then you're only in it to get attention, anyways.
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Read information about the authorAnton Pavlovich Chekhov [Russian: Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов] was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.
"When I think back on my childhood," Chekhov recalled, "it all seems quite gloomy to me." His early years were shadowed by his father's tyranny, religious fanaticism, and long nights in the store, which was open from five in the morning till midnight. He attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog (1867-68) and Taganrog grammar school (1868-79). The family was forced to move to Moscow following his father's bankruptcy. At the age of 16, Chekhov became independent and remained for some time alone in his native town, supporting himself through private tutoring.
In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School. While in the school, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. His publisher at this period was Nicholas Leikin, owner of the St. Petersburg journal Oskolki (splinters). His subjects were silly social situations, marital problems, farcical encounters between husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers, whims of young women, of whom Chekhov had not much knowledge – the author was was shy with women even after his marriage. His works appeared in St. Petersburg daily papers, Peterburskaia gazeta from 1885, and Novoe vremia from 1886.
Chekhov's first novel, Nenunzhaya pobeda (1882), set in Hungary, parodied the novels of the popular Hungarian writer Mór Jókai. As a politician Jókai was also mocked for his ideological optimism. By 1886 Chekhov had gained a wide fame as a writer. His second full-length novel, The Shooting Party, was translated into English in 1926. Agatha Christie used its characters and atmosphere in her mystery novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).
Chekhov graduated in 1884, and practiced medicine until 1892. In 1886 Chekhov met H.S. Suvorin, who invited him to become a regular contributor for the St. Petersburg daily Novoe vremya. His friendship with Suvorin ended in 1898 because of his objections to the anti-Dreyfus campaingn conducted by paper. But during these years Chechov developed his concept of the dispassionate, non-judgemental author. He outlined his program in a letter to his brother Aleksandr: "1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality; flee the stereotype; 6. compassion."
Chekhov's fist book of stories (1886) was a success, and gradually he became a full-time writer. The author's refusal to join the ranks of social critics arose the wrath of liberal and radical intellitentsia and he was criticized for dealing with serious social and moral questions, but avoiding giving answers. However, he was defended by such leading writers as Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Leskov. "I'm not a liberal, or a conservative, or a gradualist, or a monk, or an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and that's all..." Chekhov said in 1888.
The failure of his play The Wood Demon (1889) and problems with his novel made Chekhov to withdraw from literature for a period. In 1890 he travelled across Siberia to remote prison island, Sakhalin. There he conducted a detailed census of some 10,000 convicts and settlers condemned to live their lives on that harsh island. Chekhov hoped to use the results of his research for his doctoral dissertation. It is probable that hard conditions on the island also worsened his own physical condition. From this journey was born his famous travel book T
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