Chekhov: Scenes from a Life

Chekhov: Scenes from a Life

Paperback

By (author) Rosamund Bartlett

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  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Format: Paperback | 432 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 30mm | 358g
  • Publication date: 1 August 2005
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0743230752
  • ISBN 13: 9780743230759
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: illustrations
  • Sales rank: 191,446

Product description

Rosamund Bartlett is steeped in Chekhov's writings, having worked as a translator and lecturer on the culture and history of nineteenth-century Russia. She has written not simply another biography of Chekhov but brought new understanding to the writings and character of the man, set amidst the formidable landscape of the Russia he loved. This is a book of enormous detail about the places Chekhov visited and lived in, which is vital for a good understanding of the character of this unusual and complex man. The author examines with careful precision Chekhov's genius, and shows that he is not simply the gloomy writer of popular myth but one with profound humanity and humour.

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Review quote

"An excellent new biography, in fine Chekhovian style, by a writer with a deep knowledge of Russian culture and nature." --"Evening Standard"

Editorial reviews

A peculiar biography that justifies its addition to an overcrowded shelf by focusing on the landscapes most important to the Russian writer. It's a good idea-for a magazine article or an academic monograph. Drawn out to book length, this geographical survey eventually palls as the text wanders from Taganrog, where Chekhov was born in 1860, through Moscow and St. Petersburg to Melikhovo, his country home outside Moscow, and Yalta, the Crimean resort to which he relocated in a vain attempt to stem the progress of his tuberculosis. British scholar Bartlett (Russian/Univ. of Durham; Wagner and Russia, not reviewed) admits to taking "an impressionistic approach," and early chapters provide atmospheric context for his work by the evoking flat, unpopulated steppe, dotted with ancient Scythian burial mounds, of his childhood; and the arcadian meadows, forests and rivers he enjoyed when summering in a dacha outside Moscow. But her occasional schematic linking of these vistas to a particular story through lengthy quotes merely serves to underscore how little information this book provides about Chekhov's literary life, apart from his surprising friendship with reactionary St. Petersburg magazine publisher Alexei Suvorin. The plays in particular get very short shrift here; in a typical passage, the author writes, "When [Chekhov] returned to Nice for that last visit, he spent the first week of his stay putting the final touches on Three Sisters"-which has hardly been mentioned before. Happily, we learn a good deal more about Chekhov the man than Chekhov the writer. He quietly improved every place he lived, treating the local peasants long after he had given up practicing medicine and raising funds for local schools and post offices. The chronology of his existence, largely abandoned for long stretches, reasserts itself in the final chapters about his slow decline and death at a German spa in 1904, which make the previous emphasis on the physical terrain seem even more arbitrary. Some interesting material on hitherto unexplored aspects of Chekhov's life, but this one's strictly for specialists. (Kirkus Reviews)