Cover image for The comic stories
The comic stories
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904.
Uniform Title:
Short stories. Selections. English
Publication Information:
Chicago : Ivan R. Dee, [1999]

Physical Description:
217 pages ; 23 cm
He quarrelled with his wife -- Notes from the memoirs of a man of ideals -- A dreadful night -- From the diary of an assistant book-keeper -- An incident at law -- The daughter of Albion -- Foiled! -- A woman without prejudices -- The complaints book -- The Swedish match -- Rapture -- Vint -- On the telephone -- Romance with double-bass -- The death of a civil servant -- Overdoing it -- Surgery -- In the dark -- Kashtanka -- Grisha -- Fat and thin -- The objet d'art -- A horsy name -- At the bath-house -- The chameleon -- Revenge -- The orator -- The exclamation mark -- Notes from the journal of a quick-tempered man -- A man of ideas -- The siren -- The burbot -- The civil service exam -- Boys -- A drama -- The malefactor -- No comment -- Sergeant Prishibeyev -- Encased -- The darling.
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Features Chekhov's comic mastery forty stories translated from the Russian and with an introduction by Harvey Pitcher.

Author Notes

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in the provincial town of Taganrog, Ukraine, in 1860. In the mid-1880s, Chekhov became a physician, and shortly thereafter he began to write short stories.

Chekhov started writing plays a few years later, mainly short comic sketches he called vaudvilles. The first collection of his humorous writings, Motley Stories, appeared in 1886, and his first play, Ivanov, was produced in Moscow the next year. In 1896, the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg performed his first full- length drama, The Seagull. Some of Chekhov's most successful plays include The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, and Three Sisters. Chekhov brought believable but complex personalizations to his characters, while exploring the conflict between the landed gentry and the oppressed peasant classes. Chekhov voiced a need for serious, even revolutionary, action, and the social stresses he described prefigured the Communist Revolution in Russia by twenty years. He is considered one of Russia's greatest playwrights.

Chekhov contracted tuberculosis in 1884, and was certain he would die an early death. In 1901, he married Olga Knipper, an actress who had played leading roles in several of his plays. Chekhov died in 1904, spending his final years in Yalta.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anton Chekhov began writing comic sketches for newspapers when he was in school, continuing this practice for years to help support his family. Many of those short comic works were humorous variations on what became his most memorable, serious themes. Pitcher has dipped into the hundreds of Chekhov's short pieces to select the 40 stories included here, most of them written in the 1880s (and some translated into English for the first time). They run the gamut from the unexpectedly jaunty to prototypes of the darker "comic-absurd" elements often considered characteristic of Chekhov. "He Quarreled with His Wife," written in 1884, features a man who mistakes his dog's affectionate embrace for his wife's touch. Some of the sketches have a similarly jokey feel, but most are more potent. Many take their satiric cues from Gogol, as in "The Exclamation Mark," which concerns a civil servant who is accused of not understanding punctuation and develops a paranoid fantasy in which everyday objects transform into malevolent exclamation marks; or "The Death of a Civil Servant," which reworks a theme from "The Overcoat." More generally attuned to Gogol's example is Chekhov's usual choice of subject: the "little man" compromised by his immersion in the social ranking system; the classic juxtaposition of the ignoble with the socially elevated. But Chekhov's originality and fresh comic timing emerges clearly as well. Pitcher closes the collection with two of Chekhov's better-known, later stories, "The Darling" and "Encased," connecting these tragicomic tales with Chekhov's humorous forms. It is in part this volume's comprehensive and intelligent structure that allows the reader to better explore this exuberant side of the Russian master. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Chekhov wrote stories to make money, to support himself and his extended family. His heart lay with the theater. Despite this, most still consider Chekhov to have no rival in what is now the most fashionable literary genre of the 20th century. From William Trevor to Alice Munro, Chekhov is at times brilliantly imitated but never surpassed. Readers owe a great debt to Pitcher for bringing to them for the first time the master's lighter side. These comic stories are a delight, and this reviewer regrets that readers have had to wait so long to see them. They have long given pleasure to the Russian people, and some of them, "A Horsy Name" for example, every school child knows. One discovers a little O'Henry in the endings and some farce, but the author of Three Years can be found between the lines. Those who want only the canonized Chekhov will do well to remember Oscar Wilde, who remarked that he never trusted people who lack a sense of humor: they are not serious. All collections. S. Donovan St. Thomas University

Table of Contents

Part 1 Introductionp. 1
Part 2 He Quarrelled with his Wifep. 11
Part 3 Notes from the Memoirs of a Man of Idealsp. 12
Part 4 A Dreadful Nightp. 16
Part 5 From the Diary of an Assistant Book-keeperp. 22
Part 6 An Incident at Lawp. 24
Part 7 The Daughter of Albionp. 26
Part 8 Foiled!p. 30
Part 9 A Woman Without Prejudicesp. 32
Part 10 The Complaints Bookp. 36
Part 11 The Swedish Matchp. 37
Part 12 Rapturep. 57
Part 13 Vintp. 59
Part 14 On the Telephonep. 63
Part 15 Romance with Double-Bassp. 65
Part 16 The Death of a Civil Servantp. 71
Part 17 Overdoing Itp. 74
Part 18 Surgeryp. 78
Part 19 In the Darkp. 82
Part 20 Kashtankap. 86
Part 21 Grishap. 105
Part 22 Fat and Thinp. 108
Part 23 The Objet d'Artp. 110
Part 24 A Horsy Namep. 114
Part 25 At the Bath-housep. 117
Part 26 The Chameleonp. 121
Part 27 Revengep. 124
Part 28 The Oratorp. 128
Part 29 The Exclamation Markp. 131
Part 30 Notes from the Journal of a Quick-tempered Manp. 136
Part 31 A Man of Ideasp. 145
Part 32 The Sirenp. 148
Part 33 The Burbotp. 153
Part 34 The Civil Service Examp. 158
Part 35 Boysp. 162
Part 36 A Dramap. 168
Part 37 The Malefactorp. 173
Part 38 No Commentp. 177
Part 39 Sergeant Prishibeyevp. 181
Part 40 Encasedp. 185
Part 41 The Darlingp. 197
Part 42 Notesp. 209