Cover image for Understanding Chekhov : a critical study of Chekhov's prose and drama
Understanding Chekhov : a critical study of Chekhov's prose and drama
Rayfield, Donald, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 295 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"First published in 1999 by Bristol Classical Press ... London"--T.p. verso.
Formation of a writer -- Five years in Grub Street -- Suvorin and Tolstoy: the great and the good -- The free writer -- Disease and self-destruction -- The early plays -- The consequences of Sakhalin -- Melikhovo -- The seagull -- Confession -- Uncle Vania -- Peasants -- Love -- Three sisters -- Valediction -- The cherry orchard.
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PG3458.Z8 R39 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Of all Russian writers, Chekhov is one of the best liked and most easily appreciated. Yet he is also one of the most elusive. Here Donald Rayfield reveals the layers of meaning on which the great dramatist's stories and plays are built. He examines his brief twenty-year creative life, from medical student supplementing his income by writing comic stories to his rapid rise as the father of twentieth-century drama and narrative prose. Understanding Chekhov is enriched by revelations from previously unexplored archival material, which deepen our understanding of Chekhov's sources, preoccupations, philosophy, and his relations with theater, with fellow writers, and with contemporary ideas.

Author Notes

Donald Rayfield, one of the foremost Chekhov scholar in the world, is author of the monumental 1997 biography Anton Chekhov: A Life. He is professor of Russian and Georgian, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Since Rayfield's Anton Chekov: A Life (CH, Oct'98) received great critical acclaim, readers should not be surprised that the most insightful parts of the present title are those concerned with the life. When the doctor returns from Sakhalin, Rayfield remarks: "No longer can Chekov follow Tolstoy towards a rural Eden that will save mankind from the Sodom and Gomorrah of urban civilization: in Sakhalin he sensed that social evils and individual unhappiness were inextricably involved; his ethics lost their sharp edge of blame and discrimination." Insights and writing like this make the present introduction to the man and the work remarkable and readable. Rayfield has an ability to sum up the great works and to highlight their most salient and seminal qualities in a phrase or two: The Cherry Orchard is new drama because "comedy has become cruel enough to deal with tragic situations; dramatic silences (like musical rests) have acquired parity with utterances." This last observation will remind the reader that it was Chekov and not Beckett--master of bathos though he is--who first recognized the value of silence on the stage. All academic collections. S. Donovan; St. Thomas University