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peopletalk's Podcast

Jun 11, 2010

As Chekhov wrote to a friend, "Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other. Though it is irregular, it is less boring this way, and besides, neither of them loses anything through my infidelity."

Chekhov's attitude towards life. "In front of that dreary, grey crowd of helpless people there passed a great, wise, and observant man; he looked at all those dreary inhabitants of his country, and, with a sad smile, with a tone of gentle but deep reproach, with anguish in his face and in his heart, in a beautiful and sincere voice he said to them: 'You live badly, my friends. It is shameful to live like that.' "

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1914) was one of the most representative Russian writers in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. His works present a vivid picture of Russia's everyday life with its triumphant complacency, deplorable banality, cruel senselessness, dull boredom, stunted intellect, and moral emptiness. Chekhov did not pose as a moral teacher, but as an imaginative investigator. He often insisted that he was not called upon as a writer to suggest remedies for the diseases of society, but, as a physician by training, to diagnose them. Yet, in reading his dismal account of Russia, one cannot help hearing the author's condemnation of the laziness and self-indulgence of his fellow-men, of their l9th nineteenth century life in which everything is shallow, stupid, and commonplace. A thoughtful reader of Chekhov will hardly accuse him of being indifferent to morality and society. He will rather perceive in his works a skilful criticism of that commonplace Russian life in which nobody else seemed interested and of which so few understood the significance and the value.

But men of genius like Chekhov are usually not satisfied with flinging only criticisms. When they criticise and condemn the sluggish current of contemporary existence, their action is motivated by a sort of "categorical imperative," by the persistent innate demand of their restless souls which cannot be appeased by existing conditions. This demand is in itself something positive, something real; for it is born of an ideal of life which the author has visualised, towards which he aspires, and with which he compares the humdrum world. Undoubtedly Chekhov, too, had an attitude towards human problems that was peculiarly his own, coloured by his own ideal of a beautiful and harmonious life. M. Gorky, Reminiscenus of Anton Cheklwv, by Gorky, Kuprin and Bunin, New York, 1921,p.2j. 658

Narrated by Sandra Ventris,  directed and produced by Nigel Killick Recorded at the University of Brighton's Media department recording studios.

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