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( Download Epub ) ⚣ The Portable Chekhov ⚶ ContentsStories Vanka The privy councilor A calamity At the mill The chameleon The siren Sergeant Prishibeyev The culprit Daydreams Heartache An encounter The letter The kiss The name day party An attack of nerves Gusev Anna on the neck In the cart At home Peasants The man in a shell Gooseberries About love The darling The lady with the pet dog At Christmas time On official business In the ravinePlays The boor The cherry orchardLetters It s Chechov, so. Gurov, soothed and spellbound by these magical surroundings the sea, the mountains, the clouds, the wide sky thought how everything is really beautiful in this world when one reflects everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget the higher aims of life and our own human dignityChekhov is a completionist s nightmare With the entire internet at my disposal I still can t figure out conclusively how many stories he even wrote Wikipedia gives a partial list of his worksGurov, soothed and spellbound by these magical surroundings the sea, the mountains, the clouds, the wide sky thought how everything is really beautiful in this world when one reflects everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget the higher aims of life and our own human dignityChekhov is a completionist s nightmare With the entire internet at my disposal I still can t figure out conclusively how many stories he even wrote Wikipedia gives a partial list of his works which names about 300 different stories Another website claims spuriously, maybe that he d already writtenthan 400 of them by his mid 20s At first I sort of half intended to read all his short fiction I enjoyed doing that with Kafka and Borges but with this guy I m not sure that s actually possible I settled for The Portable Chekhov, curated and translated by Avrahm Yarmolinsky, instead.Yarmolinsky s collection includes 28 pieces a mere drop in Chekhov s veritable ocean of fiction but it seems like it s probably pretty representative of the author s main modes There are some very short stories and some approaching novella length There s a lot of ambivalent Chekhovian realism, but also a surprising number of lighter,satirical works The satirical stuff is mostly from early in Anton s career, a period in which he later claimed to have approached writing the way I eat pancakes now He gotserious as he got older, and, reading the stories chronologically, you definitely notice that the outlook gets darker the closer you are to the end.Whatever That s all Book Report 101 stuff What actually matters is that Chekhov is really goddamn good.If you ve read another 19th century Russian writer it s probably Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, and for all their differences those two both liked to write very long books with very prominent Christian themes I love them both, F.D especially is one of my all time faves, but they re also the reason most people hear Russian literature and immediately start thinking of thousand page tomes about Christian penitence and the Russian Spirit rather than, you know, stuff they want to read about The Big Two have cornered the market, and their sales pitch could use some work.Chekhov, though, he takes a totally different angle For one thing, he s not into the Jesus stuff his abusive dad was a religious fanatic, so you can see why that wouldn t rub off on him He grew up working class in the middle of nowhere, became a doctor, and continued to practice medicine and treat the poor for free well after he could have given it up to pursue his writing full time All this, mind, while penning hundreds of stories,than a dozen plays, and a novel in his spare time He was a boots on the ground sort of writer who spent time with all sorts of people, which means he also knew how to write them his characters are always human beings sympathetic and frustrating and complicated and yes, oh so relatable rather than symbols or ideas My holy of holies, he claimed once, is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom freedom from violence and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves Chekhov s got a reputation for being melancholic, and it s true that he doesn t pull any punches about the brutal realities of life for the poor, for women, and for anyone else whom society has shoved aside and forgotten As a side note, Chekhov was writing better women 130 years ago than just about any male writer I ve ever read men today truly have no excuse But for all his gritty authenticity, that stuff about celebrating love and freedom and the body is absolutely true, too When someone like Dostoevsky writes about human suffering, there s a part of him that thinks we all kind of deserve it we re all sinners unworthy of God s love But Chekhov doesn t judge people that way Human beings are his muse, they re very literally his life s work, and he wants the best for them even when they re too distracted or deluded to want it for themselves There s such an overwhelming good naturedness about Chekhov, such vibrancy and tenderness and humor coursing through his stories, even when the characters themselves are at their most loathsome I d even go so far as to argue that it s because he cares so much for people that he can portray their low and hateful moments with such absolute honesty Tolstoy and Dostoevsky always have a sermon ready, but Chekhov knows the truth is never so tidy Much as we may wish otherwise, we re neither damned for our sins nor redeemed for our faith this mess of a life is all we have, and it s up to us to work it out Before I read Chekhov I d always heard about how impressionistic his stories were, how nothing really happened in them, how they ended so abruptly That s the sort of thing we ve come to expect in at least theMFA y strand of short fiction up to this day, and Chekhov is supposed to be the father of the modern short story But saying that Chekhov writes nothing but boring little vignettes about middle class people standing around is just as reductive as, well the mess we ve made of the term Kafkaesque Lots of things go on in Chekhov stories there s romance and peril and rage and death it just happens in the way it typically happens in real life unannounced, unexpected, often uncommented on The most formative inner dramas of my life will probably be all but invisible to my coworkers and Facebook friends, and their inner dramas will likewise go unnoticed by me But Chekhov is here to chronicle those little dramas to memorialize the losses and celebrate the gains that look insignificant from the outside but mean so much to those who experience them That s far from boring I d argue it s what fiction is all about.Chekhov s stories do often end up abruptly, that much is true, but he s not just being coy or playing games Real life isn t broken up into tidy little chapters, and Chekhov is obsessed with capturing the ambiguity of real life and encouraging his readers to make their own meaning from it He s not the first or the only artist to try that sort of thing, of course, but it s surprisingly hard to do well just think how many books and movies attempt to pull off an ambiguous ending but only succeed in being frustrating, pretentious, or predictable That s rarely the case with Chekhov Every time I thought I d outfoxed him and guessed what his non ending would look like, he d outfox me back and do something totally unanticipated He s never formulaic, at least not in the sampling of stories I read, and that s especially incredible given the sheer bulk of his output.If all that weren t enough, Chekhov also just knows how to turn a sentence Even in translation and suffice it to say Yarmolinsky s is a very good one IMO I was regularly taken aback by the beauty or aptness of a particular description or character detail or simile Actually, I rarely felt like I was reading a translation at all, except maybe in thedialogue heavy stories I d unhesitatingly rate Chekhov as a better stylist than L Tol or F Dos, which is extra amazing given how effortless and unlabored he makes it seem He s very much a product of the realist movement, like most of his late 19th century literary colleagues, but his best work also anticipates the playfulness and fragmentation of modernists such as Woolf or Joyce Some pieces most notably the ending of Gusev, which follows the slow descent of a body buried at sea even take on a sort of magical realist cast, which I didn t expect at all.In short, Chekhov is full of surprises Not everything he wrote was gold though you wouldn t guess it from reading this review , but the gold is what I remember nearly four months after finishing this collection Humanity, imagination, warmth, intelligence, honesty, humor these shine through in Chekhov s fiction and, evenexceptionally, in the life he lived We bookish people like to talk about books as empathy builders Maybe that s true and maybe it s not, but I do know that I feel like a slightly better andcompassionate person for having read these stories Another tchek off for my reading of J Peder Zane s Top Ten Still to go James Joyce and Marcel Proust I think that ll do it for the top ten on the list Only about 300 to go after that My edition is from 1965 I just checked it s War and Peace , not Joyce I ll read that one soon It s calling me This book cover image is not the one for the 1965 edition I m reading.Finished the intro last night along with the first story Vanka pretty mournful stuff Poor Chekhov might have l Another tchek off for my reading of J Peder Zane s Top Ten Still to go James Joyce and Marcel Proust I think that ll do it for the top ten on the list Only about 300 to go after that My edition is from 1965 I just checked it s War and Peace , not Joyce I ll read that one soon It s calling me This book cover image is not the one for the 1965 edition I m reading.Finished the intro last night along with the first story Vanka pretty mournful stuff Poor Chekhov might have lived longer if he d beenserious about talking care of his health Move to Tucson, dude Another 18th 19th century literary TB victim.Read The Privy Councilor this morning I assume they ll all be winners AC has that same modernist detachment as Flaubert He doesn t say this is bad or evil or sad or funny etc , he only has to describe it Last night The Chameleon and At the Mill Short short stories Good stuff from At the Mill the miller is are Koch wannabe but the Lord knows what kind of soul you have Oh Alyosha the miller , darling, the envious have put the evil eye on you You ve been blessed in everything You re clever and handsome and you area prince among merchants, but you re not human You re unfriendly, you never smile or say a kind word, you re as pitiless as a beast They lie about you, they say that you suck people s blood, that there are evil deeds upon your soul, that with your helpers you rob passers by at night and that you are a horse thief Your mill is like an accursed place YIKES Read The Siren and Sergeant Prishibeyev last night Great stuff as always Chekhov is the king of wry and ironic Looks like he s have been a great food writer too.Read The Culprit last night Pretty funny and then a bit sad Chekhov was not a fan of the ignorant peasantry Destructive in this case But still funnyMoving along through The Culprit , Daydreams and Heartache as AC continues to mine the human condition for these brief sketches of humanness If he d lived longer he might have hit four figures in total number of stories The underlying theme here It s the sad, slow shake of the head that s life Last night An Encounter Then The Letter The Kiss The longest story so far and a classic Reminiscent of the Alice Munro quote There are times in life when something happens and then there are all the other times perhaps not totally accurate.Read The Name Day Party last night fascinating A young husband and wife absorbed in their unhappiness ignore the REAL issue and disaster ensues Middle class melodrama at its finest.Last couple of nights An Attack of Nerves an attack of reality islike it And Gusev a melancholy meditation on life, death and all the rest beautiful To call theses stories philosophical would be an understatementThe bitter irony continues with Anna on the Neck , the story of a poor girl making good and leaving the embarrassing relatives behind I s dog eat dog out there Next up In the Cart in the same bitter, resigned vein as the rest Where is happiness anyway Got back to this last night and read At Home , another bittersweet tale of the inevitability of reality and the acceptance of it Peasants is longer story, almost a chronicle of misery of the hard life of poverty Not for the squeamish or sunny siders The Man in a Shell A pithy tale of the way one chooses to live one s life and of how one s culture shapes the choices Great stuff of course Gooseberries I m pretty sure I read this before, probably in Fiction 100 Another wistful woeful tale of life s frustrations.P.381 in this edition is a wow, a must read Behind the door of every contented, happy man there ought to be someone standing with a little hammer and continually reminding him with a knock that there are unhappy people, that however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show him its claws, and trouble will come to him illness, poverty, losses, and then no one will see him or hear him, just as he neither sees nor hears others and I too would say that learning was the enemy of darkness, that education was necessary but that for the common people the three R s were sufficient for the time being Freedom is a boon, I used to say, it is as essential as air, but we must wait a while Yes, that s what I used to say, and now I ask Why must we wait Why must we wait I ask you For what reason About Love is a follow up next day sequel to Gooseberries and a great story about love The Darling about a woman who s life and happiness depends on others Risky The Lady with the Pet Dog The author returns to a pet topic Men and women and life in general spiritually emotionally speaking that is His writing is just sooo smooth and wistful At Christmas Time More hopelessness of the powerless and moneyless Vulnerability to suffering On Official Business More problems of drinking Beautiful description of fierce winter weather In the Ravine The last story turns out to be a mini novel and a whopper Devastating portrait of Mother Russia with the open question of how good a job is Mom doing for her kids Not so great as it turns out This is a portrait of a venal middle class family Be warned, as the nastiest shock of all these stories takes place here The author seems to strongly imply that the materialistic, grasping life is bereft of spiritual reward I m reminded of Things Fall Apart where the center cannot hold Without some higher authority enforcing some kind of moral ethical standards life looks pretty grim On the other hand there is beauty and serenity in this story, just not with the merchant family in the middle of it Aksinya is a grasping, lunatic, materialistic, lusty demon in the flesh.Started The Cherry Orchard last night It s the last part of the bookHeading for Act Three tonight in this semi absurdist tragi comedy What s with the orchard An icon of the past Ideal beauty to be sacrificed for the sake of solvency maybe we ll see.The fools dance while the orchard is sold to the local developer with big dreams One act to goFinished up The Cherry Orchard last night On to a few lettersAnd finally done after many weeks According to the afterword by Donald Hall it was assumed that AC would likely be forgotten a few decades after this death but the outcome was exactly the opposite Thanks to English American readers he became a cult figure to modernists Easy to see why His language at times bears the burden of awkwardness to us of its times including the translations of course but otherwise the crystal clear prose and modernist existentialist realism non romanticism of the stories is arresting Chekhov the Vermeer of writers Books in this Portable series are often hard to rate and review As with any writer, some of the individual s work is better than others when you have most of that work in one collection it s hard to be as discerning about the collection as a whole And since GR still hasn t come to terms with the idea of 1 2 star ratings, those of us suffering from a wee bit of OCD have to make do with what we have.I have always thought I had read most of Chekhov s short stories I had previously, of course, r Books in this Portable series are often hard to rate and review As with any writer, some of the individual s work is better than others when you have most of that work in one collection it s hard to be as discerning about the collection as a whole And since GR still hasn t come to terms with the idea of 1 2 star ratings, those of us suffering from a wee bit of OCD have to make do with what we have.I have always thought I had read most of Chekhov s short stories I had previously, of course, read his play The Cherry Orchard and short stories like The Lady with the Pet Dog, but it wasn t until I picked up this book that I realized how limited was my reading experience of Chekhov Additionally I found that a lot of the short stories I had previously read were clearly in need of a re read anyhow, and for that I am glad I read this Still, it s 640 pages of one author one Russian author And that s a lotta Rusky to take in at one time If reading The Portable Dorothy Parker wasn t enough to make me want to drink myself under a table, reading about the plights of Russians in the 19th and early 20th centuries was.Supposedly Chekhov did the stream of consciousness style of writing, like before Joyce and all But unlike Joyce his stories never made me feel the urge to rip my fingernails out one by one without anesthetic So I m not sure what Joyce was reading that inspired him to do something completely different with it, but hey,power to him I ll stick with my Chekhov He did challenge his readers, and that s attractive like Umberto Eco , but not so to the point that anyone should feel dumb, like they re just not cool enough to get him He wrote stories to support himself and his family very admirable before he became a physician His medical and clinical background often creeps up in his writing and I almost felt smart just reading it at times Several of his short stories are rather brief, but they all pack a punch Many of them show Chekhov s views on contemporary issues and politics, but not in a heavy handed Upton Sinclair sort of way Subdued, yet there it is