Donald Rayfield Anton Chekhov: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780006547679

Anton Chekhov: A Life

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9780006547679: Anton Chekhov: A Life

The definitive life of Chekhov which allows us finally to understand the personality of this great dramatist – and the influences at work on his writing.

There have been many biographies of Anton Chekhov before – but this is the first to tell the story of his life as fully as we now realize is possible. Donald Rayfield has spent over five years combing through the extensive Chekhov archives all over Russia, uncovering thousands of documents and letters that have never been seen – from lovers, friends and family. These tell of a life far more entangled and turbulent than ever previously suspected.

Chekhov’s life was one long battle with his dependants and with the tuberculosis that was to kill him at 44. This biography strips the whitewash from the image of Chekhov. The result is not to denigrate him, but to show him in the full heroism of his short and prodigiously creative life – at times made hell by a monstrous father, possessive sister and delinquent elder brothers.

The drama of Chekhov’s life has an extraordinarily rich cast of characters, and took him all over Russia and the world. This biography is a vivid portrait of Russia and Russian society a hundred years ago, as well as an investigation of the emotions and conflicts and experiences which Chekhov transmuted into his stories and plays.

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Review:

A noted scholar of the works of Anton Chekhov now turns to his life (1860-1904), with equally revelatory results. Rayfield's densely documented account avoids general statements in favour of quiet accumulation of detail that gradually creates a multifaceted impression of Chekhov's contradictions. Witty, charming, and an ardent lover of women, Russia's greatest dramatist was also coolly detached, prone to capriciousness and capable of considerable cruelty. In Anton Chekhov, Rayfield does not attempt to tidy up a messily complex psyche or to downplay the faults that were as intrinsic to Chekhov's genius as were his merits.

Review:

"Without question the definitive biography of Chekhov, and like to remain so for a very long time to come. . . . [Rayfield] captures a likeness of the notoriously elusive Chekhov, which at last begins to seem recognizably human--and even more extraordinary." --Michael Frayn
"Full of fascinating surprises. It is hard to imagine another book about Chekhov after this one. . . . A sculpted likeness of a most human genius shown in the context of his time." --Arthur Miller
"The life Rayfield describes is no less impressive for having a flawed, at times unsympathetic, figure at its center. And his restraint in presenting his controversial new findings--along with the sheer quantity of fresh material he has amassed--is finally what makes his portrait so persuasive. His clear-eyed, critical sympathy for his less-than-perfect subject might have been borrowed from Chekhov's own writing." --New York Times Book Review

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