Biography of Russian Writer Anton Chekhov Part 1

About the famous Russian author Anton Chekhov, history and biography of one of history's best short story writers.


ANTON CHEKHOV (1860-1904)

Humanity goes forward, perfecting its powers. Everything that's unattainable now will someday become familiar, understandable; it is only that one must work and help with all one's might those who seek the truth.

--The Cherry Orchard, Act II

In a short, 44-year life, Chekhov actively followed two simultaneous careers. "Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other." He began his medical practice at 24, after graduating from the University of Moscow. His literary career had started four years before, when he sold the first of many vignettes under the pen name Antosha Chekhonte. In later life, he wryly remarked that "Antosha" deserved to remain obscure: "Chekhonte wrote a great deal which Chekhov finds hard to accept."

Awarded the Pushkin Prize for short stories while still in his 20s, Chekhov moved on to playwriting. His first play, Ivanov, was critically acclaimed. Hopeful, he tried a second, The Wood Demon, and it failed dismally. Unshaken, Chekhov wrote a third, The Sea Gull, and this time the audience booed him from the theater. Angered by the rejection, he swore he'd never write another play. Fortunately for world drama, Chekhov allowed director Stanislavski to restage the failure two years later with a more sensitive producer, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, a man who understood Chekhov's ideas, and the play was a resounding success. He recouped with The Wood Demon as well, rewriting the play under a new title, Uncle Vanya, and his audiences found it much more to their liking.

In 1903 Chekhov wrote his greatest and most popular masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard. The aristocratic Ranyevskys, facing the loss of their estates and imminent eviction, hopelessly await a miracle to save them. A former peasant, Lopakhin, buys the land and chops down the Ranyevskys' beloved cherry orchard-symbolic of their peaceful past-to build summer cottages. The old order passes. Chekhov, dying in 1904 of pulmonary tuberculosis in a Bavarian sanatorium, lived only a few months after its premiere in Moscow on his birthday, January 29.

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