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Chekhov: Scenes from a Life Hardcover – 5 Jul 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Edition edition (5 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743230744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743230742
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3.6 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 405,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A brilliant, impressionistic new biography' -- Independent on Sunday

'Bartlett’s efforts should be greeted with prizes and acclaim. She has renewed Chekhov for twenty-first-century readers' -- Scotland on Sunday

'Delightful . . . Bartlett has succeeded in freeing the playwright from the dead hand of conventional biography . . . it's a treasure' -- New Statesman

'Here is a wonder: a book that delivers more than it promises . . . A remarkable biography about an inspirational artist' -- Sunday Telegraph

'Unorthodox, fascinating and highly readable . . . I have never read a book that brought me closer to the writer himself' -- Moscow Times

‘Bartlett is a distinguished Chekhov translator . . . Enthusiastic [and] colourful . . . Bartlett’s lyricism is a pleasure’ -- Financial Times

‘Bartlett’s efforts should be greeted with prizes and acclaim. She has renewed Chekhov for twenty-first-century readers’ -- Scotland on Sunday

‘Here is a wonder: a book that delivers more than it promises . . . A remarkable biography about an inspirational artist’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘[Chekhov is] a writer Bartlett clearly understands very well indeed’ -- Literary Review

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mhr on 21 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very good and readable biography of this writer of plays and numerous short stories. The author, Rosamund Bartlett, follows Chekhov's life thematically by mainly focusing on the places associated with him, e.g. Taganrog on the Azov Sea (his youth), Moscow, St Petersburg, Sakhalin Island (a penal colony he researched), Melikhovo (his country estate), French Riviera, Crimea and the Black Forest (his death), etc.

Chekhov apparently was a prolific letter writer. Bartlett quotes extensively from his letters to reveal his inner thoughts throughout his life. Her description of Chekhov's life is objective and sympathetic, but not reverential.

The main focuses are the humble and humane aspects of his personality and his literary career. But, his exhausting activities as a medical practitioner in the countryside when he lived in Melikhovo, treating poor patients for no fee and getting involved in improvement in public health, are dealt with only briefly. (On the other hand, there is a fair amount of comments on Chekhov's dogs.) I would like to have read a little more on these aspects of the writer's life and career, but we will have to turn to other biographies about these activities.

The last chapter deals with the recent and current situation about the places and buildings associated with the writer. It appears to be rather mixed, particulalrly in the current free-wheeling capitalist era. We just hope that his legacy will be preserved for ever for later generations.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I can confidently recommend it to those who want to better appreciate Chekhov's works which are full of pathos and insight into human conditions.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By HARRY ARMITAGE on 2 Aug. 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am apparently the first "ordinary reader" to review this book, and I want to encourage anyone with an interest in Chekhov, or indeed in Russia, its people (from Tsars to artists and writers, to commissars and to peasants) and places, to read it.
Rosamund Bartlett succeeds in bringing to life not only Anton Pavlovich and his family, but also the history of such places as Taganrog, the steppes, the Crimea, Sakhalin, Moscow and many others, in a way which is never sentimental and at the same time never strays from their relevance to her subject.
A refreshingly original approach to literary biography, and a description of the all too short and finally sad life of one of the few unaffected human beings to achieve popularity and serious artistic depth at the same time.
It's mostly in England that Chekhov has been considered gloomy or melancholy. "Laughter through tears" is not quite adequate to describe the most telling moments, from the point of view of the human condition, in his works, but few western writers have created both comedy and profound insight, at the same time, with material which relies not on "stream of consciousness" or other such literary devices, but on ordinary, momentary life-stoppers such as the twanging of a breaking rope in a distant mine-shaft.
This book has got me scuttling back to my own little Chekhov collection (and adding to it)! I heartily urge others who have known his works to do the same, and those who think he lived a long time ago and can't be relevant today to read some of his short stories or see one of his plays (almost any will do) and then read this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Leif Asbjørnsen on 18 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In my opinion no better tribute can be paid to Chekhov than this low-key biography written in the spirit of the maestro himself. We follow the restless and industrious Chekhov from his formative years in Taganrog and the town's adjacent steppes via Moscow, St Petersburg, Melikhovo and Yalta, plus summers at the dachas, to his death in a health resort in the Black Forest in Germany - having lived for years on borrowed time due to his tuberculosis. As Rosamund Bartlett so eloquently states it: It may be difficult for a biographer to penetrate Chekhov's character through his relationship with other people. It is easier to get a glimpse of his character when we look at the sensitive relationship he had with his environment and how it manifested itself in his writing. Hence the structure of the biography.

After having read this biography one cannot but admire Chekhov for his self-control, humanitarian values and unsentimental attitude to life. He was a reserved man who hated self-promotion and being in the limelight. I think Bartlett through her informative, meticulous and above all unpretentious account of Chekhov's life really succeeds in conveying the author's sense of moral duty. It is not difficult to accept Bartlett's assertion that as a writer Chekhov was the leading light of his generation.
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