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The Portable Chekhov (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Jul 1978


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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Portable Library (27 July 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140150358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140150353
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,253,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in 1860 in Taganrog, a
port in southern Russia. His father was a former serf. In 1879, after
receiving a classical education at the Taganrog Gymnasium, he
moved to Moscow to study medicine. During his university years he
helped support his family by writing stories and sketches for
humorous magazines. By 1888 he was contributing to Russia's most
prestigious literary journals and regarded as a major writer. He also
started writing plays: his first full-length play, Ivanov, was produced
in 1887. After undertaking a journey to visit the penal colony on the
Siberian island of Sakhalin in 1890, he settled on a country estate
outside Moscow, where he continued to write and practise medicine.
His failing health forced him to move to Yalta in 1898, where he
wrote his most famous short story, 'The Lady with the Little Dog'
(1899), and two of his best-known plays: Three Sisters (1901) and
The Cherry Orchard (1904), written with Stanislavsky's Moscow Art
Theatre in mind. In 1901 he married the company's leading actress,
Olga Knipper. He died from tuberculosis in Badenweiler, Germany,
in July 1904 at the age of 44.

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VANKA ZHUKOV, a nine-year-old boy, who had been apprenticed to Alyahin the shoemaker these three months, did not go to bed on Christmas Eve. Read the first page
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 9 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Like so many Russian writers, Anton Chekov was very prolific, with a literary output seemingly designed to match the vastness of the country of his origin. Chekov was indeed born the son of a serf, whose grandfather managed to the redeem the family into freedom; Chekov himself was largely a self-made man, valuing education if not the particular educators he was exposed to a child, and learned the aspects of the different levels of Russian society, as well as a good deal about foreign societies, most particularly the Greeks. Chekov's family moved to Moscow (so his father could avoid debtor's prison in his hometown), where Chekov became a medical student; once, to buy food for the family, he wrote a small piece for a local weekly paper. The rest, as one might say, is history. He did in fact finish medical school, but his life was set on a different path.
Chekov is perhaps best known for his short stories and his plays. He wrote literally hundreds of short stories. He was admired in St. Petersburg, the intellectual centre of the country, and won critical prizes and made a nice living from his writing. Chekov spent time in various pursuits that might seem rather strange -- traveling to the Siberian plains and to Sakhalin, to see the prison conditions; he headed a hospital, but found this interfered with his writing. He revered Tolstoy, but could not become an ardent disciple. Always in ill health, he traveled abroad to France, returning to Russia to live in the south, near Yalta, which he always considered no better than a warm Siberia. In all, Chekov lived a varied life, and was convinced that, within a year or so of his death, no one would be reading him any more. He died in 1904, at the age of 44. His writing career spanned some twenty-five years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Checkhov good - Translation, Not so good 19 Mar. 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Three stars for Anton Checkhov? What could I be thinking. First of all, having read my fair share of Russian literature in translation, I've discovered what a difference a good translator can make. The question of "true to the material" is one I can not answer since I do not speak Russian. However, as far as good writing in English goes... this I can judge. Exceptional stories like "Daydreams", "The Kiss", and "Gusev" stand out with stellar content: "Daydreams" finds a man whose hopes for the future are constantly bashed by the two police he is with. "The Kiss" deals with a soldier who creates an entire fantasy affair with a woman based on a single accidental kiss. And "Gusev" follows the title character's slow descent from sickness into death on board a battleship. "The Kiss", the finest of the bunch, was translated by Constance Garnett, while Yarmolinsky translated almost all the others. Stories like "The Peasants" are bogged down in Yarmolinsky's stilted style. It is difficult to follow or care about characters doing every day things when the reading of these things is so difficult.
This edition also has certain letters collected toward the end. Any relationship between the letters and the rest of the volume is lost to me. There is no mention of any stories we've just read, or any theme amongst the letters themselves. Perhaps more letters to a specific person, or revolving around the writing of a story would have been more appropriate. As is, the tiny letters section is very cutable, offering such a small glimpse as to prove useless. Granted, Yarmolinsky had an almost impossible task. There can be no "portable" Checkhov. The man wrote hundreds upon hundreds of stories, and even more letters. His collected work could, and does, fill volumes. Selecting six hundred pages, translating them, and hoping that they can somehow represent a man is fallacy. Yet, until a better collection comes along, we are forced to read what we can.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The greatness of Chekhov 21 May 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The outstanding review of Fr.Kurt Messick on this site is a very good introduction to the life of Chekhov, and to this particular collection of his writings.

In this review I would like to think a bit about why Chekhov is as I believe a great writer , and just what makes his writing , for me especially in the stories, so powerful.

First, I believe he has a tremendous feeling for human character. Each of his characters is both described in physical and moral terms. But Chekhov in describing his characters gives us a strong sense that he is in touch with real life, with its difficulties, sufferings , complications and impossibilities. He also gives such a strong sense of the special quality of Russian life and society , of its values of its saints and its sinners.

Some of the stories in this selection are heartbreaking, arouse in us a sense of wonder and compassion . The story ' Heartbreak' the story of a poor coach driver who has lost his son and wants to tell the story of this to someone. And who in the course of his work meets only selfishness, cruelty, indifference. And in the end finally pours out this story to his horse, because the horse at least stands still long enough to as it were listen.

My cliche summary cannot do justice to the power of the story. In another of the stories a seemingly minor character begins to speak about the lunch the court officials he is working with might have. In the course of it he presents the whole world of Russian food , and does this with such humor and such colorfulness as to give a real feeling of joy to the reader. In what is arguably Chekhov's most famous story ,'The Lady with the Pet Dog' he not simply tells a story of romantic love he does so in a way in which we most deeply are made to feel the irony and beauty and pain of life.

Chekhov is a writer deeply in touch with human beings, their real quirks and nature, their passions. I do not agree with the cliche that his stories are not stories, that they do not really have plot or narrative. It seems to me that very often the story is told in a description, or in a monologue almost as an aside. And that the reader does get a sense of some kind of real happening.

I said that Chekhov looks into the Russian soul. What is surprising that the ' secular writer' does understand so much about Russian religiosity. And that he presents something more complex than a simple one- sided condemnation of church corruption. Chekhov's work is too filled with dreamers , and in the story 'Daydreaming' one outcast tramp tells his dream of making a new life to the two wardens taking him to a far different fate.

There is a richness of character and soul in this work. And such wonderful humor.

Great literature is one of the great joys and consolations of life.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Vast... 20 July 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Like so many Russian writers, Anton Chekov was very prolific, with a literary output seemingly designed to match the vastness of the country of his origin. Chekov was indeed born the son of a serf, whose grandfather managed to the redeem the family into freedom; Chekov himself was largely a self-made man, valuing education if not the particular educators he was exposed to a child, and learned the aspects of the different levels of Russian society, as well as a good deal about foreign societies, most particularly the Greeks. Chekov's family moved to Moscow (so his father could avoid debtor's prison in his hometown), where Chekov became a medical student; once, to buy food for the family, he wrote a small piece for a local weekly paper. The rest, as one might say, is history. He did in fact finish medical school, but his life was set on a different path.
Chekov is perhaps best known for his short stories and his plays. He wrote literally hundreds of short stories. He was admired in St. Petersburg, the intellectual centre of the country, and won critical prizes and made a nice living from his writing. Chekov spent time in various pursuits that might seem rather strange -- traveling to the Siberian plains and to Sakhalin, to see the prison conditions; he headed a hospital, but found this interfered with his writing. He revered Tolstoy, but could not become an ardent disciple. Always in ill health, he traveled abroad to France, returning to Russia to live in the south, near Yalta, which he always considered no better than a warm Siberia. In all, Chekov lived a varied life, and was convinced that, within a year or so of his death, no one would be reading him any more. He died in 1904, at the age of 44. His writing career spanned some twenty-five years. While his reputation was eclipsed briefly during the Russian Revolutionary period, his reputation remains stronger than ever.
Chekov's short story career was always strong, which is somewhat surprising to modern Western readers. His stories tend to lack strong narrative plots and strong characters. Almost universally they are set in Russia, dealing with the various peoples he encountered in his life, incorporating the feelings and spirit of the place. Many of the stories seem somewhat desperate and desolate, with a quiet resignation as big as the country. Chekov's career as a playwright got off to a relatively slow start, but by the end of his life, his plays were greatly admired and regularly performed in Russia and beyond. Indeed, his 44th birthday was an occasion of the opening of his last play, 'The Cherry Orchard', included in this anthology.
Editor and translator Avrahm Yarmolinsky has an introductory essay, in which he describes Chekov as the 'knell of old Russia' rather than a leader into the new Russia. When reading his stories and plays, one gets a sense for the pre-Revolutionary Russia, the old guard. Never one to go in for novels, which he considered required far more development than he thought he had, Chekov is the scene crafter for late imperial Russia. Interesting, stimulating -- it is hard to anthologise Chekov, and I take a star off here because some of my favourite stories and my favourite play ('The Seagull') are not here, but I can understand the difficulty in deciding.
This anthology includes 40 pages of correspondence; Chekov's correspondence was vast (he wrote his wife nearly every day in the last several years of his life, for example), so again, any representative sample must needs be selective.
This is a good, one-volume introduction to a great Russian writer, one whose influence continues to grow.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Portable Chekhov presents stories, plays and letters from a master of literature 6 Aug. 2010
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dr. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) the son of a peasant lived a life plagued by TB and graced by his love and service to flawed humanity. Chekhov began to write short humorous tales while he was a student of medicine at Moscow University. He was not only a great short story author but also one of the greatest playwrights in history. Included in this excellent volume are 28 short stories and two plays. The plays are:
The Boor-a one act play about a wealthy widow who falls in love with a fellow landowner
The Cherry Orchard is Chekhov's most famous play. The story revolves around the sale of an estate in the Russian countryside. A widow and her children bid adieu to the family home. It is a microcosm of the changes of industrialization and modernization coming to modern Russia. The play reminds all of us of the time when we had to leave our childhood homes. It is an autumnal tale of loss and memory.
Included in this book are great short stories including "Lady with a Lapdog"; "The Kiss"; "Peasants"; "In the Cart" and others. The stories portray late nineteenth century life in Russia. Across the crowded Chekhovian universe are peasants; rascals, rogues and bored aristocrats adulterous husbands and wives; foolish and wise peasants; army officers, landowners, doctors, lawyers and government officials and judges. The stories are a good insight into Russian life and the human heart in conflict with itself. Chekhov is adept at scene setting and characterization. His plots are not the reason we read him, Chekhov believed in hard work as a cure for boredom and the ennui of the intellectual classes in Russia.
Chekhov is in the big leagues with other Russian heavy hitters such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Gogol. He saw life as tragic and man living in an indifferent universe. He recognized the sins and foibles of people but loved them because he was enamored of life's mystery and wonder. Nothing and everything happen in his many stories and plays. To read Chekhov is to witness life in all its many twists and turns. I loved this book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Believable, weird, and often depressing 7 Jun. 2011
By Ulfilas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book was assigned to us for the second semester of a university Russian History course; as such Chekov's stories provide a slice of 19th century Russian life. I was particularly interested in peasant life only a generation after their emancipation from serfdom. The two stories that had the greatest impression on me in this volume were the stories "Peasants" and "In the Ravine". In "Peasants" a waiter working in Moscow returns to the rural hamlet of his birth after illness makes his job untenable. Here the reader is subjected to the filthy living conditions of peasants, their crude and amoral behavior, and their fatalistic indifference. "In the Ravine" deals with a quiet peasant girl who is dispatched to marry the ne'er do well son of a minor landowning family. The poor girl's life takes more than one dreadful turn in this story! Although I am glad that I read this book which gave me ample material for an exam that consisted of answering the single essay question "What sets the Russian peasant apart from his Western European counterparts," I should warn the reader that some of the stories in this book are pretty hard to take. Even as an energetic and highly-motivated college student, I found that I had to lie down after reading even one of these depressing stories!
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