THE BREAKING STRING by Maurice Valency


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Chekhov once remarked: ""I do not know who is right: Homer, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega...who did not fear to grub in the 'dung-hill,' but who were more stable in their moral relations than we; or the modern writers, fastidious on paper, but coldly cynical in soul and in their manner of life."" Divisive in temperament, a dreamer with the cruel eye of a doctor, longing for lofty wisdom but drawn to the everyday conundrum, Chekhov was, as Professor Valency states in his excellent study, a romantic in the guise of a realist, and it was ""this tension, impossible to resolve"" wherein the great Russian writer"" found the dynamic principle of his art."" Noted for his Giraudoux translations and critical assessments of European drama, Professor Valency has the advantage of both a scholarly and theatrical background, so it is not surprising that his full-scale treatment of Chekhov's plays is something more than just another academic survey. Suavely written, sympathetic, keenly interpretative, gracefully marshalled with illuminating extracts from the plays, counterbalanced with pertinent references to the short stories, letters, and relevant figures (Gorky, Stanislavsky, Ibsen), the commentary captures all the shifts and stresses of Chekhov's sensibility, avoiding annotative smog, crystallizing a complex spirit.

Publisher: Oxford