THE IMAGE OF CHEKOV by Robert- Ed. Payne


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Chekov told Ivan Bunin he expected to be read for about 7 years after his death. He was wrong. Almost 60 years have passed and the Chekov cult increasingly ipens re influence (currently, Italian neo-realism), criticism (a recent monumental biography), and new translations, as here in Robert Payne's stand-out collection, chronologically arranged, of 40 of the master's tales. Two quibbles, however: in some respects the old Yarmolinsky or Garnett versions seem surer, subtler; and selection-wise, the omission of such standards as Duel, Ravine and rling is regrettable. That aside, the introduction is entertaining and the assemblage itself enchanting, whether it's the remarkable Gusev where an old soldier dies at sea, is tossed overboard and the immensity of nature above and below is viewed as a benediction; or in Lady as a casual adultery turns into a erplexed, passionate, doomed amour; or with the cab driver Iona, who after the stling indifference of his passengers, tells his little mare how his son has just died; or the artless Anna flowering into a heartless, headstrong woman of the world. Says Payne: Chekov laughed for the sake of tragedy. That may or may not be true, but what is incontestable is that he left behind a map of the soul in search of its own peace and place as indispensable as any you can name.

Publisher: Knopf