Quotes by Anton Chekhov
[Ognev] recalled endless, heated, purely Russian arguments, when the wranglers, spraying spittle and banging their fists on the table, fail to understand yet interrupt one another, themselves not even noticing it, contradict themselves with every phrase, change the subject, then, having argued for two or three hours, begin to laugh.
It is uncomfortable to ask condemned people about their sentences just as it is awkward to ask wealthy people why they need so much money, why they use their wealth so poorly, and why they don't just get rid of it when they recognize that it is the cause of their unhappiness.
Exquisite nature, daydreams, and music say one thing, real life another.
It's even pleasant to be sick when you know that there are people who await your recovery as they might await a holiday.
By poeticizing love, we imagine in those we love virtues that they often do not possess; this then becomes the source of constant mistakes and constant distress.
If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."
You look at any poetic creature: muslin, ether, demigoddess, millions of delights; then you look into the soul and find the most ordinary crocodile!
While you're playing cards with a regular guy or having a bite to eat with him, he seems a peaceable, good-humoured and not entirely dense person. But just begin a conversation with him about something inedible, politics or science, for instance, and he ends up in a deadend or starts in on such an obtuse and base philosophy that you can only wave your hand and leave.
To believe in God is not hard. Inquisitors, Byron and Arakcheev believed in Him. No, believe in man!
Better a debauched canary than a pious wolf.
Each of us is full of too many wheels, screws and valves to permit us to judge one another on a first impression or by two or three external signs.
Country acquaintances are charming only in the country and only in the summer. In the city in winter they lose half of their appeal.
People who live alone always have something on their minds that they would willingly share.
It seems to me that all of the evil in life comes from idleness, boredom, and psychic emptiness, but all of that is inevitable when you become accustomed to living at others' expense.
If you can't distinguish people from lap-dogs, you shouldn't undertake philanthropic work.
There are no small number of people in this world who, solitary by nature, always try to go back into their shell like a hermit crab or a snail.
Probably nature itself gave man the ability to lie so that in difficult and tense moments he could protect his nest, just as do the vixen and wild duck.
Death can only be profitable: there's no need to eat, drink, pay taxes, offend people, and since a person lies in a grave for hundreds or thousands of years, if you count it up the profit turns out to be enormous.
Life is a vexatious trap; when a thinking man reaches maturity and attains to full consciousness he cannot help feeling that he is in a trap from which there is no escape.
Love, friendship, respect, do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
Dear, sweet, unforgettable childhood! Why does this irrevocable time, forever departed, seem brighter, more festive and richer than it actually was?
The unhappy are egotistical, base, unjust, cruel, and even less capable of understanding one another than are idiots. Unhappiness does not unite people, but separates them.
It's immoral to steal, but you can take things.
Moscow is a city that has much suffering ahead of it.
When a person is born, he can embark on only one of three roads of life: if you go right, the wolves will eat you; if you go left, you'll eat the wolves; if you go straight, you'll eat yourself.
Faith is an aptitude of the spirit. It is, in fact, a talent: you must be born with it.
Thought and beauty, like a hurricane or waves, should not know conventional, delimited forms.
The thirst for powerful sensations takes the upper hand both over fear and over compassion for the grief of others.
No matter how corrupt and unjust a convict may be, he loves fairness more than anything else. If the people placed over him are unfair, from year to year he lapses into an embittered state characterized by an extreme lack of faith.
Who keeps the tavern and serves up the drinks? The peasant. Who squanders and drinks up money belonging to the peasant commune, the school, the church? The peasant. Who would steal from his neighbor, commit arson, and falsely denounce another for a bottle of vodka? The peasant.
A fiance is neither this nor that: he's left one shore, but not yet reached the other.
Eyes—the head's chief of police. They watch and make mental notes. A blind person is like a city abandoned by the authorities. On sad days they cry. In these carefree times they weep only from tender emotions.
There is nothing more awful, insulting, and depressing than banality.
One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they'll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.
We live not in order to eat, but in order not to know what we feel like eating.
Love is a scandal of the personal sort.
Dinner at the "Continental" to commemorate the great reform [the abolition of the serfdom in 1861]. Tedious and incongruous. To dine, drink champagne, make a racket, and deliver speeches about national consciousness, the conscience of the people, freedom, and such things, while slaves in tail-coats are running round your tables, veritable serfs, and your coachmen wait outside in the street, in the bitter cold—that is lying to the Holy Ghost.
There is something beautiful, touching and poetic when one person loves more than the other, and the other is indifferent.
Silence accompanies the most significant expressions of happiness and unhappiness: those in love understand one another best when silent, while the most heated and impassioned speech at a graveside touches only outsiders, but seems cold and inconsequential to the widow and children of the deceased.
Only during hard times do people come to understand how difficult it is to be master of their feelings and thoughts.
I myself smoke, but my wife asked me to speak today on the harmfulness of tobacco, so what can I do? If it's tobacco, then let it be tobacco.
The sea has neither meaning nor pity.
It is not only the prisoners who grow coarse and hardened from corporeal punishment, but those as well who perpetrate the act or are present to witness it.
Once you've married, be strict but just with your wife, don't allow her to forget herself, and when a misunderstanding arises, say: “Don't forget that I made you happy.”
Everyone has the same God; only people differ.
Nature's law says that the strong must prevent the weak from living, but only in a newspaper article or textbook can this be packaged into a comprehensible thought. In the soup of everyday life, in the mixture of minutia from which human relations are woven, it is not a law. It is a logical incongruity when both strong and weak fall victim to their mutual relations, unconsciously subservient to some unknown guiding power that stands outside of life, irrelevant to man.
If you really think about it, everything is wonderful in this world, everything except for our thoughts and deeds when we forget about the loftier goals of existence, about our human dignity.
It is depressing to hear the unfortunate or dying man jest.
That can not possibly be, because it could never possibly be.
All of life and human relations have become so incomprehensibly complex that, when you think about it, it becomes terrifying and your heart stands still.
If only one tooth aches, rejoice that not all of them ache.... If your wife betrays you, be glad that she betrayed only you and not the nation.
Watching a woman make Russian pancakes, you might think that she was calling on the spirits or extracting from the batter the philosopher's stone.
By nature servile, people attempt at first glance to find signs of good breeding in the appearance of those who occupy more exalted stations.
To regard one's immortality as an exchange of matter is as strange as predicting the future of a violin case once the expensive violin it held has broken and lost its worth.
Anton Chekhov's Biography
Russian playwright and one of the great masters of modern short story. In his work Chekhov combined the dispassionate attitude of a scientist and doctor with the sensitivity and psychological understanding of an artist. Chekhov portrayed often life in the Russian small towns, where tragic events occur in a minor key, as a part of everyday texture of life. His characters are passive by-standers in regard to their lives, filled with the feeling of hopelessness and the fruitlessness of all efforts. "What difference does it make?" says Chebutykin in Three Sisters.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write.Yevgenia Morozov, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.

"When I think back on my childhood," Chekhov recalled, "it all seems quite gloomy to me." His early years were shadowed by his father's tyranny, religious fanaticism, and long nights in the store, which was open from five in the morning till midnight. He attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog (1867-68) and Taganrog grammar school (1868-79). The family was forced to move to Moskow following his father's bankruptcy. At the age of 16, Chekhov became independent and remained for some time alone in his native town, supporting himself through private tutoring.

In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moskow University Medical School. While in the school, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. His publisher at this period was Nicholas Leikin, owner of the St. Petersburg journal Oskolki (splinters). His subjects were silly social situations, marital problems, farcical encounters between husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers, whims of young women, of whom Chekhov had not much knowledge – the author was was shy with women even after his marriage. His works appeared in St. Petersburg daily papers, Peterburskaia gazeta from 1885, and Novoe vremia from 1886.

Chekhov's first novel, Nenunzhaya pobeda (1882), set in Hungary, parodied the novels of the popular Hungarian writer Mór Jókai. As a politician Jókai was also mocked for his ideological optimism. By 1886 Chekhov had gained a wide fame as a writer. His second full-length novel, The Shooting Party, was translated into English in 1926. Agatha Christie used its characters and atmosphere in her mystery novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).

Chekhov graduated in 1884, and practiced medicine until 1892. In 1886 Chekhov met H.S. Suvorin, who invited him to become a regular contributor for the St. Petersburg daily Novoe vremya. His friendship with Suvorin ended in 1898 because of his objections to the anti-Dreyfus campaingn conducted by paper. But during these years Chechov developed his concept of the dispassionate, non-judgemental author. He outlined his program in a letter to his brother Aleksandr: "1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality; flee the stereotype; 6. compassion."

Chekhov's fist book of stories (1886) was a success, and gradually he became a full-time writer. The author's refusal to join the ranks of social critics arose the wrath of liberal and radical intellitentsia and he was criticized for dealing with serious social and moral questions, but avoiding giving answers. However, he was defended by such leading writers as Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Leskov. "I'm not a liberal, or a conservative, or a gradualist, or a monk, or an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and that's all..." Chekhov said in 1888.

The failure of his play The Wood Demon (1889) and problems with his novel made Chekhov to withdraw from literature for a period. In 1890 he travelled across Siberia to remote prison island, Sakhalin. There he conducted a detailed census of some 10,000 convicts and settlers condemned to live their lives on that harsh island. Chekhov hoped to use the results of his research for his doctoral dissertation. It is probable that hard conditions on the island also worsened his own physical condition. From this journey was born his famous travel book The Island: A Journey to Sakhalin (1893-94). Chekhov returned to Russia via Singapore, India, Ceylon, and the Suez Canal. From 1892 to 1899 Chekhov worked in Melikhovo, and in Yalta from 1899.

Chekhov was awarded the Pushkin Prize in 1888. Next year he was elected a member of the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature. In 1900 he became a member of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, but resigned his post two years later as a protest against the cancellation by the authorities of Gorky's election to the Academy. Later, in 1900, Gorky wrote to him: "After any of your stories, however insignificant, everything appears crude, as if written not by a pen, but by a cudgel."

As a short story writer Chekhov was phenomenally fast – he could compose a little sketch or a joke while just visiting at a newspaper office. During his career he produced several hundred tales. 'Palata No. 6' (1892, Ward Number Six) is Chekhov's classical tale of the abuse of psychiatry. Gromov is convinced that anyone can be imprisoned. He develops a persecution mania and is incarcerated in a horrific asylum, where he meets Doctor Ragin. Their relationship attracts attention and the doctor is tricked into becoming a patient in his own ward. He dies after being beaten by a charge hand. - The symmetrical story has much similarities with such works as Samuel Fuller's film The Shock Corridor (1963), and Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over Cockoo's Nest (1975).

Today Chekhov's fame today rests primarily on his plays. He used ordinary conversations, pauses, noncommunication, nonhappening, incomplete thoughts, to reveal the truth behind trivial words and daily life. There is always a division between the outer appearance and the inner currents of thoughts and emotions. His characters belong often to the provincial middle class, petty aristocracy, or landowners of prerevolutionary Russia. They contemplate their unsatisfactory lives, immersed in nostalgia, unable to make decisions and help themselves when a crisis breaks out.

Chekhov's first full-length plays were failures. When Chaika (The Seagull), written in Melikhovo, was revised in 1898 by Stanislavsky at the Moskow Art Theatre, he gained also fame as a playwright. Chekhov described The Seagull as a comedy, but it ends with the suicide of a young poet. The idea for the play partly emerged from a day's hunting trip Chekhov had made with his friend Isaac Levitan, who shot at a woodcock, which did not die. Disgusted, Chekhov smashed the bird's head in with his rifle butt.

Another masterpieces from this period is Dyadya Vanya (1900, Uncle Vanya), a melancholic story of Sonia and his brother-in-law Ivan (Uncle Vanya), who see their dreams and hopes passing in drudgery for others. Tri sestry (1901, The Three Sisters) was set in a provincial garrison town. The talented Prozorov sisters, whose hopes have much in common with the Brontë sisters, recognize the uselessness of their lives and cling to one another for consolation. "If only we knew! If only we knew!" cries Olga at the end of the play.

Vishnyovy sad (1904, The Cherry Orchaid) reflected the larger developments in the Russian society. Mme Ranevskaias returns to her estate and finds out that the family house, together with the adjoining orchard, is to be auctioned. Her brother Gaev is too impractical to help in the crisis. The businessman Lopakhin purchases the estate and the orchard is demolished. "Everything on earth must come to an end..."

In these three famous plays Chekhov blended humor and tragedy. He left much room for imagination - his plays as well as his stories are in opposition to the concept of an artist as a mouthpiece of political change or social message. However, in his late years Chekhov supported morally the young experimental director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, who hoped to establish a revolutionary theater. Usually in Chekhov's dramas surprise and tension are not key elements, the dramatic movement is subdued, his characters do not fight, they endure their fate with patience. But in the process they perhaps discover something about themselves and their monotonous life.

Chekhov bought in 1892 a country estate in the village of Melikhove, where his best stories were written, including 'Neighbours' (1892), 'Ward Number Six', 'The Black Monk' (1894), 'The Murder' (1895), and 'Ariadne' (1895). He also served as a volunteer census taker, participated in famine relief, and worked as a medical inspector during cholore epidemics. In 1897 he fell ill with tuberculosis and lived since either abroad or in the Crimea.

Chekhov married in 1901 the Moscow Art Theater actress Olga Knipper (1870-1959), who had several years central roles in his plays on stage. In Yalta Chekhov wrote his famous stories 'The Man in a Shell,' 'Gooseberries,' 'About Love,' 'Lady with the Dog,' and 'In the Ravine.' His last great story, 'The Betrothed,' was an optimistic tale of a young woman who escapes from provincial dullness into personal freedom. Tolstoy, who admired Chekhov's fiction, did not think much of his dramatic skills. When he met Chekhov in Yalta, he said: "Don't write any more plays, old thing." Chekhov himself thought that Tolstoy was already a very sick man at that time, but he lived longer than Chekhov.

Chekhov died on July 14/15, 1904, in Badenweiler, Germany. He was buried in the cemetery of the Novodeviche Monastery in Moscow. Though a celebrated figure by the Russian literary public at the time of his death, Chekhov remained rather unknown internationally until the years after World War I, when his works were translated into English.

Chekhov's brother Aleksandr, who married the author's mistress Natalia Golden, had problems with alcohol. His son Mihail moved in the 1920s first to Germany and then in the United States, where he worked as a teacher of acting and acted among others in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945). It has been said that during WW II the German army saved Chekhov's house in Yalta because Mihail's wife Olga, whose aunt was married to Chekhov, had been photographed with Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring. She also was a Soviet agent and knew Stalin.

Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008


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