Biography of Antón Pávlovich Chéjov (1860-1904)

Anton Chekhov.

Narrator and Russian playwright, born in Taganrog (one port in the sea of Azov, in the Rostov region) in 1860, and died in the spa town of Badenweiler (Germany) in 1904. Despite its brief existence - failed to comply with the forty-five years of age-, left a rich and varied narrative and theatrical production focusing on the decline of the Russian middle class and the desperate search for some sense that allows to explain the very existence. Use a smooth and clear style to finish configuring - in its entirety - a tender, ironic and melancholic contemplation of the human being and a cry of pain against the evils that constantly hover over the helpless humanity (social injustice, cruelty, unhappiness, etc.). Considered one of the greatest exponents of Russian literature of the late 19th century and early in the following century, he/she came to enjoy a well-deserved prestige of literary life. But his work and his figure is agigantaron especially during the Soviet period, when - already gone the author - ideals of Justice and equality and his acute social complaints calaron deep into the ideology of most of his countrymen and raised it up to those positions of privilege that still remains among the playwrights of any time and place.


Born in a humble family (his father, a modest owner Huckster of a small settlement of grocery products, was son of a peasant servant had managed to buy his freedom and that of yours through the disbursement of seven hundred rubles per head), he/she was forced to help the fragile domestic economy since childhood, by what worked in the modest family at the time business that was profitably their basic studies andlittle later, its secondary formation in the Lyceum of Taganrog. The harsh economic difficulties and the strict discipline at home and in the grocery store - where used to be whipped by his father as soon as committing minor neglect - failed to sour its cheerful and jovial, character or to divert his natural inclination for teasing and mischief. This enviable spiritual provision also varied when, from 1876, there remain the only in Taganrog to complete their secondary studies, because his father had been forced to close its ruinous means of subsistence and to quickly leave the hometown of their children, beset by numerous creditors.

Thus, at the age of sixteen young Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was thousands of leagues of their own - established, after his hasty flight, in Moscow - and forced, therefore, to procure for himself the resources that they could ensure their survival, and certainly enable him finally obtained the degree of Bachelor (objective which had refused to leave his school on the shores of the sea of Azov). It was so, as he/she was compelled to combine their studies with a series of services which started to serve in the Centre of teaching to which attended as a student (including the address to colleagues who were falling behind in their normal learning process), and, at the same time, with the hard assignments that many traders of the city when youfor which he/she worked tirelessly (sometimes, in order to obtain some monetary supplement; and at other times, to meet some of the many debts to its parent). These painful conditions plunged him into a State of exhaustion, compounded by the weakness caused by poverty and poor diet, ended up undermining his health when he/she was still a teenager. But neither the rawness of that turbulent working life carrying or obvious deterioration of his physical condition managed to snatch three of its more positive innate qualities: intellectual curiosity (manifested in the brilliance with which, despite all the difficulties, eventually culminating their secondary studies), the tireless working ability (which saved him from dying of hunger during the hard period of his life) healthy tilt toward humor and fun (who managed to get him many processes depression that could have generated their appalling conditions of existence).

Meanwhile, the Chekhov had managed to straighten in Moscow the economic course of the family, which in 1879 allowed that good student that he/she had proven to be the young Anton meet yours in that city and enroll in the Moscow University to pursue a career in medicine, matter where you obtained the doctor degree in 1884. It was precisely in the course of that year when they began to manifest itself in your health early symptoms of serious ailment that would take him to the Tomb (the fearsome tuberculosis, which was causing havoc among the European population at the end of the 19th century). However, this circumstance, despite its drama, was not enough to wrest the enthusiasm that had seized him following the discovery of his manifest, literary vocation in future playwright during his years of college student, when he/she had begun to pay for his career with the publication of his first writings in various humorous journals.

It was, indeed, the need to win some rubles which pushed the Chekhov medical student to publish a series of texts in which left evidence of their good humor, in the mere choice of genres that he/she frequented at that time, both topics so expensive to satirico-burlesca as the Alleluia, parody and comic book literature. The success achieved by these new writings - instructing to print under the pseudonym of "Antosha Chejonte" - encouraged to afford the edition of his first book - tales of Melpomene (1884) - at the time that obtained its official certification as an optional. It was also at this time when it decided to choose then to her literary vocation at the expense of the medical profession, who only occasionally and on a humanitarian basis, mainly when it required their assistance in situations of special drama or extreme need as those caused by the spread of any epidemic (or the ravages of any natural disaster). Thus, v. gr., in 1890 - when was already a writer of recognised Prestige who had given to press hundreds of small pieces of humorous and dramatic, undertook a long journey to Sakhalin Island, home to a famous - and dreaded - colony of convicts, to learn on-site about the subhuman living conditions they had to endure those deported there faced the rigor of their respective sentences. Without fear the devastating effects that could cause his already fragile health that long commute that forced him to traverse the country from end to end, Chekhov came in person to the prisoners, interviewed them, served them as galeno and, on his return to Moscow, wrote a book where he/she denounced the cruelty and the humiliation suffered by these sad deportees (work that can be found in English under the titles of the island Sakhalin or trip to Sakhalin). But, in addition to the scope of its humanitarian angry protest, this work served to reveal the extraordinary capacity of observation of Antón Pávlovich Chéjov, who offered a curious on their pages and detailed description of the customs, beliefs and ways of life of the people giliak, settled in the northern part of the island of Sakhalin and classified until then as one of the indigenous groups of the Russian territory worst known by anthropologists ("not wash never - he/she wrote Chekhov about the giliak-why is difficult to know what is your color [...] to ethnographers. Not washing the clothes, and seeing their garments and shoes of skin it would seem that just pull them to a dead dog [...]. In winter its shops are full of a foul smoke that comes from the home. Here smoke men, women and even children [...]. Nothing is known of their mortality rates or their illnesses"- noted, finally, that humanist always attentive to social issues of its time). Optional as it fought, also as a volunteer against the terrifying havoc caused by cholera and hunger between 1891 and 1892. And, although it never came to practice medicine as a profession constant and sustained, on numerous occasions he/she attended voluntarily sick belonging to disadvantaged social groups.

Increasingly affected by tuberculosis, he/she spent long periods in his small farm country of Milichovo, near Moscow, where he/she also showed a great interest in the improvement of the living conditions of the farming population. Absorbed by his literary creativity, it was fully devoted to writing stories, plays, Epistles and journalistic reviews. He/She only interrupted this occupation to friendship to worship and attend its abundant friends, who agreed to describe the writer of Taganrog as a cordial, affable, generous and helpful, with a marked sensitivity is emphasizing to extreme lengths when you received any news that would manifest the cruel social problems of his time, such as poverty and injustice at home. Those big Antón Pávlovich Chéjov comrades included some of the most reputed Russian writers of all time, as Leo Tolstoy (who he/she met in 1895 and that shared, from then on, an intimate relationship of personal friendship and complicity literary) or Maxim Gorky. The latter had occasion to show your support and loyalty when the Tsar Nicolás II decreed their expulsion from the Academy and his arrest and confinement in the Crimea. Chekhov, elected member of the Russian Academy of Sciences two years before this painful episode that is say, in 1900, resigned in protest the high-handed decision of the Tsar, who had much annoyed the publication by Gorky in his poem the song of Petrel, which allegorically announced the arrival of the revolution.

His success as a playwright took him also to interact intensely with the world of show business, whose representatives attended both in Moscow and in the different cities of the rest of Russia and of Europe, which was forced to visit in search of more benign weather conditions for his serious medical condition (such as Biarritz, nice, and Yalta). It was precisely in the course of these visits to Moscow theatres when he/she met Olga. L. Knipper, actress of the famed Moscow art theatre, with which contracted nuptials in 1901 to happily share with her the few years that had life. This extraordinary woman, who had known to interpret better that nobody on the stage the female roles of the major comedies of the own Chekhov, was, indeed, its major source of happiness during the last years of his life, in which marriage had to be transferred to the Crimea to seek, in the city of Yalta, the healthiness the writer was not already on his farm in the outskirts of Moscow. Before the worsening of his illness, Chekhov, in a desperate attempt to procure his increasingly difficult to cure, traveled in the company of their inseparable Olga to German spa of Badenweiler, in heart of the Black Forest, where the great narrator and dramatist was killed in 1904 (his mortal remains repatriation soon after, lie in a tomb in the cemetery of the Moscow Novidevichi convent).

The news of his death spread rapidly across Russia and much of the European continent, where the author of Taganrog was known and celebrated with as much devotion as in his native country. But their greater levels of literary prestige came - as already noted in paragraphs above - in the moments of greatest splendor of the Soviet regime, when Antón Pávlovich Chéjov began to be proposed since the first school years as one of the best examples of the humanist wise, sensitive and committed, in its amazing ability to reflect the surrounding reality and condemn the inaction and hypocrisy of the most reactionary classesIt is able to return, through the artistic dimension of his work, the faith in the freedom of the individual and the dignity of the human being.

New assemblies of some of the most famous works of Chekhov, premiered in Moscow in 2004, on the occasion of the centenary of his death, again demonstrate the relevance of the work of the author of Taganrog. According to the Russian director Lev Dodin, one of those responsible for these assemblies, "Chekhov today comes from its ability to translate the values of life, the hopes that they have fulfilled and which have evaporated, and also the fleeting nature of time and communication and non-communication between people."


From purely methodological criteria, the extensive literary production of Chekhov often glosar is attending well to its division into two genres provided greater popularity (the narrative and theater), or to its classification in three stages of writing which, in its chronological evolution, presented each of them certain specific traits, clearly differentiated from the dominant ones in the other two. The following is a review of the work of the Russian writer based on this second classification.

First stage (1880-1885)

Already mentioned, in the earlier portrayal of his life journey, the pseudonym of "Antosha Chejonte" of which the young medical student is served to present his first writings. Among them is a series of small humorous stories that were being scattered among the literary sections of some publications Muscovite as the alarm clock, the dragonfly, lights and shadows, El Espectador, Moscow, shrapnel, and which then went to the pages of his first collection of short stories, entitled tales of Melpomene (1884). Unsurpassed master of the cultivation of this complex form of prose fiction, Chekhov appeared before Russian readers in the last quarter of the 19th century with a pleasant and beautiful stories acute sheaf in whose undeniable humor dominated the grotesque dyes. Thus, we find funny and sparkling stories that advertised, on the one hand, that constant appeal of the writer to the sense of humor of its readers, but, on the other hand, left points to the foundations of a solid rear building (the rest of his extensive and varied work) which would charge an extreme role analysis of human nature andespecially the swamps, miseries and shortcomings of the soul. It is, therefore, of a few first-time writing that, despite his precocity, sat already bases - probably without having own writer aware of this - of the particular literary universe that was called to forge Antón Chéjov: a fictitious world much more solid and unit of what the brevity and multiplicity of their texts seems, a priori, reflect, that since these first hesitant steps is the desire of the author to provide a kaleidoscopic view - clearto fuer of fragmented - existential drama of the man, his radical loneliness and helplessness in the land.

Parts most notable in this first period of the literary production of Chekhov, include the titles of some humorous short where it is noticeable the influence of Gogol, as "The judgment" (dated 1881), "Lady" (1882), "The elder" (1883), "in autumn" (1883), "The death of an official" (1883), "Oysters" (1884), "The Sergeant Prishibeyev" (1885), "The liberal", "Words, words, words", "Surgery", "Bad mood", "Chameleon", etc. Also, the bouncy medical student triumphed from these first bars of his literary career as a seasoned architect of parodies and pastiches, notably the narration the flying Islands (1883) - a superb caricatural imitation of the fantastic and futuristic novels of Jules VerneFrench-, as well as the extensive story entitled the Swedish match (1884) - in which amalgam of burlesque form the topicstopics, motifs and structural resources of the detective novel-. And we should not forget, of course, his first forays into the dramatic genre, announced very clearly high elevations that would reach in his work as playwright. It is a series of eight short pieces are made with a single act which, assigned to the generic form of vaudeville, they continued exploring this comical land that is had penetrated the narrative of the writer of Taganrog, sometimes with frames still very close to the story (as in the harmful effects of tobacco, a tragic reluctantly and the song of the Swan), but other times fully dressed by the best structural elements of theatrical writing (as you can be seen with clarity and surprise - its perfect formal finish - in the bear and the proposal of marriage). Some of these first-time vaudevilles date back to 1884, but others (such as those mentioned in last place, dated - respectively - in 1888 and 1889) deep already, chronologically, in the second stage of the literary production of Chekhov. However, the similarity of their approach, treatment and intent with the reports mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph invites you to include them in this first period (while, at the same time, Chekhov was writing other plays which, as we shall soon see, are now clearly the second phase of his work).

Second stage (1886-1894)

The authentic and distinctive characters of the works of the best Chekhov (those naive or deluded characters who, in his desperate search for a better world - or, at least, more Humanized-, are pleased to fooling themselves to finish configuring a pathetic Gallery of beings defenseless, misunderstood, duped, humiliated and, ultimately, anchored in its inescapable life failure) begin to appear perfectly defined in the tales collected in multicolored stories (1886) and Twilight (1887). It is a few short stories in which stock, thinned to extreme lengths, reduces your intrigue to a mere anecdote for the benefit of those characters psychological characterization and, not infrequently, a progressive tendency to drama. Occurs as well, therefore a curious inversion of the initial process of his literary career, in which the construction of the first plays of Chekhov clearly betrayed his greater experience in the field of narrative. Now, on the contrary, the playwright has made considerable progress in mastering the techniques of theatrical writing, and his short stories are which accuse this voluntary inclination towards dramatic structures. Next to that feeling of bitterness and powerlessness which produces the finding of the insignificance of the human being and its permanent condemnation of infidelity, in the prose of fiction of this second stage are made increasingly strident cries of anger and complaints caused by injustice, cruelty and stupidity. Both topics, vital anguish and social criticism, dominate - separately or, in not few occasions, firmly intertwined among Yes - the contents of some accounts so characteristic of this second period of the work of Chekhov as "Speaker", "Sweetheart", "Christmas torture" and - among other many tales that already show the astonishing fecundity of the medical writer - "what dream!", but also the extensive narratives that came to accredit the author of Taganrog as a consummate novelist: we have, for example, the steppe (1888) - splendid story of the adventures of a student by lands of the South of Russia-, a boring story (1889) and the duel (1889). It should also be placed in this period the singular and exceptional story titled Hall nº 6 (1892), text in which Chekhov left surprisingly those paths of realism that came threshing from their early writings into a Symbolist aesthetic which, although anecdotal in his literary career, would reappear years later in one of its most universal projection narrations: The black monk.

In respect to his dedication to the playwriting itself, Chekhov did not reach even at this stage of their production that mastery as a playwright who would make amazing hatching within a few years. He/She left, however, a couple of plays of great interest, as the drama Ivanov (1888) - which is perhaps excessive, to caricature, the characterization of the protagonist as a runaway psychopath - and the Witch of the forest (1889) - whose greatest merit lies in the presentation of the first glimpses of one of his masterpieces: the Uncle Vanya (1899).

Third stage (1895-1904)

The worsening of the social crisis affecting late 19th century Russian society decisively marked the work of Antón Pávlovich Chéjov maturity, more and more obsessed with the reflection of that apathy and passivity that had seized the middle classes and, very pointed shape of an unchanging and numbed bourgeoisie which seemed to bask in their shameful scourges before recognizing and attacking the premonitory symptoms of an immediate end. It would seem that, with the same self-satisfied resignation, the author and his work were delivered also to this passivity against what was perceived as inevitable. And, also, assumed that ailing decision not to intervene in the flow of history, focused even more in the recreation of a suffocating literary atmospheres and inquiry in the psychology of the characters, to "jibarizar" even to unsuspected extremes any plot trail, and play in the stillness of the fiction the numbness of the individual conscience and the inertia of the majority of Russian society. These approaches estetico-ideologicos govern the great tales published by Chekhov in this third phase of its production, in which the medical writer gave to press some of the brightest stories of Russian letters of all time, as the story of my life (1895); The House with Garret (1896); The villagers (1897), also translated as the peasants; Story of a stranger - or man dressed - (1898); The Lady's puppy (1898); Hawthorn (1898); Lonych (1898); and in the ravine (1900), which can also be found in Spanish under the title of in the hollow.

But the best reflection of the collective mentality of Russian society and that personal and literary attitude of Chekhov you could see, now, on the Moscow stage, where, merced to the excellent performances of Stanilavski in front of the Moscow art theatre, dramatic new parts of the writer of Taganrog harvested noisy successes of critics and audiences, and definitely devoted to Chekhov as one of the most glittering names of the universal theatre. This third and final phase of his literary career which saw the premiere of four master pieces, was, in fact, four dramas which, by themselves, would have sufficed to raise to Chekhov to the great master of the playwriting category. In all of them is condensed, full, that interest by squeezing the psyche of each protagonist to distill the revealing details that reveal its voidness, their estolidez, their evil or frustration. In all, isolated characters in a watertight and oppressive atmosphere, to give the feeling of that are unable to communicate among themselves. And at all, weak and stillness of arguments and actions is accentuated, to present a scenic immobility-supported in the traditional realistic Theatre statism Russian - made preludiar to the viewer at all times the dramatic and violent irruption of something which just refers to, but everyone seems to wait with anxiety and fear. It's the Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1897), the three sisters (1901) and the garden of the Cherry Orchard (1904), works with which - as it seems unnecessary to warn after that brief exposure of the main features of the maturity of Chekhov theatre - medical writer is anticipated, with her clairvoyance dramatic, to the main aesthetic trends that would dominate the universal scene during the 20th centuryespecially Existentialist a Samuel Beckett theatre and the theatre of the absurd by an Eugène Ionesco. It is worthwhile to offer, because even a hasty cala in each of these four master pieces of Chekhov:

The Seagull (1896)

It is a work in prose, composed of four acts, tells the tragic story of Trepliov, a young aspiring playwright who is in love with girl, amateur actress. But the girl is seduced and deceived by Trigorin, a writer of the loving mother of Trepliov (which is a renowned actress), and both - girl and her seducer - flee to Moscow, after leaving the place in which all were summer secret. Two years later, Trepliov returns to find a now poor and unhappy girl, who survives thanks to his infamous work of actress of second row, and large penalties has happened over the course of those two years (among them, the loss of the son who fathered you Trigorin and the abandonment by this). Trepliov discovers that, despite these sufferings, the young woman has a decision and courage that allow you to deal with their hard life with an iron will, while he, ever more fanciful and downcast, has fallen in a listless self-absorption that prevents him from communicating with those who surround him. Realizing that even his own mother, the famed actress Irina Arkádina, is interested in it, Trepliov decides to put an end to their sad existence.

Uncle Vania (1897)

Work in prose, composed of four acts, in which Chekhov masterfully traces the profile of one of the most admirable characters in the universal theatre. It's Iván Petróvich, who lives together with her niece Sonia - for whom is affectionately, the "Uncle Vania" - on a farm owned by the father of this, Professor Serebriákov. Vania, brother of the deceased first wife of the Professor, focuses on managing the estate with scrupulous fidelity and the incomes of his eminent brother, who both Sonia and the own Vania admire with devotion, while just have contact with him. Life of the uncle and the niece goes grey and monotonous in the provincial farm, reduced to the cult which both yield to the genius Serebriakov, and only animated by the waiting anxious of his sporadic visits. But soon the Professor, who has just second marriage with Elena, decides to settle with his new wife in the house occupied until then by Vania and Sonia, who will discover little by little, dams of bitter unrest, the error they were so sincere and deeply to Serebriakov admire. This, in fact, reveals himself not only as a mediocre, where flat intellectual, is far removed from that genius which attributed to his daughter and his brother-in-law; but also as a miserable and ungrateful man who does not know to value honesty and fidelity with which Vania has managed assets. The tension reaches its climax when the kind and gentle Vania arrives to shoot Serebriakov; but this brave act of rebellion is totally useless, because firing of Vania fails to make white in its goal. The dessert, Serebriakov and his wife decide to return to the city, and Vania and Sonia left again alone in the farmhouse, condemned to their submissive routine and resigning to accept that you nothing has changed in their lives. In fact, Vania continues to send promptly to his brother-in-law the incomes which it so honestly knows how to administrate.

The three sisters (1901)

Work in prose, composed of three acts, which describes the sisters Olga, Masha and Irina irrelevant lives, residents along his brother Andréi in a dull provincial town. After the failure of a few youth illusions that occupied a central plane project - always frustrated - leave the family home and settle in Moscow, has been fast and anodinamente the years to leave, in the House where continue to live four, a bleak picture. Olga has aged in solitude, sentenced to an everlasting monotony domestic and provincial; Masha, who did not love her husband - the master Kuliguin - but yes to another married man - Colonel Vershinin-, suffers the pain of having to say goodbye to this when, in his military capacity, he/she was transferred to a new destination; and Irina, who seems to be the cherished by the happiness only when it accepts by husband baron Tusenbach, suddenly gets the news that this has died as a result of a stupid and unnecessary grief. For his part, Andrei, the only brother male, is married to Natalia, a regular and arrogant woman who makes life miserable and the rest of the women who live in the family home (including the elderly Anfisa aya, who has raised four siblings). To the dessert, with the conviction of having weathered useless lives, the three sisters leave the House and end up spreading.

The garden of the Cherry Orchard (1904)

On his return to his splendid farmhouse after having starred in a cheerful and dissipated tour abroad, the indolent Liubov Raniévskaia despises the Council of Lopajin - in one of his servants, rich son who suggests that it parcele and put on sale the gorgeous cherry trees garden adjacent to the mansion, as the only remedy to deal with rapid impoverishment that threatens to Liubov because of his dissolute and irresponsible behavior. But the haughty owner, supported by his stupid and irresolute Gaiev brother, refuses to take this and any other measure, in the midst of an unconscious passivity that just giving rise to total ruin of the family and the urgent need to REList not the Cherry Orchard, but the entire estate. It is then when Lopajin acquires the property of incompetents and undecided Liubov and Gaiev, makes both brothers on the street and, as a Supreme gesture of arrogance against those who refused to take their advice into account, sends to cut down the garden. As symbol of the ruin of the old Russia who, abandoned to their indolent immobility, is leaving dying in the old mansion abandoned only remains, victim of oblivion and the contempt of all, the elderly and sick servant Firs.


During almost three decades (1891-1904), Antón Pávlovich Chéjov took advantage of his amazing creative fertility to toggle the composition of all these narrations and dramatic pieces with the drafting of a detailed diary, composed of four notebooks, was released posthumously under the title of the books of Dr. Chéjov. Much of the valuable work of collecting and editing your files, Epistles, notes handwritten (with interesting critical opinions about the letters of his time) and sketches of unfinished literary works is due to his younger brother Mikhail, who founded in Yalta - together with a sister of both name María - famous Museum Anton Chekhov, forced pilgrimage centre for scholars of his life and work andin general, for any curious reader who has enjoyed with the writings of the doctor of Taganrog. Also found, many years after his disappearance, two unknown theatrical pieces that do not provide any detail of quality to the whole of his work. It's a hesitant youth drama written around 1880, found no title (though today known as Platonov) and referred to nowadays as a kind of test of their subsequent dramatic concerns (which already surprised the presence of a protagonist indolent and fanciful, as well as the contraposition of two such opposing social classes as the decadent nobility and the commercial bourgeoisie). And, on the other hand, a cartoonish drama of zero relevance, Tatiana Répina (1899), conceived as the parodic continuation of another drama written by the editor a. S. Suvorin.

In general, sober, serene and balanced Antón Pávlovich Chéjov style, as well as its dazzling vision of the world surrounding him and his disturbing depiction of the hondones of the soul, do not fit fully in any literary currents of his time. before, as already suggested in the right place, they prepared new and suggestive schools and tendencies that were still to come. It can be argued that the sober and refined language used in texts is always in the service of that routine and daily drama that is the heart of his work, as if with this serenity and simplicity to reinforce the idea that the greatest tragedies form an inherent part of harrowing normality that is doomed to engage the man. On the other hand, the writer of Taganrog is a consummated in the difficult art specialist elevate to universal category the tiniest anecdote; in the complex technique of capturing the seemingly irrelevant detail, less striking the minutiae - of a physical or psychological nature -, and present them along with other many features of couple insignificance that ultimately end up conforming, by mere accumulation, an eloquent representation of reality or of the forms it takes this in the consciousness of a character. Hence its apparent objectivity, its quiet expressive balance and his serene grace when it comes to making judgements are not but masks and costumes that hide this extraordinary insight to capture less relevant details and, from them, develop a rich universe of fiction that already the subjective intention of the author is much more obvious.


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-ZERNASK, Heino. Other garden: life and work of Antón Chéjov (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1986).