The great 19th-century Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov wrote nearly one thousand stories, a body of work that is unmatched in its alchemy of sensitivity, wisdom, precision, and verve. Chekhov’s sensibility was radically human and thoroughly modern: write not how you think things should be, but rather as they are. Universally recognized as one of the greatest short story writers of all time, he revolutionized the form and had a profound influence on his successors, from Flannery O’Connor to Alice Munro.
As the celebrated Russian-immigrant author Boris Fishman writes in his delightfully counterintuitive introduction to this Restless Classics collection, Chekhov is funny, ceaselessly curious, and undogmatic—a significant break from the bleak and morally rigid tradition of his contemporaries Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Unlike those peers born to privilege, Chekhov was raised in the peasantry and worked as a doctor. In his writing, he portrays the complexity of human beings as changeable and contingent, neither saints nor sinners—an approach intimately linked with his work as a clinician and humanitarian.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860 - 1904) was a Russian playwright and short story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. The son of a grocer, he was born into a large family in Taganrog, Russia. As he studied in medical school, he supported the family by writing hundreds of stories under a pen name for local magazines. In his twenties, he shifted his focus to drama, writing plays that would signal the birth of modernism in theater: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard. Alongside his work as a doctor, he continued to write extraordinary short stories—nearly one thousand in all—until his death from tuberculosis at the age of 44.
About the Introducer:
Boris Fishman was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at nine. He is the author of A Replacement Life and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo (HarperCollins), both New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He has won the Sophie Brody Medal from the American Library Association and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, The Guardian, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, and many other publications. His next book is a work of creative nonfiction, a family history told through recipes. He lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at Princeton University.
About the Translators:
Constance Garnett was an English translator who rendered the great works of Russian literature in English during the first half of the 20th century. She was not only the first to translate Dostoyevsky and Chekhov into English, but also the complete works of Turgenev and Gogol and the major works of Tolstoy.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in the Humanities, Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, publisher of Restless Books, and host of NPR’s “In Contrast.”
Alexander Gurvets was born in New York City and attended Amherst College, where he studied Russian and Mathematics.
About the Illustrator:
Unlike the others, The Wood Demon is a young man's play, bursting with vitality, energy, and hope. Chekhov has not yet drawn the sky close around his characters: they are able to continue on, undaunted, in the face of sorrow and disappointment. In its intermingling of tears and laughter, The Wood Demon may be one of the most astonishingly Chekhovian of all Chekhov's plays.
This translation of The Wood Demon was produced by The Mark Taper Forum as a classics lab workshop production and will debut on the Taper mainstage in the 1993-94 season.