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A Life in Letters

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  85 ratings  ·  6 reviews
From his teenage years in provincial Russia to his premature death in 1904, Anton Chekhov wrote thousands of letters to a wide range of correspondents. This fascinating new selection tells Chekhov's story as a man and a writer through affectionate bulletins to his family, insightful discussions of literature with publishers and theater directors, and tender love letters to ...more
Paperback, 552 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Penguin Classics
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A great read for anyone who enjoys the voyeuristic qualities of reading someone else's correspondence. Chekhov's letters to his wife are incredibly touching and wonderful. It's also for those who miss the fine art of letter writing, when people took the time to sit down, share their observations on pen and paper and strolled to the local post office to post them!
I really drew out reading the end, because it was like I had been following a friend's letters and as (kind of obvious spoiler) the author reaches the end of his life, it was like we had no chance to say goodbye.

What is interesting is how his writing style changes depending on the recipient. When he writes to his sister, it's extremely perfunctory (get me this, check on that, my love to mama), and then when he writes to his wife it was very emotional (miss you, don't be mad, write me) but when h
Jul 19, 2012 Wayne marked it as to-read
Rosamund Bartlett
who edited these letters
also translated them with Anthony Phillips


at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney ,
for the series of 4 lectures on Art in Imperial Russia.

HOW LUCKY CAN YOU GET?????????????????????????????????

She lectures at the University of Durham.
The reason we are getting a 3 week break between lecture 2 and lecture 3
is because Rosamund is getting married to a fellow who works at the ABC
ie.the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
I talked to them after the
This made me wonder how many vivid characters and roles one plays in a life. Each letter flows into a role entirely different from the other and they beautifully fit in.

One of the best reads.
Sep 18, 2008 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of literature
Recommended to Barbara by: Josh--a young Chekhov
If you love Chekhov's stories and/or plays this book will break your heart. He only lived until age 44, and despite having active TB, accomplished so much in his short life. A practicing physician, Chekhov wrote literature on the side. He also built three schools for the poor and quietly donated to those in need. His correspondence with his publisher shows the development of the young writer into a literary lion. His love letters to Olga are priceless, and his correspondence to his concerned fam ...more
In the time I took reading this book, I could have incubated a human baby. It was interesting but it definitely became an exercise in willfulness.
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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов) (Arabic: أنطون تشيخوف) 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 Morozova, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.

"When I think back on m
More about Anton Chekhov...
Selected Stories The Cherry Orchard The Seagull The Complete Short Novels Uncle Vanya

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“Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

1) They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable ... They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don't make a scandal when they leave. (...)

2) They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (...)

3) They respect other people's property, and therefore pay their debts.

4) They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don't tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don't put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don't show off to impress their juniors. (...)

5) They don't run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don't play on other people's heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted ... that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it's vulgar, old hat and false. (...)

6) They are not vain. They don't waste time with the fake jewellery of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar ... They regard prases like 'I am a representative of the Press!!' -- the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] -- as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing's work they don't pass it off as if it were 100 roubles' by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don't boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren't allowed in (...) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight ... As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (...)

7) If they do possess talent, they value it ... They take pride in it ... they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (...)

8) They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility ... Civilized people don't simply obey their baser instincts ... they require mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That's what civilized people are like ... Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.

[From a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886]”
“All my friends and relatives have always taken a condescending tone to my writing, and never ceased urging me in a friendly way not to give up real work for the sake of scribbling.” 2 likes
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