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Anton Chekhov: A Life

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  120 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
A noted scholar of the art of Anton Chekhov now turns to his life (1860-1904), with equally revelatory results. Rayfield's densely documented account avoids general statements in favor of quiet accumulation of detail that gradually creates a multifaceted impression of Chekhov's contradictions. Witty, charming, and an ardent lover of women, Russia's greatest dramatist was a ...more
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Published April 1st 2000 by Blackstone Audio, Inc. (first published 1997)
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On completion of this thick book you know everything that happened in Chekhov's life. It is thorough. It is detailed. His life is told through letters and diary entries written by Chekhov himself and his friends, acquaintances, work associates, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, spouses.... There exist numerous letters and diary entries. This is how people communicated at the end of the 1800s. Chekhov was born in 1860 and died in 1904 of TB. Much of these entries read as today's telephone convers ...more
Samantha Mozart
Jul 29, 2016 Samantha Mozart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a scholarly, detailed and thorough biography of Anton Chekhov. If you're serious to learn about Anton Chekhov, the man, his life, his writing and how he went about it; to learn of Anton Chekhov, the nonjudgmental humanitarian, interested in and curious about those from all echelons of society, his encounters and discussions with Leo Tolstoy, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and other notables of the time, then you'll want to read this book. Donald Rayfield's biography makes you feel as if you are walki ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Dramatika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming from Russia, where Chekhov is revered, this book was a revelation to me. Much of his character and personality I guessed through his books with a consistently low view of human nature and life in general. This biography was excellent in presenting a real complex man, who lived a tough life. He was kind to many strangers, but was often cruel to people, even to his loved ones. I think the dysfunctional family and unhappy childhood forever marred him for life. Since he didn't receive enough ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Idyll rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on tape (from Audible) and parts of it were hard going. Either the narrator or the writing has a flat, relentless quality to it, hard to tell which The book grew on me though. By the end I thought the tone was actually appropriate to the tragic, relentless aspects of Checkov's life: his brutal childhood, his almost comically dysfunctional family (if it weren't so tragic), the waste of his tremendous talent through disease. Some of the reviewers below mention they felt the ...more
Dec 15, 2014 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now living in Moscow and able to see Chekhov's plays in Russian I loved reading this excellent biography by my former Russian professor. An incredibly detailed account of Chekhov's life make the plays much more understandable.
James Spencer
May 19, 2013 James Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very very good book - it took me a long time to finish it, reading it mostly at night after putting the kids to bed; it's not the kind of history that has a strong narrative yarn. The author exhaustively documented Chekhov's life - you might feel like you're reading a kind of diary. And like Chekhov, himself, Rayfield lets you make your own judgments, largely.

I have not read any other biographies of Chekhov, so I cannot confirm or dispute the author's claims about how this biography d
Jan 30, 2009 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Not sure I'd give it a full four "I really liked it" but still. I listened to it for almost 29 hours, so it gets the benefit of the doubt. Benefits from an influx of correspondence never before seen, so there's a lot in this biography that couldn't have been in the prior ones. The first while was fairly unexciting as it dealt with his childhood and adolescence and I'm more concerned with his writing years, but, of course, his childhood and adolescence provide valuable insights into his
Robyn Hunt
Jul 28, 2016 Robyn Hunt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A vivid and life like account of an amazing, complex, flawed and beautiful man. Really felt like I'd got to know a lot about him by the end. Extensive research and effort has gone into writing this beast of a biography. If you care about writing, if you care about theatre. I recommend you discover more about the phenomenal talent of Chekhov - not a saint, but one a hell of a man.
Jan 30, 2010 Tom marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
At first glance, this strikes me as one of those bio's that includes every minute detail one could possibly track down about person, a quality some initial print reviewers criticized, but after dipping into Troyat's serviceable but rather superficial bio, I think I'd prefer too much detail to broad sketches.
I read this ages ago but my primary memory of this book is putting it down and clasping my hands exclaiming 'I love Anton Chekhov'. What a beautiful man!
Jan 15, 2008 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing biography, well-researched, well-written, with great insight and respect for the subject.
informative, readable etc.
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“В одном из поздних чеховских рассказов под названием «Три года» ярко описаны переживания молодого вдумчивого человека, выходца из купеческой среды. Мы видим, насколько узнаваемы подробности - ими наполнены письма Антона, запечатлевшие муки и унижения детства: «Я помню, отец начал учить меня, или попросту говоря, бить, когда мне не было ещё пяти лет. Он сек меня розгами, драл за уши, бил по голове, и я, просыпаясь, каждое утро думал прежде всего: будут ли сегодня драть меня?»” 0 likes
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