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The Essential Tales of Chekhov

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  956 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Of the two hundred stories that Anton Chekhov wrote, the twenty stories that appear in this extraordinary collection were personally chosen by Richard Ford--an accomplished storyteller in his own right. Included are the familiar masterpieces--"The Kiss," "The Darling," and "The Lady with the Dog"--as well as several brilliant lesser-known tales such as "A Blunder," "Hush!, ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 20th 2000 by Ecco (first published November 15th 1998)
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4.35  · 
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 ·  956 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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May 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: heavy-lit
I went to the library with the intent of finding something challenging and stimulating for my otherwise underused brain, and ended up choosing this from an armload of other "C's" -- Camus and Calvino. My previous experience with Chekhov was reading a series of three "lost" stories published in Harper's about ten years ago, when I was in my early 20's. Like the editor of this volume, "I remember no one telling me anything more than that Chekhov was great, and that he was Russian."

The introduction
Chekhov was a popular play wright, short story writer and also a doctor. Born in 1860 in the provincial Russian town of Taganrog, he died of consumption in 1904. His father was a merchant, a severe orthodox christian and a disciplinarian who later went bankrupt leaving Chekhov to fend for himself in his teens. The influence of his father and his medical career is exhibited in his stories.

Chekhov's style is laconic and his sentences end in ellipses in order to cause suspense. A lot is left unsaid
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure what else there is to say about these stories of Chekhov that hasn't been said already by many others. Richard Ford writes in the introduction that his first encounter with Chekhov came when he was too young, at the age of 20. I can say the same thing, having first read Chekhov in high school. There was no way I could've grasped the subtlety of the details in, for example, "Lady with a Dog," back then.

Chekhov's characters break your heart, including the dog in "Kashtanka," which is
Margaret Adams
I had to go pretty slowly with this collection because, classic as these stories are, I got bludgeoned by the disillusionment-and-failed-ideals. I was okay with the breakdown of aristocratic society, the death and the disease, but watching idealism die on repeat got rough. The editor was right: these stories still feel very modern.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I liked A Misfortune most. It makes perfect sense to me now, whereas it left me cold when I read it in my teens and knew nothing of this sort of misfortune.

But all the others are greatly perceptive too and speak on a deeply personal level. The Geisha, for example:

They loved each other like people very close and akin, like husband and wife, like tender friends; it seemed to them that fate itself had meant them for one another, and they could not understand... and it was as though they were a pair
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A bit of a mixed bag in terms of the stories, but overall a good read. Chekov is the template of the modern short story writer, even though he was writing 150 years ago, and the power and emotion of his stories hold up incredibly. I do think any faults with the collection are due to the editor, who claims he "never read much Chekov" before assembling this collection, which seems a bit odd. There are also numerous typographical errors in the text, though this might have been corrected in later ed ...more
luci whitelake
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A friend lent this book to me over winter, and i didn't really know what to think. I read the book on the sidelines over the space of two or so months. Chekhov captures life in a really special way, combined with the distinct ~classic Russian writing style~. Though I've only read it once, I'm sure it would be endlessly re-readable- each time would reveal something new.
It was overall a mixed bag of stories, but the good massively overpowered the dull. My favourites were "A Trifle From Life", "Di
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, how does one rate genius? As the editor suggested, these tales (short stories) need some time to think about, process, look at themes. Chekhov is amazing at giving a physical portrait of the person with one or two sentences. One story that particularly touched me was "An Anonymous Story". A young man observes and then sympathizes with an employer's lover. How he continues to serve her is lovely. Chekhov also has numerous characters who have tuberculosis, the disease which killed him.
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If the human experience were a large piece of colorful cloth with varied an complex patterns that seem to make for a bundle of chaos, Chekhov, in this collection of short stories selected by Richard Ford, seeks to take it apart and make sense of it.
He pulls at the fabrics of morality/ethics and the decisions that we make, the social fabric of class conflict and finally the philosophical questions relating the the relevance and meaning of our existence, purpose and what it means to live.

Some of
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I finally read Chekov because Francine Prose said I should. In her excellent Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them, Prose venerates Chekov as the writer’s writer, the master of human emotion, keen observation and the devastatingly well-placed detail.

Prose offers Chekov as a writer of superhuman intellect and heart. She writes, ““By the time Chekov died of tuberculosis at the age of forty-four, he had written, in addition to his plays, appro
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading these stories. It reminded me of other Russian others of the late 1800s which included Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy with extremely rich narrative, quirky characters with social satire, extreme romantic emotions and behavior resulting in trauma, and depression. I loved that the stories had a clear morale. Very fun to read. Here are some quotes that meant something to me:
The Kiss
Pg 66 “For an instant there was a flash of joy in Ryabovitch’s heart, but he quenched it at once, got into be
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everything I expected and more from one of Russia's and the world's, greatest writers. Chekhov is a Master of the short story. While these tales were written over a hundred years ago, to me they are as relevant and fresh now as ever. People really don't change, and these stories are all about the human condition. I also have an affinity for stories set in Russia, I am a bit enthralled with the Russian sensibility, what it is to be Russian, and the journey through the hardships and the passions. ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you enjoy reading short stories about melancholic and/or angry people who never resolve anything, Chekhov is your man. Don't let the Russian name intimidate or impress you; the writing is very accessible and modern feeling, almost as if it could appear in The New Yorker next week despite being written more than a century ago. Gets to be thematically repetitive all in one go though, one more bored Russian contemplating infidelity after another.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mood evoking stories from late nineteenth century Russia, these show a country of newly freed serfs and jaded aristocrats; altogether a country ripe for the change that was about to happen. Very thought provoking, and cynical, I am sorry I have never read Chekhov before, and will definitely read more.
Michael Pennington
Some beautiful pieces but, I think, the book is let down by lesser filler stories. It would have been more powerful if only the best were contained.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fine. The Russians are the best writers.
Very Russian. I liked "Kashtanka".
Daniel B-G
Excellently written short stories, though of variable quality, and after a while they get a little samey.
Oct 17, 2010 rated it liked it
"To think that it is the duty of literature to pluck the pearl from the heap of villains is to deny literature itself. Literature is called artistic when it depicts life as it actually is.... A writer should be as objective as a chemist," said Anton Chekhov. His writing is objective and precise. He lingers on his characters and takes the readers carefully through their emotional and mental journeys. Nowhere is this truer than in The Essential Tales of Chekhov, an anthology that covers Chekhov’s ...more
Nick Sweeney
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of Chekov stories edited by Richard Ford (for what that’s worth – I assume they mean chosen by in this instance). It’s hard to pick any duds with Chekov, so RF’s difficulty would probably have been more on the lines of what not to choose. Some of these stories were new to me, or maybe I’d just forgotten them; some are a little on the slight, ho-hum side, so I’ll concentrate here on the ones I liked.

The Kiss seems like a good bet to as one of the more well-known stories in t
katrina gabrielle
My favorites were Kashtana & Ward No. 6

I can't say my recall would be great for these stories, because they all sort of blend together after time, but I loved how these stories deal with the complexity of humans on a micro-level, as well as remind me the patterns of human thinking that we should work on breaking the cycle of now.
David Stephens
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-fiction
Many characters in Anton Chekhov's short stories are made to seem small and almost inconsequential. This is true of not only the peasants but of the gentry as well. It's as if they are just one tiny part of an overwhelming cosmic plan, or, at least, that is what they tell themselves because it is their being a part of this greater plan that gives them enough purpose to continue struggling through life.

And, this is one theme that recurs frequently in these stories: how people must make themselves
Spike Gomes
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an aficionado of Russian literature, Chekhov has been something of a gap in my reading history. I didn't consciously avoid him, I just never got around to him until recently. After reading this collection, I have to say, this is one of the hardest reviews I've written, since it's very difficult for me to unpack the experience.

Firstly, what struck me was the sheer intensity of the stories. If his adage about a gun on-stage must be eventually fired was about drama, he applies the same sort of p
Johan Haneveld
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to review a classic? That's always a hard task to set yourself, as the book and the author are already canonized, analysed to bits and even made part of every authors vocabulary ('Chekhovs gun'). And I don't think I can sing the praises of Chekhov as elegantly as the introduction to this book does - it's a veritable declaration of love of this russian author. So I absolve myself from the obligation to write an insightful analysis of this collection of short stories, as you will find that in ...more
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Illegitimate by Anton Chehov
A great comedy farce

I have been talking Chekhov with a Russian. I have met her at the pool at the Radisson and I teased her about Putin to begin with. 85% of the Russians agree with their new “old style soviet leader” and this is astonishing to me.
This Russian woman, Julia Abramova was on the side of Putin, although she did understand the scale of corruption and the disastrous effects that will have on the country. Agreeing to disagree on relations between the Wes
E.M. Epps
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
From the introduction by Richard Ford:

Far from his stories' ever sinking to typicality or being knowable by a scheme, Chekhov seems so committed to life's multifariousness that the stories provoke in us the sensation Ford Madox Ford must have had in mind when he observed that the general effect of fiction "must be the effect life has on mankind"—by which I've always thought he meant that it be persuasively important, profuse, irreducible in its ambiguities, full of diverse pleasures, and always
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: page-turners
Taken from Amazon's book description: "Of the two hundred stories that Anton Chekhov wrote, the twenty stories that appear in this extraordinary collection were personally chosen by Richard Ford--an accomplished storyteller in his own right. Included are the familiar masterpieces--"The Kiss," "The Darling," and "The Lady with the Dog"--as well as several brilliant lesser-known tales such as "A Blunder," "Hush!," and "Champagne." These stories, ordered from 1886 to 1899, are drawn from Chekhov's ...more
Russell George
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this selection of Chekhov short stories. Never read him before, but I can understand why he is seen as the early master of the short story, and influenced writers like Hemmingway. He’s gifted in being able to introduce the full parameters to a story with a few sentences, and gives greater power to the narrative by refusing to conform to conventional endings. Writing in the latter part of the 19th century, reading Chekhov is also a historical exercise, and it’s fascinating to g ...more
May 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Worth it just for Richard Ford’s introduction, which gave me a new appreciation for Chekov. In reading these 20 stories I’m struck by the beginnings, how quickly essential information is conveyed and you are located within a context. I can see now where Carver gets his beginnings from, because he does the same thing. I also like the way all of the characters get their just due, no matter how insignificant they are to the story, no matter how brief their appearance, they have presence, are real. ...more
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
In his introduction, Richard Ford says he read Chekhov when he was young, and didn't really understand or appreciate it. I don't know what he means by young, but I think I may have to wait a decade or so before tackling any Chekhov again. A couple of the stories ("Champagne," "The Lady With the Dog") were excellent, like really, really good. Obviously. It's Chekhov. But the remainder of the stories I found exceedingly subtle and so anti-epiphany that I remained pretty bored throughout the collec ...more
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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov [Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов] 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 my childhood," Chekhov r
“As a rule, however fine and deep a phrase may be, it only affects the indifferent, and cannot fully satisfy those who are happy or unhappy; that is why dumbness is most often the highest expression of happiness or unhappiness; lovers understand each other better when they are silent, and a fervent, passionate speech delivered by the grave only touches outsiders, while to the widow and children of the dead man it seems cold and trivial.” 7 likes
“In all nature there seemed to be a feeling of hopelessness and pain. The earth, like a ruined woman sitting alone in a dark room and trying not to think of the past, was brooding over memories of spring and summer and apathetically waiting for the inevitable winter. Wherever one looked, on all sides, nature seemed like a dark, infinitely deep, cold pit from which neither Kirilov nor Abogin nor the red half-moon could escape....” 6 likes
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