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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Jul 15, 2015 10:10AM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov

The Prank

Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Pages: 114
Translated and with an introduction by Maria Bloshteyn.

The Prank is Chekhov's own selection of the best of his early work, the first book he put together and the first book he hoped to publish. Assembled in 1882, with illustrations by Nikolay Chekhov, the book was then presented to the censors for approval -- which was denied. Now, more than a hundred and thirty years later, The Prank appears here for the first time in any language.

At the start of his twenties, when he was still in medical school, Anton Chekhov was also busily setting himself up as a prolific and popular writer. Appearing in a wide range of periodicals, his shrewd, stinging, funny stories and sketches turned a mocking eye on the mating rituals and money-grubbing habits of the middle classes, the pretensions of aspiring artists and writers, bureaucratic corruption, drunken clowning, provincial ignorance, petty cruelty -- on Russian life, in short. Chekhov was already developing his distinctive ear for spoken language, its opacities and evasions, the clichés we shelter behind and the clichés that betray us. The lively stories in The Prank feature both the themes and the characteristic tone that make Chekhov among the most influential and beloved of modern writers.

Contents:
-Artists' Wives
-Papa
-St. Peter's Day
-Chase Two Rabbits, Catch None
-A Confession, or, Olya, Zhenya, Zoya
-A Sinner from Toledo
-The Temperaments
-Flying Islands by Jules Verne
-Before the Wedding
-A Letter to a Learned Neighbor
-In the Train Car
-1,001 Passions, or, a Dreadful Night


message 2: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Release pushed back from April 7 to May 19.


message 3: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Hi Trevor. Do you know what stories are included in this volume?


message 4: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I don't know, I'm afraid. I will look into it and report back.


message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Thanks Trevor. I notice that the NYRB web page has 16th June now as the publication date. Amazon UK has 19th May.


message 6: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Always in flux!!


message 7: by Guy (new)

Guy | 144 comments Artists' Wives
Papa
St. Peter's Day
Chase After Two Rabbits, Catch None
A Confession, or Olya, Zhenya, Zoya
A Sinner from Toledo
Temperaments
Flying Islands
Before the Wedding
Letter to a Learned Neighbour
In the Train Car
Passions or a Frightful Night


message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Thanks Guy.


message 9: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Where did you get the info, Guy? I couldn't find it in my own searches (I'm terrible!).


message 10: by Guy (new)

Guy | 144 comments I have an e-galley, Trevor.


message 11: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Oh, nice! I have very bad luck with e-galleys. Simply cannot work the programs successfully.


message 12: by Guy (new)

Guy | 144 comments Do you have a kindle?


message 13: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
No. I have the kindle app on an iPad, though. My problem has always been the e-galley sites. I hate them!


message 14: by Guy (new)

Guy | 144 comments Well yes that is a bit of a problem then.


message 15: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Moved to June 16.


message 16: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Moved to July 14.


message 17: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Moved to July 28.


message 18: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Guy, I got my physical copy and updated the list of stories. They differ in slight but interesting ways from the galley you received.


message 19: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Ha! Got through the first two of these on my walk today, and they are hilarious. The Young Chekhov was already excellent at picking out the ridiculousness around him.


message 20: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Trevor wrote: "Ha! Got through the first two of these on my walk today, and they are hilarious. The Young Chekhov was already excellent at picking out the ridiculousness around him."

I'm looking forward to reading this one as I've been reading some other Chekhov collections recently.


message 21: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Here we are! We'll officially make this our book club book when August begins, but the thread is open for any!


message 22: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments I'd suggest reading the introduction first as it gives a bit of background to the volume and some of the stories. I didn't realise that this was actually a collection that Chekhov had intended to publish to showcase his stories and that it never actually got published...until now that is.

BTW I love the illustrations by Anton's brother Nikolay.


message 23: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) The story "St. Peter's Day" reminds me strongly of Jerome Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. It is so full of manly silliness.


message 24: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) Gosh, I don't remember Chekhov as being so broad in his humor. Finishing the first story and am marveling over the slapstick nature of his work. Wasn't imagining that.


message 25: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Trish wrote: "Gosh, I don't remember Chekhov as being so broad in his humor. Finishing the first story and am marveling over the slapstick nature of his work. Wasn't imagining that."

I've read a few of his earlier, more humorous stories, in The Exclamation Mark so I was a bit more prepared for it. They are quite amusing though aren't they? I like the silly names like Ivan Ivanovichichichich.


message 26: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments I would like to read the book How to Wipe out the Universe and Escape with One's Life at the Same Time. Who wouldn't?

I liked the quote:
I went to the Hotel of the Violet Hippopotamus and drank five glasses of good wine.
And
The phlegamtic female is a weepy, bug-eyed, fat, lumpy, fleshy German. She looks like a sack of flour. She is born in order to become a mother-in-law. That is her whole ambition.
In fact, the whole of The Temperaments was amusing.

I couldn't help but laugh at the abrupt ending to Before the Wedding. And there were more silly names such as Sublieutenant Ziumbumbunchikov.

I think it's fair to say that the Young Chekhov was a totally different writer than the Older Chekhov. Though we often get glimpses of humour in his later stories.


message 27: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I agree, Jonathan. I'm not too knowledgable about Chekhov, knowing him mostly through his most famous stories and plays but little else; other than the great skill on display, this is quite a different person.

I wonder how much Nikolai's trajectory influenced Chekhov's later mood. Here they are, young, working together and obviously each having a great time utilizing their skills. Yet it isn't long before Nikolai will be drunk and essentially on the street. I read a letter Chekhov wrote to Nikolai a few years after this volume was compiled and failed to pass the censors. There's humor in the letter, and a great sense of frankness, but around such a sad topic as he's writing to a brother almost completely lost and who would soon, in fact, die young.


message 28: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Besides loving this collection, I'm anxious to go back to Chekhov's later work. I think this has opened me up to new perspectives since it had kind of proved my conceptions of Chekhov to be, at least party, misconceptions.


message 29: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments I've been reading some of Chekhov's other earlier work recently and it's fascinating seeing the change happen. Although 'The Prank' shows he had a good sense of humour he really comes alive with his more mature work.

I wonder also, Trevor, just how much Nikolay was an influence with this earlier work. I guess they must have bounced ideas around between themselves.


message 30: by Trevor (last edited Aug 02, 2015 09:32PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
If anyone has the knowledge -- or has a good reference -- as to the evolution of Chekhov, I think many of us will be interested after reading this!

I'd love to know more about Nikolai. His illustrations were, for me, a major part of my enjoyment of this book. It's a wonderful package or words and art that go so nicely together.

Here's a photo of the two brothers, in 1882 when they put together this book (Anton is the one standing):

Chekhov_with_brother_1882


message 31: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Thsnks for the photo. I'm always struck by the physical differences between the young & old Chekhov. The young Chekhov looks partially Chinese/Mongolian whereas the older Chekhov looks like an Austrian, i.e European.

I agree that the illustrations are great and an integral prt of the book. I didn't realise until I opened it that they were included.


message 32: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (jashleyodell) | 5 comments Excited to get this soon! I know that the illustrations are supposed to be great -- does anyone know if the quality suffers in the digital editions?


message 33: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments Hi Ashley. I've got a digital version and the illustrations appear perfectly fine to me.


message 34: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments My copy came very fast through Amazon. Yes, I agree that the drawings are very intregal to the lighter sense we have here. It's not like any Chekhov I've ever read. But having read only the first story, I find it striking that even as a young man he had such sympathy for the wives of artists, even if he portrayed it in an over the top tone.

It's also interesting to compare it to Dubliners, also written by a very young man who thought it might be his ticket in. Joyce doesn't see too much funny about Dublin at that point. Well, there is humor but it's not of this kind.


message 35: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments I did wonder, Seana, whether I would have recognised it was Chekhov if I'd read these stories anonymously. I don't think I would have.

I recently read a similar collection called 'The Exclamation Mark', which contains stories from a year period (1886 I think) and it shows a transformation from comic material to more serious work. Again, the comic material is still funny but the more sober Chekhov is preferable, I feel.


message 36: by Seana (last edited Aug 04, 2015 11:13PM) (new)

Seana | 407 comments Well, that would be interesting after this I think. It's quite surprising what his early work was like. Although I'm still only basing this on reading one story.


message 37: by Jason (new)

Jason (uberzensch) | 83 comments Trish wrote: "Gosh, I don't remember Chekhov as being so broad in his humor. Finishing the first story and am marveling over the slapstick nature of his work. Wasn't imagining that."

Agreed! The first story was wonderful and, yes, the manly silliness of St. Peter's Day was very enjoyable. The characters all around are quite funny.


message 38: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments I read St. Peter's Day today and quite enjoyed it. It reminds me a bit of The Pickwick Papers.

I think Chekhov nailed it when he said upon rereading his early work that he was struck by "the enthusiasm that was so much part of you and me" (from the introduction).


message 39: by Jason (new)

Jason (uberzensch) | 83 comments Three stories to go and I'm so happy I picked this up to read. I love the humor and whimsy of the stories, with my favorites so far Artists' Wives, A Confession, and Flying Islands. He has a way with his humor, with the stories and characters being over-the-top without being too over-the-top.

This is my first reading of any of Chekhov's work, and I can't help but worry that by reading this first my impression and expectation for his later work will be skewed. I think I'm going to jump into his other works soon after finishing this (I have a collection of his stories as well as the collection of his short novels on my shelf), but not too soon after so I don't make too direct a comparison.


message 40: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments As you mentioned Jason, it will probably be best to pause between these stories and his later ones; I don't think you'd spot they were the same author if you didn't know beforehand. Some people call Chekhov gloomy, but there's often humour in even his sombre stories.

I've mentioned it before but the collection 'The Exclamation Mark' shows the shift from comedy to his more realistic style. But most collections should be ok.


message 41: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 232 comments I really liked the social comedies in this collection such as 'A Confession', The Temperaments', 'Before the Wedding' etc. I laughed when I read the last line of 'Before the Wedding' - it's brilliant comic timing to just cut off the story sharply with a comment like that.

'St. Peter's Day' was a favourite as well and in a way is the story closest to his later works.


message 42: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Okay, here's a thread to discuss next month's reading selection. Please go there and let me know how we'd like to proceed.


message 43: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) My review is up.


message 44: by Trevor (last edited Aug 31, 2015 12:09PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I'm retiring this back to the general discussion thread, but don't let that stop you from adding your comments as you read it!

Incidentally, the next group read is Jan Morris's Hav, and the thread is here.


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