Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey

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Random House, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 209 pages
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To illuminate the mysterious greatness of Anton Chekhov's writings, Janet Malcolm takes on three roles: literary critic, biographer, and journalist. Her close readings of the stories and plays are interwoven with episodes from Chekhov's life and framed by an account of a recent journey she made to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Yalta.
Writing of Chekhov's life, Malcolm demonstrates how the shadow of death that hovered over most of his literary career - he became consumptive in his twenties and died in his forties - is almost everywhere reflected in the work. She writes of his childhood, his relationship with his family, his marriage, his travels, his early success, his exile to Yalta - always with an eye to connecting them to the themes and characters of the stories and plays. Similarly, her adventures as a journalist in contemporary Russia in the company of three women guides - Nina, Sonia, and Nelly - become the fulcrum of literary insight: a misadventure at the Yalta airport, for example, leads to a novel analysis of "The Lady with the Dog."
Looking at Chekhov's recurrent themes - romantic love, violence, beauty, gardens, food, among others - Malcolm makes out patterns that have hitherto been invisible. Lovers of Chekhov and beginning readers alike will be gripped by Malcolm's multifaceted journey, and few readers of Reading Chekhov will not feel impelled to turn to or revisit the masterpieces.

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User Review  - john257hopper - LibraryThing

This is a very readable analysis of the plays and stories of Chekhov, examining his characters and themes and how they may relate to aspects of Chekhov's life, leavened with the author's own ... Read full review

Reading Chekhov: a critical journey

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Recent biographies of Anton Chekhov, like Donald Rayfield's Anton Chekhov: A Life (LJ 2/1/98), have enhanced our understanding of this Russian genius. Now Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer ... Read full review


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About the author (2001)

Janet Malcolm's previous books are Diana and Nikon: Essays on Photography; Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession; In the Freud Archives; The Journalist and the Murderer; The Purloined Clinic: Selected Writings; The Silent Woman: Slyvia Plath and Ted Hughes; and The Crime of Sheila McGough. She lives in New York with her husband, Gardner Botsford.

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