Sleeping with Dr Chekhov
I’m currently sleeping with Anton Chekhov. By which I mean, I try to stay awake for at least half an hour after assuming the recumbent position so I can re-read some more of A Life in Letters. Chekhov never wrote his autobiography – dying at the age of 44 he hardly had time – but a man’s letters tell you so much. He was a prodigious letter-writer and his friends and family kept many of his letters, so Chekhov fans are blessed. What will we texters, emailers and Twitterers leave behind? Zip.
How do I love Chekhov? Let me count the ways. I love his snarky satire. I admire his clear, unsentimental vision of human nature, and his industriousness, even in the face of terminal illness. I relate to his perverse tendency to fill his days with people and commitments and then crave solitude. When he was in residence in Melikhovo he used to look forward to the rainy season when the mud roads would become impassable and he’d get a break from house guests.
Melikhovo is the reason I’m re-reading his letters. In April I’ll be fulfilling a lifelong ambition and visiting his little country estate. This will involve taking three forms of public transport but that seems a very modest homage to a man who travelled from Moscow to the Pacific coast of Russia in 1890, a three month trek and with dodgy lungs too. No faintheart, Anton Pavlovich.
In other news today….. I have tracked down Dot Allbones. She’s still on the lam since her escape from The Night in Question but has secured herself a gig at the Ilminster Literary Festival on May 30th and until then she chooses to remain at a secret location. Anyone would think she doesn’t trust me.
I envy your trip to Melikhovo. Hope the weather is good to you. Apart from his plays, there is I feel a great deal to be enjoyed in his short stories. Pre-revolutionary times preserved in amber.
Indeed, Helen. His plays can feel dated but his stories are still wonderful.