Written by Julie Michèle Dauphinais



Biography of Anton Chekhov


The turn of the twentieth century was marked by many authors claiming to be free artists such as Shaw, Wells, and Gissing. Anton Chekhov was certainly the most dispassionate and non-judgmental of them all. Let’s have a look at this Russian writer’s extraordinary life and career, and his amazing writing.


His Life and Career

            Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in 1860 in Taganrog, Ukraine. His childhood was not very happy. He had to work hard to help his father who ran a grocery store. Therefore, he was not considered a bright student. At sixteen, his life changed when his father went bankrupt and moved away. Chekhov remained in his hometown to brilliantly continue his schooling for three years with every honor. Then, he enrolled in the Moscow University Medical School. During the course of his medical studies, he started to write and publish comic short stories and novels to earn money for himself and his family. He eventually graduated from medical school and practiced for eight years.

             In 1892 he had gained so much fame as a writer that he gave up his double life and concentrated on his writing career. He enjoyed his overwhelming success for several years until the failure of his play The Wood Demon led him to withdraw from literature for a while. Consequently, Chekhov traveled around the world and turned back to medicine. In 1892 the brilliant writer settled in the country and once again decided to write. During this period, Chekhov published successful stories such as “The Murder” and “Ariadne”. He eventually fell ill with tuberculosis and kept writing memorable stories such as “The Man in a Shell”.

            In 1901 Chekhov overcame his shyness with women and finally got married to an actress called Olga Knipper. Unfortunately, his happy marriage did not last more than 3 years since the Russian writer died of tuberculosis in Germany at the young age of forty-four. Nowadays, Chekhov is famous world-wide. He is considered the greatest Russian dramatist of modern times and one of the masters of modern short stories.

His Writing

            Chekhov had a simple objective; all he wanted was to be a free artist. He chose to avoid offering solutions to his important moral and social themes. His lack of social commentary led him to be criticized, but it also led him to be praised by leading writers such as Tolstoy and Leskov. He clearly established his choices in a letter that he wrote to his brother:

1.      Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature

2.      Total objectivity

3.      Truthful description of persons and objects

4.      Extreme brevity

5.      Audacity and originality; flee the stereotype

6.      Compassion

            In his early career, his audience wanted nothing else than laughter and that’s what he delivered above all things. His wit and deep sense of the ridiculous won him his reputation as a great humorist although he based his stories on deeply tragic themes. His wide fame comes from the fact that he was able to penetrate dreadful themes with light and subtle satire.  His love for nature and his medical experience are evident in much of his work.


            In his late career, Chekhov wrote comic plays such as The Cherry Orchard and The Three Sisters that are now extremely famous. His mature plays were satire depicting the unhappy nature of existence in turn-of-the-century Russia. Here is how Cheknov described his own style:

"All I wanted was to say honestly to people: 'Have a look at yourselves and see how bad and dreary your lives are!' The important thing is that people should realize that, for when they do, they will most certainly create another and better life for themselves. I will not live to see it, but I know that it will be quite different, quite unlike our present life. And so long as this different life does not exist, I shall go on saying to people again and again: 'Please, understand that your life is bad and dreary!'"

Works Cited