Written by Julie Michèle Dauphinais
Biography of Anton Chekhov
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.
Life and Career
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.
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”.
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.
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:
Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature
Truthful description of persons and objects
Audacity and originality; flee the stereotype
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
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:
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!'"
Corvin, Michel (1998). Dictionnaire
encyclopédique du théâtre. Larousse. Paris. p.1598.
Scribner, Charles (2000). TheatreHistory.com.
“Anton Chekhov”. URL address consulted on March 18 2006. <http://www.theatrehistory.com/russian/chekhov001.html>
The Gale Group (1999). Contemporary Authors
Online. “Anton Chekhov”. URL address consulted on March 18 2006. <http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/chekhovbio.html>
Unknown author (2004). Read Print. “Anton
Chekhov”. URL address consulted on March 18 2006. <http://www.readprint.com/author-19/Anton-Chekhov>
Unknown author (2006). Moonstruck. “Anton Chekhov”. URL address consulted on March 18 2006. <http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc6.htm