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Friday, July 13, 2007

My Favourite Short Story-2 : 'Vanka' by Anton Chekhov

I am a great admirer of Anton Chekhov. I have read his short stories and plays many times. He is one of the greatest short story writers of the world. I have read only the English translations. To those who can read them in the original Russian version, his writings should be even more enjoyable. I am in total agreement of the following views on Chekhov's writings by Thomas Seltzer.

"Chekhov's works show an astounding resourcefulness and versatility.There is no monotony, no repetition. Neither in incident nor in character are any two stories alike. The range of Chekhov's knowledge of men and things seems to be unlimited, and he is extravagant in the use of it. Some great idea which many a writer would consider sufficient to expand into a whole novel he disposes of in a story of a few pages. Take, for example, 'Vanka', apparently but a mere episode in the childhood of a nine-year-old boy; while it is really the tragedy of a whole life in its tempting glimpses into a past environment and ominous forebodings of the future--all contracted into the space of four or five pages. ... He reveals things that no author before him has revealed. It is as though he possessed a special organ which enabled him to see, hear and feel things of which we other mortals did not even dream the existence. Yet when he lays them bare we know that they are not fictitious, not invented, but as real as the ordinary familiar facts of life. This faculty of his playing on allconceivable objects, all conceivable emotions, no matter how microscopic, endows them with life and a soul. .....the magic touch of this strange genius.... Chekhov divines the most secret impulses of the soul, scents out what is buried in the subconscious, and brings it up to the surface. ... He is equally at home everywhere. The peasant, the labourer, the merchant, the priest, the professional man,the scholar, the military officer, and the government functionary, Gentile or Jew, man, woman, or child--Chekhov is intimate with all of them. His characters are sharply defined individuals, not types. In almost all his stories, however short, the men and women and children who play a part in them come out as clear, distinct personalities." [ Thomas Seltzer: Introduction to Best Russian Short Stories]. Link to Best Russian Short Stories: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13437/13437-8.txt. Biography of Chekhov: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov. Link to Chekhov's works: http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/c#a708

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