The Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov is considered to be the creator of the ‘modern short story.’ In this lesson, we will learn about his life and his literary accomplishments.
Chekhov’s Early Years
Anton Chekhov was born on January 29th, 1860, in the Ukraine. Taganrog, his birthplace, was a fishing village. His father, Pavel, owned a grocery store where Chekhov spent many of his years growing up and working.
However, Pavel oddly combined a form of religion with harsh and even abusive words and actions toward his family. Living with such a man severely impacted Chekhov. His mother, Yevgeniya, loved to tell stories, and it is believed that Chekhov found the roots of his own writing gifts in the tales she told.When Chekhov was only 16, his father completely lost the family business and moved to Moscow in search of work, leaving his family behind. What little they had was then swindled from them by a family friend.
At this point, his whole family left for Moscow, but Chekhov stayed behind to finish school.Eventually, he would attend Moscow University Medical School and become a doctor. He used his medical knowledge in his writing later on. He was such an excellent writer even while he attended school that local newspapers published some of his stories. Chekhov soon became famous. Even other famous writers such as Tolstoy commended his work.
Chekhov first published humorous short stories in a magazine called the ‘Dragonfly.’ He used a pen name, ‘Antosha Chekhonte.’ Later, both he and his brother published stories in another humorous magazine called the ‘Spectator.’His first book, entitled Motley Stories was published in 1886.
It was followed by both In the Twilight, a compilation of short stories, and his play Ivanov. The tone of his writing changed in that he decided to depict a realistic view of life in his stories, so he steered away from the humor of his first works. In 1888, he wrote another play, The Wood Demon, that did not fare as well as his first works, so he took a break from writing and traveled to Siberia.
There, Chekhov observed 10,000 prisoners as part of his doctoral research. Chekhov traveled to other parts of the world, as well.
His Career and Personal Life
By 1892, Chekhov had returned to Russia and purchased a large estate of 675 acres outside of Moscow.
Writing had now become his full-time career, bringing him a lot of fame and success. Not seriously interested in marriage, he had an affair with an actress, Olga Knipper. Chekhov would eventually marry Olga in 1901, just three years before his death in 1904 of tuberculosis.
In his lifetime, Chekhov published more than 200 short stories. Some favorite titles are: ‘The Student,’ ‘The Lady with the Little Dog,’ and ‘A Dreary Story.
‘ He also gave the world several plays in addition to ones mentioned above, such as The Sea Gull, Uncle Vanya, and The Three Sisters, as well, and is sometimes best remembered as a playwright. In addition, Chekhov received the honor of membership into the ‘Russian Academy of Sciences.’ Despite many writers never realizing success during their lifetimes, Chekhov was one who reaped the rewards of his success while he lived.
Common themes in Chekhov’s stories and plays are ‘disease,’ and ‘untimely death.’ This parallels Chekhov’s own personal battles with tuberculosis through the years before he died at the young age of 44. Chekhov’s characters remind us that life can be disappointing and even disillusioning.
His short stories end with his characters either feeling empty or hopeful.
Anton Chekhov accomplished a great deal in his short life, contributing many short stories and plays to the Russian people. These works have been translated and appreciated by many other cultures as well. His writings reflect the growing changing attitudes of his nation that led to the Russian Revolution in 1917, an event Chekhov never lived to see.
Highlights in the Life of Anton Chekhov
- Born in 1860 in Taganrog, Ukraine
- Educated at Moscow University Medical School
- Wrote short stories and had them published locally
- Became famous for his stories early on
- Observed over 10,000 prisoners in Siberia as part of his doctoral research
- Returned to Moscow, married actress Olga Knipper and died four years later
- Common themes in his works: disease and death
After intensive study, you may want to display your preparedness to:
- Retell details about the early years of Anton Chekhov
- Remember the names of some of his short stories
- Discuss his personal life and achievements