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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A short story master studies his greater predecessor, August 25, 2012
This review is from: Chekhov: A Spirit Set Free (Paperback)
V.S. Pritchett is considered one of the twentieth-century masters of the short story. In this book he studies the life and work of his greater predecessor, the writer many consider the finest short- story writer of all. He begins with the childhood of Chekhov in Taganrog and the deprivations he suffered in a family in which a loving kind mother was dominated by a tyrannical father. Pritchett gives insight into Chekhov's development , his love of music, and above all his desire for freedom. He connects most often the story of Chekhov's life at the time with the stories he analyzes. Chekhov himself as a good Russian is a character of complex paradoxes. He is the the hard- working industrious caring doctor on one hand and the often cruel cold suitor on the other. He is the close student of the natural world and his descriptions of it play a large part in his work but he at the same time recoils from the cruelty inherent in it. Chekhov's passion for music is too central to his literary work. Pritchett traces too Chekhov's role as substitute father for the large family from which he came. He supported a large troup of people who were often burdensome to him. He also though liberal in his political opinions had his most important publishing connection with an arch - conservative who supported him. Pritchett also writes about Chekhov's connection with Tolstoy who he admires and learns from but later distances himself from after reading the "Kreutzer Sonata" Pritchett strongly makes the case that what is most essential in Chekhov is the story- writing rather than the plays. But I am not certain that he gives us a full enough understanding of what the Chekhovian story truly does. For what he most often does in this work is provide a summary of the stories, a summary which also relates the story to Chekhov's life. But the summaries do not really match the feeling which reading the Chekhov story gives. It seems to me Pritchett's own personal tone and perception lack the atmosphere and mood of the Chekhov story.
He writes with such definiteness when Chekhov on the other hand intimates hesitation and uncertainty and surprise . Pritchett points out that in Chekhov's plays there is too much talk in which speaking goes on without listening. But through this work it is the voice of Pritchett I hear and not that of Chekhov.
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1 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biographical View, January 26, 2004
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Pritchett lies in the subtitle of this book, no atheist is a "spirit set free." Chekhov is an interesting character, but anyone who ignores the spiritual aspect is shallow! This life is brief! Sure he had some adventures and overcame some obstacles, but this life is not all there is. Having made my disclaimer, now on to Pritchett's look at Chekhov.
We're told that Chekhov often slept in a shed that was filled with a lifetime collection of newspapers his dad stored. What a haven for an inquiring mind. Chekhov also had acquired a passion for travel. Another vital component in the mix of the adventurer.
Communication is two-way. For one to write, one must have some substance. That is obtained through input, and we're told "...like all talented writers, Chekhov was a reading man."
He read travel writers such as Przhevalsky, Humboldt, and George Kennan.
Chekhov was a traveler, a reader, a writer, and a scholar. This is an intriguing look into his rise to prominence. How sad that he focused only on THIS life.
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Chekhov: A Spirit Set Free
Chekhov: A Spirit Set Free by V. S. Pritchett (Paperback - October 23, 1989)
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