The Essential Tales Of Chekhov

ISBN 10: 0880016078 / ISBN 13: 9780880016070
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From one of Russia's greatest writers, Anton Chekhov, an indispensable collection full of humor, truth, and insight, edited and introduced by American  master Richard Ford—part of Ecco's The Art of the Story series

Of the two hundred stories that Anton Chekhov wrote, the twenty stories that appear in this extraordinary collection were personally chosen by master of the short form Richard Ford. Included are the familiar masterpieces—"The Kiss," "The Darling," and "The Lady with the Dog"—as well as several brilliant lesser-known tales such as "A Blunder," "Hush!," and "Champagne." These stories, ordered from 1886 to 1899, are drawn from Chekhov's most fruitful years as a short story writer. A truly balanced selection, they exhibit the qualities that make Chekhov one of the greatest fiction writers of all time: his gift for detail, dialogue, and humor; his emotional perception and compassion; and his understanding that life's most important moments are often the most overlooked.

"The reason we like Chekhov so much, now at our century's end," writes Ford in his perceptive introduction, "is because his stories from the last century's end feel so modern to us, are so much of our own time and mind." Exquisitely translated by the renowned Constance Garnett, these stories present a wonderful opportunity to introduce yourself to—or become reacquainted with—an artist whose genius and influence only increase with every passing generation.

Review: Anton Chekhov is best known as a playwright, the author of such classics as Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and Three Sisters, but he was also an accomplished short-story writer. The Essential Tales of Chekhov does not pretend to be a comprehensive collection of all his fiction, but it does lay claim to be the best. Reading these stories, one immediately notices how modern they feel. As Richard Ford writes in his introduction, "His meticulous anatomies of complicated human impulse and response, his view of what's funny and poignant, his clear-eyed observance of life as lived--all somehow matches our experience." Chekhov is a master of the telling detail, the acute psychological insight. In "After the Theatre" he captures perfectly the morbid, romantic imagination of a 16-year-old girl: "To be unloved and unhappy--how interesting that was." In "An Anonymous Story" he quickly limns the sum of one of his characters in a single image: "He was a man with the manners of a lizard. He did not walk, but, as it were, crept along with tiny steps, squirming and sniggering, and when he laughed he showed his teeth." We will see much more of this character, but we've already learned everything essential about him.

No two Chekhov stories are alike, but they do share some common traits: though often somber, they are seldom despairing and even his most serious work is leavened by his trademark wit. Only 20 of the more than 220 tales that he wrote are included in this collection, but they provide an excellent introduction to those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading him. And for those who know and love Chekhov, The Essential Tales of Chekhov is a loving reminder of why. --Alix Wilber

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