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Anton Chekhov (1860 1904)

Lifespan: 1860 - 1904

Related: author - 1800s literature - theatre - Russian literature - world literature


Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860 1904) was a physician, major Russian short story writer and playwright. Many of his short stories are considered the apotheosis of the form while his playwriting career, though brief, has had a great impact on dramatic literature and performance. From Chekhov, many contemporary playwrights have learned how to use mood, apparent trivialities and inaction to highlight the internal psychology of characters. Chekhov's four major plays The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard are frequently revived in modern productions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov [Sept 2006]

The Bet (1889) - Anton Chekhov

If I understand the story right, it's about a rich banker and a young lawyer. The banker and the lawyer debate whether the death sentence or life imprisonment would be a worse fate. This leads to them making a bet: If the lawyer can stand solitary confinement for 15 years, the banker would give him 2 million dollars.

The lawyer stays in a room by himself without any contact with the outside world (except for writing little notes that he can p through a tiny window with requests for books). During his 15 years, the lawyer reads on many topics, learns many different languages, etc. When the time is nearly up, the banker fears losing the bet since he is no longer as rich as he used to be (from gambling in the stock markets). Paying up the 2 million would leave him impoverished. The banker even considers killing the lawyer, who has become so old and frail from being locked away for so long anyway. When he unlocks the door to the room, the banker finds the lawyer sleeping. The lawyer has written a note that the banker reads. It gets a bit confusing from that point, but I believe that basically the lawyer is saying that he no longer wishes for money and all the things of the world. He's been to many places and experienced many things just through reading of all his books... and he's finally decided that he hardly even wants his freedom... or something like that... But anyway, it finally concludes that the lawyer has written he will leave the room early--a few hours before the 15 years are up--and so the banker won't have to pay him the money. The banker feels remorse for his bad thoughts for a short bit; he cries and whatever. But then he is relieved that he will be able to keep his money--showing he's still as greedy as before. --http://mobydicks.com/lecture/Chekhovhall/messages/773.html [Sept 2005]

Inspired by Colin Wilson

Chekhov's gun

A Chekhov's Gun is a literary technique in which a fictional element (object, character, place, etc.) is introduced early and in which the author expects the reader to invest. That investment must 'pay off' later in the story even if the element disappears offstage for a long interval. Every detail, object and character must have significance to the conflict. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun [Sept 2006]

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