It was around 2000 and 2001, the time when I was on the verge of exiting junior high school, when I fell in love with the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky. I had been given Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” as well as Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” as gifts from my mother, who informed me that my father, who had perished when I was just a toddler, enjoyed these two seminal artistic works.
Since that time, I had been a staunch admirer of Dostoevsky and have read every novel and most of his short stories – I haven’t been able to get my hands on a play that he wrote, though. Whether it was “Crime and Punishment,” “Notes from Underground,” “The House of the Dead” or “The Gambler,” I always informed friends, family and colleagues that these stories have led to Dostoevsky being my favorite writer of all-time.
In my own short stories, I always try to make a reference to Dostoevsky, his work and his characters. Throughout my youth, there was no other better writer than Dostoevsky; Francois Voltaire, Leo Tolstoy, Jean-Paul Sartre and Honore de Balzac could not match the brilliance of the Russian author.
That is until I finally began to read Anton Chekhov. For some reason or another, I had neglected to read anything by Chekhov prior to this past autumn. From additional reading, I understood that he wrote numerous stories and was author of “Uncle Vanya,” a play that has been enjoyed by many of my favorite actors, including George C. Scott. Whether it was laziness, my dedication to reading economics from the Austrian School or catching up on my own fiction, I ignored Chekhov.
After browsing around BMV in Toronto in the fictional section I made the decision to finally purchase a used Oxford Classics Chekhov book that included “Ward No. Six” and an array of other short stories, including my (now) personal favorites “The Butterfly” and “Ariadne.” Since then, I’ve been hooked on Chekhov’s work.
The style of Chekhov’s writing is unique in the sense that it’s unconventional, informative, modest, eloquent and perhaps even doggerel at times. Rather than being morose, didactic or a giver of unwanted advice, he just has some comical, dramatic and serious stories in his head about people and their peculiar situations, such as “The Death of a Clerk,” a tale of a clerk who sneezed on the head a Department of Transportation figure and attempts to apologize only to be dismissed repeatedly. It’s a very short story, only three pages long, but it’s quite funny.
He then highlights a distant, married couple in “The Hunstman” and later a fatigued housemaid who just wants to sleep in “Sleepy.” Both are compelling dramas and the dialogue is stupendous and intriguing.
Of course, there is Chekhov’s magnum opus, “Uncle Vanya,” a brilliant play that is known throughout the world. “Uncle Vanya” was written in 1897 and tells the story of an elderly professor who visits his rural estate with his younger second wife. It was so good that I bought several books that contained this play and gave it as presents this past Christmas to family and friends.
In just a matter of months, Chekhov has become a huge inspiration to my own fictional work – plays, screenplays and short stories. For this, I tip my hat to my new favorite author of all time, Anton Chekhov.
I leave you with a superb Chekhov quote:
“Do you see that tree? It is dead but it still sways in the wind with the others. I think it would be like that with me. That if I died I would still be part of life in one way or another.”
Now it’s time to tackle “A Boring Story.”