ONE OF CHEKHOV’S short stories, “Grief”, has long lingered in my mind, a story about a poor cab driver who fails (on three separate occasions) to tell his passengers that his son has just died. (Not one of his passengers is interested in listening to him and he finally ends up having to tell his sad story to his horse as he puts it up in the barn. It was, in fact, this story that instantly turned me into a Chekhov “fan” and, over the years, I find myself often turning to his books on my shelf and, yes, re-reading “Grief”. I was more than pleased, then, to receive an email from Peter Sekirin, a Canadian scholar, author and translator, informing me that he had recently published Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries*. Since I knew relatively little about Chekhov — other than a scant handful of biographical details — I asked Mr. Sekirin to send me a copy of his book, which he gracefully did. I had no idea what a treat I would be in for!

Separated into Six sections, Memories of Chekhov contains thoughts, insights, recollections, anecdotes, accounts, observations and memories of Chekhov’s childhood, his time in Moscow, in his Melikhovo cottage, his interactions with the theatre, and his last years in Yalta, all interspersed with remembrances from his family, friends and colleagues in day-to-day living. Through Sekirin’s careful and exhaustive garnering of written letters and documents — along with his painstaking translation — we come away with as complete a “picture” of Chekhov the man as we might have gotten had we personally known the writer. No — I’d say a better picture since we would only be depending upon our own abilities to see clearly, and that is something few of us ever accomplish in our daily lives of living with others. In Sekirin’s book we have a kaleidoscopic look from all ages, from all perspectives, from all of his activities — as a child, as a writer, as a doctor, as a playwright, as an admirer of pretty faces, as a “celebrity”, as a quiet thinker buried in his study — in brief, as a man.

Whether or not you are a Chekhov “fan”, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in peering into the “mind” of a creative personality. At last, for me, Chekhov is a human being — a man I’d liked to have known and shared a vodka with. Thank you Peter Sekirin for making him a real person.

* Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin: 215 pp.; 6 x 9; B/W Photographs; Appendix; Annotated Bibliography; Index. $45.00 Softcover. McFarland & Company, Inc. 2011.
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High Woods: February 2012


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