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My Life

Part of The Art of the Novella

Renowned as the greatest short story writer ever, Anton Chekhov was also a master of the novella, and perhaps his most overlooked is this gem, My Life—the tale of a rebellious young man so disgusted with bourgeois society that he drops out to live amongst the working classes, only to find himself confronted by the morally and mentally deadening effects of provincialism.

The 1896 tale is partly a commentary on Tolstoyan philosophy, and partly an autobiographical reflection on Chekhov’s own small-town background. But it is, more importantly, Chekhov in his prime, displaying all his famous strengths—vivid characters, restrained but telling details, and brilliant psychological observation—and one of his most stirring themes: the youthful struggle to maintain idealism against growing isolation.

ANTON CHEKHOV was born into a large family in1860 in Taganrog, Russia, the grandson of serfs. He supported the family by writing stories for magazines while simultaneously putting himself through medical school – where, tragically, he contracted tuberculosis. He published his first collection, Motley Stories, in 1886, and his second, In the Twilight, a year later. He continued to practice medicine, often pro bono, leading friends to complain about the line of peasants constantly at his door. He also wrote plays, but when critics attacked The Seagull, he vowed to give up playwriting. He did not, and while staging The Cherry Orchard Chekhov collapsed, dying shortly thereafter, in 1904.

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