Virginia Woolf about Anton Chekhov
Virginia Woolf was elaborate and practical in her reviews and admiration of Chekhov’s work. She noted not only Chekhov’s subtle style and writing innovation, but also raised a question of reader’s fitness and ability to absorb Chekhov’s hints and nuances.
“But is it the end, we ask? We have rather the feeling that we have overrun our signals; or it is as if a tune had stopped short without the expected chords to close it. These stories are inconclusive, we say, and proceed to frame a criticism based upon the assumption that stories ought to conclude in a way that we recognise. In so doing we raise the question of our own fitness as readers. Where the tune is familiar and the end emphatic—lovers united, villains discomfited, intrigues exposed—as it is in most Victorian fiction, we can scarcely go wrong, but where the tune is unfamiliar and the end a note of interrogation or merely the information that they went on talking, as it is in Chekov, we need a very daring and alert sense of literature to make us hear the tune, and in particular those last notes which complete the harmony.”
Some of the best books by Virginia Woolf and Anton Chekhov
Clarissa Dalloway is preparing to host a party. She is the kind of woman you would pass on the street without a thought, and Woolf lets us see the dreams, fears, foibles, passion and pain that swirl endlessly inside Mrs. Dalloway. We follow Clarissa through the course of a single day, and as she goes about her errands, preparing for a party she’s giving that night, her lost love for an old flame resurfaces unexpectedly; her never-consummated lesbian longing for a childhood friend; and her endless yearning for some resolution, direction, permanence.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, ISBN: 9781909438026, Urban Romantics, 170 pp
Praised by Vladimir Nabokov as one of the greatest stories ever written, The Lady with the Dog follows an adulterous affair between a Russian banker and a young lady he meets while vacationing in Yalta. This volume of Chekhov stories also includes: A Doctor’s Visit, An Upheaval, Ionitch, The Head of the Family, Volodya, An Anonymous Story, The Husband.
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov, ISBN: 9781909175570, Sovereign, 154 pp
A story of a young man named Orlando, born in England, briefly a lover to the elderly queen followed by an intense love affair with a foreign princess whose sudden departure leaves him heartbroken. Orlando resorts to writing his poem The Oak Tree, started and abandoned in his youth. He finishes the poem only after mysterious transformation into a woman — the same person, with the same personality and intellect, but in a woman’s body. A semi-biographical novel based in part on the life of Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf, ISBN: 9781909175495, Urban Romantics, 180 pp
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The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
One of the four major plays that Chekhov wrote at the end of his life. The play was specifically written for the Moscow Art Theatre and was first directed by the legendary Constantin Stanisklavski. Since its debut, the play remained a perennial favourite of actors and audiences internationally.
The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, ISBN: 9781909175259, Sovereign, 92 pp
Inspired by experiences in Chekhov’s own life, Cherry Orchard follows life of an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family’s estate. Written as a comedy and containing elements of farce, Stanislavski directed the play as a tragedy in Moscow. Since this initial production, many prominent directors of the world continue to stage this play, each interpreting the work differently.
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, ISBN: 9781909175228, Sovereign, 80 pp
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One of the best examples of Woolf’s modernist innovation, the story starts in Jacob’s childhood and follows him through college at Cambridge, and then into adulthood. The narrative is told mainly through the perspectives of the women in Jacob’s life, including the repressed Clara Durrant and the uninhibited young art student Florinda, with whom he has an affair. His time in London forms a large part of the story, though towards the end of the novel he travels to Italy, then Greece.
Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf, ISBN: 9781909904071, Urban Romantics, 148 pp
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Laevsky is a dissipated romantic given to gambling and flirtation. He has run off to the sea with another man’s wife and quickly grown tired of her, but two obstacles block his route to escape: he is broke, and he faces the absolute enmity of Von Koren, an arrogant zoologist and former friend who can no longer tolerate Laevsky’s irresponsibility. Soon Laevsky confronts Von Koren, accusing him of meddling in his affairs, but Von Koren maneuvers a criticism Laevsky makes of their mutual friend, Dr. Samoylenko, into a challenge to a duel.
Anton Chekhov’s The Duel by Anton Chekhov, ISBN: 9781910833216, Sovereign, 120 pp
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