Anton Chekhov: About Love and other stories (an Oxford World’s Classics audio guide)

Chekhov: About Love cover

Without quite planning it, Podularity seems to have been having a bit of a Russian season of late, so I thought it would be worth re-presenting this audio guide which OUP commissioned me to produce a couple of years ago with Rosamund Bartlett, translator of Chekhov’s short stories (and also Anna Karenina (forthcoming, 2014)). Here’s a link to all the OWC audio guides.

“Seventeen peerless examples of how much life you can put into a few pages of fiction if you have Chekhov’s economical mind, his eyes and ears, his feel for comedy and his sense of humanity. Chekhov is better known for his plays. But these are small masterpieces of their own, in a revelatory new translation.”

The Economist

Click on the links below to hear Rosamund Bartlett, who edited and translated the stories in the collection, About Love, introduce Chekhov and his work and read from her translations.

Who was Anton Chekhov?

  • Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) came from an unlikely background for a future literary celebrity. Unlike most of his fellow writers, he wasn’t from an aristocratic family but a conservative, merchant one. Click here to hear more about his early years. [2:18]
  • In 1879 Chekhov moved to Moscow, thereby taking the first step to his literary and medical career. Click here to find out why he himself felt that he had entered the literary world by the back door. [2:29]
  • A “period of small deeds”: click here to find out more about how the politically reactionary climate of his times was better suited to the short story form than sweeping novels. Rosamund Bartlett also discusses the effect Chekhov’s declining health had on his life. [3:16]

Writing in a minor key

  • Chekhov’s early readers in both Russian and English were uncertain what to make of his stories: they didn’t have regular beginnings or endings and they also lacked conventional heroes. As Rosamund Bartlett explains here, modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf were among the first to appreciate what an innovative writer Chekhov really was. [5:06]
  • How hard is it to capture the elegiac, musical quality of Chekhov’s prose in English? Here Rosamund Bartlett describes what she was trying to achieve as a translator. [5:29]
  • The stories in the collection About Love extend from early works written in his mid-twenties to the majestic story “The Bishop”, which dates from right at the end of Chekhov’s career. Click here to hear how Rosamund Bartlett made her selection from over 600 stories. [3:49]

Sampling the stories

  • “Lady with a Little Dog” is probably Chekhov’s most famous story. Click here for an introduction to it and to hear an extract. [4:25]
  • “Gooseberries” forms part of a trilogy of stories that Chekhov wrote in the late 1890s. Click here to listen to an extract. [3:24]
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