Chekhov and Naturalism: From Affinity to Divergence


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Once in the spring of 1901, while taking a carriage drive with Ivan Bunin along the Crimean shore in Yalta, Chekhov unexpectedly announced:

"Do you know how many more years they will read me? Seven."

"Why seven?" Bunin asked.

"Well, seven and a hali." "No," Bunin replied. "Poetry lives long, and the longer it lives the more powerful it becomes."

"My dear Sir," Chekhov chuckled, "You regard as poets only

those who use such words as 'silvered distance,' 'accord,' or 'To

battle, to battle in the struggle with darkness!' " . . . And then

turning serious again, he continued: "Even though they may

read me only seven more years, I have less than that to live: six."1

Chekhov was doubly wrong: he vastly underestimated both the peril of his illness and the extent of his future fame. Slightly over three years after this conversation he died, and almost seventy years since, his popularity and artistic stature still more than justify Bunin's prophecy.

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