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Don’t tell me the moon is shining…

In 1892 an editor asked Anton Chekhov for biographical information. This is what Chekhov wrote:

“Do you need my biography? Here it is. In 1860 I was born in Taganrog. In 1879 I finished my studies in the Taganrog school. In 1884 I finished my studies in the medical school of Moscow University. In 1888 I received the Pushkin Prize. In 1890 I made a trip to Sakhalin across Siberia-and back by sea. In 1891 I toured Europe, where I drank splendid wine and ate oysters. In 1892 I strolled with V.A. Tikhonov at the writer Shcheglov’s name-day party. I began to write in 1879 in Srekosa. My collections of stories are Motley Stories, Twilight Stories, Gloomy People, and the novella The Duel. I have also sinned in the realm of drama, although moderately. I have been translated into all languages with the exception of the foreign ones. However, I was translated into German quite a while ago. The Czechs and Serbs also approve of me. And the French also relate to me. I grasped the secrets of love at the age of thirteen. I remain on excellent terms with friends, both physicians and writers. I am a bachelor. I would like a pension. I busy myself with medicine to such an extent that this summer I am going to perform some autopsies, something I have not done for two or three years. Among writers I prefer Tolstoy, among physicians, Zakharin. However, this is all rubbish. Write what you want. If there are no facts, substitute something lyrical.”

And here is a quote from Chekhov that makes complete and terrible sense to me:

“I was oppressed with a sense of vague discontent and dissatisfaction with my own life, which was passing so quickly and uninterestingly, and I kept thinking it would be a good thing if I could tear my heart out of my breast, that heart which had grown so weary of life.”

But he did say this as well, so perhaps there is hope:

“Even in Siberia there is happiness.”

Katherine Mansfield nailed it on the head:

“Ach, Tchekov! Why are you dead? Why can’t I talk to you in a big darkish room at late evening—where the light is green from the waving trees outside? I’d like to write a series of Heavens: that would be one.”
Journal of Katherine Mansfield

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