Chekhov Becomes Chekhov: The Emergence of a Literary Genius

Pegasus. Dec. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9781639362646. $29.95. LIT
Readers who love Chekhov will delight in this volume; others may fall in love with a charming Russian writer from the 19th century. Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) is known today as a master of the short story form and a genius of the dramatic detail. His plays are studied, read, and performed worldwide, and his short stories are a masterclass in writing. Focusing on just two years (1886 and 1887) in the life of Chekhov, Blaisdell (English, CUNY Kingsborough; Creating Anna Karenina) explores the daily life and astonishing output of this most amazing writer and doctor. Overflowing with quotations and details, yet still engaging, it is a work of love. Chekhov was a practicing doctor who kept up an astonishing level (and amount) of writing even as he was making house calls and treating patients. One cannot help but wonder if part of his genius came from his medical background, his need to listen to his patients, without judgment, hearing their complaints, examining their injuries, constantly looking for the truth.
VERDICT Blaisdell’s incredibly researched work is a treasure trove of insight and information for scholars and fans of Russian literature. For generations to come, it will be a staple for Chekhov studies. Highly recommended for academic libraries and Russian literature collections.
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