The Black Monk

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"The Black Monk" (Russian: Чёрный монах, Chyorny monakh) is a short story by Anton Chekhov, written in 1894 while Chekhov was living in the village of Melikhove. The story tells of two tragic years in the life of scholar and artist Andrey Vasil'ich Kovrin.


This story follows the character Andrey Kovrin, a Russian scholar who is seemingly brilliant. In the beginning of the story, Kovrin is overworked and his nerves are off. He decides to take a vacation to a horticulture center he used to visit when he was younger. The place is gorgeous, and is run by an old man and his daughter. Both think very highly of Kovrin and are very excited about his arrival. Kovrin learns how much work it is to take care of the garden, and grows an appreciation for it. Then he starts seeing a black monk, whose appearance borders on the supernatural, and begins to question his sanity. The black monk encourages Kovrin to express his genius, and Kovrin connects genius with insanity.

The old man encourages Kovrin to marry his daughter, so they can carry on the work of the horticulture center. They marry, and Kovrin's wife notices Kovrin's hallucinations, since Kovrin often converses with the black monk. She "cures" Kovrin over time, but Kovrin recognizes that without the black monk's "guidance," he is doomed to mediocrity instead of genius. The couple splits up, and Kovrin deteriorates physically. The story ends with Kovrin experiencing one final hallucination; the black monk guides him toward incorporeal genius and he dies with a smile.


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