The Steppe (novella)

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The Steppe (Russian: Степь, translit. Step'), subtitled The Story of a Journey, is a novella by Russian writer Anton Chekhov. In a narrative that drifts with the thought processes of the characters, Chekhov evokes a chaise journey across the steppe through the eyes of a young boy sent to live away from home, along with several companions, including his parish priest and his uncle, a merchant.


The novella was first published in March 1888 by Severny Vestnik. With minor changes it was included in the Stories (Рассказы, 1888) to be reproduced unchanged in all its 13 editions (1889–1899). In a revised version it was included by Chekhov into Volume 4 of his Collected Works published in 1899–1901 by Adolf Marks.[1]


In 1887, exhausted from overwork and ill health, Chekhov took a trip to Ukraine, which reawakened him to the beauty and vastness of the steppe.[2] On his return, he began the novella-length short story, which he called "something rather odd and much too original", and which was eventually published in Severny Vestnik (The Northern Herald).[3]


Michael Finke has called The Steppe a "dictionary of Chekhov's poetics", suggesting that it represented a significant advance for Chekhov, exhibiting much of the quality of his mature fiction and winning him publication in a literary journal rather than a newspaper.[4]


  1. ^ Muratova, K. D. Commentaries to Степь. The Works by A.P. Chekhov in 12 volumes. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura. Moscow, 1960. Vol. 6, pp. 524-525
  2. ^ "There is a scent of the steppe and one hears the birds sing. I see my old friends the ravens flying over the steppe." Letter to sister Masha, 2 April 1887. Letters of Anton Chekhov.
  3. ^ Letter to Grigorovich, 12 January 1888. Quoted by Malcolm, 137.
  4. ^ "'The Steppe,' as Michael Finke suggests, is 'a sort of dictionary of Chekhov's poetics,' a kind of sample case of the concealed literary weapons Chekhov would deploy in his work to come." Malcolm, 147.

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