Wikipedia:Today's featured article/April 11, 2007

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Anton Chekhov. Painting by Osip Braz

Anton Chekhov was a Russian physician, short story writer, and playwright. His brief playwriting career produced four classics of the repertoire, while his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife," he once said, "and literature is my mistress". Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896; but the play was revived to acclaim by Konstantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Uncle Vanya and premiered Chekhov’s last two plays, The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a special challenge to an acting ensemble, and they also challenge audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text". Not everyone appreciated that challenge: Leo Tolstoy reportedly told Chekhov, "You know, I cannot abide Shakespeare, but your plays are even worse". Tolstoy did, however, admire Chekhov's short stories. Chekhov had at first written stories only for the money, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later exploited by Virginia Woolf and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. (more...)

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