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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Chapter 5 - Later stories

Summary

Chekhov's name as an author of serious literary fiction was made with the longer stories he wrote for the “thick journals,” beginning in the late 1880s. Having established himself with “The Steppe” (1888), he wrote fewer, more serious, and more ambitious stories over the next decade, before turning largely to playwriting for the last few years of his life. In the 1880s Chekhov published some four hundred stories; in the 1890s he published forty-seven; after 1900 he published four. While his later stories still have the Chekhovian hallmarks of economy, subtlety, and the impressionistic use of detail, they are more likely to consider the whole destiny of a character rather than a single telling incident. They often are broken into several chapters, each relating an episode that might have served the younger Chekhov for a complete story. While many of them have humorous moments, these stories are more uniformly sober and serious than Chekhov's earlier work. “Perhaps in the future it will be revealed to us in the fullest detail who Chekhov's tailor was,” the philosopher Lev Shestov wrote shortly after Chekhov's death, “but we will never know what happened to Chekhov in the time that elapsed between the completion of ‘The Steppe’ and the appearance of ‘A Boring Story.’” There are a number of factors that could have contributed to the gloomier outlook of Chekhov's later works: the death of his brother Nikolai from tuberculosis, his own deterioration from the same disease, the moral and physical toll of the 1890 Sakhalin trip.

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