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Thursday, January 17, 2013

31Ways2GetItStarted™!: January 17, 2013

Day 17: Happy Birthday, Anton Chekhov!

“…and then go on to tell the story of how this young man drop by drop wrings the slave out of himself until, one fine morning, he awakes to feel that flowing in his veins is no longer the blood of a slave, but that of a complete human being….’- Chekhov, January 7, 1889

I know: what does the greatest Russian writer/playwright, who died in 1904, have to do with 31Ways2GetItStarted!™? A great deal, when one considers to what extent Chekhov re-created himself, and the life he wanted to lead. Given Chekhov’s childhood, he shouldn’t have become…Chekhov. But he created himself, he re-created himself, ending up with humor and humanity, where one would expect to find only resentment.

I've been reading/obsessed with Chekhov since I was about 14[1]probably because, not only was Dr. Chekhov incredibly talented, and thus transformed, if not essentially created the short-story genre, and made the theater relevant…not only was he exceptional, but he came out of nowhere. His childhood was, famously, unhappy. “In my childhood,” he said, “I had no childhood.” His father, a tyrannical small businessman, beat Chekhov and his brothers, forcing them to work in the (failing) family store. Eventually, his father and the rest of the family fled Chekhov’s home-town, leaving the teenager alone to pay off debts, and forage a life for himself. Eventually, he would be the one person supporting his entire and extended family on money earned through his writing, even as he put himself through medical school.

He himself assumed that within a few years of his death, people would cease to read his work. Of course, the opposite is true: people around the world continue to read his work to understand themselves and their lives. What an exceptional man.

[1] …and some men say I can’t commit. Well, if they’d just become the greatest writer of all-time, I could easily commit. Otherwise…meh.

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