Stories by Anton Chekhov

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I loved reading Chekhov’s stories. I read a volume of them, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, as well as “The Kiss,” which was recommended by Bloom and unfortunately wasn’t included in the volume translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky.

My favorite stories tended to be the shorter ones that focused on one character or one couple. They each had a sad, poignant ending, and yet I loved the beauty in them. Chekhov didn’t try to say too much in each story, and I finished each one with a sigh, wanting to let my emotions simmer before I went on to the next story. Many of them reminded me that life is challenging and full of depressing things, and yet we all still go on day by day. Explaining Chekhov in those words makes his stories sound depressing, and they were in a sense, but overall, they were beautiful at the same time.

My favorites were these:

  • “The Student.” I discussed last week how and why the student’s transformation from sadness to joy touched me.
  • “The Kiss.” A shy and unpopular army officer receives an unexpected kiss from an unknown woman; his life is transformed by the experience in two ways.
  • “Peasant Women.” The story of a peasant woman inspires other peasant women who feel trapped in their lives.
  • “The Fidget.” A flighty woman marries a renowned doctor and realizes too late that her lifestyle is unfulfilling: her husband’s love could have brought her true happiness.
  • “Anna on the Neck.” When her impoverished father marries Anna to a rich man, her family believes their financial trials are over; Anna finds her place in her new life.
  • “The Lady with the Little Dog.” While on holiday, a man instigates an affair; at the end of the holiday, he and she agree to return to their spouses without further contact, but neither can forget the other.


Harold Bloom summarizes “The Kiss,” “The Student,” and “The Lady with the Little Dog” in How to Read and Why. He claims that Chekhov’s stories are great because of

[T]he formal delicacy and somber reflectiveness … make him the indispensable artist of the unlived life. … One should write, Chekhov said, so that the reader needs no explanations from the author. The actions, conversations, and meditations of the characters had to be sufficient… (page 37)

That is exactly why I loved reading Chekhov: the action and thoughts of the characters told the story, rather than the descriptions of the author.

I appreciate the rest of Bloom’s remarks on these stories. Although I felt differently than Bloom did on reading the stories, I still appreciated reading what grabbed his attention.

What grabs your attention in Chekhov? Do you have a favorite story I may have missed?

Reviewed on July 21, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I haven’t read anything by Chekhov, but I did order the Bloom book and plan to do something similar by reading some of the works while reading Bloom.

  • I love Chekhov, in large part because he uses such simple language that I can read him in Russian without too much difficulty. I’m always impressed when authors do magical things with a simply style! I also think it’s fascinating that he was such a prolific writer and a doctor. That’s a lot of energy!

    Have you read any of his plays? I got to see one of them performed in Moscow, which was pretty awesome. 😀

  • @SmallWorldReads: I think these were my first experience with Chekhov, and they were very nice. @Lisa: I’m glad you’ve been inspired. @Eva: Wow, that’s great that you know Russian. His language is nice and simple and that gives it a greater power. I haven’t read any of his plays but I want to now. Which is your favorite?

  • your comment “…stories sound depressing, and they were in a sense, but overall, they were beautiful at the same time.” is my impression of a lot of Russian lit.

  • I read a collection of Chekhov’s short stories years ago and then some separately over the years. I remember I enjoyed them very much, but that’s as far as my memory goes. I should get hold of his stories again and reread them.

  • I’m a big Anton Chekhov fan. Steppe is my favorite among my favorites of Anton’s Stories. One of his longest, but I think, really worth reading and besides,perhaps like many of his short stories, it stays with you.

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