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The Complete Short Novels [Paperback]

Anton Chekhov , Richard Pevear , Larissa Volokhonsky
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2005 Vintage Classics

Anton Chekhov, widely hailed as the supreme master of the short story, also wrote five works long enough to be called short novels–here brought together in one volume for the first time, in a masterly new translation by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

The Steppe
—the most lyrical of the five—is an account of a nine-year-old boy’s frightening journey by wagon train across the steppe of southern Russia. The Duel sets two decadent figures—a fanatical rationalist and a man of literary sensibility—on a collision course that ends in a series of surprising reversals. In The Story of an Unknown Man, a political radical spying on an important official by serving as valet to his son gradually discovers that his own terminal illness has changed his long-held priorities in startling ways. Three Years recounts a complex series of ironies in the personal life of a rich but passive Moscow merchant. In My Life, a man renounces wealth and social position for a life of manual labor.

The resulting conflict between the moral simplicity of his ideals and the complex realities of human nature culminates in a brief apocalyptic vision that is unique in Chekhov’s work.

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
 




From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

Praise for previous translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky:

 

“The reinventors of the classic Russian novel for our times.” —PEN/BoMC Translation Prize Citation

 

“Their translations have become the standard English-language texts.” —Newsday

 

The Brothers Karamazov: “One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevksy’s original.” —The New York Times Book Review

 

Anna Karenina:The most scrupulous, illuminating and compelling version yet.” —The Oregonian

From the Back Cover

Praise for previous translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky:

“The reinventors of the classic Russian novel for our times.” –PEN/BoMC Translation Prize Citation

“Their translations have become the standard English-language texts.” –Newsday

The Brothers Karamazov: “One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevksy’s original.” –The New York Times Book Review

Anna Karenina:The most scrupulous, illuminating and compelling version yet.” –The Oregonian

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Efficient, elegant and a mirror of life June 25 2010
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is the first time I've read Chekhov and I'll certainly be looking to move on to his short stories. Most times there's a certain dryness and boniness to efficiently told stories - but Chekhov's stories breathe with the tastefully executed and well-timed illustration and description, even while he moves through people's entire lives over the space of less than 150 pages. Change is constant here as well, we see the emotions and impressions of the initial stages of a story evolve and transform until their complete inversion, at least in some cases - this is just one example of how Chekhov manages to mirror our own lives in his stories. I honestly can't say I preferred one story over another here - the book opens with "The Steppe" which turns out to be the slowest, most poetry-like of the stories. All I can say is it's no wonder Chekhov is considered a master and a model of how to tell a short story.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Artifice of a Master Jan. 14 2006
By John Sollami - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than to surrender to the artifice of a master. One is deeply comforted in reading this collection of well-translated works. Chekhov reproduces human perception and experience with brilliant precision and insight. His deeply felt compassion and empathy lead him to an art that captures the consciousness of the most refined and the most tortured of souls. In "The Steppe," for instance, he almost cinematically creates the image of the Russian plains as a living being that casts its life force on a humble wagon train and a young boy crossing its great distances. This truly brilliant artist also compellingly and dramatically describes a mighty thunderstorm in such powerful strokes that one is utterly spellbound and engrossed in its fearsome energy. In "The Story of an Unknown Man," a consumptive servant narrates the events of his weak nihilistic upper-class master who is incapable of love. His master willfully torments a beautiful young woman who has sacrificed her marriage to come live with him, but in doing so, has condemned herself to his cynical disrespect. Before the age of tape recorders, Chekhov has recorded dialog in this work that is thoroughly authentic and captures underlying psychological motives and unconscious forces that push these people to the breaking point. But the narrator too is an intimate character in this work and finds himself drawn into the life of his employer. This subtle change is handled with such skill that one is completely convinced of its reality. Here's where Chekhov's artifice produces magic. Its choice of detail, its dialog, its plot, its events all combine to sculpt a living experience, one that will never die. Chekhov's art is immortal. I invite every reader to partake of this satisfying feast that has been created for us. Not only are all these short novels worth every minute of your time, but you will feel the power of true art when you read them and perhaps you will never again settle for anything less.
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Intro to Chekhov !!! Aug. 13 2006
By Hugh B. Cecil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I had hoped to find a single book to introduce me to one of the greatest short story writers in history. This book absolutely fills that bill.

The writing is captivating. The Steppe was actually my favorite. I understand how some might see it as slow or plodding; yet the visual and auditory descriptions were so complete and mesmerizing.

I will definitely be looking into more Chekhov.

I should note that I picked up this book specifically because the same translators (Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky) of these stories also translated the much lauded Anna Karenina recently popularized by Oprah Winfrey. They again do a wonderful job! I will look for other Russian translations from this duo in the future.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unapplealing translation June 7 2013
By WAM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not about the stories themselves, which are wonderful, or even the selection, which is fine, but about the translation. I find Pevear and Volokhonsky translations -not only here but elsewhere (Dead Souls)- ungainly and plodding. I realize that many think highly of their stuff, and I am sure they are very correct when it comes to each word, but they seem to have stone ears, missing the tone and natural flow of the lines. Choose Payne, Garnett or indeed anyone who can capture something of these qualities, especially tone, for if a translator misses these in Chekhov, she misses everything.
45 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Classic Russian Lit, great collection of stories May 11 2005
By selffate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This collection of short stories of Chekhov, is mighty fine for anyone wanting to brush up on some great stories, or complete their collection of Russian literature. And like every Everyman book, you got your nice binding and tassle, what more could be asked for???!

I figured I'd go through the stories one by one

THE STEEPE - Probably one of the most poetic and dreamy stories I have ever read. I really enjoyed the scenes and the way Chekhov describes the countryside as a young boy travels along a cart running into many characters. Pure poetry.

THE DUEL - One of the most popular duel stories and scenes (not counting Hero of Our Time, or The Idiot) in all of Russian literature. A great microcosom of 2 individuals who end up resorting to pistols.

THE STORY OF AN UNKNOWN MAN - It is mentioned in the introduction that this is one Chekhov's least known stories. And it's too bad cause this one was EASILY MY FAVORITE suprisingly. A spy infiltrates a house as a servant, and through the course of knowing the inhabitants and the people who frequent the home, he develops a different mindset to his original agenda.

THREE YEARS - I found this still entertaining but it was my least favorite of the 5.

MY LIFE - Is a great story of a man renounces wealth and social position for a life of manual labor, but it's the conflict he has with his father over it that creates some great writing that Chekhov handles masterfully.

I was very pleased with the content of this addition, and I massively enjoyed Chekhov as a writer. He has some great stuff, and this collection is just the perfect thing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chekhov's genius of humanity Feb. 4 2012
By Michael Collier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As you get older, Chekhov seems to get better and better.

I ordered this expecting a couple of great novellas and maybe a few makeweight bits of juvenilia or flawed experiments. I was delighted therefore to discover that all five tales are magnificent.

While they may not traditionally have been regarded as novels in their own right - particularly alongside some of the famously heavyweight classics of Russian literature - the relatively limited length of these stories (generally around 100 pages) actually makes them seem rather modern.

I won't bother with synopses, but will simply urge you to read them. The Steppe is an out-and-out classic by any standards, and to my surprise The Duel is perhaps my favourite, cleverly going against what you might expect from such a title so that it ends up as a sort of anti-Pushkinesque account of tremendous humanity and understanding of human weaknesses and foibles.

The Story of An Unknown Man is highly unusual and even puzzling - we are given a great set up with a nobleman slumming it as a servant apparently in search of some sort of revenge, then it wanders off in a completely different direction as if Chekhov had stuck two completely different novels together.

Three Years is perhaps the weakest of the five novellas, but the building atmosphere of frustration and claustrophobia will be of interest to anyone familiar with Chekhov's plays.

The final tale, My Life is wonderful. As the title suggests, it manages to boil down what would take a lesser writer 500 pages into 90 or so of intense, human emotion.

Oh, and if you can read The Duel without being overcome by a desire to go and make fish soup outside, you have a stronger will than I do.

Recommending Chekhov is pointless. If you at all aware of the fact you are a human being you cannot fail to love him and be in awe of his ability as a writer.
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