Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

YALTA, January 8, 1900.

. . . My health is not so bad. I feel better than I did last year, but yet the doctors won’t let me leave Yalta. I am as tired and sick of this charming town as of a disagreeable wife. It’s curing me of tuberculosis, but it’s making me ten years older. If I go to Nice it won’t be before February. I am writing a little; not long ago I sent a long story to Zhizn. Money is short, all I have received so far from Marks for the plays is gone by now. . . .

If Prince Baryatinsky is to be judged by his paper, I must own I was unjust to him, for I imagined him very different from what he is. They will shut up his paper, of course, but he will long maintain his reputation as a good journalist. You ask me why the Syeverny Kurier is successful? Because our society is exhausted, hatred has turned it as rank and rotten as grass in a bog, and it has a longing for something fresh, free, light — a desperate longing.

* * * * *

I often see the academician Kondakov here. We talk of the Pushkin section of belles-lettres. As Kondakov will take part in the elections of future academicians, I am trying to hypnotize him, and suggest that they should elect Barantsevitch and Mihailovsky. The former is broken down and worn out. He is unquestionably a literary man, is poverty-stricken in his old age. . . . An income and rest would be the very thing for him. The latter — that is Mihailovsky — would make a good foundation for the new section, and his election would satisfy three-quarters of the brotherhood. But my hypnotism failed, my efforts came to nothing. The supplementary clauses to the statute are like Tolstoy’s After-word to the Kreutzer Sonata. The academicians have done all they can to protect themselves from literary men, whose society shocks them as the society of the Russian academicians shocked the Germans. Literary men can only be honorary academicians, and that means nothing — it is just the same as being an honorary citizen of the town of Vyazma or Tcherepovets, there is no salary and no vote attached. A clever way out of it! The professors will be elected real academicians, and those of the writers will be elected honorary academicians who do not live in Petersburg, and so cannot be present at the sittings and abuse the professors.

I hear the muezzin calling in the minaret. The Turks are very religious; it’s their fast now, they eat nothing the whole day. They have no religious ladies, that element which makes religion shallow as the sand does the Volga.

You do well to print the martyrology of Russian towns avoided by the extortionate railway contractors. Here is what the famous author Chekhov wrote on the subject in his story “My Life.” [Footnote: Appended to the letter was a printed cutting.] Railway contractors are revengeful people; refuse them a trifle, and they will punish you for it all your life — and it’s their tradition.

Thanks for your letter, thanks for your indulgence.

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