Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

MOSCOW, December 11, 1891.

. . . I am coming to you. My lying is unintentional. I have no money at all. I shall come when I get the various sums owing to me. Yesterday I got one hundred and fifty roubles, I shall soon get more, then I shall fly to you.

In January I am going to Nizhni Novgorod province: there my scheme is working already. I am very, very glad. I am going to write to Anna Pavlovna.

Ah, if you knew how agonizingly my head aches to-day! I want to come to Petersburg if only to lie motionless indoors for two days and only go out to dinner. For some reason I feel utterly exhausted. It’s all this cursed influenza.

How many persons could you and would you undertake to feed? Tolstoy! ah, Tolstoy! In these days he is not a man but a super-man, a Jupiter. In the Sbornik he has published an article about the relief centres, and the article consists of advice and practical instructions. So business-like, simple, and sensible that, as the editor of Russkiya Vyedomosti said, it ought to be printed in the Government Gazette, instead of in the Sbornik. . . .

December 13, 1891.

Now I understand why you don’t sleep well at night. If I had written a story like that I should not have slept for ten nights in succession. The most terrible passage is where Varya strangles the hero and initiates him into the mysteries of the life beyond the grave. It’s terrifying and consistent with spiritualism. You mustn’t cut out a single word from Varya’s speeches, especially where they are both riding on horseback. Don’t touch it. The idea of the story is good, and the incidents are fantastic and interesting. . . .

But why do you talk of our “nervous age”? There really is no nervous age. As people lived in the past so they live now, and the nerves of to-day are no worse than the nerves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Since you have already written the ending I shall not put you out by sending you mine. I was inspired and could not resist writing it. You can read it if you like. Stories are good in this way, that one can sit over them, pen in hand, for days together, and not notice how time passes, and at the same time be conscious of life of a sort. That’s from the hygienic point of view. And from the point of view of usefulness and so on, to write a fairly good story and give the reader ten to twenty interesting minutes — that, as Gilyarovsky says, is not a sheep sneezing. . . .

I have a horrible headache again to-day. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I suppose it’s old age, or if it’s not that it’s something worse.

A little old gentleman brought me one hundred roubles to-day for the famine.


Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06