Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. N. Pleshtcheyev.

MOSCOW, February 5, 1888.

. . . I am longing to read Korolenko’s story. He is my favourite of contemporary writers. His colours are rich and vivid, his style is irreproachable, though in places rather elaborate, his images are noble. Leontyev [Footnote: I. L. Shtcheglov.] is good too. He is not so mature and picturesque, but he is warmer than Korolenko, more peaceful and feminine. . . . But, Allah kerim, why do they both specialize? The first will not part with his convicts, and the second feeds his readers with nothing but officers. . . . I understand specialization in art such as genre, landscape, history, but I cannot admit of such specialties as convicts, officers, priests. . . . This is not specialization but partiality. In Petersburg you do not care for Korolenko, and here in Moscow we do not read Shtcheglov, but I fully believe in the future of both of them. Ah, if only we had decent critics!

February 9.

. . . You say you liked Dymov [Translator’s Note: One of the characters in “The Steppe.”] as a subject. Life creates such characters as the dare-devil Dymov not to be dissenters nor tramps, but downright revolutionaries. . . . There never will be a revolution in Russia, and Dymov will end by taking to drink or getting into prison. He is a superfluous man.

March 6.

It is devilishly cold, but the poor birds are already flying to Russia! They are driven by homesickness and love for their native land. If poets knew how many millions of birds fall victims to their longing and love for their homes, how many of them freeze on the way, what agonies they endure on getting home in March and at the beginning of April, they would have sung their praises long ago! . . . Put yourself in the place of a corncrake who does not fly but walks all the way, or of a wild goose who gives himself up to man to escape being frozen. . . . Life is hard in this world!


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