Academic journal article
By Conliffe, Mark
Canadian Slavonic Papers , Vol. 39, No. 1/2
Rolf-Dieter Kluge. Anton P. Cechov-eine Enfhrung in Leben and Werk. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995. 149 pp. Select Bibliography. Index of Names. Index of Works Cited. Paper.
Chekhov enthusiasts will recall Rolf-Dieter Kluge most directly as editor of Anton P. Cechov: Werk und Wirkung (1990), a large two-volume collection of studies prepared for the Badenweiler conference (1985) that address an abundance of Chekhov-related topics. With Anton P. Cechov-eine Einfuhrung in Leben und Werk, Kluge reveals his own attitude toward the Russian writer. His account of Chekhov's life and work regularly refers to the humanity of the author and his literary characters as they exist in a world lacking orientation. These observations are punctuated by attentive close readings of Chekhov's works. Kluge's vision of the writer is a general, yet sensitive, one that blends Chekhov the citizen who observed and diagnosed joy, mundanity and anguish, with Chekhov the artist who compassionately and creatively portrayed individuals as they experience such feelings.
The book has six chapters. In the first, Kluge highlights aspects of Chekhov's childhood, literary achievements and medical activities. He situates Chekhov's social outlooks amid reforms and issues of the time, such as public justice and punishment, and places Chekhov's writing within the literary environment, most notably as it pertained to Suvorin and Tolstoy. The second and third chapters concern Chekhov's literary endeavours in the 1880s. Here, Kluge introduces a mass of information in twenty-nine pages. To his credit, Kluge achieves this introduction without making the chapters seem like checklists of features that mark Chekhov's efforts in the stsenka, short story, longer prose and early dramatic works. Kluge points to Russian predecessors, such as Griboedov, Gogol and Turgenev, from whose work Chekhov's style, types and ideas can be gauged. He discusses how the freedom, restrictions and demands connected to writing for the "little presses" affected Chekhov's writing, chiefly his conciseness, precision and focus on everyday themes, and, in turn, how these means of presentation coincidentally expressed social criticism. Kluge recalls aspects of literary impressionism and naturalism in the early works and touches delicately on such issues as how Chekhov handled the themes of love and sexual relations. One expects such topics will be raised in an introductory study of Chekhov; however, with assertions such as "Chekhov's literary heroes do not give up the search for self-determination" (p. …