Freedom from Violence and Lies: Anton Chekhov’s Life and Writings (Hardcover)

Freedom from Violence and Lies: Anton Chekhov’s Life and Writings By Michael C. Finke Cover Image

Freedom from Violence and Lies: Anton Chekhov’s Life and Writings (Hardcover)


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An enlightening, nuanced, and accessible introduction to the life and work of one of the greatest writers of short fiction in history.
Anton Chekhov’s stories and plays endure, far beyond the Russian context, as outstanding modern literary models. In a brief, remarkable life, Chekhov rose from lower-class, provincial roots to become a physician, leading writer, and philanthropist, all in the face of a progressive fatal disease. In this new biography, Michael C. Finke analyzes Chekhov’s major stories, plays, and nonfiction in the context of his life, both fleshing out the key features of Chekhov’s poetics of prose and drama and revealing key continuities across genres, as well as between his lesser-studied early writings and the later works. An excellent resource for readers new to Chekhov, this book also presents much original scholarship and is an accessible, comprehensive overview of one of the greatest modern dramatists and writers of short fiction in history.
Michael C. Finke is professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author or editor of many books on Chekhov and nineteenth-century Russian literature, including Seeing Chekhov: Life and Art.
Product Details ISBN: 9781789144307
ISBN-10: 1789144302
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: December 21st, 2021
Pages: 256
"Chekhov’s development as a short story writer and dramatist is neatly traced, and Finke offers apt analyses of major works. . . . In the end, readers see Chekhov as an admirable figure struggling to finish The Cherry Orchard while dying, and as a man who gave unstintingly of himself to his family, his friends, the poor, and budding writers. The result is a solid starting point for those less familiar with Chekhov."
— Publishers Weekly

"Although it would be grossly reductionist to call Finke’s superb new life of Anton Chekhov, Freedom from Violence and Lies, a ‘political biography,’ the book’s title is in fact drawn from what Finke calls the author’s ‘most famous statement about the relationship between politics and literature.’ . . . Whatever one makes of Chekhov's stance on artistic freedom, of his chafing at being pigeonholed, Finke does a marvelous job of threading the theme through the man's life and work. . . . In some 240 pages, Finke limns a nuanced, multidimensional, moving portrait of Chekhov."
— Boris Dralyuk

" Notable in Finke’s book are his clear and readable style, his balance between recounting Chekhov’s brief life (he died at 44) and analyzing his most notable prose and plays, his emphasis on Chekhov’s distrust of all ideologies, and the significance of Chekhov’s medical and philanthropic activities. . . . Recommended."
— Choice

"A workmanlike portrait of Chekhov, useful for the general reader curious to learn more about this master of Russian literature..."
— New York Journal of Books

“A crown achievement of his life-time engagement with Chekhov, Finke’s concise biography tells a compelling and comprehensive story of the Russian writer’s life and work. Written with surgical precision and creative sensitivity, this highly readable book pulsates with a multitude of insights into Chekhov as a person and an artist. Freedom from Violence and Lies will be a treasure for anyone interested in Russian literature and this great beloved writer.”
— Radislav Lapushin, Associate Professor of Russian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“This valuable guide to the last great Russian writer of the nineteenth century achieves an exceptional balance between the life and the work. A wealth of biographical detail is harmoniously intertwined with rich analysis of Chekhov’s literary work, abounding with original and perspicacious interpretations. Chekhov’s life is studied in its two parallel streams—those of a writer’s career and of a medical professional. The latter further reveals competing lines of travail: as a practicing doctor, as a philanthropist, and as a student of the history and sociology of health care. The reader will enjoy a charming image of the writer, but also frequent, delicate reflections on the unique problems a scholar of Chekhov encounters, fascinating excavations into the deeper reaches of Chekhov’s work, and subtle commentaries on his poetics. An intellectual endeavor of considerable complexity, Finke’s book will have a distinguished place amidst the vast literature on Chekhov.”
— Savely Senderovich, Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature and Medieval Studies, Cornell University

"Finke’s book offers both a superb introduction for the uninitiated and a substantive contribution to the scholarly corpus. . . . His discussions of particular works are nothing short of luminous in analytical depth and insight—and yet, they are invaluable above all in the kind of process they model for approaching Chekhov’s work at large. In this deft movement between part and whole, Finke uncovers productive strategies for juxtaposing and integrating the disparate elements of Chekhov’s textual world, for discerning resonance, forging connections, and letting the music sound. . . . Truly, in every respect, Finke’s treatment of Chekhov’s literary work is a tour de force."
— Cathy Popkin, Jesse and George Siegel Professor Emerita in the Humanities, Columbia University