Read The Witch and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov Free Online
Book Title: The Witch and Other Stories|
The author of the book: Anton Chekhov
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 6.98 MB
Edition: Echo Library
Date of issue: July 1st 2006
ISBN 13: 9781846377891
Read full description of the books The Witch and Other Stories:The short story does not simply differ from the novel (or novella) in length, although brevity is one of its defining characteristics. It does not have the development of characters and narrative that you find in the longer forms of fiction. It must offer the reader a different experience. In its purest form, it is like a memory recalled, often no more than an incident or encounter where it may seem that little or nothing happened. Its essence lies in the detail: a single word or sentence may create an image or feeling that opens up a wider world left to the reader's imagination. Little may occur dramatically in a short story, but often by the end something has changed significantly, and a greater understanding has been reached by one or more of the characters - and the reader.
Available free on iBooks, this collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov is a good starter for anyone reading his works for the first time. In addition to his 14 plays (of which the last 4 are classics) and 6 novellas, Chekhov wrote well over 200 short stories and he is generally considered to be among the greatest practitioners of this art form.
The stories in this collection show the range of Chekhov's writing. The title story - 'The Witch' - is like a one-act play, with just four characters sharing a dwelling during a single night. A post carriage is forced to seek shelter from a lethal snowstorm which may or may not have been created by the sorcery of the woman of the house. There are short, vivid descriptions of the weather and the bleak setting of this brief tale, but much of the writing consists of dialogue, as in a play. Although there is the potential for much to happen, very little action takes place. At the end we feel that the man and his wife are still both locked in their own private hells.
The second story - 'Peasant Wives' - opens up wider possibilities for its varied characters. It too unfolds over the course of a single night, but here the story takes you back to events long in the past, as well as toying with possible choices for the future, even if we are left feeling that probably nothing much will change in the lives of Chekhov's characters. There is a story within a story, bitterly told from a male perspective, yet it is the women in this story who capture the imagination: unloved, abused, exploited, but not wholly passive as they seek to shape their own destinies. The story suggests many other untold stories, with each character having a backstory that we can expand in our imagination from the hints we are given. The revelation in the penultimate sentence is heartbreaking, and opens our minds to untold horrors: “Kuzka brushed the hay off it with his sleeve, put it on, and timidly he crawled into the cart, still with an expression of terror on his face as though he were afraid of a blow from behind.” There is so much hidden depth in the 23 or so pages here, that in our minds this short story becomes an epic.
Of the other 13 stories in this collection, some personal favourites of mine are 'The New Villa' (a mini-saga novel in 5 chapters, describing how the attempts of an engineer and his wife to build social bridges with local villagers are met with suspicion, ignorance, and rebuttal, leading to their departure); 'At Christmas Time' (the perfect short story, told in two chapters each just a few pages long: the first about the writing of a letter in a rural village, the second about its receipt in St Petersburg); 'Gusev' (an episodic account of sick troops on a homeward bound steamer, on a journey the two main protagonists will not complete - the ending is extraordinary!); 'In the ravine' (the longest piece in this collection, telling in 9 episodes how a bourgeois, village family comes together before disintegrating through corruption, ambition, and cruelty); and 'Peasants (the final story in this collection, told in 9 short chapters, describing how a young Muscovite and his family are forced through his ill-health to return to the rural village of his childhood where relentless poverty confronts their aspirations and faith - a graphically harsh and unromantic view of rural peasant life in Russia in the late 19th century).
There are a number of common themes running through Chekhov's stories: the failures of his characters to communicate and connect; the way social conventions (class, religion, superstition) restrict human relationships and prevent personal development; the social oppression of women; the deadening and abrasive effects of a harsh environment on its inhabitants; how poverty brutalises the human spirit; the stifling effect of ignorance and superstition on change and progress ... There is very little warmth or joy here, which is undoubtedly an accurate reflection of what life was like for the majority of people in Tzarist Russia at that time. But Chekhov writes with wit and a belief in the perseverance of the human spirit, and the reader can find a sharply detailed insight into human behaviour and its frailties. Chekhov's themes are timeless, sharply observed and beautifully written, and subtly woven through these seemingly simple stories.
Having read this collection, I put Chekhov up there with Hemingway, Lawrence, Joyce, Borges and Poe as my favourite short-story writers.
“The clerk and the elder of the rural district who had served together for fourteen years, and who had during all that time never signed a single document for anybody nor let a single person out of the local court without deceiving or insulting him, were sitting now side by side, both fat and well-fed, and it seemed as though they were so saturated in injustice and falsehood that even the skin of their faces was somehow peculiar, fraudulent”
Excerpt from: 'In The Ravine'
“Aksinya had naive grey eyes which rarely blinked, and a naive smile played continually on her face. And in those unblinking eyes, and in that little head on the long neck, and in her slenderness there was something snake-like; all in green but for the yellow on her bosom, she looked with a smile on her face as a viper looks out of the young rye in the spring at the passers-by, stretching itself and lifting its head”
Excerpt from: 'In The Ravine'
“the ancient barrows, once watch-mounds and tombs, which rose here and there above the horizon and the boundless steppe had a sullen and death-like look; there was a feeling of endless time and utter indifference to man in their immobility and silence; another thousand years would pass, myriads of men would die, while they would still stand as they had stood, wit h no regret for the dead nor interest in the living, and no soul would ever know why they stood there, and what secret of the steppes was hidden under them.”
Excerpt from: 'Happiness'
Read information about the authorAnton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov's mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.
"When I think back on my childhood," Chekhov recalled, "it all seems quite gloomy to me." His early years were shadowed by his father's tyranny, religious fanaticism, and long nights in the store, which was open from five in the morning till midnight. He attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog (1867-68) and Taganrog grammar school (1868-79). The family was forced to move to Moscow following his father's bankruptcy. At the age of 16, Chekhov became independent and remained for some time alone in his native town, supporting himself through private tutoring.
In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School. While in the school, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. His publisher at this period was Nicholas Leikin, owner of the St. Petersburg journal Oskolki (splinters). His subjects were silly social situations, marital problems, farcical encounters between husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers, whims of young women, of whom Chekhov had not much knowledge – the author was was shy with women even after his marriage. His works appeared in St. Petersburg daily papers, Peterburskaia gazeta from 1885, and Novoe vremia from 1886.
Chekhov's first novel, Nenunzhaya pobeda (1882), set in Hungary, parodied the novels of the popular Hungarian writer Mór Jókai. As a politician Jókai was also mocked for his ideological optimism. By 1886 Chekhov had gained a wide fame as a writer. His second full-length novel, The Shooting Party, was translated into English in 1926. Agatha Christie used its characters and atmosphere in her mystery novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926).
Chekhov graduated in 1884, and practiced medicine until 1892. In 1886 Chekhov met H.S. Suvorin, who invited him to become a regular contributor for the St. Petersburg daily Novoe vremya. His friendship with Suvorin ended in 1898 because of his objections to the anti-Dreyfus campaingn conducted by paper. But during these years Chechov developed his concept of the dispassionate, non-judgemental author. He outlined his program in a letter to his brother Aleksandr: "1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality; flee the stereotype; 6. compassion."
Chekhov's fist book of stories (1886) was a success, and gradually he became a full-time writer. The author's refusal to join the ranks of social critics arose the wrath of liberal and radical intellitentsia and he was criticized for dealing with serious social and moral questions, but avoiding giving answers. However, he was defended by such leading writers as Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Leskov. "I'm not a liberal, or a conservative, or a gradualist, or a monk, or an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and that's all..." Chekhov said in 1888.
The failure of his play The Wood Demon (1889) and problems with his novel made Chekhov to withdraw from literature for a period. In 1890 he travelled across Siberia to remote prison island, Sakhalin. There he conducted a detailed census of some 10,000 convicts and settlers condemned to live their lives on that harsh island. Chekhov hoped to use the results of his research for his doctoral dissertation. It is probable that hard conditions on the island also worsened his own physical condition. From this journey was born his famous travel book T
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