Author: Patrick Miles
ISBN:10: 1843919001:   13:9781843919001
Publisher: Hesperus Press

Click Here To Purchase Anton Chekhov (Brief Lives)

 There is a current trend in America where former celebrities who have been forgotten (usually for just cause) are being resurrected from the celebrity dead. This is, of course, thanks to those unimaginative bastards, the stewards of our popular culture, the directors of television programming. Such figures as Hulk Hogan, Bret Michaels and the ‘Two Coreys’ are just a few examples of the cultural living dead. With so many instances of former celebrities again becoming popular it is quite legitimate to ask the question, “Does this person have any relevancy to current society?”

While it seems quite evident that the sad gang of 80s B-listers who now are enjoying a renaissance, are appallingly irrelevant in the context of our current culture the question of relevancy is a fair one to ask about literary figures of the past as well. Patrick Miles’ new biography, Brief Lives: Anton Chekhov provides an opportunity to explore the Nineteenth Century, Russian story writer and dramatist relevancy in today’s world. As Miles illustrates, quite clearly, indeed Chekhov is as relevant today as he was in his own day.

While exploring the artistic impetus of Chekhov’s work, Miles has shown how deeply held concerns about social inequity forged the central dramatic and thematic drive in many of Chekhov’s works. As Miles points out, many of Chekhov’s most important works are vehicles Chekhov used to articulate these social concerns and open debate about them to his audience of the Russian Intelligentsia. Sadly, many of the things which distressed Chekhov are eerily present today and we can see striking similarities between the accounts present in Chekhov’s work with contemporary events. For example, Chekhov’s The Island Of Salakhin, an exposé on the Siberian penal colony located on the island where torture, death, and unmitigated misery were institutionalized, resembles in many ways the barbarous string of prisons and torture centers the Bush administration has constructed in remote places in order to advert public scrutiny. Moreover the major theme of what endures as perhaps Chekhov’s more famous play, The Seagull, —the failure of the youth by their antecedent generation— bares to mind the continually failing of future generations by our generation and its legacy of increasing violence, resource depletion and environmental degradation.

 In this book, Miles has done a fantastic job not only providing insight to the creative factors which shaped Chekhov’s work but, has also demonstrated how Chekhov’s maintains value and merit across cultures, continents and centuries. Indeed, like his compatriots, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Chekhov seizes the essence of human existence, exposes it, in its total nakedness, and preserves it in the formaldehyde of ageless prose. It is in the clear and well substantiated highlighting of this Chekhov trait that Miles has revealed his own skill in the art of biographic composition. He has shown Chekhov’s timelessness with particular clarity and ease of accessibility. Miles brings coherence to the seemingly disparate events in Chekhov’s life, his ideological stances and the socio-political realities of Tsarist Russia by crafting a holistic portrait of the man as an artist.

Although, the brevity of the book does leave the reader wanting for elaboration at times, especially in regard to Chekhov’s private motivations in his various romantic and professional relationships and Miles’ writing style is perhaps not the most colorful, Brief Lives: Anton Chekhov is a first rate effort filled with new, unique and meaningful observations about a very important literary figure. Furthermore, unlike the bastard programming directors of our television stations, Miles has chosen to reach in the collective past and re-present something very relevant, giving the reader the opportunity to find significance from history and historical works.

Click Here To Purchase Anton Chekhov (Brief Lives)