Monday, January 1, 2007

Ivan Bunin's About Chekhov

I was excited to find in the Fall '06 issue of The Paris Review (there's a newer issue out now; I rescued my copy of the fall one from the trash can at the bookstore where I work, sans cover) an exerpt from the newly translated memoir about Anton Chekhov by Ivan Bunin (1870-1953, won Russia's first Nobel Prize). Here's what Bunin says about Chekhov's talking about writing and criticism:

" No writer should be forced to listen to any advice. If a writer has made a mistake, if he has talked nonsense, the mistake will be his alone," he often said. "After the high demands that Maupassant placed on his art, it would be difficult to write anything, but one must work just the same. We Russians must be particularly bold in our work. There are big dogs and little dogs, but little dogs must not fret over the existence of the big ones. Everyone is obliged to howl in the voice that the Lord God has given him."

I love that. Chekhov is probably the only long-dead writer I feel I know -- and like -- as well as some of my friends. The memoir, translated by Thomas Gaiton Marullo, will apparently be published some time this year by Northwestern University Press.

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