Last modified on 12 April 2014, at 15:42

Anton Chekhov

People should be beautiful in every way—in their faces, in the way they dress, in their thoughts and in their innermost selves.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов) (29 January 186015 July 1904) (Old Style: 17 January 1860 – 2 July 1904) was a major Russian short story writer and playwright.

QuotesEdit

  • An enormously vast field lies between “God exists” and “there is no God.” The truly wise man traverses it with great difficulty. A Russian knows one or the other of these two extremes, but is not interested in the middle ground. He usually knows nothing, or very little.
    • Diary (1897) [1]
  • Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.
  • If you can’t distinguish people from lap-dogs, you shouldn’t undertake philanthropic work.
  • Silence accompanies the most significant expressions of happiness and unhappiness: those in love understand one another best when silent, while the most heated and impassioned speech at a graveside touches only outsiders, but seems cold and inconsequential to the widow and children of the deceased.
  • Несчастные эгоистичны, злы, несправедливы, жестоки и менее, чем глупцы, способны понимать друг друга. Не соединяет, а разъединяет людей несчастье...
    • The unhappy are egotistical, base, unjust, cruel, and even less capable of understanding one another than are idiots. Unhappiness does not unite people, but separates them...
    • Enemies
  • Each of us is full of too many wheels, screws and valves to permit us to judge one another on a first impression or by two or three external signs.
    • Ivanov, Act III, sc. vi (1887)
  • You look at any poetic creature: muslin, ether, demigoddess, millions of delights; then you look into the soul and find the most ordinary crocodile!
    • The Bear, sc. viii (1888)
  • The sea has neither meaning nor pity.
  • Everyone has the same God; only people differ.
  • It is not only the prisoners who grow coarse and hardened from corporeal punishment, but those as well who perpetrate the act or are present to witness it.
    • A Journey to Sakhalin (1891)
  • No matter how corrupt and unjust a convict may be, he loves fairness more than anything else. If the people placed over him are unfair, from year to year he lapses into an embittered state characterized by an extreme lack of faith.
    • A Journey to Sakhalin
  • To regard one’s immortality as an exchange of matter is as strange as predicting the future of a violin case once the expensive violin it held has broken and lost its worth.
  • Life is a vexatious trap; when a thinking man reaches maturity and attains to full consciousness he cannot help feeling that he is in a trap from which there is no escape.
    • Ward No. 6 (1892)
  • To believe in God is not hard. Inquisitors, Biron and Arakcheev believed in Him. No, believe in man!
  • Death can only be profitable: there’s no need to eat, drink, pay taxes, offend people, and since a person lies in a grave for hundreds or thousands of years, if you count it up the profit turns out to be enormous.
  • Moscow is a city that has much suffering ahead of it.
  • By poeticizing love, we imagine in those we love virtues that they often do not possess; this then becomes the source of constant mistakes and constant distress.
  • All of life and human relations have become so incomprehensibly complex that, when you think about it, it becomes terrifying and your heart stands still.
    • In the Cart (1897)
  • Who keeps the tavern and serves up the drinks? The peasant. Who squanders and drinks up money belonging to the peasant commune, the school, the church? The peasant. Who would steal from his neighbor, commit arson, and falsely denounce another for a bottle of vodka? The peasant.
  • People who live alone always have something on their minds that they would willingly share.
  • A fiancé is neither this nor that: he’s left one shore, but not yet reached the other.
    • About Love
  • There are no small number of people in this world who, solitary by nature, always try to go back into their shell like a hermit crab or a snail.
  • While you’re playing cards with a regular guy or having a bite to eat with him, he seems a peaceable, good-humoured and not entirely dense person. But just begin a conversation with him about something inedible, politics or science, for instance, and he ends up in a deadend or starts in on such an obtuse and base philosophy that you can only wave your hand and leave.
  • If you really think about it, everything is wonderful in this world, everything except for our thoughts and deeds when we forget about the loftier goals of existence, about our human dignity.
  • Dear, sweet, unforgettable childhood! Why does this irrevocable time, forever departed, seem brighter, more festive and richer than it actually was?
  • Watching a woman make Russian pancakes, you might think that she was calling on the spirits or extracting from the batter the philosopher’s stone.
    • Russian Pancakes
  • Better a debauched canary than a pious wolf.
    • Noxious Thoughts
  • If only one tooth aches, rejoice that not all of them ache.... If your wife betrays you, be glad that she betrayed only you and not the nation.
    • Life is Wonderful
  • There is something beautiful, touching and poetic when one person loves more than the other, and the other is indifferent.
  • Faith is an aptitude of the spirit. It is, in fact, a talent: you must be born with it.
  • It is depressing to hear the unfortunate or dying man jest.
    • On the Road
  • It’s immoral to steal, but you can take things.
    • Out Beggary
  • Thought and beauty, like a hurricane or waves, should not know conventional, delimited forms.
  • When a person is born, he can embark on only one of three roads of life: if you go right, the wolves will eat you; if you go left, you’ll eat the wolves; if you go straight, you’ll eat yourself.
    • Fatherless, Act I, sc. xiv
  • Country acquaintances are charming only in the country and only in the summer. In the city in winter they lose half of their appeal.
    • The Story of Mme. NN
  • That can not possibly be, because it could never possibly be.
    • Letter to a Learned Neighbor
  • Eyes—the head’s chief of police. They watch and make mental notes. A blind person is like a city abandoned by the authorities. On sad days they cry. In these carefree times they weep only from tender emotions.
    • A Brief Human Anatomy
  • [Ognev] recalled endless, heated, purely Russian arguments, when the wranglers, spraying spittle and banging their fists on the table, fail to understand yet interrupt one another, themselves not even noticing it, contradict themselves with every phrase, change the subject, then, having argued for two or three hours, begin to laugh.
  • One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they’ll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.
  • It seems to me that all of the evil in life comes from idleness, boredom, and psychic emptiness, but all of that is inevitable when you become accustomed to living at others’ expense.
  • It is uncomfortable to ask condemned people about their sentences just as it is awkward to ask wealthy people why they need so much money, why they use their wealth so poorly, and why they don’t just get rid of it when they recognize that it is the cause of their unhappiness.
    • Episode from a Practice
  • Nature’s law says that the strong must prevent the weak from living, but only in a newspaper article or textbook can this be packaged into a comprehensible thought. In the soup of everyday life, in the mixture of minutia from which human relations are woven, it is not a law. It is a logical incongruity when both strong and weak fall victim to their mutual relations, unconsciously subservient to some unknown guiding power that stands outside of life, irrelevant to man.
    • Episode from a Practice
  • Only during hard times do people come to understand how difficult it is to be master of their feelings and thoughts.
  • The thirst for powerful sensations takes the upper hand both over fear and over compassion for the grief of others.
    • An Evil Night
  • It’s even pleasant to be sick when you know that there are people who await your recovery as they might await a holiday.
    • The Story of an Unknown Man
  • Exquisite nature, daydreams, and music say one thing, real life another.
    • In a Native Corner
  • Love is a scandal of the personal sort.
    • The Piano Player
  • Probably nature itself gave man the ability to lie so that in difficult and tense moments he could protect his nest, just as do the vixen and wild duck.
  • We live not in order to eat, but in order not to know what we feel like eating.
    • The Fruits of Long Meditations
  • By nature servile, people attempt at first glance to find signs of good breeding in the appearance of those who occupy more exalted stations.
    • A Futile Occurrence
  • Once you’ve married, be strict but just with your wife, don’t allow her to forget herself, and when a misunderstanding arises, say: “Don’t forget that I made you happy.”
    • Guide for Those Wishing to Marry
  • I myself smoke, but my wife asked me to speak today on the harmfulness of tobacco, so what can I do? If it’s tobacco, then let it be tobacco.
    • On the Harmfulness of Tobacco
  • Dinner at the "Continental" to commemorate the great reform [the abolition of the serfdom in 1861]. Tedious and incongruous. To dine, drink champagne, make a racket, and deliver speeches about national consciousness, the conscience of the people, freedom, and such things, while slaves in tail-coats are running round your tables, veritable serfs, and your coachmen wait outside in the street, in the bitter cold—that is lying to the Holy Ghost.
    • Diary entry 19 February 1897
  • If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."
    • Ilia Gurliand Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No 28, 11 July, p. 521. commonly known as Chekhov's dictum or Chekhov's gun.
  • Love, friendship, respect, do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
    • Alternate Version: Nothing better forges a bond of love, friendship or respect than common hatred toward something.
    • Quoted in "Psychologically Speaking: A Book of Quotations" - Page 96 - by Kevin Connolly, Margaret Martlew - 1999

Note-Book of Anton ChekhovEdit

Translated S. S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf

  • Mankind has conceived history as a series of battles; hitherto it has considered fighting as the main thing in life.
  • Solomon made a great mistake when he asked for wisdom.
  • Ordinary hypocrites pretend to be doves; political and literary hypocrites pretend to be eagles. But don't be disconcerted by their aquiline appearance. They are not eagles, but rats or dogs.
  • A nice man would feel ashamed even before a dog
  • Death is terrible, but still more terrible is the feeling that you might live for ever and never die.
  • When one longs for a drink, it seems as though one could drink a whole ocean—that is faith; but when one begins to drink, one can only drink altogether two glasses—that is science.
  • People love talking of their diseases, although they are the most uninteresting things in their lives.
  • When an actor has money, he doesn't send letters but telegrams.
  • How intolerable people are sometimes who are happy and successful in everything.
  • How pleasant it is to respect people!
    • Varient: What a delight it is to respect people!
  • Better to perish from fools than to accept praises from them.
  • If you are afraid of loneliness, do not marry.
  • If you wish women to love you, be original; I know a man who used to wear felt boots summer and winter, and women fell in love with him.
  • Although you may tell lies, people will believe you, if only you speak with authority.
  • As I shall lie in the grave alone, so in fact I live alone.
  • I observed that after marriage people cease to be curious.
  • Our self-esteem and conceit are European, but our culture and actions are Asiatic.
  • It is easier to ask of the poor than of the rich.
  • They say: "In the long run truth will triumph;" but it is untrue.
  • There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science.
  • It is unfortunate that we try to solve the simplest questions cleverly, and therefore make them unusually complicated. We should seek a simple solution.
  • There is no Monday which will not give its place to Tuesday.
  • Love, friendship, respect, do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
    • Alternate Version: Nothing better forges a bond of love, friendship or respect than common hatred toward something.
    • Also quoted in "Psychologically Speaking: A Book of Quotations" - Page 96 - by Kevin Connolly, Margaret Martlew - 1999

LettersEdit

  • My mother and father are the only people on the whole planet for whom I will never begrudge a thing. Should I achieve great things, it is the work of their hands; they are splendid people and their absolute love of their children places them above the highest praise. It cloaks all of their shortcomings, shortcomings that may have resulted from a difficult life.
    • Letter to his cousin, M.M. Chekhov (July 29, 1877)
  • Do you know when you may concede your insignificance? Before God or, perhaps, before the intellect, beauty, or nature, but not before people. Among people, one must be conscious of one’s dignity.
    • Letter to his brother, M.P. Chekhov (April 1879)
  • A grimy fly can soil the entire wall and a small, dirty little act can ruin the entire proceedings.
    • Letter to A.N. Kanaev (March 26, 1883)
  • In order to cultivate yourself and to drop no lower than the level of the milieu in which you have landed, it is not enough to read Pickwick and memorize a monologue from Faust.... You need to work continually day and night, to read ceaselessly, to study, to exercise your will.... Each hour is precious.
    • Letter to his brother, N.P. Chekhov (March 1886)
  • Isolation in creative work is an onerous thing. Better to have negative criticism than nothing at all.
    • Letter to his brother, A.P. Chekhov (May 10, 1886)
  • When in a serious mood, it seems to me that those people are illogical who feel an aversion toward death. As far as I can see, life consists exclusively of horrors, unpleasantnesses and banalities, now merging, now alternating.
    • Letter to M.V. Kiseleva (September 29, 1886)
  • To describe drunkenness for the colorful vocabulary is rather cynical. There is nothing easier than to capitalize on drunkards.
    • Letter to N.A. Leikin (December 24, 1886)
  • There are people whom even children’s literature would corrupt. They read with particular enjoyment the piquant passages in the Psalter and in the Wisdom of Solomon.
    • Letter to M.V. Kiseleva (January 14, 1887)
  • Despite your best efforts, you could not invent a better police force for literature than criticism and the author’s own conscience.
    • Letter to M.V. Kiseleva (January 14, 1887
  • I was so drunk the whole time that I took bottles for girls and girls for bottles.
    • Letter to the Chekhov family (April 25, 1887)
  • Writers are as jealous as pigeons.
    • Letter to I.L. Leontev (February 4, 1888)
  • In Western Europe people perish from the congestion and stifling closeness, but with us it is from the spaciousness.... The expanses are so great that the little man hasn’t the resources to orient himself.... This is what I think about Russian suicides.
    • Letter to D.V. Grigorovich (February 5, 1888)
  • Happiness does not await us all. One needn’t be a prophet to say that there will be more grief and pain than serenity and money. That is why we must hang on to one another.
    • Letter to K.S. Barantsevich (March 3, 1888)
  • Tsars and slaves, the intelligent and the obtuse, publicans and pharisees all have an identical legal and moral right to honor the memory of the deceased as they see fit, without regard for anyone else’s opinion and without the fear of hindering one another.
    • Letter to K.S. Barantsevich (March 30, 1888)
  • Hypocrisy is a revolting, psychopathic state.
    • Letter to I.L. Leontev (August 29, 1888)
  • One must speak about serious things seriously.
    • Letter to A.N. Pleshcheev (September 9, 1888)
  • I feel more confident and more satisfied when I reflect that I have two professions and not one. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress. When I get tired of one I spend the night with the other. Though it's disorderly it's not so dull, and besides, neither really loses anything, through my infidelity.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (September 11, 1888)
  • I don’t know why one can’t chase two rabbits at the same time, even in the literal sense of those words. If you have the hounds, go ahead and pursue.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (September 11, 1888)
  • The more simply we look at ticklish questions, the more placid will be our lives and relationships.
    • Letter to his brother, A.P. Chekhov (September 24, 1888)
  • I would like to be a free artist and nothing else, and I regret God has not given me the strength to be one.
    • Letter to Alexei Pleshcheev (October 4, 1888)
  • My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lies, no matter what form the latter two take. Such is the program I would adhere to if I were a major artist.
    • Letter to Alexei Pleshcheev (October 4, 1888)
  • Pharisaism, obtuseness and tyranny reign not only in the homes of merchants and in jails; I see it in science, in literature, and among youth. I consider any emblem or label a prejudice.... My holy of holies is the human body, health, intellect, talent, inspiration, love and the most absolute of freedoms, the freedom from force and falsity in whatever forms they might appear.
    • Letter to Alexei Pleshcheev (October 4, 1888)
  • Lying is the same as alcoholism. Liars prevaricate even on their deathbeds.
    • Letter to A.N. Pleshcheev (October 9, 1888)
  • There should be more sincerity and heart in human relations, more silence and simplicity in our interactions. Be rude when you’re angry, laugh when something is funny, and answer when you’re asked.
    • Letter to his brother, A.P. Chekhov (October 13, 1888)
  • A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe.... What a terrible future!
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 18, 1888)
  • He who doesn’t know how to be a servant should never be allowed to be a master; the interests of public life are alien to anyone who is unable to enjoy others’ successes, and such a person should never be entrusted with public affairs.
    • Letter to A.N. Pleshcheev (October 25, 1888)
  • An artist must pass judgment only on what he understands; his range is limited as that of any other specialist—that's what I keep repeating and insisting upon. Anyone who says that the artist's field is all answers and no questions has never done any writing or had any dealings with imagery. An artist observes, selects, guesses and synthesizes.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 27, 1888)
  • It is a poor thing for the writer to take on that which he doesn’t understand.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 27, 1888)
  • You are right to demand that an artist engage his work consciously, but you confuse two different things: solving the problem and correctly posing the question.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 27, 1888)
  • I have in my head a whole army of people pleading to be let out and awaiting my commands.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 27, 1888)
  • I don’t care for success. The ideas sitting in my head are annoyed by, and envious of, that which I’ve already written.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 27, 1888)
  • We learn about life not from pluses alone, but from minuses as well.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 23, 1888)
  • It doesn’t matter that your painting is small. Kopecks are also small, but when a lot are put together they make a ruble. Each painting displayed in a gallery and each good book that makes it into a library, no matter how small they may be, serve a great cause: accretion of the national wealth.
    • Letter to S.P. Kuvshinnikova (December 25, 1888)
  • Children are holy and pure. Even those of bandits and crocodiles belong among the angels.... They must not be turned into a plaything of one’s mood, first to be tenderly kissed, then rabidly stomped at.
    • Letter to his brother, A.P. Chekhov (January 2, 1889)
  • Of course politics is an interesting and engrossing thing. It offers no immutable laws, nearly always prevaricates, but as far as blather and sharpening the mind go, it provides inexhaustible material.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (January 4, 1889)
  • In one-act pieces there should be only rubbish—that is their strength.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (January 6, 1889)
  • Narrative prose is a legal wife, while drama is a posturing, boisterous, cheeky and wearisome mistress.
    • Letter to A.N. Pleshcheev (January 15, 1889)
  • Everything is good in due measure and strong sensations know not measure.
    • Letter to N.M. Lintvareva (February 11, 1889)
  • Lermontov died at age twenty-eight and wrote more than have you and I put together. Talent is recognizable not only by quality, but also by the quantity it yields.
    • Letter to P.A. Sergeenko (March 6, 1889)
  • Neither I nor anyone else knows what a standard is. We all recognize a dishonorable act, but have no idea what honor is.
    • Letter to A.N. Pleshcheev (April 9, 1889)
  • Everyone judges plays as if they were very easy to write. They don’t know that it is hard to write a good play, and twice as hard and tortuous to write a bad one.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (May 4, 1889)
  • When performing an autopsy, even the most inveterate spiritualist would have to question where the soul is.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (May 7, 1889)
  • Life is difficult for those who have the daring to first set out on an unknown road. The avant-garde always has a bad time of it.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (May 14, 1889)
  • When a person doesn’t understand something, he feels internal discord: however he doesn’t search for that discord in himself, as he should, but searches outside of himself. Thence a war develops with that which he doesn’t understand.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (May 15, 1889)
  • Without a knowledge of languages you feel as if you don’t have a passport.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (November 1889)
  • Wherever there is degeneration and apathy, there also is sexual perversion, cold depravity, miscarriage, premature old age, grumbling youth, there is a decline in the arts, indifference to science, and injustice in all its forms.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 27, 1889)
  • In general, Russia suffers from a frightening poverty in the sphere of facts and a frightening wealth of all types of arguments.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (February 23, 1890)
  • There are no lower or higher or median moralities. There is only one morality, and it is precisely the one that was given to us during the time of Jesus Christ and that stops me, you and Barantsevich from stealing, offending others, lying etc.
    • Letter to I.L. Leontev (March 22, 1890)
  • I divide all literary works into two categories: Those I like and those I don’t like. No other criterion exists for me.
    • Letter to I.L. Leontev (March 22, 1890)
  • One can only call that youth healthful which refuses to be reconciled to old ways and which, foolishly or shrewdly, combats the old. This is nature’s charge and all progress hinges upon it.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 29, 1890)
  • The world is a fine place. The only thing wrong with it is us. How little justice and humility there is in us, how poorly we understand patriotism!
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 9, 1890)
  • I think that it would be less difficult to live eternally than to be deprived of sleep throughout life.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 9, 1890)
  • In my opinion it is harmful to place important things in the hands of philanthropy, which in Russia is marked by a chance character. Nor should important matters depend on leftovers, which are never there. I would prefer that the government treasury take care of it.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 17, 1890)
  • One had better not rush, otherwise dung comes out rather than creative work.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (August 18, 1891)
  • All great sages are as despotic as generals, and as ungracious and indelicate as generals, because they are confident of their impunity.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (September 8, 1891)
  • He who constantly swims in the ocean loves dry land.
    • Letter to E.M. Shavrova (September 16, 1891)
  • We old bachelors smell like dogs, do we? So be it. But I must take issue with your claim that doctors who treat female illnesses are womanizers and cynics at heart. Gynecologists deal with savage prose the likes of which you have never dreamed of.
    • Letter to E.M. Shavrova (September 16, 1891)
  • Satiation, like any state of vitality, always contains a degree of impudence, and that impudence emerges first and foremost when the sated man instructs the hungry one.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 20, 1891)
  • Can words such as Orthodox, Jew, or Catholic really express some sort of exclusive personal virtues or merits?
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (November 18, 1891)
  • An expansive life, one not constrained by four walls, requires as well an expansive pocket.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 11, 1892)
  • When we retreat to the country, we are hiding not from people, but from our pride, which, in the city and among people, operates unfairly and immoderately.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 17, 1892)
  • People understand God as the expression of the most lofty morality. Maybe He needs only perfect people.
    • Letter to E.M. Shavrova (April 6, 1892)
  • The wealthy man is not he who has money, but he who has the means to live in the luxurious state of early spring.
    • Letter to L.A. Avilova (April 29, 1892)
  • There is nothing more vapid than a philistine petty bourgeois existence with its farthings, victuals, vacuous conversations, and useless conventional virtue.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (June 16, 1892)
  • Despicable means used to achieve laudable goals render the goals themselves despicable.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (August 1, 1892)
  • The more elevated a culture, the richer its language. The number of words and their combinations depends directly on a sum of conceptions and ideas; without the latter there can be no understandings, no definitions, and, as a result, no reason to enrich a language.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (October 12, 1892)
  • The person who wants nothing, hopes for nothing, and fears nothing can never be an artist.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (November 25, 1892)
  • Whoever sincerely believes that elevated and distant goals are as little use to man as a cow, that “all of our problems” come from such goals, is left to eat, drink, sleep, or, when he gets sick of that, to run up to a chest and smash his forehead on its corner.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (December 3, 1892)
  • I abide by a rule concerning reviews: I will never ask, neither in writing nor in person, that a word be put in about my book.... One feels cleaner this way. When someone asks that his book be reviewed he risks running up against a vulgarity offensive to authorial sensibilities.
    • Letter to N.M. Ezhov (March 22, 1893)
  • When you live on cash, you understand the limits of the world around which you navigate each day. Credit leads into a desert with invisible boundaries.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (August 18, 1893)
  • It’s easier to write about Socrates than about a young woman or a cook.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (January 2, 1894)
  • Prudence and justice tell me that in electricity and steam there is more love for man than in chastity and abstinence from meat.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 27, 1894)
  • The air of one’s native country is the most healthy air.
    • Letter to his brother, G.M. Chekhov (January 1895)
  • I would love to meet a philosopher like Nietzsche on a train or boat and to talk with him all night. Incidentally, I don’t consider his philosophy long-lived. It is not so much persuasive as full of bravura.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (February 25, 1895)
  • I can’t accept “our nervous age,” since mankind has been nervous during every age. Whoever fears nervousness should turn into a sturgeon or smelt; if a sturgeon makes a stupid mistake, it can only be one: to end up on a hook, and then in a pan in a pastry shell.
    • Letter to E.M. Savrova-Yust (February 28, 1895)
  • Sports are positively essential. It is healthy to engage in sports, they are beautiful and liberal, liberal in the sense that nothing serves quite as well to integrate social classes, etc., than street or public games.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 16, 1895)
  • I promise to be an excellent husband, but give me a wife who, like the moon, will not appear every day in my sky.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (March 23, 1895)
  • The bourgeoisie loves so-called “positive” types and novels with happy endings since they lull one into thinking that it is fine to simultaneously acquire capital and maintain one’s innocence, to be a beast and still be happy.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (April 13, 1895)
  • A man who doesn’t drink is not, in my opinion, fully a man.
    • Letter to N.A. Leikin (May 8, 1895)
  • It’s worth living abroad to study up on genteel and delicate manners. The maid smiles continuously; she smiles like a duchess on a stage, while at the same time it is clear from her face that she is exhausted from overwork.
    • Letter to I.P. Chekhov (October 2, 1897)
  • Tell mother that however dogs and samovars might behave themselves, winter comes after summer, old age after youth, and misfortune follows happiness (or the other way around). A person can not be healthy and cheerful throughout life. Losses lie waiting and man can not safeguard against death, even if he be Alexander of Macedonia. One must be prepared for anything and consider everything to be inevitably essential, as sad as that may be.
    • Letter to his sister Maria Pavlovna Chekhov (November 13, 1898)
  • When a person expends the least amount of motion on one action, that is grace.
    • Letter to Maxim Gorky (January 3, 1899)
  • There are in life such confluences of circumstances that render the reproach that we are not Voltaires most inopportune.
    • Letter to A.S. Suvorin (February 6, 1898)
  • I have no faith in our hypocritical, false, hysterical, uneducated and lazy intelligentsia when they suffer and complain: their oppression comes from within. I believe in individual people. I see salvation in discrete individuals, intellectuals and peasants, strewn hither and yon throughout Russia. They have the strength, although there are few of them.
    • Letter to I.I. Orlov (February 22, 1899)
  • Women writers should write a lot if they want to write. Take the English women, for example. What amazing workers.
    • Letter to L.A. Avilova (February 26, 1899)
  • Is it our job to judge? The gendarme, policemen and bureaucrats have been especially prepared by fate for that job. Our job is to write, and only to write.
    • Letter to L.A. Avilova (April 27, 1899)
  • There are plenty of good people, but only a very, very few are precise and disciplined.
    • Letter to V.A. Posse (February 15, 1900)
  • You ask “What is life?” That is the same as asking “What is a carrot?” A carrot is a carrot and we know nothing more.
    • Letter to his wife, Olga Knipper Chekhov (April 20, 1904)

A Dreary Story (1889)Edit

  • Instructing in cures, therapists always recommend that “each case be individualized.” If this advice is followed, one becomes persuaded that those means recommended in textbooks as the best, means perfectly appropriate for the template case, turn out to be completely unsuitable in individual cases.
  • When a person hasn’t in him that which is higher and stronger than all external influences, it is enough for him to catch a good cold in order to lose his equilibrium and begin to see an owl in every bird, to hear a dog’s bark in every sound.
  • The wealthy are always surrounded by hangers-on; science and art are as well.

The Bet (1889)Edit

  • If I were asked to chose between execution and life in prison I would, of course, chose the latter. It’s better to live somehow than not at all.
  • Capital punishment kills immediately, whereas lifetime imprisonment does so slowly. Which executioner is more humane? The one who kills you in a few minutes, or the one who wrests your life from you in the course of many years?
  • The government is not God. It does not have the right to take away that which it can’t return even if it wants to.

The Seagull (1896)Edit

  • I’m in mourning for my life.
    • Act I
  • Great Jove angry is no longer Jove.
  • I try to catch every sentence, every word you and I say, and quickly lock all these sentences and words away in my literary storehouse because they might come in handy.
    • Act II
  • Do you remember you shot a seagull? A man came by chance, saw it and destroyed it, just to pass the time.
    • Act IV
  • It’s not a matter of old or new forms; a person writes without thinking about any forms, he writes because it flows freely from his soul.
    • Act IV
  • Как легко, доктор, быть философом на бумаге и как это трудно на деле!
    • Translation: How easy it is, Doctor, to be a philosopher on paper, and how hard it is in life!
    • Act IV

Uncle Vanya (1897)Edit

  • People should be beautiful in every way—in their faces, in the way they dress, in their thoughts and in their innermost selves.
    • Act I
  • In countries where there is a mild climate, less effort is expended on the struggle with nature and man is kinder and more gentle.
    • Act I
  • Russian forests crash down under the axe, billions of trees are dying, the habitations of animals and birds are laid waste, rivers grow shallow and dry up, marvelous landscapes are disappearing forever.... Man is endowed with creativity in order to multiply that which has been given him; he has not created, but destroyed. There are fewer and fewer forests, rivers are drying up, wildlife has become extinct, the climate is ruined, and the earth is becoming ever poorer and uglier.
    • Act I
  • The world perishes not from bandits and fires, but from hatred, hostility, and all these petty squabbles.
    • Act I
  • A woman can only become a man’s friend in three stages: first, she’s an agreeable acquaintance, then a mistress, and only after that a friend.
    • Act II
  • Who but a stupid barbarian could burn so much beauty in his stove and destroy that which he cannot make?
    • Act I
  • We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
    • Act IV
  • Those who come a hundred or two hundred years after us will despise us for having lived our lives so stupidly and tastelessly. Perhaps they’ll find a means to be happy.
    • Act IV

Gooseberries (1898)Edit

  • At the door of every happy person there should be a man with a hammer whose knock would serve as a constant reminder of the existence of unfortunate people.
  • It has become customary to say that a man needs only six feet of land. But a corpse needs six feet, not a person.
  • Money, like vodka, turns a person into an eccentric.
  • He is no longer a city dweller who has even once in his life caught a ruff or seen how, on clear and cool autumn days, flocks of migrating thrushes drift over a village. Until his death he will be drawn to freedom.

The Three Sisters (1901)Edit

  • In two or three hundred years life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, astounding. Man needs such a life and if it hasn’t yet appeared, he should begin to anticipate it, wait for it, dream about it, prepare for it. To achieve this, he has to see and know more than did his grandfather and father.
    • Act I
  • What seems to us serious, significant and important will, in future times, be forgotten or won’t seem important at all.
    • Act I
  • To Moscow, to Moscow, to Moscow!
    • Act II
  • After us they’ll fly in hot air balloons, coat styles will change, perhaps they’ll discover a sixth sense and cultivate it, but life will remain the same, a hard life full of secrets, but happy. And a thousand years from now man will still be sighing, “Oh! Life is so hard!” and will still, like now, be afraid of death and not want to die.
    • Act II

The Cherry Orchard (1904)Edit

  • Dear and most respected bookcase! I welcome your existence, which has for over one hundred years been devoted to the radiant ideals of goodness and justice.
    • Act I
  • If there's any illness for which people offer many remedies, you may be sure that particular illness is incurable, I think.
    • Act I
  • All Russia is our orchard.
    • Act II
  • The cherry orchard is now mine!... I bought the estate on which my grandfather and father were slaves, where they were not even permitted in the kitchen.
    • Act III

About ChekhovEdit

  • No author has created with less emphasis such pathetic characters as Chekhov has.
  • This great kindness pervades Chekhov’s literary work about evolution, but it is not a matter of program or of literary message with him, but simply the natural coloration of his talent.
  • Worse than Shakespeare.
  • What writers influenced me as a young man? Chekhov! As a dramatist? Chekhov! As a story writer? Chekhov!

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