William Fiennes, the bestselling author of The Snow Geese and The Music Room, chooses About Love, and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov, translated by Rosamund Bartlett.
“I love Chekhov so much, and my sense of wonder about his stories and plays just keeps growing. This selection by the translator Rosamund Bartlett is a brilliant introduction to Chekhov’s originality and warmth and empathy and wit and perceptiveness and generosity. He wrote close to six hundred stories, and these seventeen give an idea of his versatility. “Rothschild’s Violin” is like a fable; “The Black Monk” is like a strange and frightening fairy-tale; “The Huntsman” is about four pages long, but those four pages open out into an entire world of feeling and character. Stories like “The Lady with the Little Dog” and “The Bishop” are profound reflections on love, loss, attachment, the passing of time. But then in “Fish Love” a carp falls in love with a girl who comes to bathe in its pond; the carp gets very melancholic and spends lots of time writing about unrequited longing in its diary. All the stories show Chekhov’s great tenderness towards people – in their struggles and sorrows and flaws and joys. He makes me think of that line Katharine Hepburn has in The Philadelphia Story: “The time to make your mind up about people is never.” He is one of my heroes, and I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s a treasure chest.”
“The greatest short story writer who has ever lived.”
Raymond Carver’s unequivocal verdict on Chekhov’s genius has been echoed many times by writers as diverse as Katherine Mansfield, Somerset Maugham, John Cheever and Tobias Wolff. While his popularity as a playwright has sometimes overshadowed his achievements in prose, the importance of Chekhov’s stories is now recognised by readers as well as by fellow authors. Their themes – alienation, the absurdity and tragedy of human existence – have as much relevance today as when they were written, and these superb new translations capture their modernist spirit. Elusive and subtle, spare and unadorned, the stories in this selection are among Chekhov’s most poignant and lyrical.