Tuesday, 23 July 2013

LETTERS OF NOTE: Advice from Anton Chekhov

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Earlier this month I posted up some historical advice about dealing with depression (which you can read here). Today I'm in similar territory, sharing some correspondence on alcoholism from the great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

Chekhov (who was also a practising physician) had a strained relationship with his brother Nikolai, who was three years his elder. Nikolai had showed promise as a painter - below is a portrait of Anton that he painted in his early-20s. But his talents took a back seat to his chronic alcoholism, which by 1886 had caused him to drop out of his studies in Moscow and sleep rough in the streets.
File:Chehov anton by nikolay chekhov.jpg
Chekhov, concerned for his brother's well-being, wrote him a lengthy letter intending to snap him out of his drunken stupor and set him back on the straight and narrow. In a discourse which is both firm and sympathetic, he lays out eight qualities that would constitute a "civilised man", to which his brother should aspire. Sadly, his words went unheeded: Nikolai succumbed to tuberculosis three years later - as would Anton himself in 1904. Chekhov used his brother's life as the basis for his 1889 novel A Dreary Story (which, as luck would have it, doesn't live up to its name).
You can read the full text of Chekhov's letter here. For more Chekhov, check out my review of The Holly and the Ivy, a Christmas film was several prominently Chekhovian elements.


Daniel

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