Sunday, November 02, 2008

Quirky Chekhov

For the record, just to show how busy I am (and how occupied with the election campaign): Yesterday, I discovered that my Arche Literaturkalender (kudos to my sister for donating next year's edition every christmas) still displayed the week from July 7th to July 13th! I tried to catch up and ran into some remarkable quotes. The week from July 14th to July 20th featured Anton Chekhov. What a quirky guy:

Ich habe Dir aus dem Ausland sehr schönes Parfum mitgebracht. Komm doch in der Karwoche und hol es Dir ab. Komm unbedingt, Liebste, Gute, Herrliche (...) Es macht nichts, daß Du in einen anderen verliebt bist und mich schon betrogen hast, ich verzeihe Dir, nur komm bitte. (Anton Cechov an Olga Knipper, Jalta, 7. März 1901).

The Wikipedia article refers to "Chekhov in Love" by Misha Aster which contains the following money quotes:

Chekhov on Sex
"Sex plays a great role in the world, but not everything depends on it, and not everywhere is it of decisive importance."
Oh well, perhaps that held true for russia in the 19th century. As for modern times, sex is of decisive importance.

Chekhov on Marriage
"I am not capable of such a complex, involved business as marriage."
Chekhov on the Perfect Wife
"[G]ive me a wife who, like the moon, does not always appear in my sky every day."
On 25 May 1901 Chekhov married Olga Knipper. Their long distance relationship resulted in a 1,300 pages correspondence. (1,300 that's approx. 25,000 twitters or 22,000 SMS, respectively. An impressive record for a relationsship of roundabout 2,000 days.)

Chekhov's death strikes me as a good example on how to die with grace. In 1908, Olga wrote this account of her husband’s last moments:
"Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe. The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: "It's a long time since I drank champagne." He drained it, lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child..."

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