May 29, 2014

Rosamund Bartlett: Chekhov as a Modern

Rosamund Bartlett: Chekhov as a Modern

Speaking of the Russian playwright and short-story master, Rosamund Bartlett is a Chekhovian to the core, a translator of his stories and biographer of his life. We talked about what Chekhov’s biography explains about him: the perfect esteem among his countrymen, specially writers; his generosity and decency as a person; his interest in truth beyond ideas, which he didn’t entirely trust. Ms. Bartlett said his “extraordinary compassion and insight into human behavior” – a lot of it – came from his training as a physician, which none of the other authors had. She described Chekhov as the most contemporary of the great Russian writers, “a Modernist with a capital M.”

“I’ve just come to the end of translating Anna Karenina and writing a biographer of Tolstoy. My relationship with Tolstoy has been very different than with Chekhov. My relationship with Tolstoy has been quite tough; I’ve been fighting with him, battling with him. He’s a very hard character, and there’s no room for me in the relationship. Whereas with Chekhov, even though he’s dead and I’m not engaging with a living person, it’s always a playful relationship, and I’m always discovering new things about him. I’m always reading him in a different way… his incredible compassion, tenderness, and understanding of ordinary people.”

Rosamund Bartlett in conversation with Christopher Lydon

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