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

Related Content


Thanks from all of us at Open Source for visiting our webpage. As part of our Kickstarter campaign, we're revisiting our favorite moments and themes from 2014. We're kicking off our year-in-review with Larry Lessig and Zephyr Teachout, two campaigners for political reform in the hostile climate of 2014. We've got our ear to the ground, though, looking for another Teddy Roosevelt moment in American politics.

Help us kick off year two - donate to our Kickstarter today.