Reading Chekhov VII: “A Medical Case”


We’re reading Chekhov in my living room again, with actors and friends, sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and olives. Chekhov is the world standard of short story writing, the best model there is of the doctor-writer, a tradition that goes back a long way to the gospel writer, Luke, who is supposed to have been a doctor, and of course it includes Walker Percy and William Carlos Williams. I met an Egyptian writer, Alaa Al Aswany, author of an important book , The Yacoubian Building, and as I was sitting in his dentist chair,  I asked him about doctors writing novels. He said, “it’s one profession, novelists and doctors. They’re both interested in understanding human pain.” In this story,”A Medical Case,” imagine young Dr. Chekhov visiting an industrial town toward the end of the 19th Century. Might it not have have been one of the seats of the industrial revolution in America — in one of the famous textiles towns like Lowell and Lawrence in our home state of Massachusetts?

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