On Chekhov and “The Duel”


20 April 2010

There’s a new film that will premiere at Film Forum in NYC next week — THE DUEL, based on the eponymous novella by Chekhov.   It’s one of my favorites (the novella, that is) — although, with Chekhov, it’s hard to say what’s a favorite, because everything he’s written just seems miraculous to me.

I’ll attempt to write more about why Chekhov inspires me — as a writer, and as a flawed and ridiculous human being — in a piece for The Millions.  For the moment, I’m chewing on the film, which I just saw (sneaky preview).

Something about the film makes me ever more appreciative of the humor in Chekhov’s stories, and also has me considering how The Literary Absurd works.

Chekhov’s talent strikes me as being of a piece with his humanity, i.e. he doesn’t “do” what he does in his stories, but rather he somehow “is” this intelligent, compassionate, incisive, bathetic, hilarious view of humankind.  John Gardner writes about how bad writing is born of  bad character; and someone else recently said, “What’s wrong with your story is what’s wrong with you.”  Ouch.

More soon.  Read the novella, go see the film (opens April 28) if you can; then let’s talk about it.


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