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Letters of Anton Chekhov to his family and friends by Anton Chekhov -- With a Biographical Sketch, Translated by Constance Garnett * eBooks@Adelaide 2004
Chekhov Letters : "Moreover, it is not only what is written in the letters, but what is not. A key example surrounds Olga's pregnancy and miscarriage in February 1902. In his recent scholarly biography, Donald Rayfield offers evidence that conception may not have occurred when they were together. The correspondence supports this speculation. Why did she make an impulsive visit to Yalta in February? Why did she not mention the pregnancy in her letters? Once hospitalised, why did she not telegram him? Why write instead, knowing the letters would be delayed by an unreliable postal system? Chekhov never mentions the miscarriage in subsequent correspondence. Why?"


"Ultimately, the secrets of Anton and Olga's marriage are known to no one. The questions go unanswered, like the one in his penultimate letter: "You ask, 'What is life?'" he wrote. "That is like asking, 'What is a carrot?' A carrot is a carrot, and nothing more is known about it." What kind of marriage did they really have? Does it matter? After all, does anybody really know about the inner workings of a marriage, anybody else's, let alone one's own?"
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"The legacy of their marriage may not have been a child, but they did leave a correspondence: a literary treasure, and a tender, touching portrait of a loving marriage in the theatre, with all the joys and imperfections and unfathomable truths inherent in both. "An idea for a short story", as one of the characters says in The Seagull. Or an idea for a play."
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Carol Rocamora's play Ta Main Dans la Mienne (Your Hand in Mine), based on the correspondence between Chekhov and Olga Knipper, is at the Barbican, London EC2, from January 26 until February 12. Box office: 0845 120 7500

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Finale, Act IV, 3 Sisters

2005: "Small Chekhov" Chekhov05
[The three sisters stand with their arms round one another.]

MASHA. Oh, listen to that music! They're going away from us; one has gone altogether, gone forever. We're left alone to begin our life over again... We've got to live... we've got to live...

IRINA [lays her head on OLGA'S bosom]. A time will come when everyone will know what all this is for, why there is this misery; there will be no mysteries and, meanwhile, we have got to live . . . we have got to work, only to work! Tomorrow I'll go alone; I'll teach in the school, and I'll give all my life to those who may need me. Now it's autumn; soon winter will come and cover us with snow, and I will work, I will work.

OLGA [embraces both her sisters]. The music is so happy, so confident, and you long for life! O my God! Time will pass, and we shall go away for ever, and we shall be forgotten, our faces will be forgotten, our voices, and how many there were of us; but our sufferings will pass into joy for those who will live after us, happiness and peace will be established upon earth, and they will remember kindly and bless those who have lived before. Oh, dear sisters, our life is not ended yet. We shall live! The music is so happy, so joyful, and it seems as though in a little while we shall know what we are living for, why we are suffering.... If we only knew -- if we only knew!

[The music grows more and more subdued; KULYGIN, cheerful and smiling, brings the hat and cape; ANDREY pushes the baby carriage.]

DOCTOR [humming softly]. "Tarara-boom-dee-ay!" [Reads his paper.] It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter.

OLGA. If we only knew, if we only knew!

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