Am I serious about returning to Chekhov's Three Sisters?

I thought about publishing my adaptation POD.

I could be done long time ago.

And suddenly!

I have to say -- saddenly -- to make it as a story.

Unexpectedly, from nowhere ...

... well, read the 2007 pages.

Alas, let me write them first!


Director's Blog : my theatre notes; finally, I got my own theatre diary...

2008-2009 :

Chekhov Pages : I rather not to see this page and not to remember that year...

2004 Shows

2005 -- Oedipus + "Four Jokes + One Funeral" (mini-chekhov)
[ see 2004: web plans. ]

The Possessed Directory (Devils) and Rashamon by Kurosawa (Spring 2004?)...

Summer 2003: I am making pages for the next year to force myself to see my present from the future!

Oh, I know my 2005, at least, I have plans...

ShowCases: Director's Book
Well, I have to write this play "Goodbye, Goodbye" (Chekhov's death -- one-act); I can't just use his and her letters! A composition, I thought, but I have no will to resist...
Small Chekhov page, bits and pieces are everywhere...

Chekhov: Farces & Love Letters -- Fall 2005 HE -- "Dear Writer" and SHE -- "Dear Actress"... But Chekhov left no children. Did he love anybody? He was dying for many years. The very last words -- "I'm dying." No God.

Dreams, nightmares into death ...

His characters speak (voices -- Tostoy, Gorky about Chekhov).

Olga writes letters for two months after his death:

[ remember, the big last plays he wrote after their marriage! ]

He talks about this stupid play about the Artic' love story, when they will go to Yalta next year. She cries, he can't see anymore.

HE: Are you here?

SHE: Here, here (grabs his hand again).

HE: Good, keep writing, please. Did you write about the fat policeman on the fat white horse?

SHE: A policeman?

HE: Yes, at the station in Moscow, very hot -- and both, he and the horse are sweating... I want a drink. Lets have some champagne together. Now I can... You know that I like champagne.

SHE: Yes, yes, I have a bottle... (cries)

HE: Is it night now?

SHE: Yes, it's dark already...

HE: Sorry, I don't let you sleep. I talk too much. Did you read the papers today? Any news? The war?

SHE: I don't know, my friend, the same, bad...

HE: Bad. Yes. What is it? (moves his hand)

SHE: I don't see anything... Here is your champagne (gives him a glass).

HE: A batterfly? I feel it, like a touch by angel...

How did he die? Of heart failure, at about 3am on July 15, 1904, in a first-floor bedroom of the Sommer Hotel in Badenweiler, south Germany. His wife, Olga Knipper, a star of the Moscow Arts Theatre, was with him and a German doctor named Schwoerer was in attendance. *

"He awoke in the early hours of the night," she wrote, "and for the first time in his life himself requested that the doctor be sent for." She asked a Russian student who was staying in the hotel to run for Dr Schwoerer. "The doctor arrived and ordered champagne. Anton Pavlovich sat up and loudly informed the doctor in German (he spoke very little German): `Ich sterbe [I'm dying]ˇ­'

"He then took a glass, turned his face towards me, smiled his amazing smile and said: `It's a long time since I drank champagneˇ­', calmly drained his glass, lay down quietly on his left side, and shortly afterwards fell silent forever."

"... At the same time, Olga Knipper's account of the events of July 15 has never quite convinced me. I have often puzzled over this. I think the answer is that her picture of her dying husband has a theatrical quality about it. There is nothing in her account of death's ugliness or agony, although there are - to use that overused word - Chekhovian details. In the immediate "dreadful silence" of Chekhov's dying, she mentions "a huge black moth which burst into the room like a whirlwind, beat tormentedly against the burning electric lamps and flew confusedly around the room". This detail seems on the surface so apt, but I distrust it. It seems too Chekhovian, and Chekhov would never have prettified the scene of his own death."


"Now it turns out that there was one. At least, there was another witness: the young Russian student whom Olga asked to fetch Dr Schwoerer, and who returned to the Chekhovs' hotel room, bringing the oxygen Schwoerer had asked for. He remained in the room almost throughout the succeeding events. His name was Leo (or Lev) Rabeneck. His version of events was published in the Russian ¨¦migr¨¦ journal Vozrozhdeniye in Paris in 1958 and has never appeared in English, apart from a dozen lines quoted in Reading Chekhov." Julian Evans:

Leo often visited Chekhov. He found him optimistic about his health and making plans to return to Russia, but rapidly his restlessness began to show. On June 29, he was writing to his sister Masha: "I just can't get used to German silence and calmˇ­ I've got a tremendous longing to go to Italy." Then, unexpectedly, a heatwave struck southern Europe - the worst weather for a man suffering from advanced tuberculosis. On July 12, Chekhov had the first of two heart attacks but still appeared to rally, then on the evening of July 14 events began to move rapidly.

By Rabeneck's account, he and his brother had been sleeping soundly after a long walk in the hills when he heard Olga calling him. He dressed and ran to the other end of Badenweiler to fetch Dr Schwoerer. On his return to the room Chekhov "was breathing with difficulty, and the doctor began to give him the oxygen". After a few minutes Dr Schwoerer whispered to Rabeneck to go downstairs to the hall porter and get a bottle of champagne and a glass. As medical etiquette dictated when all hope was gone, one doctor offered champagne to the other. Dr Schwoerer poured out an almost full glass, andˇ­ Chekhov took the glass of champagne with pleasure and, with his own particular and attractive smile, said: "I haven't drunk champagne in a long time!" He drained the glass in one valiant gulp. The doctor took the empty glass from him and gave it to meˇ­ At that very moment, as I was putting the glass on the table, a strange sound seemed to come from Chekhov's throat, something rather like the noise a water-tap makes when air gets into it, and there was a gurgling sound.

Rabeneck had no idea that Chekhov had died until the doctor let the writer's hand fall and asked him to tell Frau Chekhov it was all over.

I controlled my emotion with difficulty, and said to her in a low voice: "Olga Leonardovna, my dear, the doctor says that Anton Pavlovich has passed away."

For the first minute, poor Olga Chekhova seemed to be turned to stone, so terrible and unexpected was the blow. Then, in a sort of frenzy, she threw herself at the doctor and, seizing him by the lapels of his coat, she started to shake him, repeating through her tears: "Doktor, es ist nicht wahr, Doktor, sagen Sie es ist nicht wahr. [It's not true, doctor, say it's not true!]"

Olga's own account understandably omits her breakdown. But she describes grieving alone with her husband's body till dawn, and two dramatic interruptions - the big black moth, and the champagne cork flying out of the bottle "with a terrifying bang". Leo mentions neither moth nor champagne cork - as of course he wouldn't if Olga were alone.

His account, however, clearly says that she was not. Dr Schwoerer, he wrote, asked him to stay with Olga, so he carried two armchairs on to the balcony and persuaded her to sit with him. They sat out in the mild night, occasionally exchanging a few words about Chekhov, until dawn came, and early morning, and Dr Schwoerer returned.

Rabeneck's account of staying with Olga, and of the painful process of Chekhov's dying, has the circumstantial feel of truth. His version also conveys death's dull immobility. The body was not laid out properly and, in the morning, despite Schwoerer and Rabeneck's efforts at straightening it, "[we] did not quite succeed, as the dead man's head still remained slightly turned towards the side".

A wonderfully mundane moment followed the next night, when the body was removed to the local chapel under cover of darkness, so as not to upset the other guests. Instead of a stretcher, a laundry basket was brought, Rabeneck wrote, "but, to our astonishment, the basket was not, in spite of its length, long enough for the body to lie flat, and Chekhov had to be put in it in a half-sitting positionˇ­ I walked behind the men carrying the body. Light and shade from the burning torches flickered and leaped over the dead man's face, and at times it seemed to me as if Chekhov was scarcely perceptibly smiling at the fact that, by decreeing that his body should be carried in a laundry basket, Fate had linked him with humour even in death."

... There is an unfinished Chekhov story, "Poor Compensation", in which Bondaryov, a stickler for order, is dying very slowly (like Chekhov), and the unspoken emotion among his family, particularly his wife who is desperate to escape to her lover, is a wish that he would just hurry up and get on with it. He also rehearsed his death in two published stories, "The Black Monk" and "The Bishop".

In the second of these, a bishop who has contracted typhus dies peacefully, without protest. In both, the characters experience visions as they die. Chekhov believed that everyone who dies sees something that they cannot tell. We cannot know what he saw. To that extent, every report of his death will always be invented and incomplete.

2007 : 3sis2.0 Project


CyberChekhov: Realism & Method
chekhov.us & teatr.us
Next: filmplus.org
After he returned to Yalta in early 1901, Olga increasingly pressured Chekhov to marry her. She did not want to spend time with him and his family in Yalta, living in his house and secretly joining him in his room at night. In May, Chekhov reluctantly agreed to matrimony and joined Olga in Moscow to exchange vows. His sister, Mariya, was bitterly hurt, even "nauseated," by the event, but while her year-old relationship with Olga was temporarily strained, the two ultimately resumed a friendship that endured for many years after Chekhov's death. Contemporary accounts suggest that the marriage itself was something less than blissful. I. N. Altshuller, Chekhov's Yalta doctor, felt the liaison was a disaster for Chekhov's health. Chekhov's friend, the writer I. A. Bunin, was even more negative, seeing Olga's theatrical milieu as alien and threatening to her husband's peace of mind. Chekhov spent most of his time in the south while Olga performed with the Art Theater in Moscow or on tour, so the two lived as much apart as together. Olga would often write Chekhov from Moscow, describing wild cast parties and the amorous advances of fellow actors, apparently in order to excite jealousy in her rather passive husband. Chekhov, on his part, would frequently excuse himself from joining her in Moscow or, when with her, contrive reasons to take brief journeys away from her.



During the summer of 1901, in Yalta, Chekhov began coughing up blood once more, and his declining health prompted him to make his will. When he went to Moscow in September, he immersed himself in more rehearsals of The Three Sisters for the new season, personally producing Act III. On September 21 he saw it performed, and for perhaps the first time in his life felt perfectly satisfied with the interpretation of one of his plays. He was applauded in two curtain calls after Act III.

The following winter Chekhov's health worsened, but he continued to write, sending "Arkhiyerey" ("The Bishop") to"Zhurnal dlya vsekh" ("Journal for Everyone") in February of 1902. Also that month Olga visited Chekhov in Yalta. In March she had a miscarriage, and for the next four months her health fluctuated drastically. By July she had recovered sufficiently to allow a six-week holiday for her and Chekhov at Stanislavsky's family estate, Lyubimovka. These were perhaps the happiest few weeks of the Chekhovs' married life: they enjoyed abundant food, drink, relaxation, good company, and, most important, good fishing. But Chekhov left Lyubimovka in mid-August without providing his wife with a sufficient explanation for his departure, and afterward he and Olga quarreled by letter for a month.

In August, too, Chekhov, along with his friend and fellow academician, Vladimir Korolenko, resigned from the Academy of Sciences in protest over the expulsion of Maksim Gorky, who had been elected the previous February. Czar Nicolas II, discovering that Gorky had a police record and was under surveillance in connection with recent student unrest, had expressed his "profound chagrin" at the younger writer's appointment. Chekhov's resignation had little effect on the Academy, but did much to bolster Chekhov's reputation with the liberal intelligentsia. Back in Yalta over the winter, separated from Olga for five months, Chekhov worked on his last story, "Nevesta" ("A Marriageable Girl," 1903), and set about writing the first draft of The Cherry Orchard, which he had been pondering for two years. He finished it in October, 1902, and sent it to Moscow for rehearsal.

By this time Chekhov's health had seriously worsened. He was irritable and impatient with everyone and became furious at Stanislavsky's and Nemirovich-Danchenko's misinterpretations of his new play. Unwilling to leave the play's production in their hands, he journeyed to Moscow against the advice of Dr. Altshuller and threw himself into preparations and rehearsals for The Cherry Orchard, revising and editing as he went along. It was obvious that he and Stanislavsky were working at cross- purposes once again. Chekhov had conceived the play as a comedy, a "farce," while Stanislavsky kept encumbering the staging with ponderous tragic nuance.

Indeed, The Cherry Orchard represents the perfect embodiment of that exquisite balance of tragedy and farce with which Chekhov so skillfully imbued his mature plays. This portrait of the economic exploitation of the Ranevskaya family--doomed devotees of a humane and life-loving tradition--by the middle-class vulgarian Lopakhin conveys the major themes of Chekhov's career placed in unresolvable but organic tension: the intrinsic value of opening oneself up to the beauty of the world and the love of others, and the foolishness of such openness in the face of the inevitable destruction of beauty and love. When it premiered on January 17, 1904, as part of a "Jubilee Celebration" of its author's twenty-five years as a writer,The Cherry Orchard was an immediate success. Later, back in Yalta, Chekhov was pleased by news of the play's successful opening in St. Petersburg on April 2, even though he remained convinced that the company did not really understand the play.

In May, quite near death, Chekhov left Russia on his doctor's orders for a spa at Badenweiler, Germany, taking Olga with him. Through most of June his health seemed to improve, but on June 29 he suffered a heart attack. He recovered, only to suffer another attack the next day. In the early morning hours of July 2, 1904, he awoke choking and delirious but had enough presence of mind to send for a doctor. While awaiting the physician Olga prepared some crushed ice to place on her husband's chest, but Chekhov protested, "You don't put ice on an empty heart." When the doctor arrived, Chekhov revealed, "Ich sterbe" ("I am dying"). Taking a sip of champagne, which at that time was considered salutary for heart victims, he remarked that he hadn't drunk champagne for ages, then turned on his side and closed his eyes. Moments later he was dead. In an ironic twist that he might have appreciated, Chekhov's body, sent back to Russia in a refrigerator car, was enclosed in a box marked "oysters."

... "Errand" originally appeared in The New Yorker in June 1987. It is the last story Raymond Carver wrote and is included in his collection of short stories Where I'm Calling From, published just a few months before Carver died in 1988. It was also included in The Best American Stories, 1988 and received first prize in Prize Stories 1988: The O. Henry Awards. A partly fictionalized account of Russian writer Anton Chekhov's death, "Errand" is unlike any other Carver story. Carver claimed that he was inspired to write the story while reading Henri Troyat' s biography of Chekhov, one of Carver' s literary idols. The narrative voice of "Errand" is that of a historian, appropriate for a historical story but unusual for Carver in that he seldom wrote explicitly about famous people or mixed fact and fiction in such an obvious manner. Carver details Chekhov's descent into illness and his eventual death in the Black Forest town of Badenweiler, Germany in 1904. With Chekhov in bed dying, his wife, Olga Knipper, sends a Russian bellboy on an errand to secure a mortician, hence the story's title.

Carver draws on a number of historical sources including Chekhov's own writing, Chekhov's sister Maria Chekhov's Memoirs, Leo Tolstoy's journals, and Troyat's biography. Through writing an imaginative account of a well-known person's death, Carver provokes readers to think about the relationship between literature and history and to imagine how they would respond to another person's death. Critics consider "Errand" to be one of Carver's best stories and one that will stand the test of time.

As always though, Chekhov's final moments were a careful balance between the tragic and the banal. Stanislavsky is recorded saying that Chekhov appeared as a "living corpse" at the staging of his last work in Moscow in January of 1904. He was suffering from "irreversible necrosis" of the lungs and was quickly deteriorating. In a desperate attempt to save her husband, Knipper took Chekhov to the Badenweiler health resort in Germany on June 26, 1904 with the hopes that it might restore his failing lungs. But being a physician himself, Chekhov knew all too well of his pending death and appeared fairly resigned to his fate. Early on the morning of July 14, 1904, in accordance with medical protocol of the day (which demanded a German physician offer champagne to a colleague when all hope was gone), Chekhov sat up in bed and said to his wife:

"I am dying. I haven't had champagne for a long time."

Chekhov lay down on his left side and died.

The tragi-comic banality of even his greatest characters cannot rival Chekhov's return to Russia. His corpse was shipped back in a green refrigerated rail car, titled:

"For the Conveyance of Oysters."