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Laurel
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CHEKHOV 7. The Student

What a perfect little gem this turned out to be for a Sunday afternoon! Chekhov keeps surprising me.

 

This page has the Garnett translation with some good footnotes.

 

Here are Rebecca Reid's notes on the story.

 

And Jack Coulehan's notes.

 

Something to think about.

 

Ivan's epiphany reminds me of John Donne's "No Man Is an Island" sermon and of Ralph Vaughan Williams's processional hymn, "For all the Saints."

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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x-tempo
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Re: CHEKHOV 7. The Student

There are some obvious similarities to "Easter Eve": a nighttime traveler on the river during Holy Week, and a ferry crossing. However, where Easter Eve celebrates the storyteller (the recently-deceased monk Nikolay), The Student celebrates the story itself: the Biblical story of Peter's betrayal of Jesus.  

 

Reading Easter Eve, I can almost imagine the deceased monk to be a stand-in for all artists, even those who, like himself, toiled in obscurity and whose work may only be appreciated by a few. His art has a good effect on his friend Ieronim, causing him to see the face of his brother in the face of everyone.I have a harder time interpreting the message of The Student as anything but religious, because it's the Biblical story itself that serves to unify all who have heard it down through the centuries. I don't know, I just balk at the idea that poverty has always existed and always will, but the stories from the Bible unify everyone. Was Chekhov religious? 

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Laurel
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Re: CHEKHOV 7. The Student

I think he grew up in a good Orthodox family (if having a father who drank and beat you could be called good). Here's what he wrote to an editor:

 

"I am afraid of those who will look for tendenciousness between the lines and who are determined to see me either as a liberal or a conservative. I am neither a liberal nor a conservative, neither a gradualist nor a monk nor an indifferentist. I would like to be nothing more than a free artist, and I regret that God did not give me the gift to be one. I hate falseness and coercion in all their forms . . . . Pharisaism, stupidity and arbitrariness reign not merely in merchants' houses and police stations: I see them in science, in literature, among the young. That is why I have no particular passion for either policemen or butchers or scientists or writers or the young. I consider brand-names and labels a prejudice. My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom, freedom from force and falseness in whatever form they express themselves. That's the platform I'd subscribe to if I were a great artist." 

 


x-tempo wrote:

There are some obvious similarities to "Easter Eve": a nighttime traveler on the river during Holy Week, and a ferry crossing. However, where Easter Eve celebrates the storyteller (the recently-deceased monk Nikolay), The Student celebrates the story itself: the Biblical story of Peter's betrayal of Jesus.  

 

Reading Easter Eve, I can almost imagine the deceased monk to be a stand-in for all artists, even those who, like himself, toiled in obscurity and whose work may only be appreciated by a few. His art has a good effect on his friend Ieronim, causing him to see the face of his brother in the face of everyone.I have a harder time interpreting the message of The Student as anything but religious, because it's the Biblical story itself that serves to unify all who have heard it down through the centuries. I don't know, I just balk at the idea that poverty has always existed and always will, but the stories from the Bible unify everyone. Was Chekhov religious? 


 

 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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x-tempo
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Re: CHEKHOV 7. The Student

I know I'm wrong and I probably shouldn't have said that. I was thinking of Tolstoy, who felt that religion was not for people of his class, but because it meant so much to the peasants, he respected it. I must have read that in Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes, and it probably has to do with his conversion.

 

I borrowed a few volumes of Chekhov criticism from the library, but I haven't been able to read them. Here's a quote from one:

 

"Both Sherwood Anderson and James Joyce similarly focus on the significance of the aesthetic experience as being the means both for a religious participation with the "eternal" and a sympathetic participation with the other. For example, Joyce's "The Sisters" focuses on story and art as a religious/aesthetic experience which dominates the collection The Dubliners, and Anderson's "Death in the Woods" centers around "story" as the only means to know the other. "The Sisters," like both "Easter Eve" and "The Student," emphasizes the religious-like nature of the aesthetic experience which the old priest has communicated to the young boy while he was alive and which he embodies to him now in death. "Death in the Woods" is particularly like "The Student" in its emphasis on how story itself can reveal the mysterious nature of human communion."

 

So I guess it's the story itself, and not the religious nature of the story, that for Chekhov, contains the spirituality. The volume of criticism contains a long essay about Chekhov's "secular spirituality."