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Forty Stories
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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian playwright and short story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. His career as a playwright produced four classics, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, Chekhov is often referred to as one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theater. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife," he once said, "and literature is my mistress."Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text."Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. Anton Chekhov was the author of hundreds of short stories and several plays and is regarded by many as both the greatest Russian storyteller and the father of modern drama. Robert Payne (1911-1983) was a writer known for his novels, poems, and articles. Payne specialized in biography and history. After working and studying abroad Asia, he moved to the United States, where he became a professor of English literature. He spent the rest of his life in New York. A prolific biographic, Payne wrote some of the essential texts on Hitler, Stalin, Marx, Mao Zedong, Lenin, and Gandhi.

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I long to embrace, to include in my own short life, all that is accessible to man. I long to speak, to read, to wield a hammer in a great factory, to keep watch at sea, to plow. I want to be walking along the Nevsky Prospect, or in the open fields, or on the ocean -- wherever my imagination ranges."

-- Anton Chekhov If any one writer can be said to have invented the modem short story, it is Anton Chekhov. It is not just that Chekhov democratized this art form; more than that, he changed the thrust of short fiction from relating to revealing. And what marvelous and unbearable things are revealed in these Forty Stories. The abashed happiness of a woman in the presence of the husband who abandoned her years before. The obsequious terror of the official who accidentally sneezes on a general. The poignant astonishment of an aging Don Juan overtaken by love. Spanning the entirety of Chekhov's career and including such masterpieces as "Surgery," "The Huntsman," "Anyuta," "Sleepy-head," "The Lady With the Pet Dog," and "The Bishop," this collection manages to be amusing, dazzling, and supremely moving -- often within a single page. Vintage Classic are-quality paperback editions of the world's greatest written works. They are durably bound and are printed exclusively on acid-free paper.

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