On the Sources of Chekhov’s Journey to Sakhalin

Ruslan Akhmetshin

Abstract


Chekhov’s awareness of Sakhalin’s problems, as well as his “stylistic misunderstandings” with those writers who had touched upon this topic before, already existed before his 1890 trip. However, both this circumstance and his preparation for the trip have not been examined in detail. It is possible to understand the idea and the structure of Sakhalin Island with the analysis of the Bibliographical List that Chekhov compiled before the trip. The analysis of the list connects the writer’s life and his choice of artistic style. According to the author, the list is a unique bibliographical model in terms of biography and aesthetics. The chronological length it covers is much more significant than the short period of time the writer spent designing it. It enables the researcher to interpret Chekhov’s Sakhalin experience more deeply and can change the connections between the items of the list and the plot of Sakhalin Island. Having studied the Report on Russian Mental Hospitals by Dr Pavel Arkhangelsky (1887), Chekhov came up with the idea of performing a similar examination of Russian prisons. This book helps us to understand the nature of Sakhalin Island and the writer’s late prosaic works better. The works studied before the trip pushed the writer to develop a new style. The author suggests that the “negative” side of Chekhov’s style might be linked with the limitations of official documentation. It is argued that Chekhov is followed his predecessors (those who wrote about hard labour and Sakhalin) in many ways. However, the author argues that Chekhov dared to disagree with them, having rejected existing stylistic forms. Analysis of the versatile and complicated style of Sakhalin Island can lead to more fruitful results if one takes into account the Report.


Keywords


19th-century Russian literature; A. P. Chekhov; style; biography; source; Sakhalin Island; P. A. Arkhangelsky.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.4.190

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