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Stories of Women (Literary Classics)

By Anton Chekhov
Book Details
  • Author: Anton Chekhov
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Prometheus
  • Published: 1994-07-01
Stories of Women, a new translation by Paula P. Ross, contains examples of Chekhov's finest work written between 1882 and 1903, including twelve early stories that appear in English here for the first time. This collection focuses on the plight of women - privileged and peasant - and shows Chekhov's eloquent compassion for their unenviable social position.
Anton Chekhov's inspiration for these extraordinarily intense yet delicate vignettes was drawn from the teeming world of nineteenth-century Russia, a time in which women were considered little more than the possessions of their male masters. Consigned to second-class status by a male-dominated society, women literally had nothing to call their own.
The evolution of women's awareness in Russia began primarily with the emancipation of the serfs by Alexander II in 1861 and the granting of permission for women to attend university lectures. Before this important change in social policy, a woman's education was limited to practical domestic duties for the less well off, or finishing schools for those of the gentry. At this time women of means began to travel abroad to schools where they were introduced to liberal ideas. Upon their return to Russia, these women began to participate in protests, which led to a reactionary movement in the 1880s and the closing of university doors to women until 1897.
Education did become a means to achieve independence, but the traditional employment of educated women remained limited: they were typists, sales clerks, librarians, elementary school teachers, governesses, and the like. Peasant women labored in the homes, fields, and factories. But women of character and breeding found ways of overcoming their second-class status.
The particular stories of Chekhov that Ms. Ross has selected and carefully translated describe Russian women in all their complexity. Weak or strong, simple or complex, ignorant or intelligent, cruel or generous, vindictive or cowardly, dominating or self-effacing, the women in these deeply moving, and sometimes humorous, tales determine their own actions and attitudes - carving out their own sense of identity and self-worth - under circumstances that are not of their own making. The powerful influence of custom, prejudice, tradition, blinding ignorance, and overwhelming dependence shapes the decision of each woman and speaks to the soul of contemporary women as well. The lack of appreciation Russian men showed for their women as nurturers, burdenbearers, and lovers, and the poor communication between spouses precipitated a despair and defeatism that speaks to the plight of the modern Western woman.
Stories of Women will intrigue aficionados of Russian literature (who will find that Ross's "literal" translation retains the flavor of the original) and those who are new to Chekhov's work. But it cannot fail to capture the interest of all who are concerned about the cause of women.

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