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An NYRB Classics Original
The Prank is Chekhov’s own selection of the best of his early work, the first book he put together and the first book he hoped to publish. Assembled in 1882, with illustrations by Nikolay Chekhov, the book was then presented to the censor for approval—which was denied. Now, more than a hundred and thirty years later, The Prank appears here for the first time in any language.
At the start of his twenties, when he was still in medical school, Anton Chekhov was also busily setting himself up as a prolific and popular writer. Appearing in a wide range of periodicals, his shrewd, stinging, funny stories and sketches turned a mocking eye on the mating rituals and money-grubbing habits of the middle classes, the pretensions of aspiring artists and writers, bureaucratic corruption, drunken clowning, provincial ignorance, petty cruelty—on Russian life, in short. Chekhov was already developing his distinctive ear for spoken language, its opacities and evasions, the clichés we shelter behind and the clichés that betray us. The lively stories in The Prank feature both the themes and the characteristic tone that make Chekhov among the most influential and beloved of modern writers.
About the Author
Anton Chekhov (1860–1904), the son of a grocer and a former serf, worked as a physician and ran an open clinic for the poor, while also writing the plays and short stories that have established him as one of the greatest figures in Russian literature.
Maria Bloshteyn is a translator and scholar of Russian and American literature. She lives in Toronto.
Nikolay Chekhov (1858–1889), older brother of Anton, studied art at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. His drawings frequently accompanied his brother’s early published stories. Although considered the most promising of the three Chekhov brothers in his youth, Nikolay’s alcoholism and habit of sleeping in the streets precipitated his death from tuberculosis at the age of thirty one.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nothing that I have ever read before is so humorous and true to human life and nature as this set of short stories. Not only does Chekhov employ dry, witty humor in his works, but he presents them in original and intriguing ways: a letter, a scientific entry, a parody. What a riot of pure fun and civil disorderliness. A must read; Russian literature has never been so un-bleak and wintry.