Monday, 7 July 2014

Dear writer, dear actress, Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper

Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper met in 1899, became lovers in the Summer of 1900 and got married in the Summer of 1901.

She was an actress who lived in Moscow for most of the year and he lived in Yalta due to his health. Often months went by without seeing each other, because he was not fit to travel and she had contracts in the theatre and could not get enough free time to undertake the long journey to Yalta.

During these long periods when they were apart, they wrote letters. Jean Benedetti selected and edited these, and translated them from Russian to English.

In her letters Olga worried about his health, Anton Chekhov wanted to know how things were in Moscow. Often their letters just crossed and sometimes some got lost for a while, making the other one worry about what would cause the delay.
They did try to meet up, but often these plans came to nothing, because Chekhov became ill, or Olga had a contract for a new part in a play.
Communication was often difficult under these circumstances, as becomes painfully clear when Olga has a miscarriage in Moscow and Chekhov is unable to come to her.

When his health got worse, her quilt over not being with him grew. She wanted to be with her husband, but also wanted to be an actress. Chekhov tell her not to worry

My darling, you write that you have pangs of conscience because you are living in Moscow and not here with me in Yalta. But think about it: if you spent the whole of the winter in Yalta with me, your life would be ruined, I would feel bad about it, and things would be no better. I knew I was marrying an actress, I mean, I knew perfectly well when we got married that you would spend your winters in Moscow. I don’t feel in the least hurt or neglected.

Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper
In 1904 Anton Chekhov would die. Olga Knipper became very popular with the new regime after the Russian Revolution and they never bothered her.
Fifty-five years after Chekhov Olga also died. She never remarried.

Dear writer, dear actress is a beautiful book to read, because the letters were never meant to be published. It gives you a glimpse of the private lives of two people who loved each other, but could not be together due to the circumstances.

A must for every Chekhov-fan.

Full title: Dear writer, dear actress, The love letters of Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper
Selected, edited and translated from Russian into English by Jean Benedetti
Published in 1996

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