Sunday, 11 March 2007

Anton Chekhov: March 11, 1889

A letter to Alexei Suvorin.

. . . What do you know? I am writing a novel! I am keeping at it, but can't see the end in sight. I have begun doing it, i.e., the novel, all over again, revising and abridging considerably what had already been written. I have already clearly sketched in nine individuals. What a plot! I have called it "Tales from the Life of my Friends" and am writing it in the form of separate, complete stories, tightly held together by the common basis of plot, idea and characters. There is a special chapter for each story. Don't think that the novel will consist of odds and ends. No indeed. It will be a real novel, a complete whole, in which each person will be organically indepensable. . . .

I am having a hard time coping with technical problems. I am still weak in this quarter and have the feeling I am making loads of mistakes. There are going to be overlong passages, and inanities. Faithless wives, suicides, kulaks, virtuous peasant, devoted slaves, moralizing old ladies, kind old nurses, rustic wits, red-nosed captains and "new" people I shall endeavor to avoid, although in spots I do stray into conventional types . . . .

By the way, amongst your papers and magazines there was a quotation from some newspaper praising German housemaids for working all day long, like convict labor, and getting only two or three rubles a month pay for it. "New Times" endorses this praise and adds as its own commentary that one of our misfortunes is that we keep many unnecessary servants. In my opinion the Germans are scoundrels and bad political economists. In the first place one should not talk about servants in a tone implying they are criminals; in the second place, servants are worthy people and composed of the same flesh and blood as Bismarck; they are not slaves, but free workers; in the third place, the better labor is paid, the happier the country is, and each of us should strive to see that labor is paid better. Not to speak of the Christian point of view! As to unnecessary servants, they are kept only where there is plenty of money and are paid more than the heads of departments. They should not be taken into account, for they constitute an accidental phenomenon and not an organic one.

Why don't you come to Moscow? How well we would get along together!

A. Chekhov