Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (January 29, 1860 – July 15, 1904) was a Russian physician and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history.
His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: “Medicine is my lawful wife”, he once said, “and literature is my mistress.”
Chekhov renounced the theater after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski’s Moscow Art Theater, which subsequently also produced Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a “theater of mood” and a “submerged life in the text.”
Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.