December 13, 2011

"You know, I hate your plays. Shakespeare was a bad writer, and I consider your plays even worse than his."

Whispered into the ear of Anton Chekhov, who had bent over in response to a request from the ailing Tolstoy: "Kiss me goodbye."

33 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Whew! This means it doesn't matter who really wrote Shakespeare anymore. If it was no good, then we can let that commoner actor named Will from Avon take the blame.

The need to attribute the writing to a nobleman only arises if it was a true genius that wrote the best literature in the history of the world.

Tim said...

Some people embrace happy memories of their lives toward the end, if only to validate for themselves a happy life; others do not. Tolstoy was (by reports) uncommonly bitter toward his end. I forget why - I think his failed marriage was part of it. I wonder what Tolstoy thought of Pushkin?

traditionalguy said...

I meant to say Will from Stratford on the Avon River far from London society.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.

"No novelists any good except me. Sovietski-- yah! Nastikoff-- bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."

--P.G. Wodehouse, "The Clicking of Cuthbert"

Jose_K said...

Warden Number 6. One of the many reason , Chejov is the greatest writter ever of short stories.
traditionalguy is right. That has been always my theory. The british social prejudice is the only reason for the mistery about Shakespeare. They cant stand a commoner being the more important writter of their language.

Jose_K said...

There are complete books about the hate that great writters feel about others.


Mark Twain about the literary offenses by Fennimore Coopper for example

And I prefer Dostoiewski. Memories from the underground

Bob Ellison said...

What a coincidence! Spitzdorf told Plupkin upon the latter's discovery of the futility of philosophy, "Your work will never be remembered. But thanks for the strudel."

Kensington said...

Tolstoy: jerk? Who knew?

And I speak as someone who loves both most of Shakespeare's plays and all of Chekhov's.

Irene said...

My Great-Grandfather knew Tolstoy, and Chekov was no Tolstoy.

Meade said...

LOL. Irene, your comment would make me laugh even if it were not true.

Irene said...

*winks*

Old Dad said...

Blogs are good at sarcasm. This one is good at irony. So was Tolstoy.

rcocean said...

Tolstoy was just envious. He was stuck in the engine room with Shakespeare & Scotty, instead of sitting next to Sulu and Uhura.

David said...

Sounds like a compliment to me.

Maybe Shakespeare did not translate well to Russian.

Henry said...

I imagine Chekhov took it as a compliment.

(Which is what I said upstream, but with a misspelling. Nuts.)

chuck said...

Tolstoy hated Shakespeare's lack of "realism" and made an example of King Lear. Orwell wrote a great little essay on this, pointing out the curious resemblance between Tolstoy's last days and Lear's.

Shaw was another who thought Shakespeare's plays shoddy. And by Shavian standards, perhaps they were poorly constructed and unrealistic. On the other hand, someone who found Richard II difficult to take seriously was likely to have a morals inadequate to 20'th century barbarism, and so it proved with Shaw.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

War and Peace is a goddamned soap opera from beginning to end. I read it in high school, and I just didn't get why it had such a lofty reputation. At the time I figured it was my fault, that I was callow and that I was missing the Great Truth, but as the years have rolled by I have come to realize that all it is is a goddamned soap opera. Give me Chekhov any day.

Valentine Smith said...

I hate the Russians. Fucking drama queens.

edutcher said...

Anton's cousin, Pavel, got all the girls.

Especially the blue-skinned ones.

rcocean said...

I have to agree with Tolstoy that most of Shakespeare's plots are absurd and his characters unrealistic.

Lets see: A Danish King is killed by his brother, who then marries his wife. Appearing as a Ghost the dead King gets his son to avenge him. After a suicide and a couple murders, the King, Queen, Dead Kings son, and a couple others poison and kill each other. The end.

rcocean said...

Guess the Chekhov:

-You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.

-What's the difference? You've seen one national park, you've seen them all.

Carnifex said...

Russian writing is like German opera, loud, uninteresting, and long.

As far as Shakespeare's plots being inane, there's never been a case of incest, regicide, oedipal relations, and just down right skullduggery in the history of European royalty?

Call me parochial, and truthfully I probably am, I'll stick with American writers, with some English writers thrown in now and then.

Being a red-blooded American, I appreciate the noirness of detective fictions. ( I made that word up :-))

Also military histories, naval histories, and hard science fiction.(not the unicorns stuff).


McMurtrey's Lonesome Dove series is great by the way. Better than the movies of course.

Nelson DeMille, and Larry Niven are great also.

As far as "Woe is me, my life sucks" literature. Hell I live in real life, why would I subject myself to more misery.

William said...

It sounds better in Ebonics. "Shakespeare be bad. But you be the all time baddest dude."

William said...
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William said...
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chuck said...

@rcocean

So true. Yet I've always keeled over from boredom a few pages into any work by Tolstoy. I prefer melodramatic pulp fiction myself, Dostoevsky is my man.

rcocean said...

@Chuck

I like both, but have a hard time keeping the Russian names straight, even after all these years and re-reads.

Beta Rube said...

I wonder if J and Carol Herman will share a similar moment at the end.

Jeff Hall said...

Paul Zrimsek said...

Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.

"No novelists any good except me. Sovietski-- yah! Nastikoff-- bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."

--P.G. Wodehouse, "The Clicking of Cuthbert"


"It's just the kind of book I like. It's gay. It's amusing. It's riskay, but not too riskay. Reminded me a little of Evelyn Waugh. And it's about human beings like you meet on the train every morning coming in from Great Neck and not a bunch of blasted sharecroppers getting all persecuted down in Alabama or somewhere. If you knew ... how many novels about persecuted sharecroppers I have to read every year, you'd shudder."

"They crop up, these croppers?"

"You can't stop 'em. And if it isn't sharecroppers, it's crippled children."

--P.G. Wodehouse, "French Leave"

Ralph L said...

Tolstoy was (by reports) uncommonly bitter toward his end
Everyone is. This is why zombies aim for the head.

Jim in St Louis said...

At the finale of a Shakespeare's tragedy, all conflicts are resolved, every evil deed is punished, every moral question is answered and everyone is dead. Because to the Bard that is the ultimate destiny- the grave, and if death takes us unjustly it will also take the unjust who put us there.

At the finale of a Chekhov tragedy, all conflicts remain unsolved, the characters settle for walking out their days with the situations as they are- sometimes with despair, and unhappiness, or bitterness, or maybe with hope, even if we know it to be false or foolish hope. But everyone is alive.

And that is why I always leave a Chekhov play with a optimism that grows on me from the curtain call till days later. Life affirming means that Life is Affirmed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDbESHU4MBg

Salamandyr said...

Jim, that was great. I'm stealing that.

Jose_K said...

Shakespeare's plots are absurd and his characters unrealistic. There are no such thing. Every plot was taken from other author. Hamlet from Gesta Danorum, end of third book beginning of fourth. Caesar copied from Plutarcus.
At the finale of a Chekhov tragedy, ...like the Sopranos
BTW: Chejov best work are his short histories