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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBooks And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Tchehkoff
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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Tchehkoff Post by :JuicePlus Category :Nonfictions Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :855

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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Tchehkoff

(Sidenote:_18 Mar. '09_)

One of the most noteworthy of recent publications in the way of fiction is Anton Tchehkoff's "The Kiss and Other Stories," translated by Mr. R.E.C. Long and published by Duckworth (6s.). A similar volume, "The Black Monk" (same translator and publisher), was issued some years ago. Tchehkoff lived and made a tremendous name in Russia, and died, and England recked not. He has been translated into French, and I believe that there exists a complete edition of his works in German; but these two volumes are all that we have in English. The thanks of the lettered are due to Mr. Long and to his publisher. Tchehkoff's stories are really remarkable. If any one of authority stated that they rank him with the fixed stars of Russian fiction--Dostoievsky, Tourgeniev, Gogol, and Tolstoy--I should not be ready to contradict. To read them, after even the finest stories of de Maupassant or Murray Gilchrist, is like having a bath after a ball. Their effect is extraordinarily one of ingenuousness. Of course they are not in the least ingenuous, as a fact, but self-conscious and elaborate to the highest degree. The progress of every art is an apparent progress from conventionality to realism. The basis of convention remains, but as the art develops it finds more and more subtle methods fitting life to the convention or the convention to life--whichever you please. Tchehkoff's tales mark a definite new conquest in this long struggle. As you read him you fancy that he must always have been saying to himself: "Life is good enough for me. I won't alter it. I will set it down as it is." Such is the tribute to his success which he forces from you.

* * * * *

He seems to have achieved absolute realism. (But there is no absolute, and one day somebody--probably a Russian--will carry realism further.) His climaxes are never strained; nothing is ever idealized, sentimentalized, etherealized; no part of the truth is left out, no part is exaggerated. There is no cleverness, no startling feat of virtuosity. All appears simple, candid, almost childlike. I could imagine the editor of a popular magazine returning a story of Tchehkoff's with the friendly criticism that it showed promise, and that when he had acquired more skill in hitting the reader exactly between the eyes a deal might be possible. Tchehkoff never hits you between the eyes. But he will, nevertheless, leave you on the flat of your back. Beneath the outward simplicity of his work is concealed the most wondrous artifice, the artifice that is embedded deep in nearly all great art. All we English novelists ought to study "The Kiss" and "The Black Monk." They will delight every person of fine taste, but to the artist they are a profound lesson. We have no writer, and we have never had one, nor has France, who could mould the material of life, without distorting it, into such complex forms to such an end of beauty. Read these books, and you will genuinely know something about Russia; you will be drenched in the vast melancholy, savage and wistful, of Russian life; and you will have seen beauty. No tale in "The Kiss" is quite as marvellous as either the first or the last tale in "The Black Monk," perhaps; but both volumes are indispensable to one's full education. I do not exaggerate. I must add that on a reader whose taste is neither highly developed nor capable of high development, the effect of the stories will be similar to their effect on the magazine editor.

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