Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chekhov's Fist

It started as it can with something quite prosaic. The cat wanted to sit behind me on the chair. Cats on laps or tucked behind backs can make typing difficult. Offering her instead the top draw of my cuttings chest-of-drawers she settled, purring, but I noticed she was sitting on Chekhov. Lifting her off the famous playwright and short-story writer [201 stories by Anton Chekhov], I was mortified to see the large photograph of him and his wife Olga Knipper in The Daily Telegraph Friday 16 July 2004, had been been ripped.

The picture had always appealed to me. Here he seemed so unlike his plays. It must help to look like that if you are a writer.

The paper rip created by cat ran right through Chekhov's hand up through his jacket sleeve to the elbow. And it was to the hands - I remembered and re-remarked on - my eye had eventually traveled the first time I looked at the picture. Both his and Olga's fists are tightly clasped. One of the reasons why the photograph seemed so well posed was the each smiling face leads diagonally through each bent arm to a curled right fist. Chekhov's fist seemed particularly interesting because the fist was end on with the curled index finger neatly tucked under the straight thumb.

There is a cropped version of this famous photo.
It has been used at the top of an article Chekhov and the Cherry Orchard.

If pussy hadn't ripped my precious newspaper cutting it is unlikely I would have come across the details of the circumstances of and ritual at Chekhov's death at the age of 44 in a hotel in a spa town in Germany, or where Chekhov and the Lapdog mentions, 'A few months before writing "Lady with a Lapdog," Chekhov had spent a fortnight in Yalta with Olga Knipper ', and that after the story came out many ladies strolled the promenades of Yalta with dogs.... or that there is a 1959 film adaptation of "Lady with a Lapdog," by Soviet director Josef Heifitz.


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