(Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of short pieces–micro-posts–on stories/information of interest to nappers. I hope to offer a quick, entertaining read.)
Listening to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac this morning, I learned a few things about playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov. If I’d have paid better attention in college, I’d have already known that . . .
- Chekhov was a doctor, treating patients and writing on the side for eight years until he bought an estate forty miles outside of Moscow. There he wrote full-time while also giving free medical care to peasants in the area.
- Chekhov wrote his most famous play, The Cherry Orchard, as a comedy, but Stanislavski intended to present it as a tragedy, with the actors “sobbing openly and dramatically.” “Chekhov was livid, and although he was seriously ill with tuberculosis by this time, he took an active part in the production to try to salvage the play. He traveled to Moscow against his doctor’s orders and worked furiously to revise and edit the play and supervise rehearsals.” The Cherry Orchard was a hit and placed Chekhov on the same pedestal with Tolstoy.
I suppose it’s hard to argue with success—to be celebrated for a work that you didn’t mean . . . that way . . . exactly. Shortly after the play’s premier in January of 1904 Chekhov listened to his doctor and went to a spa in Germany. I’ll let Garrison Keillor deliver the punchline:
“While in Badenweiler, [Chekhov] suffered a series of heart attacks. The doctor offered him sips of champagne, which was supposed to be beneficial to people with heart conditions. Chekhov remarked that he hadn’t had champagne for ages. He then turned on his side, closed his eyes as if to take a nap, and died.”
Anton Chekhov was only forty-four, but what a way to go: champagne on his tongue, a nap in his heart, and a gentle exit.
P.S. My book, Oh! Be Joyful: Notes to My Future Grandchildren, is nearly ready for release. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for details.