Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (1904, translated by Julian West)

My Prior Posts on Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard is  the last of Anton Chekhov's  (1860 to 1904-Russia) plays and in fact one of his very last works.     Many regard it as among his best work.   I first  heard of it many years ago when I read as a teenager The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman.     I have posted a number of times on Chekhov so I will be quite brief in my comments on The Cherry Orchard.   

The play is set on the estate of an aristocratic woman.   The pride of her estate and the whole region is the beautiful cherry orchard on the property.   The owner of the estate, a widow, has been living in France for the last five years, ever since her young son drowned.    News reaches her daughter that her mother has tried to kill herself so she and her governess go to bring her back to the estate.

When the widow arrives back on her estate she finds a very bad situation.   It is about to be sold at public auction for unpaid debts.   A former serf on the estate, now a successful merchant devises a plan, and it sounded like a very good one to me.    Sell of parcels of the estate for the construction of houses or summer cottages.   This will allow all the debts to be paid and the family to stay on the estate.   The only problem is the cherry orchard must be cut down.   The widow will not allow this.

In the final act, the former surf is jubilantly announcing that he has bought the estate on which is father, grandfather and himself were once serfs, little more than slaves.    The family has no real idea what they will do other than perhaps live with relatives.

The Cherry Orchard  is about a society in transition.   The old order is crumbling and in clinging to the past which  allow it to be destroyed.  

Historically, serfs were freed in 1861.   Serfs were allowed to become merchants and a new class began to arise.   Once many estate owners lost their free labor of the serfs, they could no longer run run them at a profit.

The Cherry Orchard  is very well worth reading.   It is a canon status work for sure.    You can easily find it online.

I hope to read Three Sisters soon.

Mel u


Órfhlaith Foyle said...

A great play and a great writer.

Mel u said...

Orfhlaith Foyle-thanks so much for your comment-I enjoyed reading of your experience at the Cork County International Short Story Festival

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

I saw a super performance of this in Chicago - Steppenwolf Theatre, for acting, the top of the top.

The play had no set, just actors in motion, fluid and entirely natural.

Nicki said...

I read and really enjoyed a volume of Chekhov's short stories earlier this summer but I've avoided his plays as I don't typically read plays. With the exception of Shakespeare - and if I'm reading Shakespeare that usually means that I'm about to see the play live. I usually feel like there's something missing when I simply read a play - perhaps I'm just not very adept at it yet. :)

Mel u said...

Amateur Reader (Tom) sounds like a wonderful performance-by the way I got a 1921 collection today of translated Brazilian short stories

Nikki-give the plays of Chekhov a try as a reading experience-thanks very much for stopping by my blog-

Suko said...

As if I weren't already intimidated by this great, Russian author--I find out it's a play as well! (Nicki's comments resonate with me.) I will take a look at it online, though.