Since I’ve been silent for a while, I thought now would be a good time to write about my progress. I’ve just finished writing the first draft of Chapter 8, which covers the very tumultuous yet creatively productive year 1895. In early January, Chekhov and Levitan are reconciled after more than two years of not speaking to each other. By summer Levitan is so distraught over his simultaneous affair with Turchaninov mother and daughter that he melodramatically attempts to kill himself. Chekhov is summoned to care for him and what he sees at the Turchaninov estate inspires the characters, setting and structure of the play he’s working on–The Seagull–and also influences the writing of the story “The House with a Mezzanine.” Despite recurrent bouts of depression, Levitan paints two major pieces “March” and “Golden Autumn,” surprisingly bright and serene works reflecting a movement towards Impressionism.
I’ve written over 60,000 words, which is roughly equivalent to about 180 pages. I expect to write five more chapters and an epilogue by the end of this year. Once I’ve completed the first draft, I plan to go back over the manuscript from the beginning–it is only then that I feel I will have a true sense of 1) the significant threads and themes that join the lives of Chekhov and Levitan, 2) the depth of characterization to provide on those in their circle of friends, and 3) the level of description required so that readers have a clear sense of Moscow cultural life between 1880 and 1900. The second draft will also incorporate the results of my archival work in Moscow this past summer.