Columns–University of Washington Alumni Magazine (June 2016)

Alumni article

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On Sale at London’s National Portrait Gallery Bookshop

Osip Braz, "Portrait of A. P. Chekhov" (1898)

Osip Braz, Portrait of A. P. Chekhov (1898)

Copies of Antosha & Levitasha are available at the National Portrait Gallery Bookshop in London in conjunction with the gallery’s exhibition Russia and the Arts: The Age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky (March 17 to June 26, 2016). The exhibition includes Osip Braz’s portrait of Anton Chekhov. Isaac Levitan played an important role both in convincing Chekhov to agree to sit for the painting, which was commissioned by Pavel Tretyakov, and in convincing Tretyakov to accept the final painting as a suitable likeness. Chekhov himself told a friend that the portrait made him look like he had just inhaled a lot of horseradish.

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In the Stacks


As of September 2016, Antosha & Levitasha can be found in over one hundred college and university libraries throughout the U.S. To find the library closest to you, go to WorldCat and type in your zip code: WorldCat Search

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Reading at the University of Washington Bookstore

University Bookstore 1Thanks to the University of Washington Bookstore in Seattle for sponsoring my presentation and book signing on January 27, 2016. About 50 people attended a slide show on Levitan’s paintings and their impact on Anton Chekhov.


University Bookstore 2

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Buy the Book

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NIU Press (always in stock)
Book Depository (UK)
Barnes & Noble





Additional Ordering Information
Call: (800) 621-2736
Fax: (800) 621-8476
UK and Continental Europe
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Alexander Lensky and Chekhov’s “The Grasshopper”

Ivan Kramskoy's portrait of Alexander Lensky as Petruchio in "The Taming of the Shrew" (1883). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Ivan Kramskoy’s portrait of Alexander Lensky as Petruchio in “The Taming of the Shrew” (1883). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Alexander Lensky, an actor and manager of the Maly Theater in Moscow, frequently attended Sophia Kuvshinnikova’s soirees, where he became friends with both Levitan and Chekhov. On several occasions Lensky performed dramatic readings of Chekhov’s stories and one-act plays. In late 1889 Chekhov sent Lensky a copy of his play The Wood Demon in the hopes that he would produce it at his theater. Lensky’s response was brutally frank: “Stick to writing stories.” Chekhov took the rejection in stride, thanking Lensky for reading his “vile little play,” which he put back in his drawer (the play would later be reshaped into Uncle Vanya).

Their friendship was already beginning to show signs of strain when in the spring of 1892 Lensky read Chekhov’s “The Grasshopper” and saw himself as “the fat actor” briefly mentioned in the story. Levitan, who had far more reason to be upset by how he was so obviously caricatured in “The Grasshopper,” showed Lensky the letter (now lost) Chekhov wrote him defending himself. Lensky angrily rejected Chekhov’s explanations as “false and strained.” Apparently Chekhov had tried to dismiss his story as just a trivial little “something” that he had been asked to write for the first issue of a new journal. Lensky stoked Levitan’s sense of outrage about what Chekhov had done: “And for the sake of this he had no pity on his acquaintances, among whom he was accepted gladly, with love, and he had no pity on the person he ‘loved’ [Levitan], making him out to be a vulgar Lovelace! I just don’t understand.”

For eight years Lensky refused to speak to Chekhov.

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Status Report

Isaac Levitan (1897)

Isaac Levitan (1897)

I’m revising my manuscript in preparation for submitting it to an interested academic publisher for evaluation. I have also updated the About the Book section to include a one-paragraph summary of each chapter. In the meantime, please submit any questions or topic suggestions you may have about Chekhov, Levitan, and Moscow cultural life of the late 19th century. If it’s something I can address, I’ll respond with a posting.

If you’re interested in being notified about the publication of the book and how you will be able to obtain a copy, I encourage you to sign up to follow this blog, if you haven’t done so already.

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