25 February 2012

Slave

Cheokov’s most positive statement about himself was made in 1889 when he was twenty-nine and had already achieved a considerable degree of self-mastery. In a characteristically impersonal way he suggested bitterly to his friend Souvorin that Souvorin should write a story about him, “a story about a young man, the son of a serf, schoolboy and university student, brought up to fawn on rank, kiss the hands of priests, accept without questioning other people’s ideas, express his gratitude for every morsel of bread he eats, a young man who has been frequently whipped, who goes to give lessons without goloshes, engages in street fights, tortures animals, loves to go to his rich relations for dinner, behaves hypocritically towards God and man without the slightest excuse but only because he is conscious of his own worthlessness – could you write a story of how this young man squeezes the slave out of himself drop by drop, and how, on waking up one morning, he feels that the blood coursing through his veins is real blood and not the blood of a slave?”

quoted in Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story
p77-78

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