Vladimir Nabokov, of brilliant Lolita fame, said of Chekov,
“What really attracted the Russian reader was that in Chekhov’s heroes he recognized the Russian idealist. . . a man who combined the deepest human decency of which man is capable with an almost ridiculous inability to put his ideals and principles into action; a man devoted to moral beauty, the welfare of his people, the welfare of the universe, but unable in his private life to do anything useful; frittering away his provincial existence in a haze of utopian dreams; knowing exactly what is good, what is worth while living for, but at the same time sinking lower and lower in the mud of a humdrum existence, unhappy in love, hopelessly inefficient in everything–a good man who cannot make good. This is the character that passes–in the guise of a doctor, a student, a village teacher, many other professional people–all through Chekhov’s stories.”
I’ve always wondered about Chekov’s stories as sometimes the didn’t lead anywhere. And, the I met Alice Munro, and realised that it takes talent to write about the everyday, the ordinariness of lives.
Chekov’s characters are immersed in the landscape, details of which are drawn out, very much like Dickens’ London. Dickens creates a London solely of his own, and the vivid descriptions of that realm that his characters inhabit in many ways limits them or urges them to do better, in spite of it.