25 pages 50 minutes read

Anton Chekhov

The Bet

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1889

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Authorial Context: Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov was born in the small town of Taganrog, Russia, in 1860. After his father’s grocery store went bankrupt, Chekhov began supporting the family by writing humorous stories and sketches. In 1879, he moved to Moscow and entered medical school. He then worked as a doctor and had occupations as diverse as writing literature for money and building schools and clinics. His unusually broad experience of Russian life led him to portray a great variety of characters in the hundreds of stories and dozens of plays he wrote before his death from tuberculosis at age 44.

While his work has been described as sociological and Chekhov himself said that the work of the writer is “no different from the run-of-the-mill reporter” (xi), his stories are more than mirrors of ordinary life—both because of their deep insight into human emotion and their formal richness. Chekhov tapped into a tradition of storytelling that included anecdotes, parables, and moral tales. He used that tradition in his own way, based on his keen ability to observe small details.

Chekhov’s busy and successful life seems to stand in contradiction with the resignation and weakness of many of his characters, and such contradiction is at the heart of his work.