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The Strange Characters of Chekhov
The Strange Characters of Chekhov

Author(s): Sorina Bălănescu
Subject(s): Essay|Book Review |Scientific Life
Published by: Editura Sedcom Libris Iasi
Keywords: Chekhov the doctor; Chekhov the writer; psychiatry; psychology; psychasthenia; typology of psychoasthenics; Chekhov psychasthenic; Chekhov’s psychasthenics;

Summary/Abstract: A number of well documented and substantial materials have been written about Chekhov, the doctor, who interested in everything new in general medicine and in psychiatry. In the last two decades, the connection between Chekhov, the doctor, and Chekhov, the writer, has been investigated focusing on the case series of the Russian narrator and playwright in relation to the science of psychiatry and psychology at the end of the last century. With indisputable scientific arguments, it is stated that the "strange characters" from Chekhov fiction have their roots in psychopathy, understood as an intermediary condition between normality and disease. The majority of his characters are affected by psychasthenia, a condition evident in symptoms for the illness per se (which was described by Pierre Janet two decades later), but each case illustrates the theory Chekhov adopted from the great professor G. I. Zaharin, according to which, there are no diseases in general, there are only real patients, with a more or less strong personality, whose suffering should be treated with earnestness and respect. Having real knowledge of many people in suffering enabled Chekhov to "treat" them artistically in particular situation, each patient approached with-out any sign of cynicism, only with kindness and compassion. The last generations of psy-chiatrists consider that the terms psychopathy and psychopath have become known due to doctor Chekhov, who, at the age of 25, still a student in medicine, proposed a sketch enti-tled The Psychopaths, with two characters, overwhelmed by obsessions, typically psycho-pathic. Many other texts, starting with The Death of a Government Clerk, then A Dreary Sto-ry, Three Years, Volodea, enriched the gallery of strange people, who were described in a comical tragic way, with a deep human touch. A case presented accurately from an artistic point of view is the character Ivanov who gives the title of the drama. In this case, to the feelings experienced by the asthenic, we have to add the Russian predestination, charac-teristic to Dostoevsky, for assuming the condition of common guilt. In the same way, to the various fears, which betray a certain psychic dis order, a political motivation is to be men-tioned: the autocratic-police state of Tsar Alexandru III encouraged the proliferation of "craziness” with a political touch - fear of authorities led to oddities and serious diseases (see the short story Ward No 6), nevertheless, the doctor-artist is interested in the philo-sophical debate in which his sick characters with high moral consciousness are caught.

  • Issue Year: 72/2017
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 73-79
  • Page Count: 7
  • Language: English