A Chekhov List

My reading exposure to Anton Chekhov is one (the story “The Lady with the Dog” read once, maybe twice). However, I came across a reprint of a latter he wrote in the delightful collection The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. There, in the back, was a letter that detailed Chekhov’s “8 Rules for Civilized People.”

(Interestingly, the letter does not contain that title, nor the quotation marks, both of which are added in order to create some sort of order … in other words, I have imposed some “blog-writing tips,” i.e., snappy title, lists, etc., in order to distill what is otherwise just a letter … yet, I digress).

While Chekhov died over a hundred years ago (thank you, Wikipedia), the list still seems relevant. Consider:

“Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the followng criteria:

  1. They respect human beings as individual and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable …
  2. They have compassion for other people besides beggars ad cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye …
  3. They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.
  4. They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. … Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would do at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. … They are discreet and don’t broadcast unsolicited confidences. … They mostly keep silence, from respect for others’ ears.
  5. They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others.
  6. They are not vain
  7. If they do possess talent, they value it. They will sacrifice people of mind, women, wine, and the bustle and vanity of the world for it.
  8. They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility.”

Applicable to today? You decide.


One thought on “A Chekhov List

  1. Pingback: Edward Norton = Anton Chekhov « The 10-Minute Ramble

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