- Dr.Pragya Suman
There are so many biographies around Anton Chekhov, claiming authorized versions. One of them which is regarded as most researchful is a book by Donald Rayfield, Anton Chekhov: A life. Rayfield is an emeritus professor at the Queens Mary University of London. The preface portion of the book starts with the following line—
‘In time all my things must see the light of day and I have no reason to be ashamed of them.’
Chekhov proclaimed in public about his autobiographobia, but preserved every piece of writing, the scrap of papers, letters, and certificates connected to him and his family. Though himself he never wrote his autobiography. Rayfield's book is a really interesting one in that it has brought many hidden facts about Anton Chekhov, some are spicy ones. In the communist regime, everything was obscured and they had to filter the censor before awakening in open light. Chekhov’s life was wrapped for many years in a blanket of purity and sacredness, a kind of puritanical aura. Was he like that? Now revealed things are telling different versions.
Rayfield’s book has brought him in open ray. The book is sectioned into different chapters, one of the sections is Doctor Chekhov. Anton always insisted upon his doctor profession as a primary venture and medicine was a legalized wife. He came from a downtrodden, slave family and entered in Medical school of Mawsco University in 1879. At That time, two hundred students used to take a doctor’s degree annually after a rigorous five- year course. Nowadays in medical colleges, a bunch of students learn on a corpse, in anatomy class. In my medical college, fifty students were on a single corpse. That corpse was of a lady beggar, laid down unclaimed at the city platform. Lack of corpses gathered all the students to read in the crowd. Every part of the body, muscle, and fiber are dissected to scan the human body, in the first year of medical college. But in the time of Anton, the situation was different and at those times, each student was allocated a corpse separately. The reason was that Russia was cluttered with corpses of hanging, unclaimed bodies, beggars, drowned, and the deceased. Anatomy subject has been a testing ground for medical students, both in present and past, in every country. Student Anton Chekhov was no exception. Anton was more interested in the diagnostic branch of medicine in comparison to therapeutic purpose, because his observation power was chiseled and acute. He abhorred the dexterity and callousness of surgeon, blood drove him away while ink attracted him, so as a passion writing was always along with him. In his medical college days, he sent monthly his articles for the magazines. Those days junior doctors were deputed for the testing of prostitutes for syphilis, and Chekhov was also appointed to diagnose them. Meanwhile, he was entangled with many whores and sexual adventures were not uncommon to him. He was friendly to many whores and scanned their life which fueled his pen. Chekhov never disowned prostitutes for their position, in fact once a time he used a phrase ‘smelled like horse sweat.’ It was not for whores but for his classmate in medical college named Ballerina.
Dr. Pragya Suman
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