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In "Reading Chekhov" Janet Malcolm takes on three roles: literary critic, biographer and journalist. Her close readings of the stories and plays are interwoven with episodes from Chekhov's life and framed by an account of a recent journey she made to St Petersburg. Writing of Chekhov's life, Malcolm demonstrates how the shadow of death that hovered over most of his literary career - he became consumptive in his 20s and died in his 40s - is almost everywhere reflected in the work. She writes of his childhood, his relationship with his family, his marriage, his travels, his early success, his exile to Yalta - always with an eye to connecting them to the themes and characters of the stories and plays.
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