World celebrates Russia's "immortal" Chekhov at 150

Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:45pm EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman and Yuri Pushkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Literature lovers around the world held celebrations and paid tribute to Anton Chekhov on Friday, on the 150th birthday of Russia's most universally acclaimed playwright.

Chekhov fans said the author famed for combining a raw emotional writing style with detailed studies of the human condition at the turn of the last century maintains his relevance more than 100 years after his death.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev jetted to Chekhov's hometown of Taganrog in southern Russia, where he described the physician-turned-writer's short stories and plays as "immortal."

Clutching a bouquet of cream roses, the Kremlin chief said we can still learn from the dozens of Chekhov works, which enjoy an enduring universal appeal and inspired other writers, including James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

Though his myriad of short stories are enormously popular in his homeland, it is his theatrical contributions to world drama that have earned Chekhov international fame.

British playwright Tom Stoppard and American David Mamet have both re-worked works by the humble, often bespectacled Chekhov, and women revered him for giving them a strong voice by creating complex female characters.

German director Peter Stein, in Moscow for the anniversary, said Chekhov was as important to theater as Greek tragedy and William Shakespeare.

"These are the three basic columns of European theater. Shakespeare reinvented the Greeks for modern times and Chekhov for the 20th century," he told Reuters.   Continued...