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Chekhov for the 21st Century. Carol Apollonio and Angela Brintlinger, eds. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2012, 57–78.       Being as Event, or the Drama of Dasein: Chekhov’s The Three Sisters Svetlana Evdokimova There  are  nowadays  professors  of  philosophy,  but   not   philosophers.   Yet   it   is   admirable   to   profess   because  it  was  once  admirable  to  live.  To  be  a  phi-­‐‑ losopher   is   not   merely   to   have   subtle   thoughts,   nor  even  to  found  a  school,  but  so  to  love  wisdom   as  to  live  according  to  its  dictates,  a  life  of  simpli-­‐‑ city,   independence,   magnanimity,   and   trust.   It   is   to   solve   some   of   the   problems   of   life,   not   only   theoretically,  but  practically.     —  Henry  David  Thoreau,  Walden   Preparing  its  potential  for  being,  Dasein  comes  to   itself.     —  Martin  Heidegger   In  his  prose  and  drama,  Chekhov  treated  philosophy  and  philosophizing  with   distinct   irony.   Chekhov’s   wry   attitude   toward   philosophy   does   not   mean,   however,  that  as  an  artist  he  placed  himself  entirely  outside  of  the  philosophi-­‐‑ cal  concerns  of  his  time.  Rather  the  opposite  was  true.  Lev  Shestov,  one  of  the   first  readers  of  Chekhov  who  sensed  the  novelty  of  Chekhov’s  philosophical   outlook,  attributed  to  him  a  kind  of  Weltanschauung  that  was  only  gradually   taking  shape  in  Russia  and  Europe.  This  philosophical  outlook  was  theorized   and  articulated  somewhat  later  and  laid  the  foundation  of  the  philosophical   movements  of  phenomenology  and  existentialism.     Without  trying  to  turn  Chekhov  into  a  philosopher,  I  believe  that  some   aspects   of   his   oeuvre   could   be   better   understood   or   described   through   the   prism  of  twentieth-­‐‑century-­‐‑existentialist  thought.  To  a  large  extent  I  see  Che-­‐‑ khov  as  engaging  philosophical  ideas  and  inquiries  that  placed  human  exis-­‐‑ tence  or  conditio  humana  at  the  center  of  attention.1  Although  it  would  be  futile                                                                                                                             1  There  have  been  several  studies,  including  my  own,  that  treat  Chekhov  in  the  context   of   phenomenological   or   existential   thought,   but   most   of   them   are   rather   limited   in   scope.  See  Svetlana  Evdokimova,  “Philosophy’s  Enemies:  Chekhov  and  Shestov,”  in   Chekhov  Through  the  Eyes  of  Russian  Thinkers:  V.  Rozanov,  D.  Merezhkovskii,  L.  Shestov  and   S.  Bulgakov.  Modern  Perspectives,  ed.  Olga  Tabachnikova  (London:  Anthem  Press,  2010),   58 SVETLANA EVDOKIMOVA to   draw   any   specific   parallels   between   his   philosophical   views   and   any   particular  philosophy,  Chekhov’s  play  The  Three  Sisters  undoubtedly  reveals   Chekhov’s   probing   into   the   questions   of   being,   the   human   condition,   and   temporality  that  will  be  at  the  center  of  twentieth-­‐‑century  philosophical  pur-­‐‑ suits,  particularly  as  reflected  in  the  ontology  of  Heidegger.     Although  the  terms  “existential”  or  “existentialist”  have  been  applied  to   Chekhov,   the   specifically   existentialist   aspects   of   his   oeuvre   have   not   been   sufficiently  explored.2  I  will  consider  The  Three  Sisters  as  a  drama  of  human   existence,   or   Dasein,   to   use   Heidegger’s   term   for   a   being   that   is   capable   of   ontology,   that   is,   of   comprehending   properties   of   the   very   fact   of   its   own   being.3  Chekhov’s  interest  in  the  question  of  being  leads  him  to  a  particular   concept   of   event   as   an   unfolding   of   being   in   its   temporality.   Chekhov   con-­‐‑                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   219–45.   See   also   Sergei   Kibalnik’s   essay   “Khudozhestvennaia   fenomenologiia   Che-­‐‑ khova,”  which  draws  parallels  between  Chekhov’s  philosophical  outlook  and  Russian   and  Western  “phenomenologists,”  in  the  volume  Obraz  Chekhova  i  chekhovskoi  Rossii  v   sovremennom  mire:  K  150-­‐‑letiiu  so  dnia  rozhdeniia  A.  P.  Chekhova  (St.  Petersburg:  Petro-­‐‑ polis,  2011),  18–28.     Interest   in   Chekhov’s   “philosophy”   was   reawakened   at   the   end   of   the   twentieth   century  with  a  conference  held  in  Badenweiler,  Germany,  dedicated  specifically  to  the   philosophical  aspects  of  his  oeuvre.  In  the  volume  that  emerged  from  this  conference,   there  are  several  essays  that  touch  upon  existentialist  dimensions  of  Chekhov’s  texts.   See   also   Vladimir   Kataev,   Proza   Chekhova:   Problemy   interpretatsii   (Moscow:   Izd-­‐‑vo   MGU,   1979),   26–30.   A   more   recent   volume,   Filosofiia   A.   P.   Chekhova,   also   contains   a   brief  essay  dealing  with  some  “existentialist”  motifs  in  Chekhov’s  texts:  R.  S.  Spivak,   “Chekhov  i  ekzistentsializm,”  in  Filosofiia  A.  P.  Chekhova,  ed.  A.  S.  Sobennikov  (Irkutsk:   Izd-­‐‑vo  Irkutskogo  gosudarstvennogo  universiteta,  2008),  193–208.  Igor  Sukhikh  dedi-­‐‑ cates  a  chapter  of  his  2007  book  to  “Khudozhestvennaia  filosofiia  Chekhova.”  See  Igor’   Sukhikh,  Problemy  poetiki  Chekhova  (St.  Petersburg:  Filologicheskii  fakul’tet  Sankt-­‐‑Peter-­‐‑ burgskogo  gosudarstvennogo  universiteta,  2007),  302–37.   2  Petr  Dolzhenkov’s  study  Chekhov  i  pozitivizm  contains  a  small  section  entitled  “Che-­‐‑ khov  i  ekzistentsializm,”  which  mentions  several  “existentialist  themes”  in  Chekhov,   such  as  alienation,  fear  of  life,  and  the  problem  of  discovering  meaning  in  life  in  the   face  of  human  suffering  and  abandonment  by  God.  However,  Dolzhenkov  does  not  go...


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