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In 1890, the thirty-year-old Chekhov, already knowing that he was ill with tuberculosis, undertook an arduous eleven-week journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony on the island of Sakhalin. Now collected here in one volume are the fully annotated translations of his impressions of his trip through Siberia and the account of his three-month sojourn on Sakhalin Island, together with his notes and extracts from his letters to relatives and associates.
Highly valuable both as a detailed depiction of the Tsarist system of penal servitude and as an insight into Chekhov’s motivations and objectives for visiting the colony and writing the exposé, Sakhalin Island is a haunting work which had a huge impact both on Chekhov’s career and on Russian society.
As a work of literature, Sakhalin Island is a masterpiece of restrained, dignified, unsentimental prose … a work of complete seriousness, full of clear, humane, practical suggestions for reform.
Mr Reeve’s work reminds one that Chekhov was as great a master of the documentary genre – and also of the best academic prose – as of drama and narrative fiction … Sakhalin Island will never eclipse The Cherry Orchard. But it is every bit as impressive a masterpiece, and this new version will surely make its merits more widely known.
Sakhalin Island is the work of a sensible and sympathetic recorder of the facts, and Mr Reeve has done us a favour in his handsome and useful edition.
Stephen Tumm, Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Sakhalin Island should be compulsory reading for all those who are anywhere and in any way involved with the so-called penal system.
Sakhalin Island shows off the breadth of Chekhov’s reading as well as the depth of his fieldwork … This is a much needed new annotated translation.
The best work of journalism written in the nineteenth century.
The New Yorker
Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) is one of the giants of modern literature, exerting a strong influence on many present-day novelists and dramatists. As a playwright, he ranks in popularity second only to Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. As a prose writer, he was one of the first to use the stream-of-consciousness technique, and his anti-heroic realism, full of ambiguity and allusion, provides no easy moral conclusions and results in a new kind of narrative approaching real life in a way no writer had achieved before him.