Thursday, October 06, 2005


Terms of endearment

From Aldo Buzzi's "Chekhov in Sondrio," reprinted in Journey to the Land of the Flies and Other Travels:
In Chekhov's letters to his beloved wife Olga "cockroach" becomes a tender word of love:
"My treasure, little cockroach..."
"I embrace my little cockroach and kiss it a million times..."
Nor does he stop at "little cockroach":
"I kiss my little bug."
"I embrace my little turkey."
"My little mosquito."
"My dear pony..."
"My little sperm whale, treasure..."
But the animal that Chekhov referred to most often on these occasions was the dog.
"My dear little dog."
"My little bitch."
"I embrace my dear, my lovely dachshund."
Less comprehensible is the word "dog" pure and simple.
"My soul, angel, dog, little dove..."
"My little treasure, dog, my Olyusha..."
Olga survived the author of the letters by many years. She died at Yalta, on the Black Sea, "city of Tartars and hairdressers," scene of the story "The Lady with the Little Dog." With Chekhov's sister, she lived in the house where Chekhov had resided for some years: the modest house of a great writer where there are no books--a thing less strange than it appears at first sight. In the medicine chest Chekhov kept a revolver.

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