As a writer, I have been told that I need to read Anton Chekhov for years. Teachers and friends alike have suggested his work as well as several how-to books on writing so when I spotted a copy of The Seagull at Strand Books, I dove for it. I took the 82-page play back to my apartment with the intention of blowing through it that evening. To my surprise and dismay, it took me almost five days to read through it simply because it was so boring. I found myself picking it up, reading a few pages, and then quickly getting tired of it and putting it down. I ended up carrying it around with me in my purse and reading it in the three or four page increments.
Don’t get me wrong, the message that Chekhov is communicating is beautiful. There were more than a few places where I found myself entirely engulfed in his portrayal of the struggles and triumphs of writing. For example when the famed author Trigorin tells young actress Nina “I’d like to swap places with you, just for an hour, find out how you think, what sort of character you are.” on page 39 or when Nina tells Trigorin on page 24 “But I’d thought for someone who knows the joy of creativity, no other pleasures would exist.”
However, between these bouts of beauty and communication lay long stretches of dust and dry dialogue. Many of the characters had very little life and I found their conversations to be unnatural. I can’t say if this is simply because of cultural differences or bad translation, but it seems to me that the negative reaction the play produced back in 1896 when it was first put on stage makes perfect sense.
I would like to give some of Chekhov’s short stories a try, so I have not given up on him yet. However, I don’t think I would ever suggest The Seagull to anyone.