than the scholarly work that it is.nWhile Troyat does nothing to disturbnthe previous less than consistentnviews of Chekhov, he emphasizes twonaspects of his life as a powerful subtextnsuggesting Chekhov was deserving ofnsainthood. During his youth, he sufferednhis father’s notorious tyrannyn—including daily beatings supposed tonbuild moral character. Yet Chekhovn(unlike his brothers) never spoke ill ofnhis father nor relinquished his youthfulnrespect for him. As we knew before,nChekhov became not only thenfamily breadwinner but also the advisernto his five siblings and both hisnparents. In addihon, he suffered thenhideous side-effects of a long-termnbout with tuberculosis, which ultimatelynkilled him in 1904, at the agenof 44.nThe most interesting secondary figurenin the Troyat biography is neithernChekhov’s severe father nor his adoringnsister, but Lydia Avilova, a wouldbenparamour. Five years Chekhov’snjunior, Avilova was already marriednand the mother of a year-old boy whennthey met in 1889. Her sister’s husbandnwas the owner of a St. Petersburgnnewspaper, one of the many that publishednChekhov’s stories. In one respect,nshe strikes us as a Frieda whonfailed to leave her husband and run offnwith D.H. Lawrence. In another, shenseems as much a literary curiosity asnCarrington was for Lytton Stracheynand the Bloomsbury circle.nCuriously, Chekhov’s response tonAvilova’s affections alternates betweennneglect and enticement—mostiy inncorrespondence. As Troyat summarizesnthe relationship in its late development,n”The oddest of Chekhov’s epistolarynrelationships remained the onenhe kept up with Lydia Avilova. On thenone hand he refused to acknowledgenmuch less accept her love; on the othernhe seemed unwilling to cast her offnonce and for all.”nIn retrospect, it is easy to dismissnAvilova’s passion for Chekhov as exploitation.nAn aspiring writer herself,nshe would have seized the opportunitynto meet Chekhov when he was 29 andnalready a prominent literary artist, asnTroyat implies. But in doing so, hendoes not sufficiently clarify why Chekhovnnurtured her affections to thendegree he did. And reading Avilova’snadoring memoir, Chekhov in My Life,nf-n•.vn• /n^ni^n^m^nIan McKellen, star of Wild Honey, ancomedy by Michael Frayn, from thenplay without a name by AntonnChekhov, which appeared at thenVirginia Theatre in New York. Photonby Frederic chapter-by-chapter description of then15 years of their meetings, intrigues,nand correspondence, one is struck notnonly by her naivete but also by Che­nkhov’s well-documented attentions.nWhat might be a key to this mostnpeculiar literary relationship surfacesnnot in the biography but in Chekhov’snfirst play, written at least 10 yearsnbefore meeting Avilova but not discoverednuntil 1920—16 years after hisndeath—when it was found as a manuscriptnwithout a tide. Troyat notifies usnthat this text, usually referred to asnPlatonov (after its scoundrel/hero) butnwith a number of titles over the years,nwas actually a first draft. Chekhov’snfinal version of it was presented to thenLittie Maly Theater in Moscow bynChekhov’s brother Mikhail. Uponnlearning of its rejection, Chekhov impulsivelyndestroyed the text and, as farnas can be ascertained, apparentiy forgotnthat this earlier draft even existed.nIn its most recent incarnation, Platonov,nprojected at seven hours thoughnnever produced in its entirety, hasnsurfaced in a shaved translation bynMichael Frayn, titled Wild Honey.nRunning for two hours, it has closednafter a mere few weeks on Broadway,nfollowing a far more successful run ofnover a year in London. While thenproduction, and particularly IannMcKellen in the lead role, were justifiablynreprimanded for trivializing thentext, Frayn’s script was not criticized.nSeeing the play shortiy after readingnTroyat’s biography, one notices remarkablensimilarities between Chekhovnand his first dramatic protagonist,nPlatonov, conceived by Chekhovnprobably when he was a medical student.nThough it may seem ludicrousnto speculate on the author’s own behaviornduring his later life, on the basisnof a character created during hisnyouth, there is compelling evidencensuggesting Chekhov was capable ofneither predicting or determining hisnown fate.nPOETRY OURNALnEdited by Jane Greer. Traditional poetic conventions used in vigorous,ncompelling new works. Heartening manifesto for SASE. $3.50/sample.nPlains Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 2337, Bismarck, ND 58502nnnMAY 1987/49n