Chekhov and Russian literature

The new quarter started and with it came my second form and theory class, this one on the short story. Now as I don’t have a strong short story background, I was feeling rather anxious about the class, especially since the first set of assigned stories were Chekhov. I don’t know if it’s 19th century literature or Russian literature, but I’ve read him as well as some Tolstoy this year, and I can’t say I much cared for either of them. And yes, I know, the literary gods are probably preparing a thunderbolt for my head as I type this.

Still, I have to say that I was able to pick up on some of Chekhov’s techniques and participate in the class discussion. I was particularly interested in things I saw in his stories (we read five) that modern readers might not be able to get away with such as authorial intrusion and insignificant lead characters. We move into Hemmingway next, another great whom I’ve never really read. Except for “Hills like White Elephants,” because everyone raves about it.

Has anyone here read any Chekhov or Tolstoy? Am I way off base here when it comes to conventional tastes or is liking certain authors just a sort of status mark? What do you think?

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