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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Chekhov in Ceylon

Celebrating the 120th anniversary of Chekhov’s arrival:

Professor Sunanda Mahendra brought Anton Chekhov back alive on the stage, after more than 100 years, in his Chekhov Sandhyava. The play combined five of ekhov’s renowned plays including On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, Swansong and A Marriage Proposal

Whenever I hear the name Anton Chekhov I remember my A-Level days when I did English Literature. Our textbook was Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Thinking about those days still pulls at my heartstrings.


Keepsakes of Chekhov

A commemoration and seminar, organized by the Russian Literary Circle and the Russian Centre in Colombo, on the 120th Anniversary of Anton Chekhov’s visit to Ceylon was held at the Russian Centre Premises.

“This is a very interesting event. Exactly on this day 120 years ago, Anton Chekhov left Ceylon. He spent three days and two nights in Sri Lanka.

One night in Colombo and one night in Kandy. That was his trip. He called it the trip around the world.

Actually it was a trip from Asia to the Sakhalin Island, an island in the far east used for imprisonment.” Oriental and international relations specialist Dmitry Kapustin explained.

Chekhov decided to devote a part of his time, to study the situation in Sakhalin and wrote the famous book Sakhalin Island which was not just famous in Russia, but also around the world. He visited persons living in the prison.

Chekhov was a doctor and tried to study living conditions in the prison. Not just prisoners but all the population in Sakhalin.


Anton Chekhov

He spent three months in Sakhalin and returned by a Russian ship to Odessa, the port on the black sea in Russia.

Chekhov was of course fond of journey. And his first goal was to study Sakhalin.

On his way to Sakhalin he wrote several articles concerning Russian Siberia.

He wrote six or seven articles about that which was published in Russian newspapers and returned around Asia through Suez canal to Odessa.

He wanted to visit 11 foreign countries. Unfortunately cholera was at that time in South Asian cities.

The ship was forbidden to go to some ports and he visited only four ports: Hong Kong, Singapore , Colombo and Port Said.

Exactly in Colombo he says: “I was in paradise in Colombo.”

He began to write a story here called Gusev, a family name of a Russian Soldier. A sad but very deep story about the fate of this poor person.

A story about the life of this soldier. Being one of the greatest works of Chekhov, the story was very famous.

Even during publication he wrote at the end – Colombo, November 24, 1980.

He finished this story during his trip home and published in Christmas newspaper at the end of December.

It was his first story after his trip.

From Odessa he returned from train to Moscow.

“Chekhov is a unique phenomenon not just for Russsia but for the entire world.

You can see how famous and how loved Chekhov is in Sri Lanka. A Country which is so far from Russia.

We know how deep the influence of Chekhov’s work on Sri Lanka literature,” said the Russian Embassy First Secretary and Russian Centre Director Ayrat Akhmeto.

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