Lev Shestov's 'Creation From The Void' By Lev Chekhov

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In his essay “Creation from the Void”, existentialist philosopher Lev Shestov claimed that with regards to lofty concepts such as love, art, and inspiration, “Chekhov has only to touch them and they instantly wither and die.” While his words may seem a bit radical, they do bear a certain truth. Even in his early works, Chekhov was at work deconstructing widely held principles and ideologies. In “Misery”, Chekhov does this through his depiction of Iona Potapov, a lonely cab driver whose son has recently passed away. The story seems set-up to explore ideas relating to death, family, and society, but trying to find a clear theme hidden in Iona’s suffering proves to be a difficult task. Chekhov tends to raise more questions than he answers. However, this doesn’t mean that “Misery” is lacking in depth. Chekhov just focuses on particular details that capture the complexity and raw realities of his subject, trusting the reader to find the meaning. In “Misery”, one such detail is found in Iona’s name itself, which he shares with a famous Old Testament prophet (referred to as “Jonah” for distinction). Chekhov’s allusion to Jonah introduces a hint of Christian thought into “Misery” while avoiding its themes, providing him with a platform to deconstruct prominent Christian views in Russian society and in the works of his literary peers. Chekhov’s use of the Jonah allusion is subtle and cautious. As Julie Sherbinin notes, “Christian legends and iconography do not function in a

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