Anton Chekhov on leaving judgement to the reader

Anton Chekhov
Anton Chekhov is renowned for leaving many of his short stories open-ended, without offering any resolution or explanation to that which he has explored. Rather, he preferred to leave it up to the reader to bring about a judgement or a resolution themselves; to consider and ponder without spoon feeding, and without being tarnished by the author’s own opinion. Here in this May, 1888 letter, Chekhov touches on this very subject when talking to his publisher, Alexey Suvorin, about his story, Lights:

You write that neither the discussion about pessimism nor Kisochka’s story illuminates or resolves in any way the question of pessimism itself. It doesn’t seem to me that this is the job of writers of fiction to decide questions like God, pessimism etc. The writer’s task is only to describe those who have said or thought something about God and pessimism, how, and in what circumstances. The artist should not be a judge of his characters or what they say, but an impartial witness. I overheard two Russians having a confused and hopelessly inconclusive conversation about pessimism, and my task was to convey this conversation in the same form as I heard it. The verdict will be given by the members of the jury i.e. the readers.

::taken from Anton Chekhov: A Life in Letters (Penguin Classics)

*posted for #ChekhovTuesday – a weekly celebration of all things Chekhov.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).