Most readers regard the sensibility of Anton Chekhov, the innovative Russian dramatist and modern master of the short story, as thoroughly secular, and the famous credo expounded in one of his letters seems to justify this view. “I would like to be a free artist and nothing else,” Chekhov wrote to the poet and critic, Alexei Pleshcheyev, in 1888. “My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom...
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