To talk about Chekhov is not an easy task. After all, everyone who had anything to say about him, one time or the other, has pretty much said it. Thanks to them, any possible innovation can be achieved only through séance, and even that is rather questionable.
To talk about O. Henry is equally daunting, but for another reason: the fear of possible disappointment. A biographical involvement is the equivalent of sneaking into the backstage while great magic occurs. If we find out that the magician is only human, then what will we think of his magic?
Today, an in depth interview is a necessity in order to promote any writer, pre, post and during the launching of his new book. This is all the time he has, before other new promotion campaigns start to thrust him aside.
With writers who have already gained their fame and publicity, especially those who have died, this need seems almost redundant. Most that there is to know has been found out, and the rest… well, never mind about that.
And while we are at it – do we really need to understand the author’s world in order to understand his works?
Cannot we just rely on our own impressions?
For me the reason, or should I say the justification for the biographies, spring from a completely different source: the simple but inevitable need, to understand whom that person was as I’m reading everything he cared so much to say.
Not wanting to know would mean that I did not really connect to what he had to write.
And that is not the case.
The following pages do not wish to rewrite intensive and scholarly biographies of Anton Chekhov and O. Henry.
They are, quite honestly, a simple attempt to understand what was it in the hearts of Anton Chekov and William Sydney Porter, which made them write in the way that they did.
Such understanding can be disappointing. The reality behind the person does not always stand up to their public image.
Happily, this is not the case.