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Books, Journals, New Media
April 21, 2004


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(15):1905-1906. doi:10.1001/jama.291.15.1905-b

Chekhov's Doctors, the fifth volume in the Kent State University Press Literature and Medicine series, presents 15 stories and one novella by Anton Chekhov on the subject of physicians. The stories were selected by Jack Coulehan, a physician, poet, and contributor to JAMA, who also wrote the introduction and notes. Most were translated by Constance Garnett, from her edition of Chekhov's collected stories. Robert Coles contributed a graceful preface.

The stories appear in chronological order, so the reader can trace the development of Chekhov's art and of his thinking on his profession. The earliest story, "Intrigues," appeared in 1883, when Chekhov was a 23-year-old medical student writing humorous sketches to support his family. In this story, a physician dresses for a meeting of the local medical society at which he is to face a charge of malpractice. Before the mirror, he imagines his accusers crushed by the brilliance of his rebuttal. This early story presents the classic "Chekhovian" themes of how humans delude themselves, choosing fantasy over fact and passivity over grappling with a situation. Chekhov does not judge; however, he writes as if he were presenting a case study, letting the doctor speak for himself and letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions.

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