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Literary lessons from George Saunders (and Chekhov)

A chatty yet eagle-eyed analysis of the Russian masters will set writers on their path

By Sameer Rahim   March 2021
Portrait of Anton Chekhov Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Anton Chekhov Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Literary criticism is less popular than literary biography. A writer’s life can take on a familiar inspirational or tragic arc, while analysing their technique is thought to be rather dry. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to turn to George Saunders’s new book, a chatty yet eagle-eyed breakdown of seven short stories by four great Russian writers: Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gogol and Turgenev. Based on a class Saunders teaches at Syracuse University, the book prints the stories in full and explains how they work—sentence by sentence, image by image, plot-point by plot-point.

Saunders is a master of a certain…

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