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Book Launch: A New Poetics of Chekhov's Plays: Presence through Absence


Watching a Chekhov play can be an unsatisfying experience.

Drawn in by the beauty and the whimsy of the scenes, seduced by the complexity of the protagonists, the pregnant pauses, the heaving sighs of toska, the audience leave the theatre almost as frustrated as the characters themselves. Many watch and read the same play time and time again, examining the details and looking for clues.


Who are these characters we feel we know so well? How and why do they interact like they do? What would explain their behaviour?


Launching Harai Golomb's new book, A New Poetics of Chekhov's Plays: Presence through Absence, Professor Golomb, with Professor Donald Rayfield and others, will guide and develop a discussion on the finer points of Chekhov’s plays, unravelling the web of nuances, examining the relevance of Chekhovian drama to audiences in 2014. The talk will touch on the poetics that drive the plot and characters, and offer a fresh angle on how Chekhov’s plays can be interpreted and enacted, based on Harai Golomb’s acclaimed new book on the subject. The discussion will shine the spotlight on various components of Chekhov’s theatrical technique, the themes and ideas, the various scenes, the interaction between verbal and non-verbal elements and the general fabric of the drama. Moreover, it is a chance for Chekhov fans to delve yet deeper into the writer's artistic universe; to talk and to share their own experience of the great plays.

Professor Harai Golomb retired in 2009 from Tel-Aviv University's Faculty of Arts, where he had taught in its Departments of Theatre, Literature, and Musicology. He has given numerous lectures around the globe and published numerous articles in a large variety of fields, including the theories of literature, drama and music; Mozart's operas; translation studies; Hebrew literature, poetry and prosody;  etc. However, his major field of study has been for decades the study of Chekhov's plays. His book, Presence through Absence, launched today, is the culmination of his life's work on this subject. It has been enthusiastically received by the communities of Chekhov scholars as well as theorists of literature, drama and theatre. 

Donald Rayfield is Emeritus Professor of Russian and Georgian at the University of London. In addition to his definitive biography of Chekhov, his books include The Dream of Lhasa: The Life of Nikolay Przhevalsky (1839-88), Explorer of Central Asia and Stalin and His Hangmen. His 'superb new translation' (William Boyd - Guardian) of Gogol's Dead Souls was published in 2008.

Other speakers include Cynthia Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Russian literature and theatre, Nottingham University; Dr. Valerie Lucas, Director of Programme in Theatre and Performance Studies, Regent University London


About the book:


Presence through Absence is a bold attempt to map the unique structure and meaning that comprise Chekhov’s immensely rich artistic universe. Golomb’s text is an incursion into Chekhov’s vision of unrealised potentials and present absences. His timeless works are shown with rare insight and clarity to have artistic principles and coherence above and beyond the scope of the individual play.

"A Key to Chekhov" (Prof. Ronald Hingley [1920-2010], Chekhov scholar and biographer, Editor of THE OXFORD CHEKHOV)


"Thorough, profound and innovative [...] an inimitable contribution to our understanding of the very nature of literary and dramatic art" (Prof. Benjamin Harshav, Yale University)


"A unique and extraordinary accomplishment" (Prof. Robert Louis Jackson, Yale University; founding president of the North American Chekhov Society)


"A celebration for the world of Chekhov studies" (Prof. Vladimir Kataev, Lomonosov State University, Moscow; Chair, Chekhov Commission of the Russian Academy of Sciences).


"A work of art in itself; " (Prof. Patrice Pavis, Sorbonne 8 [emeritus] and Kent University; Author, Dictionary of Theatre; editor, French edition of Chekhov's plays)


"No one reads Chekhov's drama better" (Prof. Cathy Popkin, University of Columbia, New York; Editor, Norton edition of Chekhov's stories)