It is no secret that an author’s personal life is integral to the content of their works. As many authors were not capable of supporting themselves solely as writers, a secondary profession (often totally unrelated to literature) has historically been common. One profession which many authors have pursued is that of a medical practitioner. Notable examples include Friedrich Von Schiller, John Keats, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
This presentation focuses on the lives of Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Bulgakov, both of whom were trained physicians before they began their careers as writers. In the case of these two early 20th century Russian writers, their careers as physicians contributed greatly to their subject matter, writing style, and characters. For either writer, choosing to practice medicine was a pivotal decision which would incur serious consequences in most aspects of their lives. It can most certainly be said for Chekhov, if not also for Bulgakov, that the physician and the writer must exist simultaneously. Chekhov once wrote to a colleague, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.”
George Callaway, ’15
Sponsor: Lynne Ikach