Seven years after the death of Anton Chekhov, his sister, Maria, wrote to a friend, "You asked for someone who could write a biography of my deceased brother. If you recall, I recommended Iv. Al. Bunin . . . . No one writes better than he; he knew and understood my deceased brother very well; he can go about the endeavor objectively. . . . I repeat, I would very much like this biography to correspond to reality and that it be written by I.A. Bunin."
In About Chekhov Ivan Bunin sought to free the writer from limiting political, social, and aesthetic assessments of his life and work, and to present both in a more genuine, insightful, and personal way. Editor and translator Thomas Gaiton Marullo subtitles About Chekhov "The Unfinished Symphony," because although Bunin did not complete the work before his death in 1953, he nonetheless fashioned his memoir as a moving orchestral work on the writers' existence and art. . . . "Even in its unfinished state, About Chekhov stands not only as a stirring testament of one writer's respect and affection for another, but also as a living memorial to two highly creative artists." Bunin draws on his intimate knowledge of Chekhov to depict the writer at work, in love, and in relation with such writers as Tolstoy and Gorky. Through anecdotes and observations, spirited exchanges and reflections, this memoir draws a unique portrait that plumbs the depths and complexities of two of Russia's greatest writers.