About Love

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: May-27-2003
  • Last revised: Jun-22-2006


In "About Love," two friends who were caught in a storm while out walking have sought shelter in a third friend's country home. They stayed the night and at lunch the next day their host, Alehin, tells them a story about his lost love. It seems that when he was young, he worked closely with Luganovitch, the vice-president of the circuit court, and became close friends with Luganovitch and his beautiful wife Anna Alexyevna.

Over the years, Alehin and Anna spent a great deal of time together; he fell passionately in love with her and felt confident that she reciprocated his feelings. Yet, they never acted on their passion. At last, after many years, when Anna was setting out on the train to join her husband, who had been transferred to a distant province, Alehin took her into his arms and proclaimed his love. They collapsed in tears. But alas, the train left: "I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand, and parted forever."


About Love is part of a loosely structured "little trilogy" of stories that Chekhov wrote in 1898. The veterinary surgeon Ivan Ivanovitch and his friend, Burkin the schoolmaster, are spending a few days trekking and shooting. On the first night, they sit around telling stories, one of which is Burkin's tale of The Man in a Case (see annotation). On another afternoon, it begins to rain, and the two men seek shelter at Alehin's house. Later that evening Ivan Ivanovitch tells the story of Gooseberries (see annotation). Alehin's tale, the third part of the trilogy, is told at lunch the next day.

Perhaps the theme of "About Love" is carpe diem. Alehin, wracked as he was by mundane concerns and practical ethics, failed to seize the day, and, thus, lost his one opportunity for a fulfilling love. However, Chekhov the diagnostician refuses to give us any easy generalizations about the nature of love. Alehin ponders its essence, but sets the question aside. "What seems to fit one instance doesn't fit a dozen others," the lonely landowner concludes. "It's best to interpret each instance separately in my view, without trying to generalize. We must isolate each individual case, as doctors say." His case is particularly poignant.


Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett. First published in 1898.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 5: The Wife and Other Stories



Place Published

New York



Page Count