martes, 26 de diciembre de 2017

Jacques Monod: El Azar y la necesidad!

Jacques Monod - Facts

Jacques Monod
Born: 9 February 1910, Paris, France. Died: 31 May 1976, Cannes, France

Affiliation at the time of the award: Institut Pasteur, Paris, France
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis"
Field: genetics, molecular biology

The biochemical processes that take place within an organism's cells are controlled by the genes found inside DNA molecules. Jacques Monod and François Jacob proved how the genetic information is converted during the formation of proteins by means of a messenger, which proved to the substance we now know as RNA. Different cells work in different ways at different times, however. This too is regulated by genes. In the early 1960s Jacques Monod and François Jacob mapped the intricate processes that determine how genes are expressed or suppressed in a self-regulating process.

Both Monod, with François Jacob, did much to elucidate how genes regulate cell metabolism by directing the biosynthesis of enzymes. The pair shared, along with André Lwoff, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1965.

In 1961 Jacob and Monod proposed the existence of a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), a substance whose base sequence is complementary to that of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the cell. 

They postulated that the messenger carries the “information” encoded in the base sequence to ribosomes, the sites of protein synthesis; here the base sequence of the messenger RNA is translated into the amino acid sequence of a proteinaceous enzyme (biological catalyst).

In advancing the concept of gene complexes that they called operons, Jacob and Monod postulated the existence of a class of genes that regulate the function of other genes by affecting the synthesis of messenger RNA. For this work, which has been proved generally correct for bacteria, the two men were awarded a Nobel Prize.

Monod’s book-length essay Le Hasard et la nécessité (1970; Chance and Necessity) argued that the origin of life and the process of evolution are the result of chance. Monod joined the staff of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1945 and became its director in 1971.

Chance and Necessity. (El azar y la necesidad)
Chance and Necessity: Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (French: Le Hasard et la Nécessité: Essai sur la philosophie naturelle de la biologie moderne) is a 1970 book by Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod, interpreting the processes of evolution to show that life is only the result of natural processes by "pure chance". The basic tenet of this book is that systems in nature with molecular biology, such as enzymatic biofeedback loops can be explained without having to invoke final causality.

In this book, Monod adopted the term teleonomic to permit recognition of purpose in biology without appealing to a final cause.

According to the introduction the book's title was inspired by a line attributed to Democritus, "Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity."

The first U.S. edition (New York: Vintage, 1971), translated by Austryn Wainhouse, won the National Book Award in category Translation.[1]

Monod starts the preface of the book by saying that biology is both marginal and central. He goes on to explain that it is marginal because the living world is only a fraction of the universe. Monod believes the ultimate aim of science is to "clarify man's relationship to the universe" (Monod, xi) and from that reasoning he accords biology a central role. He goes on to state that he does not intend to make a thorough survey of modern biology but rather to "bring out the form of its key concepts and to point out their logical relationships with other areas of thought…it is an avowed attempt to extract the quintessence of the molecular theory of the code" (Monod, xiii).

Monod stresses the importance of the molecular theory of the genetic code as a physical theory of heredity and brands it as the "secret of life". He continues to explain how this important discovery has made it the duty of scientists to share with and enhance other disciplines of thought such as philosophy. Toward the end of the preface Monod offers apology for any overly tedious or technical sections. He also warns that some ethical and political ideas he presents may seem naïve or ambitious but then states "Modesty benefits the scientist, but not the ideas that inhabit him and which he is under the obligation of upholding"(Monod, xiv). In the last paragraph of the preface Monod explains that his essay developed from the Robins Lectures that he gave in 1969 at Pomona College.

Of strange objects
Monod starts off chapter I entitled "Of Strange Objects" with a consideration of the difference between natural and artificial objects and states that "the basic premise of the scientific method... [is] that nature is objective and not projective"(Monod, 3). Through a series of thought experiments and rhetorical questions he leads the reader on a difficult path to three characteristics of living beings. 

One is teleonomy which Monod defines as the characteristic of being "endowed with a purpose or project"(Monod, 9).

Another is autonomous morphogenesis which points out that a living being’s structure results from interactions within the being as opposed to the external forces that shape artificial artifacts. Monod offers a single exception to this last criterion in the form of a crystal and at this point he states that the internal forces that determine structure within living beings are "of the same nature as the microscopic interactions responsible for crystalline morphologies"(Monod, 11), a theme that he promises to develop in later chapters.

The last general property Monod offers up as distinguishing living organisms is reproductive invariance which is the ability of a living being to reproduce and transmit the information corresponding to their own highly ordered structure. The author defines the primary telonomic project "as consisting in the transmission from generation to generation of the invariance content characteristic of the species"(Monod, 14) (the preservation and multiplication of the species).

Monod later retracts autonomous morphogenesis (spontaneous structuration) as a property of living beings and says instead that it should be thought of as "mechanism" leaving two essential properties of living beings: reproductive invariance and structural teleonomy. He then brings up and defends against a possible thermodynamic objection to reproductive invariance and points out the extreme efficiency of the teleonomic apparatus in accomplishing the preservation and reproduction of the structure. Here the author restates that nature is objective and does not pursue an end or have a purpose and he points out an apparent "epistemological [the study of the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge] contradiction" between the teleonomic character of living organisms and the principle of objectivity. With that cliffhanger of internal intellectual struggle Monod ends chapter one.

Vitalisms and animisms
In chapter two "Vitalisms and Animisms" Monod states that invariance must have preceded teleonomy, a conclusion reached by the Darwinian idea that teleonomic structures are due to variations in structures that already had the property of invariance and could therefore preserve the effects of chance mutations. He offers the selective theory as being consistent with the postulate of objectivity and allowing for epistemological coherence.

The author then says that in the rest of the chapter he will address religious ideologies and philosophical systems that assume the reverse hypothesis: that invariance developed out of an initial teleonomic principle (this defies the principle of objectivity). He divides these theories into vitalist, in which the teleonomic principle operates only in living matter (there is a purpose/direction in which living things alone develop), and animist, in which there is a universal teleonomic principle (that is expressed more intensely in the biosphere and therefore living beings are seen as products of universally oriented evolution which has culminated in mankind).

Monod admits he is more interested in animism and will therefore devote more analysis to it. He briefly discuses the murky metaphysical vitalism of Henri Bergson and then discusses the scientific vitalism of Elsasser and Polanyi which contend that physical forces and chemical interactions that have been studied in non-living matter do not fully account for invariance and teleonomy and therefore other "biotonic laws" are at work in living matter.

The author points out that the scientific vitalist argument lacks support and that it draws its justification not from knowledge or observations but from our present day lack of knowledge. He goes on to point out that today the mechanism of invariance is sufficiently understood to the point that no non-physical principle ("biotonic law") is needed for its interpretation. Monod next points out that our ancestors had a history of animating objects by giving spirits to them so as to bridge the apparent gap between the living and non-living. To them a being made sense and was understandable only through the purpose animating the being and so if mysterious objects, such as rocks, rivers, rain, and stars, exist it must also be for a purpose (essentially there are no inanimate objects to them). The author says that this animist belief is due to a projection of man's awareness of his own teleonomic functioning onto inanimate nature.

Nature is explained with the same conscious and purposive manner as human activity. Monod points out that this animist line of thought is still present in philosophy that makes no essential distinction between matter and life and frames biological evolution as a component of cosmic evolution (evolutive force operating throughout the entire universe). He contends that these lines of thought abandon the postulate of objectivity and also contain the anthropocentric illusion. At the end of this chapter Monod states that the thesis he "shall present in this book is that the biosphere does not contain a predictable class of objects or of events but constitutes a particular occurrence, compatible indeed with first principles, but not deducible from those principles and therefore essentially unpredictable" (Monod, 43). In his view the biosphere is unpredictable for the same reason that the particular configuration of atoms in a pebble are unpredictable. 

By this Monod does not mean to imply that the biosphere is not explicable from initial conditions/first principles but that it is not deducible (at best predictions could be no more than statistical probabilities of existence). He then points out that society is willing to accept a universal theory that is compatible with but does not foresee the particular configuration of atoms in a pebble but it is a different story when it comes to humans; "We would like to think ourselves necessary, inevitable, ordained from all eternity. All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency" (Monod, 44). It is this contingency of human existence that is the central message of Chance and Necessity; that life arose by chance and all beings of life, including humans, are the products of natural selection.

The demon of Maxwell
The third chapter is named "Maxwell's Demons". It starts off by stating that proteins are the molecular agents of teleonomic performance in living beings. Monod continues by writing that living beings are chemical machines, every organism constitutes a coherent and functional unit, and that the organism is a self-constructing machine whose macroscopic structure is not determined by outside forces but by autonomous internal interactions. The author spends much of the chapter reviewing general facts of biochemistry. He explains that proteins are composed of 100-10,000 amino acids and he distinguishes between elongated fibrous proteins that play a mechanical role and the more numerous globular proteins that are folded upon themselves.

He talks about the extraordinary specificity of action that enzymes display as exemplified by their ability to not only recognize a specific geometric isomer but an optical isomer as well. He points out that enzymes are optically active themselves, L isomers are the "natural" isomers, and that the specificity of action and the sterospecificity of the reaction conducted by an enzyme are the result of the positioning of the molecules with respect to each other.

Monod writes that an enzymatic reaction can be seen in two steps: The formation of a sterospecific complex between protein and substrate and the catalytic activation of a reaction within the complex (he stresses again that the reaction is oriented and specified by the structure of the complex). He next considers the energetic differences between covalent and non-covalent bonds and how the speed of a reaction is affected by activation energy. Since the activation energy of a covalent bond is high the reaction will have a slower speed than that of a non-covalent bond (which occurs spontaneously and rapidly). The author points out that non-covalent interactions attain stability only through numerous interactions and when applied over short distances.

To attain stable non-covalent interaction there is a need for complementary sites between two interacting molecules so as to permit several atoms of the one to enter into contact with several atoms of the other. In this complex the molecule of substrate is strictly positioned by the multiple non-covalent interactions with the enzyme. Enzymatic catalysis is believed to result from the inductive and polarizing action of certain chemical groupings of the specific receptor. By virtue of an enzyme's capacity to form sterospecific and non-covalent complexes with specific substrate the substrate is correctly presented in the precise orientation that specifies the catalytic effect of the enzyme. Monod reminds us that this reaction comes at the expense of chemical potential energy.

Microscopic cybernetics
In chapter four ("Microscopic Cybernetics") the author starts out by repeating the characteristic of extreme specificity of enzymes and the extreme efficiency of the chemical machinery in living organisms. The large scale coordination among cells provided by the nervous and endocrine system is brought to the readers’ attention. The rest of the chapter is a discussion of the principles that cell metabolism works by. Monod first brings up allosteric enzymes that are capable of recognizing compounds other than a substrate whose association with the enzyme protein has a modifying effect of heightening or inhibiting the enzyme activity with respect to the substrate. Monod lists and defines four regulatory patterns. The first is feedback inhibition. Feedback activation is when the enzyme is activated by a product of degradation of the terminal metabolite.

 Parallel activation takes place when the first enzyme of a metabolic sequence is activated by a metabolite synthesized by an independent parallel sequence. Activation through a precursor is defined as when an enzyme is activated by a precursor of its substrate and a particularly frequent case of this is activation of the enzyme by the substrate itself. Allosteric enzymes are usually under the simultaneous control of several allosteric effectors. Next Monod makes reference to his own research and talks about the S shaped non-linear curve that is characteristic of allosteric enzymes when activity is plotted against concentration of an effector (including the substrate). Allosteric interactions are mediated by discrete shifts in the proteins structure and this allows certain proteins to assume different conformational states.

Cooperative and antagonistic interactions of ligands are indirect: ligands interact with the protein not with other ligands. Allosteric proteins are oligomeric (made up of identical protomer subunits) and each protomer has a receptor for each of the ligands. As a consequence of protomer assembly each subunit is constrained by its neighbor. Upon dissociation each protomer can assume a relaxed state and this concerted response of each protomer accounts for the nonlinearity of enzyme activity: a ligand molecule that stabilizes the relaxed state of one of the monomers prevents the others from returning to the associated state. These simple molecular mechanisms account for the integrative properties of allosteric enzymes.

Monod again references his own work as he talks about the lactose system (consisting of three proteins) in Escherica coli. He explains that galactoside permease (one of the proteins in the lactose system) enables the galactoside sugars to penetrate and accumulate within the cell. When Escherica coli are grown in a medium with no galactosides the three proteins are synthesized very slowly (about one molecule every five generations). About two minutes after adding a galactoside inducer the rate of synthesis of the three proteins increases a thousandfold.

Monod explains that the rate of mRNA synthesis from the lactose operon determines the rate of the proteins synthesis. He lists the components of the regulatory system as i, the regulator gene that directs constant synthesis of the repressor protein (R), o, the operator segment of DNA that the repressor specifically recognizes and forms a stable complex with, and p, the DNA promoter where RNA polymerase binds. Synthesis of mRNA is blocked when the repressor is bound to the operator. When the repressor is in the free state it is able to recognize and bind beta galactosides thus dissociating the operator repressor complex and permitting synthesis of the mRNA and protein.

Monod spends some time stressing that there need be no chemical relationship between a substrate and an allosteric ligand and it is this "gratuity" that has allowed molecular evolution to make a huge network of interconnections and make each organism an autonomous functional unit. In the last part of the chapter Monod criticizes "holists" who challenge the value to analytically complex systems such as living organisms and that complex systems cannot be reduced to the sum of their parts. Monod first gives an example of dissecting a computer and then points out how teleonomic performances can be seen on a molecular level. He also states that the complexity of the cybernetic network in living beings is far too complex to study by the overall behavior of whole organisms.

Molecular ontogeny
At the start of chapter five "Molecular Ontogenesis" Monod states he will show that the process of spontaneous autonomous morphogenesis depends upon "the sterospecific recognition properties of proteins; that it is primarily a microscopic process before manifesting itself in macroscopic structures. Finally, it is the primary structure of proteins that we shall consult for the "secret" to those cognitive properties thanks to which, like Maxwell's demons, they animate and build living systems" (Monod 81).
Monod mentions oligomeric globular proteins again and how they appear in aggregates containing geometrically equivalent protomer subunits associated into a non-covalent steric complex. With mild treatment protomers are separated and the oligomer protein loses function but if the initial "normal" conditions are restored the subunits will usually reassemble spontaneously. This spontaneity is due to the fact that the chemical potential needed to form the oligomer is present in the solution of monomers and because the bonds formed are non-covalent. The author continues to mention the sterospecific, spontaneous assembly of ribosomes and T4 bacteriophage from their protein constituents in vitro.

Monod points out that the overall scheme/architectural plan of the multi-molecular complex is contained in the structure of its constituent parts and it is therefore able to spontaneously self-assemble. Next Monod reviews the primary and tertiary structure of proteins. In reviewing the tertiary structure, what he calls the native shape, he talks about the non-covalent interactions which bind the amino acids and the folding that determines the molecules three-dimensional shape including the sterospecific binding site.

The author then writes that a primary structure exists in a single (or a small number of related states, as is the case with allosteric proteins) precisely defined conformational native state under normal physiological conditions. Prior to folding there is no biological activity. The sequence of the amino acid residues and the initial conditions determine the protein folding and therefore dictate the function. Monod splits up organism development into four broad stages: First the folding of the polypeptide sequence into globular proteins, then the association between proteins into organelles, thirdly the interactions between cells that make up tissue and organs, and lastly "coordination and differentiation of chemical activities via allosteric-type interactions" (Monod,95).

Each stage is more highly ordered and results from spontaneous interactions between products of the previous stage and the initial source is the genetic information represented by the polypeptide sequences. The author then spends some time developing the fact that the preceding sequence of amino acids had no bearing on what the next amino acid will be. He says this "random" message seems to be composed haphazardly from a random origin and he ends the chapter poetically when he writes "Randomness caught on the wing, preserved, reproduced by the machinery of invariance and thus converted into order, rule, and necessity. A totally blind process can by definition lead to anything; it can even lead to vision itself" (Monod 98).

Invariance and perturbation
Chapter six is entitled "Invariance and Perturbations”. The similarity throughout all organisms of chemical machinery in both structure and function is set out. In regards to structure, all living beings are made up of proteins and nucleic acids and these are the same residues (twenty amino acids and four nucleotides). Similar functions are carried out by the same sequence of reactions that appear in all organisms for essential chemical operations (some variations exist that consist of new utilizations of universal metabolic sequences). On page 104 Monod states "The fundamental biological invariant is DNA.

That is why Mendel's definition of the gene as the unvarying bearer of hereditary traits, its chemical identification by Avery (confirmed by Hershey), and the elucidation by Watson and Crick of the structural basis of its replicative invariance, without any doubt constitute the most important discoveries ever made in biology." He adds that the full significance of the theory of natural selection was established by these discoveries. There is a brief review of DNA whose structure is a helix with translational and rotational symmetry and if artificially separated the complementary strands will spontaneously reform.

A very brief review of DNA synthesis by DNA polymerase is given. The sequence of nucleotides in DNA defines the sequence of amino acids which in turn defines the folding of proteins which in turn defines an organism; "One must regard the total organism as the ultimate epigenetic expression of the genetic message itself" (Monod, 109).

The author makes the point that translation is irreversible and never takes place from protein to DNA. In the last part of the chapter the author brings up the important subject of mutations. Various mutations such as substitutions, deletions, and inversions are listed. The accidental random chance of these mutations and that these unpredictable mutations alone that are the source of evolution is pointed out and exemplified. The "error" in the genetic message will be replicated with a high degree of fidelity. In the words of Monod "the same source of fortuitous perturbations, of ‘noise’ the progenitor of evolution in the biosphere and accounts for its unrestricted liberty of creation, thanks to the replicative structure of DNA: that registry of chance, that tone-deaf conservatory where the noise is preserved along with the music" (Monod, 117).

That mutations are unpredictable, faithfully replicated, and that natural selection operates only upon the products of chance is repeated at the start of chapter seven entitled "Evolution". Monod states that the decisive factor in natural selection is not the "struggle for life" but is the differential rate of reproduction and the only mutations "acceptable" to an organism are those that "do not lessen the coherence of the teleonomic apparatus, but rather, further strengthen it in its already assumed orientation" (Monod, 119). Monod explains that the teleonomic performance is judged through natural selection and this system retains only a very small fraction of mutations that will perfect and enrich the teleonomic apparatus.

Monod gives the example of antibody development to show how chance combinations can give a well defined solution. He states that the source of information for the antibodies associative structure is not the antigen itself but is instead the result of many random recombinations of part of the antibody gene. The antibody that is able to bind to the antigen is multiplied. This remarkable example shows chance as the basis for one of the most precise adaptation phenomena. Monod makes the point that selection of a mutation is due to the environmental surroundings of the organism and the teleonomic performances. He then gives some examples to show the interconnection of specific performances/behaviors and anatomical adaptations.

The author spends the rest of the chapter discussing linguistic and physical human evolutionary development. Language is an utterly different from the various auditory, tactile, and visual forms of communication in that it allows the communication of an original personal association to another individual. Monod hypothesizes that language was not merely the product but one of the driving forces for the evolution of our central nervous system. He believes that rudimentary symbolic communication appeared early on and created a new selective pressure that favored development of linguistic ability and hence the brain. He then talks about the evolution of our ancestors including the development of upright posture which allowed them to become hunters. Monod lastly points out the evidence to suggest the development of the cognitive function of language in children depends upon postnatal growth of the cortex.

The boundary
In chapter eight "The Frontiers" Monod captures the sense of wonderment one feels when considering the extraordinary diversity and complexity of organisms that has been brought about through billions of years of evolution when he says " The miracle stands "explained"; it does not strike us as any less miraculous" (Monod, 138). Three stages which led to the emergence of the first organism are proposed. First there must have been the formation of nucleotides and amino acids from simple carbon compounds and non-biological catalysts. Next would have been the formation of the first macromolecules capable of replication probably through spontaneous base pairing.

And lastly the evolution of a teleonomic apparatus around the "replicative structures" would lead to the primitive cell. The author next turns his attention to the central nervous system. He lists the prime functions of the brain in mammals as control and coordination of neuromuscular activity, to set into action innate programs of action in response to stimuli, to integrate sensory inputs, to register, group, and associate significant events, and to represent and simulate.

Monod makes the point that behavior cannot be strictly separated as learned or innate since elements are acquired through experience according to an innate program and "the programs structure initiates and guides early learning, which will follow a certain pre-established pattern defined by the species' genetic patrimony" (Monod, 153). The author now concentrates on what he views as one of the unique properties of higher level organisms, namely that of simulating experience subjectively so as to anticipate results and prepare action.

Monod describes as "the frontier" the work that is to be done that will enable us to understand how this instrument of intuitive preconception works. He believes this understanding will enable mankind to eliminate the dualism of differentiating between the brain and the mind. He ends the chapter stating "To give up the illusion that sees in it an immaterial "substance" is not to deny the existence of the soul, but on the contrary to begin to recognize the complexity, the richness, the unfathomable profoundity of the genetic and cultural heritage and of the personal experience, conscious or otherwise, which together constitute this being of ours” (Monod, 159).

The Kingdom and darkness
The last chapter in the book is “The Kingdom and the Darkness”. Once man extended his domain over the subhuman sphere and dominated his environment the main threat became other men and tribal warfare came to be an important evolutionary selection factor and this would favor group cohesion. Cultural evolution affected physical evolution; “it is behavior that orients selective pressure” (Monod, 162).

The author then says that due to the accelerating pace of cultural evolution, it no longer affects the genome and that selection does not favor the genetic survival of the fittest through a more numerous progeny. He brings up statistics that show a negative correlation between intelligence and the average number of children per couple and a positive correlation of intelligence between spouses which concentrates them among a shrinking elite. He also points to scientific and ethical advances that have allowed “genetic cripples” to live and reproduce (the author regards this as suspending natural selection). Monod says this suspension of natural selection is a peril to the species but that it will take quite a while for any serious effects and that there are more urgent dangers in modern society. He advances the idea “that nature is objective, that the systematic confronting of logic and experience is the sole source of true knowledge” (Monod, 165). He talks briefly about how ideas are selected based on the performance value and the spreading power (he states that ideas that explain man by assigning him a destiny spread the most).

 The author believes that we contain an inborn genetic need to search out the meaning of existence and that is responsible for the creation of myths, religion, and philosophy. He implies that this genetic component accounts for religion being the base of social structure and the reoccurrence of the same essential form in myths, religion, and philosophy. He admits that the idea of objective knowledge as the only source of truth may seem austere and unattractive in that it does not provide an explanation that will calm the anxiety of man; “It wrote an end to the ancient animist covenant between man and nature, leaving nothing in place of that precious bond but an anxious quest in a frozen universe of solitude” (Monod, 170).

The author points to what he sees as the acceptance of objective science in practice but not in spirit. 

He says that the important message of science is that in the defining of a new source of truth which demands revision of ethical premises and a total break with the animist tradition. Our values are rooted in animism and are at odds with objective knowledge and truth. This jarring and isolating revelation places value judgments within the hands of man himself. Monod believes that objective truth and the theory of values cannot be separated “because the very definition of “true” knowledge reposes in the final analysis upon an ethical postulate” (Monod, 173). It is at this point that author’s argument turns upon itself by admitting that making objectivity the condition for true knowledge, which helps to separate value judgments from true knowledge and define science, is itself an axiomatic ethical choice. By asserting the principle of objectivity, which is accepted in modern science, one is choosing to adhere to what Monod calls the ethic of knowledge.

 The author proposes that man should rise above his need for explanation and fear of solitude to accept the ethic of knowledge and frames this ethic as accepting both the animal and ideal in man. Jacques Monod ends the book with his fundamental conclusion that “The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe's unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below; it is for him to choose” (Monod, 180).

Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology by Jacques Monod, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1971,

Resumen del Azar y la cecesidad de Jacques Monod.

sábado, 23 de diciembre de 2017

Heinrich Böll:

Heinrich Böll
WRITTEN BY: The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
Alternative Title: Heinrich Theodor Böll

Heinrich Böll, in full Heinrich Theodor Böll, (born December 21, 1917, Cologne, Germany—died July 16, 1985, Bornheim-Merten, near Cologne, West Germany), German writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. Böll’s ironic novels on the travails of German life during and after World War II capture the changing psychology of the German nation.

The son of a cabinetmaker, Böll graduated from high school in 1937. He was called into compulsory labour service in 1938 and then served six years as a private and then a corporal in the German army, fighting on the Russian and other fronts. Böll’s wartime experiences—being wounded, deserting, becoming a prisoner of war—were central to the art of a writer who remembered the “frightful fate of being a soldier and having to wish that the war might be lost.” After the war he settled in his native Cologne.

Böll’s earliest success came with short stories, the first of which were published in 1947; these were later collected in Wanderer, kommst du nach Spa (1950; Traveller, If You Come to Spa). In his early novels Der Zug war pünktlich (1949; The Train Was on Time) and Wo warst du Adam? (1951; Adam, Where Art Thou?), he describes the grimness and despair of soldiers’ lives. The uneasiness of reality is explored in the life of a mechanic in Das Brot der frühen Jahre (1955; The Bread of Our Early Years) and in a family of architects in Billard um halb zehn (1959; Billiards at Half-Past Nine), which, with its interior monologues and flashbacks, is his most complex novel. In the popular Ansichten eines Clowns (1963; The Clown), the protagonist deteriorates through drinking from being a well-paid entertainer to a begging street musician.

Böll’s other writings include Und sagte kein einziges Wort (1953; Acquainted with the Night) and Ende einer Dienstfahrt (1966;
 End of a Mission), in which the trial of a father and son lays bare the character of the townspeople. In his longest novel, Gruppenbild mit Dame (1971;  Group Portrait with Lady), Böll presented a panorama of German life from the world wars to the 1970s through the accounts of the many people who have figured in the life of his middle-aged “lady,” Leni Pfeiffer.

 Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (1974; The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum) attacked modern journalistic ethics as well as the values of contemporary Germany.

 Was soll aus dem Jungen bloss werden?; oder, Irgendwas mit Büchern (1981; What’s to Become of the Boy?; or, Something to Do with Books) is a memoir of the period 1933–37.

 The novel Der Engel schwieg (The Silent Angel) was written in 1950 but first published posthumously in 1992; in it a German soldier struggles to survive in war-ravaged Cologne after World War II.

 Der blasse Hund (1995; The Mad Dog) collected previously unpublished short stories, while another early novel, 

Kreuz ohne Liebe (“Cross Without Love”), was first published in 2003.

A Roman Catholic and a pacifist, Böll developed a highly moral but individual vision of the society around him. A frequent theme of his was the individual’s acceptance or refusal of personal responsibility. Böll used austere prose and frequently sharp satire to present his antiwar, nonconformist point of view. He was widely regarded as the outstanding humanist interpreter of his nation’s experiences in World War II.

Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Böll | Photo (detail): © Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung

Nobel-prize laureate Heinrich Böll, who died in 1985, advocated the concept of the enlightened, responsibly-minded citizen – yet was often derided.
In July 2015 thirty years will have passed during which one of the most important German-language writers has been missing from the literary scene: Heinrich Böll. He was born in Cologne in 1917 and was one of the generation of war veterans, writers of the zero hour and opponents of the Vietnam War and of nuclear warfare. He was also a critic of authority and a pacifist. Hardly any other German-language author received as much recognition in his lifetime. In 1972 he was awarded the Nobel Prize. His greatest literary success, the story entitled 

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1974) sold six million copies in Germany alone.

Böll repeatedly succeeded in taking up and filtering out themes that were in the air, so to speak. His literary subjects almost all continue to have an uncanny relevance to this very day: for example, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum describes the persecution of a young woman by the media. Ultimately the mercilessness of the sensationalist press forces the protagonist to commit an act of despair. Today the Newspaper, as Böll calls his fictional tabloid, alluding to Germany’s Bild Zeitung, would possibly be a digital medium, perhaps even Facebook.

In his novel The Safety Net (1979) Böll engaged with a burgeoning network of surveillance. The occasion for this particular theme was the all-encompassing hysteria in the face of the terrorism of the extreme left-wing Red Army Fraktion (RAF). That highly topical and oppressive book outlines the attempted destruction of a family by “state security and surveillance measures”. The author knew what he was writing about: he himself was under police surveillance, had to suffer house searches and was the victim of a smear campaign. Although Böll distanced himself clearly from the methods and aims of the RAF, he was declared, even in the German Bundestag, to be an ideological accomplice of the terrorists. The only ones to defend him were Willy Brandt and several other member of the SPD party and of the liberal FDP party.

Böll’s major themes were the war and the post-war period: novels like And Never Said a Word (1953), House without Guardians (1954) or Billiards at Half-past Nine (1959) deal with the very tentative reappraisal of the theme of National Socialism in the 1950s. Böll was from a Catholic family and was critical of the NS-regime from the very start. While Günter Grass, who was ten years younger than him, volunteered to join the Waffen SS, Böll tried to avoid military service, initially writing applications for exemption so as to be able to study and later even feigning illness or forging leave passes.

Scarcely any other author provides so much information about the reality of post-war life in the Federal Republic of Germany, the outcome and aftermath of the Second World War. He typically focussed not on the grand figures or heroes, but on “ordinary people” whose lives he chose to highlight. Böll’s touching and colourful stories about families torn between enthusiastic Nazis and Nazi-critics are more informative and better than many of the various other books published on this over the past decades.

It was not just through his writings that Böll exerted an influence. He was also a politically active author and contemporary citizen, in the sense of an enlightened responsibly-minded citoyen. His commitment to Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik towards East Germany, his support for persecuted writers and advocacy of humane treatment for the German terrorists were widely talked about. He also incurred people’s anger for not binding himself to a particular political party. He was close to Willy Brandt, but was not a member of the SPD, unlike Grass. He may have taken a stand on concrete political issues, but he did not want to be monopolized by anyone.

Over the past decades, Böll’s social and environmental involvement have often be derided, with some writers and literary critics even presenting him as a naïve “do-gooder”. However, since new centres of conflict have flared up, even within Europe or on its border, things have changed. Böll’s commitment is no longer regarded as “outmoded”, but as exemplary. Now many young authors and artists are again commenting on political events. Yet a public figure like Böll no longer exists. He was one of the few great thinkers in Germany who did not take themselves too seriously.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Böll’s death, Klaus Staeck, creator of a politically critical poster-art and long-time director of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin, wrote: “Several of the obituaries seem to be indicating … that today someone like Böll is somehow missing.”
Since then, little has changed.

jueves, 21 de diciembre de 2017

Posverdad en el nuevo diccionario digital del DRAE

Posverdad en el nuevo diccionario digital del DRAE

En la nueva introducción y revisión de los más de 3000 términos se encuentran por ejemplo palabras como aporofobia, que significa literalmente fobia a las personas pobres o desfavorecidas. También están palabras como audiolibro, chusmear, posverdad, o mariposear. Dos ritmos tradicionales de la música colombiana como el vallenato y el porro fueron también introducidos en la versión en línea de la vigésimotercera edición del DLE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española). 

Según Villanueva ahora se ha cambiado la dinámica de elaboración del diccionario, ya que antes se hacía la publicación en papel y después se hacían las modificaciones en el digital. Ahora, por el contrario, primero se hace la versión digital y después se elabora la impresa. También manifestó que la era digital consiste en que ya no hace falta esperar 10 años para introducir modificaciones.El tema de los anglicismos también fue tocado por el director de la RAE, Darío Villanueva, quien manifestó su preocupación por términos que cada vez se utilizan con más frecuencia. Entre las palabras provenientes del inglés que fueron introducidas podemos encontrar; cracker que significa pirata informático, o también hacker que es una persona experta en el manejo de computadores.

El diccionario en línea recibió en el 2016 más de seiscientos millones de consultas. La expectativa de Darío Villanueva es que la versión digital alcance más de mil millones de consultas para el próximo año. 

La RAE se fundó en 1713, y la primera publicación del diccionario se hizo en 1780. Desde entonces se han venido realizando incorporaciones, modificaciones, enmiendas y supresiones.  

Aqui está la lista de las nuevas palabras:

- Amusia. (Adición de artículo). f. Med. Incapacidad de reconocer o reproducir tonos o ritmos musicales.
- Antropocentrismo. (Enmienda de acepción). Fil. Teoría que afirma que el hombre es el centro del universo.
- Aporofobia. (Adición de artículo). (Del gr. áporos 'pobre' y -fobia). f. cult. Fobia a las personas pobres o desfavorecidas.
- Asana. (Adición de artículo). (Del sánscr. asana, de la raíz -as 'sentarse'). m. En ciertos tipos de yoga, postura corporal.
- Ataché. (Adición de artículo). (Del fr. attaché; en acep. 2, del ingl. amer. attaché, y este acort. del ingl. attaché case; literalmente 'maletín de agregado'). m. y f. 1. agregado (funcionario diplomático). m. 2. Maletín para llevar documentos.
- Audiolibro. (Adición de artículo). (De audio- y libro). m. Grabación sonora del texto de un libro.
- Autólogo, ga. (Adición de artículo). (De auto- y la t. de homólogo; cf. ingl. autologous). adj. Med. Que se obtiene del mismo individuo que lo recibe. Transfusión autóloga. Trasplante autólogo.
- Biocida. (Adición de artículo). (De bio- y -cida, por adapt. del ingl. biocide). adj. Quím. Que destruye seres vivos, particularmente los perjudiciales para el ser humano. Apl. a una sustancia o a un producto, u. t. c. s. m.
- Bocas. (Adición de artículo). m. y f. coloq. Esp. bocazas. U. t. c. adj.
- Británico, ca. (Adición de acepción). 4. Dicho del humor: Caracterizado por la ironía fina y el sarcasmo disimulado atribuidos a los británicos.
- Británico, ca. (Adición de acepción). 5. Dicho de la puntualidad: Rigurosa, exacta.
- Buenismo. (Adición de artículo). m. Actitud de quien ante los conflictos rebaja su gravedad, cede con benevolencia o actúa con excesiva tolerancia. U. m. en sent. despect.
- Buenista. (Adición de artículo). adj. 1. Que actúa con buenismo. U. t. c. s. U. m. en sent. despect. 2. Perteneciente o relativo al buenismo.
- Chakra. (Adición de artículo). (Tb. chacra  Voz sánscr., que significa 'círculo' o 'disco'). m. En el hinduismo y algunas filosofías orientales, cada uno de los centros de energía del cuerpo humano que rigen las funciones orgánicas, psíquicas y emotivas.
- Chicano, na. adj. 1. (Enmienda de acepción). Dicho de una persona: Que es de origen mexicano y vive en los Estados Unidos de América, especialmente en las áreas fronterizas con México. U. t. c. s.
- Clic.  m. 2. (Enmienda de acepción). Pulsación que se hace mediante un ratón u otro dispositivo apropiado de una computadora para dar una instrucción. Hacer clic en un menú.
- Clicar. (Adición de artículo). (Del ingl. to click). intr. En informática, hacer clic en una zona interactiva de la pantalla. Clicar en la ventana. Clicar en la opción de "pagar". U. t. c. tr. Clicar este icono.
- Cliquear. (Adición de artículo). intr. En informática, clicar. U. t. c. tr.
- Comadrear. intr. (Enmienda de 1.ª acepción). coloq. Chismear, murmurar.
- Compostar. (Adición de artículo). tr. Transformar residuos orgánicos en compost.
- Container. (Adición de artículo). (Voz ingl., der. de to contain 'contener'). m. 1. contenedor1. 2. Barco destinado al transporte de mercancías en contenedores.
- Continentalidad. (Adición de artículo). f. 1. Conjunto de las características propias del clima continental.  2. Carácter continental.
- Contraincendios. (Adición de artículo). adj. Que combate los incendios. Brigada, aviones contraincendios.
- Cracker. (Adición de artículo). m. y f. Inform. pirata informático.
- Cubicaje. (Adición de artículo). m. 1. Geom. Acción y efecto de cubicar.  2. Dep. y Mec. cilindrada.
- Deportividad. (Adición de acepción).  2. Esp. Actitud de quien acepta de buen grado una situación adversa. Aceptó con deportividad que eligieran a otro.
- Desalador, ra. (Adición de artículo). adj. 1. Que desala.  f. 2. desalinizadora.
- Discinesia. (Adición de artículo). f. 1. Med. Falta de coordinación muscular en los movimientos. 2. Med. Movimiento involuntario de alguna parte del cuerpo.
- Esfera. (Adición de forma compleja). Altas esferas. f. pl. Estamentos más elevados del poder.
- Espadón. (Adición de acepción). 2. coloq. Militar golpista.
- Especismo. (Adición de artículo) (Del ingl. speciesism). m. 1. Discriminación de los animales por considerarlos especies inferiores. 2. Creencia según la cual el ser humano es superior al resto de los animales, y por ello puede utilizarlos en beneficio propio.
- Fair play. (Adición de artículo). (Voz ingl.). m. Juego limpio.
- Hacker. (Adición de acepción). m. y f. 2. Inform. Persona experta en el manejo de computadoras, que se ocupa de la seguridad de los sistemas y de desarrollar técnicas de mejora.
- Holter. (Adición de artículo). (Voz ingl.). m. 1. Med. Prueba diagnóstica en la que un dispositivo registra en un monitor durante varias horas la actividad del corazón de un paciente por medio de electrodos colocados en su torso.  2. Med. monitor Holter. 3. Med. Gráfico resultante de un holter (prueba).
- Hummus. (Adición de artículo). (Tb. humus. Del ár. hummus 'garbanzo'). m. Pasta de garbanzos, típica de la cocina árabe, aderezada generalmente con aceite de oliva, zumo de limón, crema de sésamo y ajo.
- Kosher. (Adición de artículo). (Del hebr. kosher 'correcto, adecuado al rito'). adj. 1. Dicho de un producto alimenticio, una comida, un menú, etc.: Obtenido o preparado según los preceptos del judaísmo. 2. Dicho de un establecimiento: Que vende o sirve productos kosher.
- Lexicón. (Adición de acepción).  2. Ling. Conocimiento léxico que un hablante posee sobre una lengua.
- Macero, ra. (Enmienda de acepción). m. y f. Persona que lleva la maza delante de las corporaciones o personas autorizadas que usan esta señal de dignidad.
- Machismo. (Adición de acepción). 2. Forma de sexismo caracterizada por la prevalencia del varón. En la designación de directivos de la empresa hay un claro machismo.
- Mariposear. (Adición de acepción). 3. Andar o vagar de un lugar a otro cambiando de objeto de interés o sin propósito establecido.
- Nota. (Adición de acepción).  m. y f. 20. coloq. Esp. Persona a la que le gusta llamar la atención o que tiene un comportamiento inconveniente. Entonces el nota preguntó si nos iban a invitar a cenar.
- Pasada. (Adición de acepción).  10. coloq. Esp. Cosa exagerada, extraordinaria, fuera de lo normal. U. en sent. ponder. Mira ese avión, ¡qué pasada! Qué pasada de fiesta.
- Pinchar. intr. 11. (Adición de acepción). Clicar. Pinchar en la ventana. U. t. c. tr. Pinche este icono.
- Pinqui. (Adición de artículo). (Tb. pinky. De Pikys, marca reg.). m. Esp. Prenda femenina que cubre la planta, el talón y los dedos del pie, y que se pone para proteger este del calzado.
- Porro. (Adición de artículo). m. 1. Música y canto originarios de la costa norte de Colombia, con influencia de los ritmos africanos. 2. Baile que se ejecuta al compás del porro.
- Postureo. (Adición de artículo). m. coloq. Esp. Actitud artificiosa e impostada que se adopta por conveniencia o presunción.
- Posverdad. (Adición de artículo). (De pos- y verdad, trad. del ingl. post-truth). f. Distorsión deliberada de una realidad, que manipula creencias y emociones con el fin de influir en la opinión pública y en actitudes sociales. Los demagogos son maestros de la posverdad.
- Sexo. m. sexo débil. m. (Enmienda de acepción de forma compleja). Conjunto de las mujeres. U. con intención despect. o discriminatoria. sexo fuerte. m. (Enmienda de acepción de forma compleja). Conjunto de los varones. U. en sent. irón.
- Sharía. (Adición de artículo). (Tb. sharia. Del ár. saría 'camino'). f. Ley religiosa islámica reguladora de todos los aspectos públicos y privados de la vida, y cuyo seguimiento se considera que conduce a la salvación.
- Táper. (Adición de artículo). (De Tupperware, marca reg.). m. Recipiente de plástico con cierre hermético, que se usa para guardar o llevar alimentos.
- Trávelin. m. 1. (Enmienda de acepción). Cinem. Desplazamiento de la cámara montada en rieles para acercarla al objeto, alejarla de él o seguirlo en sus movimientos.
- Umma. (Adición de artículo). (Del ár. umma 'comunidad'. Escr. t. con may. inicial). f. Comunidad de los creyentes del islam.
- Vallenato. (Adición de artículo). m. 1. Música y canto originarios de la región caribeña de Colombia, normalmente con acompañamiento del acordeón. 2. Baile que se ejecuta al ritmo del vallenato.
Agencia (EFE)

domingo, 10 de diciembre de 2017

Anton Tchékhov Biography

Anton Tchékhov Biography
Playwright, Author(1860–1904)

Russian writer Anton Chekhov is recognized as a master of the modern short story and a leading playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Anton Tchekhov was born on January 29, 1860, in Taganrog, Russia. Through stories such as "The Steppe" and "The Lady with the Dog," and plays such as The Seagull and Uncle Vanya, the prolific writer emphasized the depths of human nature, the hidden significance of everyday events and the fine line between comedy and tragedy. Chekhov died of tuberculosis on July 15, 1904, in Badenweiler, Germany.

Youth and Education
Anton Pavlovich Tchekhov was born on January 29, 1860, in Taganrog, Russia. His father, Pavel, was a grocer with frequent money troubles; his mother, Yevgeniya, shared her love of storytelling with Chekhov and his five siblings.

When Pavel’s business failed in 1875, he took the family to Moscow to look for other work while Chekhov remained in Taganrog until he finished his studies. Chekhov finally joined his family in Moscow in 1879 and enrolled at medical school. With his father still struggling financially, Chekhov supported the family with his freelance writing, producing hundreds of short comic pieces under a pen name for local magazines.

Early Writing Career
During the mid-1880s, Chekhov practiced as a physician and began to publish serious works of fiction under his own name. His pieces appeared in the newspaper New Times and then as part of collections such as Motley Stories (1886). His story “The Steppe” was an important success, earning its author the Pushkin Prize in 1888. Like most of Chekhov’s early work, it showed the influence of the major Russian realists of the 19th century, such as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Chekhov also wrote works for the theater during this period. His earliest plays were short farces; however, he soon developed his signature style, which was a unique mix of comedy and tragedy. Plays such as Ivanov (1887) and The Wood Demon (1889) told stories about educated men of the upper classes coping with debt, disease and inevitable disappointment in life. 

Major Works
Chekhov wrote many of his greatest works from the 1890s through the last few years of his life. In his short stories of that period, including “Ward No. 6” and “The Lady with the Dog,” he revealed a profound understanding of human nature and the ways in which ordinary events can carry deeper meaning.

In his plays of these years, Chekhov concentrated primarily on mood and characters, showing that they could be more important than the plots. Not much seems to happen to his lonely, often desperate characters, but their inner conflicts take on great significance. Their stories are very specific, painting a picture of pre-revolutionary Russian society, yet timeless.

From the late 1890s onward, Chekhov collaborated with Constantin Stanislavski and the Moscow Art Theater on productions of his plays, including his masterpieces The Seagull (1895), Uncle Vanya (1897), The Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904).

Later Life and Death
In 1901, Chekhov married Olga Knipper, an actress from the Moscow Art Theatre. However, by this point his health was in decline due to the tuberculosis that had affected him since his youth. While staying at a health resort in Badenweiler, Germany, he died in the early hours of July 15, 1904, at the age of 44.

Tchekhov is considered one of the major literary figures of his time. His plays are still staged worldwide, and his overall body of work influenced important writers of an array of genres, including James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Henry Miller.

Liste de nouvelles d'Antón Tchekhov:

Anton Tchékhov

 Anton Tchekhov "Personne n’a compris avec autant de clairvoyance et de finesse le tragique des petits côtés de l’existence ; personne avant lui ne sut montrer avec autant d’impitoyable vérité le fastidieux tableau de leur vie telle qu’elle se déroule dans le morne chaos de la médiocrité bourgeoise ." Gorki

Sa vie
Anton Tchekhov Ecrivain russe né à Taganrog 1860, décédé à Badenweiler en Allemagne en 1904.

Sa biographie se résume à quelques dates dans un calepin et beaucoup de pages blanches. Il ne se passe rien ou à peu près rien dans la vie de l'écrivain, comme il ne se passe rien ou à peu près rien dans son théâtre.

Une enfance triste dans une bourgade reculée, des études de médecine, une impérieuse vocation littéraire, quelques voyages à l'étranger, des séjours en sanatorium, un mariage sur le tard : bref une vie sans histoires, une vie de routine, partagée entre le travail, les factures à régler et les médicaments.

Sur ce fond de grisaille l'homme souffre continuellement, rongé par un mal inexorable, la tuberculose. Il tousse et crache le sang ; le visage fin et bon, la bouche légèrement moqueuse expriment la mélancolie, et les rides trahissent la crispation de la souffrance. Cette vie ne tient qu'à un fil. Mais chaque instant, si douloureux soit-il, est une victoire sur la maladie. Chaque souffle d'air, le frémissement des feuilles, le bruit des pas sur la neige sont un miracle de la vie.

Nul n'a éprouvé aussi bien que Tchekhov la tristesse désespérante de ces mornes journées où la maladie ne laisse pas de répit, la solitude, le dégoût devant la médiocrité du monde, le tragique à la fois social et métaphysique de la condition humaine ; mais nul n'a connu aussi bien que lui le prix de cette succession d'instants arrachés à la mort.

Fut-il heureux ou malheureux cet homme qui déclare que " plus le fond sera gris et terne, mieux cela vaudra ? ". La question importe peu. " Seuls les êtres indifférents sont capables de voir les choses clairement, d'être justes et de travailler ", répond-t-il. Tchekhov s'est désintéressé de sa propre histoire. Il a tout sacrifié à son travail renonçant à vivre pour écrire et, par nécessité, se protégeant contre les dangereux élans de la tendresse.

Son bonheur à lui compte peu, comparé à celui de milliers d'hommes que son œuvre - cette œuvre construite avec froideur, certains diront avec cruauté - a pour mission d'éduquer. Il aime trop les êtres pour s'attacher à l'un en particulier, et il a trop conscience de leur besoin de dignité pour ne pas constamment dénoncer leurs illusions.

L'écrivain ne se veut ni moraliste ni philosophe. Il se contente de peindre la vie, de montrer simplement, modestement les choses. A l'inverse de celle de Tolstoï, son œuvre n'enseigne rien, mais, pourtant, elle donne des leçons. Avant tout Tchekhov est un artiste : " Mon rôle n'est que d'avoir du talent, autrement dit de savoir distinguer ce qui est important de ce qui ne l'est pas, de savoir éclairer les personnages et de leur faire parler leur langue. "

" Dans mon enfance je n'ai pas eu d'enfance ". Le petit garçon qui garde la boutique d'épicerie que tient son père, en veillant tard dans la nuit, a déjà sur le monde un regard d'adulte. Entre deux devoirs rédigés à la lueur des bougies, il observe les passants et écoute leurs conversations, tout en luttant contre le sommeil.

Le père, fils de serf libéré, est un homme sévère, violent, qui passe ses colères en maniant le fouet et, l'instant d'après, s'agenouille devant les icônes. On suit très régulièrement les offices chez les Tchekhov, on est confit en dévotions. L'église, la boutique, le lycée, une atmosphère de brutalité et de bigoterie, tel est le cadre où grandit le jeune Anton.

A Taganrog, bourgade du Sud sur la mer d'Azov, la vie est monotone et triste, parfois sordide - les affaires marchent mal ; la famille Tchekhov, le père, la mère et leurs six enfants, vit entassée dans quatre pièces et loue à des étrangers les chambres disponibles. A quatorze ans Anton gagne quelques kopecks en servant de répétiteur à des fils de notables. Mais bientôt la situation se dégrade, car le père qui a emprunté 500 roubles, ne peut rembourser ses traites et doit s'enfouir pour éviter la prison pour dettes. Anton seul reste à Taganrog, où à seize ans, il est chargé de liquider l'affaire et d'envoyer aux siens, à Moscou, l'argent qu'il pourra sauver du naufrage.

Seize ans et des responsabilités d'adulte ! De nature gaie, vive, moqueuse, Anton a vite appris la gravité. C'est lui qui réconforte la famille par Lettreet, chaque mois, à date régulière, il envoie quelques roubles à Moscou. Malgré son enfance misérable et les mauvais traitements de son père, il ne juge pas les siens.

A seize ans, le monde qui l'entoure est celui de la routine de la vie provinciale, de la steppe aux portes de la ville - promesse d'évasion - de l'enfance misérable, de la médiocrité des villageois, de leur médiocrité et de leur soûlerie, des vols des commis, des mensonges et de la misère de ces pauvres qui se résignent à leur sort. Une seule génération sépare Anton du servage, et il ne lui faut pas beaucoup d'imagination pour ressentir la cuisante humiliation des opprimés.

Il a découvert le besoin de dignité inhérent à chaque homme, et ces quelques lignes, écrites en 1879, la réponse à son jeune frère Michel, sont révélatrices : " Une chose me déplaît dans ta Lettre: pourquoi te qualifies-tu de petit frère nul et insignifiant ? Ton insignifiance, ta médiocrité, sais-tu où seulement tu dois les ressentir ? Peut-être devant Dieu, devant l'esprit, la beauté, la nature ; mais jamais devant les hommes. Devant les hommes il faut prendre conscience de sa dignité ".

Petit-fils de serf, fils de boutiquier, Tchekhov est un vivant exemple de l'ascension sociale offerte aux classes laborieuses par le régime tsariste finissant. Si la peinture que l'écrivain fait des milieux aristocratiques qu'il ne connaissait pas n'est pas des plus convaincantes, il est aussi à l'aise dans le peuple que dans la bourgeoisie et dans les classes libérales. Comme une vieille collection de photos, l'œuvre de Tchekhov nous apprend bien des choses sur la société où il vécut. Société riche en inégalités, bien sûr, mais plutôt bon enfant, société lasse d'elle-même et en quête d'un avenir radieux - donc apte à tomber (comme elle le fit) dans le pire des pièges pseudo-idéalistes, société où la naissance ne compte plus pour rien, où ne règnent que, pour les uns, l'argent, et, pour les autres, une profonde et haute spiritualité.

En 1879 Anton rejoint sa famille à Moscou. Il s'inscrit à la faculté de médecine où il terminera ses études en 1884. Les Tchekhov vivent pauvrement et logent dans un sous-sol humide. Les frères aînés boivent et se dissipent. Anton a la charge des siens et améliore l'ordinaire en publiant quelques brefs récits dans un petit journal humoristique. En 1880, à vingt ans il a publié neuf récits, 5 ans plus tard il atteindra le chiffre de 129 articles et nouvelles !

Mais cette littérature " alimentaire " payée 68 kopecks la ligne compte moins dans sa vie que la médecine. Il écrit ses contes trois heures par jour, sur le coin de la grande table où est servi le samovar, au milieu des éclats de rire de ses frères et de leurs camarades. Ses sujets appartiennent à la vie de tous les jours, qu'il observe de son regard moqueur. Sa facilité tient du prodige.

" La médecine est ma femme légitime, écrit-il, la littérature, ma maîtresse. Quand l'une m'ennuie, je vais passer ma nuit avec l'autre ".

A partir de 1884 Tchekhov devient médecin pratiquant à Zvenigorod. Son seul souci, grave, est sa santé. Depuis quelque temps il s'est mis à cracher du sang.
L'écrivain célèbre Grigorivitch lui écrit une Lettredans laquelle il exprime son admiration pour son talent. Il lui écrit " vous vous rendez coupable d'un grand péché moral si vous ne répondez pas à ces espérances.

Jusqu'ici Tchekhov a traité son travail littéraire avec légèreté, comme un passe-temps sans importance, cette Lettrel'oblige à prendre du recul sur lui-même.
Bientôt Tchekhov devient une gloire de la Russie. Il reçoit le prix Pouchkine ; on le courtise, on l'adule, et le public l'aime. Et pourtant combien il est difficile de connaître cet homme de 28 ans, déjà las et déçu, qui se livre si peu. De sa vie sentimentale, on ne sait rien ou presque, en dehors d'une brève aventure d'adolescent avec une jeune paysanne et de son tardif mariage avec l'actrice Olga Knipper.

Beaucoup de femmes l'ont aimé passionnément, lui-même s'avoue sensuel : il s'ennuie sans grand amour. Mais il refuse de s'engager. Il s'interdit d'aimer. Sa froideur est une défense pour sauvegarder sa liberté intérieure.

Et cependant son prochain lui inspire une grande pitié. Il part pour Sakhaline, sous un climat polaire, où sont rassemblés les déchus de la terre, les bagnards russes. Plus tard il soigne les victimes d'une épidémie de choléra, lutte contre la famine, se dépense sans compter, sans jamais faire ni politique ni morale. 

Contrairement aux écrivains engagés, Tchekhov revendiquait le droit de n'appartenir à aucun parti et de frapper aussi bien à droite qu'à gauche selon les ordres de sa conscience.

Ces activités ne l'empêchent pas d'écrire. Les critiques littéraires sont souvent acerbes à son égard. Lorsque la Mouette est présentée pour la première fois à Saint-Pétersbourg, le spectacle est un désastre.
En 1897 il séjourna à Nice. Il élut domicile à la Pension russe, située au numéro 9 de la rue Gounod, où il retrouva une quarantaine de ses compatriotes. Parmi eux, de nombreux malades. La cuisinière qui était russe préparait d'abondants repas mi-russes, mi-français, où le borchtch voisinait avec le bifteck-pommes frites. Le temps ensoleillé, les fleurs, les palmiers, la mer paisible et bleue, tout l'incitait à la paresse. Il déambulait longuement sur la Promenade des Anglais, s'asseyait à la terrasse d'un café, lisait les journaux, écoutait les orchestres en plein air et s'efforçait de ne penser à rien.

Après une brève amélioration ses crachements de sang se renouvelèrent.
Tchekhov est de plus en plus souffrant et c'est à cette période de sa vie qu'il tombe dans le piège de l'amour, un piège d'autant plus cruel que la maladie et les tournées théâtrales le séparent sans cesse d'Olga. Le 25 mai 1901 Anton et Olga se marient. Il reste à l'écrivain trois ans à vivre. Trois ans de lente agonie. Comme un courant d'air Olga va et vient et repart, aimante mais incapable de sacrifier sa carrière pour l'homme qui se meurt à ses côtés.

Olga ne désespère pas de sauver son mari de la tuberculose et l'emmène dans une ville d'eau de la Forêt-Noire. Une nuit du début de juillet 1904 Tchekhov s'éteint tout doucement à 44 ans en murmurant en allemand : " Ich sterbe " (je meurs).

Son œuvre
Le chantre de la désespérance " écrivait Léon Chestov et il ajoutait " Il a tué les espoirs humains 25 ans durant; avec une morne obstination il n'a fait que cela ". Que reste-t-il lorsque le voile des illusions s'est déchiré ? Le vide, le tragique dérisoire du néant.

Les pièces de Tchekhov se déroulent dans le cadre de la province, une province morne et routinière, où les seuls événements sont le défilé de la garnison, les conversations plus ou moins médisantes autour d'un samovar, le passage du docteur ou de l'inspecteur des impôts, une province qui ressemblerait à une eau morte, que trouble un instant, comme le jet d'une pierre un événement inopiné ; quelques rides à peine, et la vie reprend. Mais, souterrainement, tout se défait dans la dérive de la vie et l'usure du temps.

Les Trois Sœurs racontent l'enlisement de trois jeunes provinciales dans un monde en décomposition. Après la faillite de leurs songes, les jeunes femmes cherchent désespérément une raison à leur présence sur terre. Toute la pièce d'une extrême tension psychologique, repose sur cette question : quel est le sens de la vie ? Aux interrogations angoissées des trois sœurs répondent les observations sceptiques des officiers : " Quel sens ? dit-il l'un d'eux. Tenez, voyez la neige qui tombe. Quel sens cela a-t-il ? ". Par de petites phrases nonchalantes, Tchekhov crée une atmosphère si lourde et si poétique à la fois que les spectateurs partagent le vertige des personnages devant l'absurdité de la condition humaine.

L'auteur nous invite moins à suivre une action extérieure qu'à descendre en nous-mêmes. Insensiblement la morne bourgade provinciale devient notre patrie intérieure. L'aventure lamentable des trois sœurs, c'est notre propre aventure, à nous qui ne savons ni d'où nous venons, ni où nous allons, ni ce que nous faisons en ce monde. Longtemps après avoir quitté la salle, nous entendons la terrible accusation d'André, le frère raté : " On ne fait que manger, boire, dormir, et ensuite mourir… D'autres naissent, et eux aussi mangent, boivent, dorment, et, pour que l'ennui ne les abrutisse pas définitivement, ils mettent de la diversité dans leur vie avec de potins infâmes, de la vodka, des cartes, la chicane…, et les femmes trompent leurs maris, et les maris mentent et font comme s'ils ne remarquaient rien, n'entendaient rien, et cette influence irrésistiblement vulgaire pèse sur les enfants, étouffe l'étincelle divine qui vivait en eux, et ils deviennent des cadavres aussi misérables que leurs pères et mères. "

Dans La Cerisaie, on assiste à la pitoyable fin d'une propriété, symbole de la famille, livrée aux bûcherons et aux promoteurs. La Mouette est l'histoire d'une jeune fille à la vocation d'actrice, perdue dans le désœuvrement d'un homme mûr : agonie d'un amour, d'une maison, d'une société… Dans La Mouette les personnages doivent s'avouer que chacun a vu ses élans se briser contre les obstacles de la vie quotidienne. Toute la pièce témoigne de l'absurdité de la destinée humaine. Selon l'auteur il n'existe pas de grand projet qui ne soit, tôt ou tard, voué à l'échec. Il faut une énergie surhumaine pour jeter une passerelle au-dessus de l'abîme qui sépare le songe de la réalité. Tous les personnages qui se meuvent dans cette atmosphère feutrée ont en commun une sorte de prémonition de leur défaite en amour et en art. Ils rêvent leur passion, ils en parlent mais ils ne la vivent pas.

Dans Oncle Vania, Tchekhov a renoué avec ses thèmes familiers : la lente usure des âmes dans la répétition des gestes quotidiens, l'ennui de la vie oisive à la campagne, l'échec inéluctable de toute aspiration vers un idéal, l'opposition entre les caractères négatifs et ceux qui tentent de se rendre utiles à leurs semblables.

Les personnages ? Ce sont les mêmes qui vivent dans les nouvelles ou les pièces ; une nuée de bureaucrates, de petits propriétaires ruinés, de médecins et de juges englués, apeurés, avilis, qui s'agitent vainement et encaissent les coups, d'artistes médiocres, de savants vaniteux qui ont usurpé leur réputation. Ils sont généralement bêtes, ivrognes et paresseux. S'ils sont intelligents, ils se perdent par leur goût de l'introspection, et s'enfoncent lucidement dans le néant. Les enfants eux-mêmes répercutent les vices des adultes ou se résignent à leur sort. Victimes ou bourreaux, tous se valent : " Regardez donc la vie : insolence et oisiveté des forts, ignorance et bestialité des faibles, rien qu'une dégénérescence, une ivrognerie, une hypocrisie, un éternel mensonge "

Tous ces personnages, comme les mouettes, errent sans but, battent désespérément des ailes, s'épuisent en de vaines paroles et meurent de leur impuissance, abattus par quelques chasseurs. Les uns se résignent par lassitude et indifférence ; ils reprennent une vie fastidieuse auprès d'une femme qu'ils ont cessé d'aimer, d'autres mettent fin à leurs jours. " Les personnages de Tchekhov ont tous peur de la lumière, tous ils sont des solitaires. Ils ont honte de leur désespérance et savent que les hommes ne peuvent leur venir en aide ". (Chestov).

Les hommes sont murés, prisonniers dans leur " étui " comme dans leur cercueil ; leurs mains, leurs bras n'étreignent que le vide. Philosophie du désespoir, de l'absurde qui fait conclure Tchekhov " Il fait froid, froid, froid. C'est désert, désert, désert " (la Mouette).

Et pourtant ce monde désenchanté reste imprégné de grâce et cet écrivain impitoyable pénétré de tendresse. Une flambée de poésie éclaire cette société finissante. Gorki écrivit à Tchekhov " Vous accomplissez un travail énorme avec vos petits récits, en éveillant le dégoût de cette vie endormie, agonisante…. Vos contes sont des flacons élégamment taillés, remplis de tous les arômes de la vie. ". Si Tolstoï refusait à Tchekhov tout talent de dramaturge, il le tenait pour un remarquable conteur. Il comparait Tchekhov à Maupassant. " L'illusion de la vérité est complète chez Tchekhov. Ses textes produisent l'effet d'un stéréoscope.

On dirait qu'il jette les mots en l'air n'importe comment, mais comme un peintre impressionniste, il obtient de merveilleux résultats avec ses coups de pinceau "
Tchekhov qui, sans doute, ne croit ni à Dieu ni au diable continue de croire à l'avenir de l'homme. La société peut être améliorée, les individus seront moins cruels, moins égoïstes. Le travail, la force libératrice de la science promettent le bonheur futur.

On se tait dans le théâtre de Tchekhov et " l'on s'entend se taire ". Chaque silence, rythmé par l'horloge, marque le temps qui s'écoule, d'une exceptionnelle densité. Dans l'oisiveté de la vie de province, chaque seconde compte. Chaque instant de présent est nourri de passé et condense en lui plusieurs années de désespoir et de révolte, de nostalgie ou d'ennui…

Le temps tchékhovien ne mûrit pas les personnages. Il les défait, il les dépossède de leur être, il émousse leurs sentiments. Le temps est une blessure - impossible de vivre au présent, ce présent absurde et lourd de regrets, les hommes sont condamnés à vivre au passé ou au futur antérieur. " Je n'aime plus personne " soupire Astrov, le médecin d'Oncle Vania. La seule vie possible est la vie rêvée, la vie du souvenir, de la nostalgie ou encore la vie d'un futur lointain et utopique.

Dans le présent, nous ne pouvons étreindre que des ombres. Et le meilleur des remèdes pou abolir le temps, pour 'tuer " le temps n'est-il pas la routine, cette répétition mécanique de nos gestes, qui favorise l'oubli ?

1860 : 17 janvier, naissance à Taganrog (sur la mer d’Azov, au sud de la Russie), fils de marchand. 
1876 : Faillite du père. La famille s’installe à Moscou. Demeure à Taganrog avec Ivan (un frère cadet) : élèves au lycée. Devient répétiteur.
1877-1879 : Premier voyage à Moscou et premiers récits, confiés à son frère aîné Alexandre. Passe l’examen de maturité. S’installe à Moscou.
1880 : Parution d’une nouvelle dans le magazine humoristique, La Libellule.
1881-1887 : Publie des « textes bigarrés » sous des pseudonymes variés (principalement « Tchekhonte »), dans des petites revues, puis dans le Journal de Petersbourg.
1884 : Achève ses études médicales à l’Université de Moscou. Médecin à Vozkresensk, puis à Zvenigorod, près de Moscou. Fait la connaissance du milieu littéraire.
1886 : Début de la collaboration avec l’éditeur du Temps nouveau, Alexis Souvorine.
1887 : Ivanov est donné à Moscou, au théâtre de Korch, en septembre.
1888 : Écrit le long récit poétique La Steppe, et L’Anniversaire.
1889 : Publie Une morne histoire. Son frère Nicolas meurt. Voyage dans le sud, à Yalta et Odessa. Première représentation de L’Esprit des bois (première version de Oncle Vania). Admission à la Société des Auteurs dramatiques.
1890 : Le 21 avril, départ pour l’île de Sakhaline. Comptes rendus au Temps nouveau.
1891 : Voyage à l’étranger. Publie Le Duel. Organise des secours pour les régions de Russie touchées par la famine.
1892 : Parution de La Sauteuse dans la revue Le Nord, et de Chambre d’hôpital n° 6 dans la revue La Pensée russe. Lutte contre le choléra. Met fin à sa collaboration avec le Temps nouveau. Achète un domaine en Russie centrale (Mélikhovo). Occupe des fonctions au zemsvo local (circonspection territoriale administrativement autonome pour les écoles et la médecine). 
1893 : Écrit L’Histoire d’un homme inconnu, sévèrement critiqué par le Temps nouveau.
1894 : Passe une partie de l’année à l’étranger, tombe malade de phtisie, se rend en Crimée pour se soigner. Publie, entre autres récits, un de ses chefs-d’œuvre, Le Violon de Rothschild. 
1895 : Première version de La Mouette. Première rencontre avec Léon Tolstoï. Parution du livre L’Ile de Sakhaline. 
1896 : Construit à ses frais une école. Échec retentissant de La Mouette sur la scène du théâtre de l’Impératrice Marie à Petersbourg. 
1897 : Participe au recensement général de la population. Travaille au zemsvo à la surveillance des bibliothèques publiques. Aggravation de son état de santé. Publication du long récit Les Paysans. En septembre, voyage à l’étranger. Écrit le Pétchénègue à Nice. Suit les péripéties de l’affaire Dreyfus. 
1898 : Nemirovitch-Dantchenko, directeur du théâtre d’Art fondé avec Stanislavski, lui demande l’autorisation de monter La Mouette (qui remportera cette fois un vif succès). Publication des récits : Groseille à maquereau, L’Homme dans un étui, Ionytch. Fait la connaissance de Gorki. Première représentation de Oncle Vania. Parution de La Dame au petit chien et du premier tome des Œuvres complètes chez l’éditeur Marx. 
1900 : Élu membre de l’Académie. Parution de Dans le ravin. Le théâtre d’Art vient jouer à Yalta, voyage au Caucase, départ pour Nice où il écrit Les Trois Sœurs. 
1901 : Première des Trois Sœurs, retour à Yalta, mariage avec Olga Knipper. 
1902-1903 : Gorki élu à l’Académie, sa nomination n’étant pas entérinée, Tchékhov démissionne. Parution du récit L’Évêque. Travaille à La Cerisaie. 
1904 : 17 janvier : répétition générale de La Cerisaie à Moscou. En mai, son état de santé empire, part avec Olga en cure en Allemagne. Meurt à Badenweiler le 2 juillet. Enterré le 9 juillet au cimetière du Monastère des Vierges à Moscou.
1920 : Découverte d’une pièce de jeunesse inédite, Platonov. Les dates sont données selon le calendrier julien en vigueur en Russie jusqu’à la Révolution et qui retardait de treize jours sur le calendrier grégorien.

Citations de Anton Tchékhov
Rien n'unit aussi fort que la haine : ni l'amour, ni l'amitié, ni l'admiration.
Ceux qui n'ont pas l'esprit libre ont des pensées toujours confuses.
C'est affreux de connaître le secret d'un autre et de ne pas pouvoir l'aider.
L'état normal d'un homme est d'être un original.
Nous ne sommes pas heureux, et le bonheur n'existe pas ; nous ne pouvons que le désirer.
Ce ne sont ni les brigands ni les incendies qui détruisent le monde, mais la haine, l'hostilité, les petites intrigues...
Le public ? Il a toujours été comme un troupeau : en quête de bons bergers et de bons chiens, et allant toujours là où
le menaient les bergers et les chiens.
L'indifférence est une paralysie de l'âme.
Tout a été dit et fait, et aucune littérature ne peut dépasser le cynisme de la réalité. On ne soûle pas avec un verre
celui qui a déjà bu une barrique.
Ne peut être beau que ce qui est grave.
Entre Dieu existe et Dieu n'existe pas, s'étend tout un champ immense que traverse à grand-peine le vrai sage.
Ils se marient, car tous les deux ne savent que faire d'eux-mêmes.
Les hommes intelligents aiment apprendre. Les imbéciles aiment enseigner.
La paresse et l'oisiveté, c'est contagieux !
Si vous craignez la solitude, ne vous mariez pas !
Le talent, c'est la hardiesse, l'esprit libre, les idées larges.
Il ne faut pas montrer sur la scène un fusil si personne n'a l'intention de s'en servir.
Qui ne sait pas être serviteur ne pourrait être maître.
Quel que soit le sujet de la conversation, un vieux soldat parlera toujours de guerre.
Lorsqu'on n'a pas de vie véritable, on la remplace par des mirages. C'est tout de même mieux que rien.