James McConkey

To a distant island

Paul Dry Books

Philadelphia, 2000
bibliothèque insulaire
l'archipel russe ?

parutions 2000

To a distant island / James McConkey ; foreword by Jay Parini. - Philadelphia : Paul Dry books, 2000. - XVIII-203 p. : map ; 23 cm.
ISBN 0-9664913-5-1
NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : In 1890 Anton Chekhov — thirty years old and already a famous writer — left his home and family in Moscow to travel 6,500 miles across Russia, over frozen land and sea, by train, ferry, and troika, to visit the island of Sakhalin, a penal colony off the coast of Siberia.

What was Chekhov seeking by undertaking such a harrowing journey to that God-forsaken island ? Ostensibly, he went in his role of physician, to observe the medical conditions and to collect statistical information (indeed, Chekhov wrote that during his stay he filled out more than 10,000 census cards based on interviews with prisoners and exiles). But his motivation, as James McConkey reflects, was more likely escape : escape from the sense of confinement that fame, fortune, and family had brought — a search, in other words, for freedom in a place where no one was free.

In To a Distant Island, McConkey recreates Chekhov's remarkable journey in all of its complexity, while interweaving a journey of his own. As McConkey guides us through the Russian wilderness and into the soul of this great writer, he uncovers the peculiar and hidden forces that shaped two lives.

ISLANDS, May-June 2001 : […]

In To a distant island, teacher and critic James McConkey retells the story of Chekhov's pilgrimage. Like his subject, McConkey has suffered from serious depression, and he seems to have a special empathy with Chekhov as he attempts to reconstruct the Russian author's motivations.

McConkey frames the book as a novel told in a detached, vaguely 19th century style. […] It's an effective filter, for Sakhalin was a hellhole that reduced humanity to bestiality in short order.

Tony Gibbs

  • « To a distant island », New York : Dutton, 1984
  • Anton Chekhov, « The island : a journey to Sakhalin », New York : Washington Square Press, 1967 ; Westport (Conn.) : Greenwood press, 1977
  • Anton Tchekhov, « L'île de Sakhaline », Paris : Gallimard (Folio, 3547), 2001

mise-à-jour : 8 décembre 2016