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[Perspectives] Elegy of an unfulfilled life

When darkness is suddenly dissolved by warm autumnal light and the air fills with the sound of birds singing, there is a doctor at the centre of the stage in the new production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Almeida Theatre in London. This is no ordinary physician but Mikhail Astrov, one of the most compelling figures in the gallery of doctors created by the great Russian writer. The recurrence of physicians in Chekhov’s work is far from casual. Chekhov was a doctor and practised throughout most of his life in parallel with his literary career.