‘It seems to me that the more questions a work [of art] has inside it, the more unresolved tensions and anxieties, the more likely it is to survive. A writer can only live in their own time, subject to the pressures, understandings and desires of that time. . . . Some concern themselves with the issues of the day, while others concern themselves with the issues of the heart. Neither is better than the other, but the cultural value of a work lies only in its relevance to the present.
If a work becomes irrelevant or impenetrable, it is because the present cannot invigorate it, or is not illuminated by it. It then becomes increasingly a historical document and less of a living work.
Many of the canon’s great works, although they may have been concerned with the issues of their day, have survived because they are lodged inside the travails of the human heart. The gender of the characters is less relevant, thanks to their connection to universally human experiences. . . . Shared human experiences – love and loss and regret and hope – bind us together. In this way, the canon remains alive. It challenges, questions and reveals the values and ethics at society’s core. . . .
The great insight of Chekhov is that our real desires, hopes and fears are hidden from us. The truer they are, the thicker the veil. Instead of trying to understand the subconscious . . . Chekhov knew that what a person does and says rarely align exactly, if at all. Unlike many of his mates in the canon, he imbues all his characters with this complexity, not just the boys. The gap between who his characters say they are, who they think they are and what they do becomes the key in which his symphonies of misunderstanding and missed opportunity are scored.’
Andrew Upton, Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 2015 (from here)