Anton Chekhov has special importance for us, as our first short stories, in the early part of the last century, were inspired by him. He had, himself, some doubts about his place in Russian literature, wondering where he would stand in comparison with his great forerunners like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev. He does not seem to have recognised that, being the first great bourgeois writer in that literature, he did not have to stand in relation to them in a traditional sort of way. He was the founder of a new phase in it. The National Academy of Performing Arts has done well to stage his "Seagull" in the Art Council in Karachi. The play is, in many ways, autobiographical, though more in the sense of Chekhov's self-perception at a certain period than in actual happenings. Lika is there in the role of Nina. She is the girl who loved Chekhov all her life, and whom Chekhov too loved but could not bring himself to marry, as he thought her a dilettante. According to Chekhov's sister, Maria, there was mutual love but incompatibility between them. Chekhov himself is in the guise of Kostya. Trigorin, an unhappy, a self-doubting writer in the play, is the Potapenko in real life, a musician, with whom Lika tried to find happiness, bearing a daughter to him but who, ultimately, left her more unhappy than ever. Chekhov's own wife, the great stage actress, Olga Knipper, did the part of Arkadina in a later production of the "Seagull". The play was not a great success on its opening night in Petrograd, and Kostya's part in it was booed. It was only later that it was recognised as a turning point in Russian drama, the dawn of its new age. Here Chekhov had frankly presented his theory of the will pitted against the environment and of the necessity of man's indifference to obstacles. But, apparently, the bourgeois culture had not kept pace with the rapid expansion of capitalist economy in Russia. Therefore, while recognised as a great story, the drama's philosophy was not as easily grasped. In the play itself, Kostya kills himself upon realising that he would neither gain the love of Nina nor be a successful playwright. But his killing of the seagull before that is inadmissible because it is un acte gratuit, a useless act. The seagull was not eaten and it was a sanitar: i.e. it ate the sick and dead fish in the lake. Of course, in real life, it was the other way. It was Lika who failed to win over Chekhov and he is among the giants of Russian literature. The play is, au fond, about the conflict within Chekhov himself. Lika had been telling him, with her whole being, what Nina wrote for Trigorin in the play: "If you should ever need my life, come and take it." Chekhov too loved Lika and regretted constantly for not responding to her. Stanislavsky, who did the role of Gayev in the Cherry Orchard, says in his memoirs of Chekhov: "Nina Zarechnaya , who has discovered Trigorin's nice but shallow short stories, falls in love with her youthful dream not with him. This is the tragedy of the slain seagull. This is the mockery and crudity of life." The problem with Chekhov was not that he did not respond to Lika's devoted love. No one is obliged to. It was that he did not follow the urgings of his own heart. Hence, the necessity of Kostya's killing the seagull. The writer is former ambassador.