Madness in the Garden

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov (1894)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 7, 2016



Some think there’s a fabled connection between genius and madness. Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf come to mind. Poe too. Aristotle said that “no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”  Anton Chekhov wrote The Black Monk in 1893 while living in the village of Melikhove. “I wrote ‘The Black Monk’ without any melancholy, in cold reflection,” he reported in a letter to his publisher. Chekhov said he had dreamed of a ”monk who floats over the field and when I woke up I wrote about him.”




This short story is about a young man named Andrei Vasilich Kovrin. A story full of realism, mystery, supernaturalism, sanity, madness. Kovrin is on the verge of a breakdown when his doctor advises him to live in the Russian country for restoration. He visits his childhood friend Tanya on her father’s estate. Long autumn walks in the garden, star gazing and conversation: Kovrin begins to relax and becomes enchanted with Tanya and his surroundings. One day, beyond the treasured garden, across a wide field, he sees the Black Monk. He becomes haunted by this odd creature who makes regular visits and chats with him. Their meetings are actually pleasant experiences, probably “a hallucination,” Kovrin decides about this Black Monk, born of legend. But nature has its way and plays a compelling role in this tale of the unexpected. Gothic. Fantastic. Romantic. And just a little bit slippery.

“What’s the harm in a hallucination?”






Read The Black Monk at Eldritch

Listen to the audio on You Tube.




Anton Chekhov is recognized as a master of the short story form, known for his lyrical and atmospheric qualities. His plays are still performed worldwide. More about Anton Chekhov at “How to Write Like Chekhov,” book review and commentary.


If you are a Chekhovian reader and love historical fiction, you might like The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson. Released May this year from HarperCollins, this enchanting story of Anton Chekhov’s summers at the Luka estate on Sumy where he meets a young blind woman and establishes an endearing friendship is a beautiful read.



Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.


Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     Horror Novel Reviews     

Monster Librarian 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZ Publishing


Filed under Anton Chekhov, fiction, horror blogs, literary horror, phantoms, psychological horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror

3 responses to “Madness in the Garden

  1. Jay

    Somehow I missed this post when it was first published, but let me just say that “The Black Monk” is certainly in my Top 10 favorite short stories of all time. It was our leadoff selection in a short story reading group I formed at work and was a big hit, igniting a great discussion. When I was younger, I was conceited enough to identify with Kovrin in this tale; I guess now that I’m older I start to identify more with Tanya’s father – ha ha! I’ve probably read this half a dozen times and am always recommending it to others. Glad to see that you featured it here. 🙂

    In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Sirens of Titan, there is a Black Monk-ish recurring “Chrono-Synclastic Infandibulum” where a character makes appearances across the solar system like Chekhov’s Black Monk. I always wondered if KV was familiar with or inspired by this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, I’ve never read any of Chekhov’s work though I know some of his quotes. BTW, I downloaded your book, Grey Lock the other night. I’m setting up my kindle with a bunch of summer reads and the synopsis sounded interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear your thoughts, Mike. I like to study the way Chekhov writes his stories. There’s a collection of his crime and suspense stories in “A Night in the Cemetery,” which has over 40 of his most famous mysteries. Some dark, or light horror, or classic noir. I hope you like Greylock! Thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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