Anton Chekhov stories while traveling

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Anton Chekhov 1860-1904

This summer it was Chekhov again, not Hemingway. Translator Robert Payne writes about the challenges of translating Chekhov:

…It is not only that he speaks in the manner of his time; he is continually describing a way of life which has vanished from the earth….time after time he describes events which are unthinkable in modern Russia…to translate Chekhov adequately, one should have a vast knowledge of church ritual, the social customs of the nineteenth century, the dialects of Moscow and half a dozen other towns in Russia. Ideally he should be translated by a group of churchmen, sociologists, and experts on dialect, but they would quarrel interminably and the translation would never be done…

The stories, translated by Payne, carry readers in horse-drawn wagons into that strange, foreign Russia, with the peasants , clergy, soldiers and others, all dark and smoky and wintry, so that we shiver in the weather and listen carefully to the tales. I’ve read most of the stories in the collection more than once. The pages of “Heartache”, “The Bishop”, “The Lady with the Pet Dog”, are dog-eared.

“That’s how it is, old girl. My son, Kuzma Ionich, is no more. He died on us. Now let’s say you had a foal, and you were the foal’s mother, and suddenly, let’s say, the same little foal deeparted this life. You’d be sorry, eh?”

The little mare munched and listened and breathed on his hands.

Surrendering to his grief, Iona told her the whole story. -from “Heartache”, January 1886

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