Anton Chekhov

Originally posted on the Russian point of view:

I’m often asked to recommend Russian literature.
I’d like to reveal you a famous writer Anton Chekhov (1860 – 1904). I don’t want to rewrite an article from Wiki, so if you want to read about him, you’ll do it there. I’ll just say Chekhov was a great dramatist. For example, here you may see his reputed short stories: As for me, I was impressed by story №154 “The Bet”.
Yesterday I read one of his stories and I liked it, but I didn’t find it in the list. So I’ll translate it.


Anton Chekhov

“The Conversation Between the Drunk Man and the Sober Imp”

The former official of quartermaster’s office, retired collegiate secretary Lakhmatov was sitting around a table and drinking the 16th shot while pondering over brotherhood, equality and freedom. Suddenly an imp appeared behind the lamp… But don’t be frightened, dear reader. Do you know, what…

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In May

“It was cool and still in the garden, and dark shadows lay peacefully on the ground. From a long way off, probably outside town, came the distant croaking of frogs. There was a feeling of May, the delightful month of May, in the air. One could draw deep breaths, and imagine that somewhere, far beyond the town, beneath the sky, above the treetops, in the fields and woods, the spring was beginning its own life, that mysterious, exquisite life, rich and sacred, from which sinful mortals are shut out. It almost made one want to cry.”
The Betroyhed by Anton  Chekhov

Facial Expression

Christ by Ivan Turgenev

Translated by Isabel Hapgood

I saw myself as a youth, almost a little boy, in a low-ceiled country church. – Slender wax tapers burned like red spots in front of the ancient holy pictures.

An aureole of rainbow hues encircled each tiny flame. – It was dark and dim in the church…. But a mass of people stood in front of me.

All reddish, peasant heads. From time to time they would begin to surge, to fall, to rise again, like ripe ears of grain when the summer breeze flits across them in a slow wave.

Suddenly some man or other stepped from behind and took up his stand alongside me.

I did not turn toward him, but I immediately felt that that man was – Christ.

Emotion, curiosity, awe took possession of me simultaneously. I forced myself to look at my neighbour.

He had a face like that of everybody else, – a face similar to all human faces. His eyes gazed slightly upward, attentively and gently. His lips were closed, but not compressed; the upper lip seemed to rest upon the lower; his small beard was parted in the middle. His hands were clasped, and did not move. And his garments were like those of every one else.

“Christ, forsooth!” I thought to myself. “Such a simple, simple man! It cannot be!”

I turned away. – But before I had time to turn my eyes from that simple man it again seemed to me that it was Christ in person who was standing beside me.

Again I exerted an effort over myself…. And again I beheld the same face, resembling all human faces, the same ordinary, although unfamiliar, features.

And suddenly dread fell upon me, and I came to myself. Only then did I understand that precisely such a face – a face like all human faces – is the face of Christ.

December, 1878.

About Conflict between Good and Evil

Do we goodness to others, or do we evil? Who can know it?

A prisoner, condemned to confinement for life, broke out of his prison and took to head-long flight…. After him, just on his heels flew his gaolers in pursuit.

He ran with all his might…. His pursuers began to be left behind.

But behold, before him was a river with precipitous banks, a narrow, but deep river…. And he could not swim!

A thin rotten plank had been thrown across from one bank to the other. The fugitive already had his foot upon it…. But it so happened that just there beside the river stood his best friend and his bitterest enemy.

His enemy said nothing, he merely folded his arms; but the friend shrieked at the top of his voice: ‘Heavens! What are you doing? Madman, think what you’re about! Don’t you see the plank’s utterly rotten? It will break under your weight, and you will inevitably perish!’

‘But there is no other way to cross… and don’t you hear them in pursuit?’ groaned the poor wretch in despair, and he stepped on to the plank.

‘I won’t allow it!… No, I won’t allow you to rush to destruction!’ cried the zealous friend, and he snatched the plank from under the fugitive. The latter instantly fell into the boiling torrent, and was drowned.

The enemy smiled complacently, and walked away; but the friend sat down on the bank, and fell to weeping bitterly over his poor… poor friend!

To blame himself for his destruction did not however occur to him… not for an instant.

‘He would not listen to me! He would not listen!’ he murmured dejectedly.

‘Though indeed,’ he added at last. ‘He would have had, to be sure, to languish his whole life long in an awful prison! At any rate, he is out of suffering now! He is better off now! Such was bound to be his fate, I suppose!

‘And yet I am sorry, from humane feeling!’

And the kind soul continued to sob inconsolably over the fate of his misguided friend.

Friend and Enemy by Ivan Turgenev

Facial Expression

The Sphinx By Ivan Turgenev

Translated from The Russian by Isabel Hapgood

Yellowish-grey, friable at the top, firm below, creaking sand … sand without end, no matter in which direction one gazes!

And above this sand, above this sea of dead dust, the huge head of the Egyptian Sphinx rears itself aloft.

What is it that those vast, protruding lips, those impassively dilated, up-turned nostrils, and those eyes, those long, half-sleepy, half-watchful eyes, beneath the double arch of the lofty brows, are trying to say?

For they are trying to say something! They even speak – but only Oedipus can solve the riddle and understand their mute speech.

Bah! Yes, I recognise those features … there is nothing Egyptian about the low white forehead, the prominent cheek-bones, the short, straight nose, the fine mouth with its white teeth, the soft moustache and curling beard, – and those small eyes set far apart … and on the head the cap of hair furrowed with a parting…. Why, it is thou, Karp, Sidor, Semyon, thou petty peasant of Yaroslavl, or of Ryazan, my fellow-countryman, the kernel of Russia! Is it long since thou didst become the Sphinx?

Or dost thou also wish to say something? Yes; and thou also art a Sphinx.

And thy eyes – those colourless but profound eyes – speak also…. And their speeches are equally dumb and enigmatic.

Only where is thine Oedipus?

Alas! ‘Tis not sufficient to don a cap to become thine Oedipus, O Sphinx of All the Russians!

December, 1878.