The Year of Literature – 2015

Anton Chekhov – The Joy

This new translation of a short story The Joy by Anton Chekhov tried to draw attention to certain nuances that make the story more important
than just a satirical take on a person’s awe of the Press and desire to be famous. Nearly all of these nuances are in the first few passages
that depict the Kuldarins family as they are preparing for sleep. The youngest, the brothers, are the earliest to go, so by midnight, when the
story begins, they're fast asleep. Next, a sister, is also in bed, but is finishing reading a novel, of which her parents are probably oblivious. No
doubt, the novel is a romance, and the girl is in that romance-reading age. The parents are the last to go to bed, but it is also possible they
have been waiting for their eldest child, the protagonist, to return home. The young man is leading a typical young man's lifestyle, visiting
public houses, working in the day as a college registrar, which was the lowest civil officer rank in Imperial Russia.
These opening passages are important because, in spite of a long list of brilliant short stories, Chekhov's largest contribution as an author
was to the world's theatre with his poignant dramas and comedies. In case with The Joy, written in 1883, shortly before Chekhov debuted
with a full-length play, the short story has a strong dramatic component that would mark subsequent plays. The mis-en-scene gives us a
sleepy house, about to be disturbed by the joyous protagonist. The pace of events is growing with every character’s gradually getting out of
bed and appearing next to the protagonist who punctuates the reading of the news with his remarks. The pinnacle coincides with the end of
the news story, and we're left with a scene where there is no protagonist but a palpable sense of confusion and embarrassment. The
Joy quite obviously pre-empts Chekhov's turning to theatre not only by building a dramatic momentum, but also by drawing attention to what
seems like very mundane details: a sleepy house where they never read newspapers, brothers in short nightgowns, a sister with a novel, a
mother who always looks at the holy image... This orderly, dull, probably very pious atmosphere, suggests Chekhov, breeds boredom, and
every possibility to break out of the routine, to be exposed to the bigger world is taken as a godsend - even if it is accompanied by notoriety.
Links:
А. П. Чехов, Радость (original Russian text)
Anton P. Chekhov, The Joy (1883)

It was midnight.
Mitya Kuldarov, all excitement, his hair dishevelled, stormed into his parents’ house and quickly walked across all the rooms. The
parents were just preparing for sleep. His sister was already in bed, reading the last page of a novel. His brothers, the schoolboys, were fast
asleep.
- Where have you come from? – his parents asked in amazement. – What’s the matter?
- Oh, don’t ask! I didn’t expect this! Oh, I didn’t expect this at all! It’s… it’s simply unbelievable!
Mitya burst out laughing and then sank into the armchair, unable to cope with his happiness.
- It’s incredible! You can’t even imagine this! Look!
His sister leaped out of the bed and, wrapping herself in the quilt, went to see her brother. The schoolboys woke up.
- What’s the matter with you? You’re not yourself!
- Oh, it’s a joy, Mother! For now entire Russia knows about me! Entire Russia! Before it was only you who knew about a college
registrar Dmitry Kuldarov, and now the whole of the country knows! Mother! Oh my God!
Mitya quickly raised on his feet, ran around the house again, and then returned to the armchair.
- But what happened? Can’t you say exactly?
- You live like animals in the wilderness, read no newspapers, pay no attention to the news, yet the papers print so many splendid
things! Once something happens, it’s promptly reported, nothing is concealed! Oh, I’m so happy! Oh my God! In the papers,
they only write about the celebrated people, and now they wrote about me!
- What do you say? Where?

Los Cuadernos de Julia – Arts and Culture blog (http://www.loscuadernosdejulia.info/)

The Year of Literature – 2015

Anton Chekhov – The Joy

The father went pale. The mother looked at the holy image and crossed herself. The schoolboys left their beds and as they were, in
their short nightgowns, came up to their brother.
- Exactly! They wrote about me! Now entire Russia knows me! Mother, you put this issue away and keep it as a memory! We’ll be
reading it occasionally. Look!
Mitya drew a newspaper out of his pocket, gave it to his father and pointed with his finger to a passage underlined by a blue pencil.
- Read!
The father put on his glasses.
- Come on, read it!
The mother looked at the holy image and crossed herself, and the father coughed and began to read:
- On December 29th, at 11 o’clock at night, a college registrar Dmitry Kuldarov…
- You see? See? Carry on!
- … a college registrar Dmitry Kuldarov, upon leaving a porter-serving public house located at Kosikhin’s in Malaya Bronnaya, and
being in the inebriated state…
- I was with Semyon Petrovich… No detail is missed! Carry on! On! Listen!
- … and being in the inebriated state, slipped and fell under the horse of a cab-driver that parked there, which driver is known as
Ivan Drotov, a peasant of the Durykina village of the Yukhnovsky district. A frightened horse stepped over Kuldarov and
dragged over him the sledge in which was sitting Stepan Lukov, a 2 nd rank Moscow merchant, and then galloped down the
street but was stopped by the street cleaners. Kuldarov, initially unconscious, was later taken to the police station where he
was checked by a doctor. A contusion that he received on his nape…
- I was struck by a thill, father. Go on! Read on!
- … received on his nape is considered light. The incident is being put on file. The victim received medical help”.
- They told me to foment my nape with cold water. So, have you read it now? Yes? See! Now it’s all over Russia! Give it here!
Mitya snatched the paper, folded it and put it back in his pocket.
- I’ll go round to the Makarovs, show them, too… And then to the Ivanitskys, and Natalia Ivanovna, and Anissim Vasillich… I’ll run
now! Farewell!
Mitya put on his hat with a badge and, joyous and triumphant, stormed out of the house.
English translation © Julie Delvaux (JS) 2007.

Los Cuadernos de Julia – Arts and Culture blog (http://www.loscuadernosdejulia.info/)