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Translating Chekhov

My journey as a translator/interpreter is only just beginning.

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My master's thesis is focused on translating a book called Russian Native Tales #5 (Русские Инородные Сказки № 5).

But for my course on Chekhov, we've already looked at translations on "The Lady with the Dog," and for my course project I've decided to try my hand at "The Grasshopper."

Some creator's guilt is nagging at me, though. Even though in my first paper I argued that translation requires as much, if not more, effort in writing, and therefore the translator is just as much an author, I still wonder how much I'm creating by rewriting the words of a long-dead storyteller.

I love Chekhov, don't get me wrong, and I thoroughly believe in updating translations to keep people involved in literature.

But what I'm not so sure about is what value I am adding by creating a translation that most likely won't make it past my professor.

When I was (poorly) interpreting calls for my previous job, I felt like I was at least helping people get the medical care they needed. I feel much less valuable when translating a piece of work from the 1890s-1900s that's already been translated a million times.

Hence why I am working on a contemporary piece for my master's thesis, but I digress.

What is it about Chekhov that is so fascinating? Why am I drawn to his works like a fly to honey? And I'll tell you, this is not the first time I've read Chekhov and it won't be my last.

Chekhov (1860-1904) was a master at what many call "slice of life" storytelling. He described life almost exactly as it was. No sugar coating, and no detail missing. Many debate over whether his pieces are full of unimportant digressions or significant clues. For example, why in "The Lady with the Dog" does Dmitriy Gurov start eating a watermelon when Anna Sergeyevna is crying? This minor detail is very telling--Gurov is almost completely indifferent to Anna's plight, and it shows in his relaxed attitude.

Another author may have chosen to omit this detail, especially if they were trying to convince the reader that Gurov was really in love. Chekhov, however, includes it. Does it make his case stronger or weaker?

This is just one example of how fascinating Chekhov is. This is why I am drawn to translate his work. It's not only an exercise of my Russian abilities, but also a chance to share his works with the world.

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