These critically hailed translations of The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters and the other Chekhov plays are the only ones in English by a Russian-language scholar who is also a veteran Chekhovian actor.
Without compromising the spirit of the text, Paul Schmidt accurately translates Chekhov's entire theatrical canon, rescuing the humor "lost" in most academic translations while respecting the historical context and original social climate.
Schmidt's translations of Chekhov have been successfully staged all over the U.S. by such theatrical directors as Lee Strasberg, Elizabeth Swados, Peter Sellars and Robert Wilson. Critics have hailed these translations as making Chekhov fully accessible to American audiences. They are also accurate Schmidt has been described as "the gold standard in Russian-English translation" by Michael Holquist of the Russian department at Yale University.
Author Biography: Paul Schmidt , a translator, playwright, and actor, has been involved in the theater for years as a writer, scholar, and performer. He taught for several years at the University of Texas at Austin and is the translator of Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works and The Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov and the editor of Meyerhold at Work. He is also the author of two poetry: Night Lifeand Winter Solstice
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About the Author
Anton Chekhov was born in Taganrog, in southern Russia, and in his youth paid for his own education and supported his entire family by writing short, satirical sketches of Russian life. Though he eventually became a physician and once considered medicine his principal career, he continued to gain popularity and praise as a writer for various Russian newspapers, eventually authoring more literary work and ultimately his most well-known plays, including Ivanov, The Seagull, and Uncle Vanya. He died of tuberculosis in 1904, and is regarded as one of the best short story writers in history, influencing such authors as Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, and Raymond Carver.
Arthur Rimbaud, born in 1854 in Charleville, France, is hailed as the father of Symbolism. His most famous works of poetry include The Drunken Boat and A Season in Hell. He died in 1891.
Paul Schmidt was, in addition to a translator, a playwright, actor, and author of two books of poetry.
Read an Excerpt
The Plays of Anton Chekhov
By Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Peter Smith Publisher IncCopyright ©1999 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
All right reserved.
A Dramatic Sketch in One Act
Vasily Vasilich Svetlovidov, an actor, about 68 years old
Nikita Ivanich, the prompter, an old man
The action takes place on the stage of a theater in the provinces, late at night, after the show.
The empty stage of a second-rate provincial theater. Right, several crude unpainted doors leading to the dressing rooms; left and rear, piles of backstage junk. Center stage, an overturned stool. It's night. The stage is dark.
Enter from a dressing room Svetlovidov, costumed as Calchas from Offenbach's La Belle Helene, with a candle in his hand.
svetlovidov: Well, if that isn't . . . (A loud laugh) What a joke! I fell asleep in the dressing room! The performance is over, everybody's gone home, and I slept through it all like a baby! Silly old fart. I must be getting old. Had a few too many, and I just sat there and went to sleep. Very smart. Brilliant performance. (Shouts) Yegorka! Yegorka! Where are you, goddamn it? Petrushka! They must've gone home. . . . God damn 'em. Yegorka! (Picks up the stool, sits down on it, and sets the candle on the floor) There's nobody here. Just an echo. I gave each of them a big fat tip today, and now when I need them they're gone.Bastards probably locked up the theater, too. (Shakes his head) Ohh, God! I'm still drunk. I drank too much at the benefit today, all that beer and wine. Jesus. I smell like a brewery. My mouth feels like it's got twenty tongues in it. . . . Ohh! I feel awful.
. . . really stupid. I've gotten to be an old drunk! I got shit-faced at the benefit, and I don't even know whose benefit it was. I feel like someone kicked me in the kidneys, my back is killing me, I've got the shakes . . . cold all over, just like the grave. You don't give a damn about your health, do you? Asshole. You're too old for this anymore.
You're old . . . you can't pretend anymore. No getting away from it this time. Your life is over. Sixty-eight years down the drain, just like that. And it won't come back. The bottle's almost empty, just a little bit left in the bottom. Dregs, that's what it is. That's just the way it is, Vaska, my boy, that's just the way it is. Ready or not, it's time for your final role. The death scene. The undiscovered bourne. (Stares straight ahead) I've been an actor for forty-five years, and this is the first time I've ever been onstage in the middle of the night. Yes. The first time. Curious. It's so dark out there. . . . (Crosses down to the edge of the stage) Can't see a thing. Well, the prompter's box, a little, and the stage boxes, and the conductor's podium . . . All the rest is darkness. A bottomless black hole, just like the grave, and death out there, waiting . . . Brr! It's cold! There's a wind coming from somewhere. . . . You could scare up a ghost out of this darkness. God, I'm scaring myself. My skin's starting to crawl. . . . (Shouts) Yegorka! Petrushka! Where the fucking goddamn hell are you? (Beat) I've got to stop using language like that, I've got to stop drinking, I'm an old man, I'm going to die. . . . Most people get to be sixty-eight, they start going to church again, they start getting ready . . . ready to die. And you--look at you. God! Swearing, getting drunk . . . Look at this stupid costume--how could I want people to see me like this? I better go change. . . . I'm scared. . . . If I stay here the rest of the night, I'll die. (Starts to exit to the dressing room)
(Enter Nikita Ivanich from the dressing room door farthest upstage. He wears a long white dressing gown. Svetlovidov sees him, shrieks with horror, and staggers backward.)
Who's that? Who're you? What do you want? (Stamps his feet) Who is that?
nikita ivanich: It's just me.
svetlovidov: Who're you?
nikita ivanich: (Moving slowly toward him) Me. Nikita Ivanich. The prompter. Vassily Vasilich, it's me!
svetlovidov: (Falls onto the stool, shaking and breathing heavily) Oh, my God . . . Who? Is that you? Is that you, Nikita? Wha . . . what are you doing here?
nikita ivanich: I've been sleeping nights in one of the dressing rooms. Only, please, don't say anything to the manager. . . . I haven't got any other place to go.
svetlovidov: It's just you, Nikita. Oh, my God, my God. I thought . . . (Beat) They had sixteen curtain calls tonight, and bouquets of flowers, and who knows what all, but nobody took the trouble to wake up an old man and help him home. I'm an old man, Nikita. I'm sixty-eight . . . and I'm sick. I don't have any strength left. (Grabs Nikita's hand and starts to cry) Don't leave me, Nikita! I'm old, I'm sick, I'm going to die. . . . I'm scared! I'm so scared!
nikita ivanich: (Gently, respectfully) Vasily Vasilich, it's time for you to go home.
svetlovidov: No, no, I can't! I haven't got a home! I can't! I can't!
nikita ivanich: Oh, dear. Did you forget where you live?
svetlovidov: I won't go back there--I can't! I'll be all alone, Nikita. I haven't got anybody--no wife, no children, no family. I'm all alone; I'm like the wind in an empty field. . . . I'm going to die, and no one will remember me. . . . It's awful to be alone. No one to hug you, keep you warm, put you to bed when you're drunk. . . . Who do I belong to? Does anybody need me? Does anybody love me? Nobody loves me, Nikita!
Excerpted from The Plays of Anton Chekhov by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov Copyright ©1999 by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm a big fan of the plays of Anton Chekhov and right now I'm taking an acting class that is centered around him and his more famous works. This translation has shown me new ways to think of the things discussed in Chekhov's seemingly difficult to understand work. This version of Three Sisters is probably my favorite version of the classic play! I like to think of this book as the middle school or high school level translation which means it's just easier for the everyday person to understand :) However if you're looking for a version that's probably a little closer to the original, it's uses more eloquent language and requires more interpretation try the 'Peguin Classics' version that's translated by Peter Carson! Enjoy!
I love Paul Schmidt's translation - it's very engaging and approachable.
The 2 star rating is for the translation. More to come, when I can get the taste out of my mouth.
Chekhov's plays are very good, but I was a little dissappointed with this book in comparison to his short stories.
Very good translation into American English.
Paul Schmidt's is the first translation into English which penetrates to the elusive genius, shuttling between comedy and tragedy, which marks Chekhov's great plays. No translation can be letter perfect and in a few places Mr. Schmidt misses the mark, but in so many ways this supplies a missing element which prior translations as good as they were, lacked.