Fiction

More

In 1984, Daniel Halpern, founder of the Ecco Press, began republishing all 201 of the Constance Garnett translations of Anton Chekhov’s stories. Since then, the thirteen resulting volumes have become a contemporary staple for the library of any serious reader. (I think I’ve purchased five whole sets in those twenty-odd years—several as wedding presents, one as a baby present, one remains in my study.) The price of around $8.50 per volume (which would total $110 for the series) represented a tremendous bargain for the most comprehensive collection of Chekhov stories in what is still the best complete translation available in English. Late in 2006, to coincide with its own thirty-fifth anniversary, Ecco republished the thirteen volumes in a handsome boxed set. After twenty years, the price has climbed only to $150.

Chekhov is a master at making his characters’ darkest aspects comprehensible and human. He’s never sentimental and he’s not particularly pleasant, but he will always feel modern because of his astonishing juxtapositions and the way his characters’ swift, darting minds vacillate between idealism and boredom, vanity and hope. His narrator has a keen vision of class anger, resentment, and envy. Although less enchanted by his own characters than was Tolstoy, Chekhov acutely portrays largeheartedness.

Given that all of the Chekhov stories translated by Garnett can be downloaded for free (James Rusk made them available at chekhov2 .tripod.com), Ecco might be wise to assemble the books in durable hardback; they will always find a market.

Mona Simpson is the author of four novels, including Anywhere But Here (1986) and Off Keck Road (2000).
Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to a Seaside Town in Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In