Cynic, by Chekhov

Very translation much wow

Dear wanderer,

I enjoyed translating Two Newspapermen and decided to translate one more. I didn’t look up much if it has been translated already but it belongs to the same short story collection as Two Newspapermen hence my guess was it is rare enough. I will continue translating stories and essays (perhaps) but they will always come out sporadically, ideally at least once a month, but I can’t promise anything – I’m a lazy person, I’m not a translator and I want to do my writing as well. I will put them all on my website but deliver them to you from here because you have already signed up for The Lifeboat, haven’t you?

The story you are about to read had the title "Beasts" and was sent to "Oskolki" magazine but banned by The Peterburg's censorship committee.

N. A. Leikin said to Chekhov the next day it happened: "An absolute mayhem. The censor took everything: your Beasts, Trefolev's poems, Gilyarovsky's poems, 1/2 of Bilibin's reviews, my feuilleton story <...> I asked to give 'Beasts' a go and claimed it was an innocent story, but the committee told me: 'Don't we understand that it's not about beasts!' So I'm sending this to the Beasts editor. You will not lose the story. Rewrite it (make sure you do), and send it to The Petersburg Gazette. They will print it. The story is innocent."

According to the censor, "one can hear a particular pessimistic tendency in the story, one can feel tendentious hints and laughter at the vicissitudes of fate of not only small, but also powerful people, at innocent misfortunes and suffering, at the hopelessness of the vanquished and enslaved...". The censor banned the story, "bearing in mind the vagueness of the trend and the possibility of understanding it in a bad way."

When Chekhov sent the story to The Petersburg Gazette, he changed the title to "Cynic" and in a number of places expanded the text, the stylistic changes were small. The story was published in The Peterburg's Gazette №345, 16th of December, 1885, on page 3 under the section "Flying notes", subtitled "A sketch", signed A. Chekhonté.

Later, during the preparation of the "Motley Stories" collection (where Two Newspapermen were also included) Chekhov removed the subtitle and made some minor corrections.

Read the story

The Intro section is also there for those who discover it not from Substack – feel free to skip it. If you find any mistakes or typos or have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach me. It will help us improve the translations for the wanderers who discover it in the future.

Bye Bye,

Cordially yours,