SHORT STORIES

Fifty-Two Stories

Knopf. Apr. 2020. 528p. ISBN 9780525520818. $35.
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One of the greatest dangers facing a translator is producing content that reads obviously like a translation. In this collection of 52 stories by Chekhov (some never before rendered in English), celebrated translators Pevear and Volokhonsky avoid this trap, eloquently interpreting the great Russian writer’s ideas. Someone unfamiliar with Chekhov could easily be convinced that the stories were originally conceived by Pevear and Volokhonsky themselves. Their attention to Chekhov’s detail when describing scenery, emotional states, and the characters’ inner monologs produces work that flows. Some readers may feel, however, that the flowery language somewhat overshadows the content itself. In comparison, Rosamund Bartlett’s translations of the stories are simpler, and Paul Schmidt’s translation of the plays, the preferred text for many in the acting world, offers an original voice like Pevear and Volokhonsky’s but is more down to earth, avoiding the formality of many translations and revealing how Russians actually speak. Pevear and Volokhonsky’s work isn’t stiff, but it is more innovative, offering a vivid style of its own.
VERDICT Though some readers may prefer a more straightforward, colloquial style, fans of heightened language will enjoy this translation, which should appeal to a wide audience. A comprehensive volume that will satisfy the needs of many libraries.

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