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In Conversation with Peter Constantine

2016/5/19 — 16:41

【Text by Daniel Goulden】

"The only role I filled in my Chekhov translations was that of the translator."

Peter Constantine not only speaks German, Russian, French, Modern Greek, Ancient Greek, Italian, Albanian, Dutch, and Slovene, but he translates them as well. He has translated Machiavelli, Sophocles, Mann, Rousseau, and a host of others. As a translator from Russian, he has an interest in translating the lesser known, early works of Anton Chekhov.

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In the West, Chekhov is known primarily as a playwright, but he was equally accomplished short story author. Peter Constantine’s most recent translation, Little Apples and Other Early Stories, out now from Seven Stories Press, is a collection of Chekhov’s early works, when he wrote under a pen name to support his family and put himself through medical school. These stories are tragic and comic; gut-wrenching and laugh-out-loud funny. Constantine’s translation captures the wit and skill that would make Chekhov known as one of the greatest writers of all time. I discussedLittle Apples with him through email.

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Daniel Goulden: What drew you to translating Chekhov, particularly his early stories?

Peter Constantine: Chekhov is one of the great stylists of Russian literature. His range and creativity present an interesting challenge for a translator; particularly his early stories of the 1880s, where every week he would publish several pieces in a number of literary magazines, sometimes two or three pieces per magazine, writing under different pseudonyms: Mr. Champagnsky, Man Without a Spleen, My Brother’s Brother. He had a great facility for writing fast and well and with spectacular energy and creativity.

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