Today I’m posting “Shrove Tuesday” by Anton Chekhov, a bonus story
in honor of Mardi Gras! (Yes, we’re a bit early for Orthodox Lent, but we’re right on time for the West. Eat your pancakes and paczki and stop nitpicking.)
(UPDATE: I finally figured out that Shrove Tuesday is next Tuesday, Feb. 20, and that Lent starts for us on Feb. 21. It’s pretty sad when I’ll go look up Orthodox Lent dates but am too cocksure to check my own!)
As you can see, it was the custom both in East and West to eat up the stuff before Lent that you couldn’t eat during, and to confess your sins before Lent began. (But Orthodox Lent really begins on “Clean Monday” (Feb. 19 this year), so really this is a story about the Sunday before Lent begins. Eat your pancakes and paczki, and go bug the dead translators.)
The main reason I’m using this story is that most of the writers I found had an amazingly unhealthy attitude towards Carnival and Lent, too. It’s annoying how freaked out the English get, for instance. They act as if Carnival is an enemy to Christianity instead of a Christian festival, and they don’t seem to be interested in staying home and writing deep meaningful poems about their own pancake races when they can travel elsewhere to get some sun, have some fun, and then make snarky remarks about Italians’ morality.
Although best known in the West for his plays (The Cherry Orchard, etc.), Chekhov also wrote over 200 short stories as well as longer works. Public domain translations of them all are available on the Net; here’s a prime site for them. But I found this translation by Marian Fell at Eldritch Press first, so there you go. (Fell seems to translate more smoothly, but Garnett catches all the fun Russian details. For example, Stepa’s name really is pronounced Styopa, which I forgot if I ever knew. Also, when Pavel Vasilich yawns, he makes the Sign of the Cross over his mouth.)