|"Life is Wonderful" (by Anton Chekhov, 1885)
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Author: Sandy Date: May 22, 2007 21:43
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Life is Wonderful
by Anton Chekhov
Life is quite an unpleasant business, but it is not so very hard to make
it wonderful. For which purpose it is not enough that you should win
200,000 roubles in a lottery, or receive the order of the White Eagle,
or marry a beautiful woman -- all these blessings are transitory and are
liable to become a habit. But to feel continuously happy, even in
moments of distress and sorrow, the following is needed:
(a) To be satisfied with your present state; and
(b) To rejoice in the knowledge that things might have been much worse.
When your matches suddenly go off in your pocket, rejoice and offer
thanks to heaven that your pocket is not a gunpowder magazine.
When your relations come to pay you a visit during your holiday in
the country, don't turn pale, but exclaim triumphantly: "How very lucky
it is not the police!"
If you get a splinter in your finger, rejoice that it is not in your
If your wife and sister-in-law practises scales on the piano, don't
lose your temper, but be grateful for the joy that you are listening to
music, and not to the howling of jackals, or to a cat's concert.
Rejoice that you are not a tram-horse, nor a Koch bacillus, nor a
trichina, nor a pig, nor an ass, nor a bear lead by a gipsy, nor a bug.
Rejoice that at the moment you are not a prisoner in the dock; that
you are not interviewing your creditors, and that you have not to
arrange the question of fees with Turba, the editor.
If you can live in a place not so remote as Siberia, can't you feel
pleased at the idea, that by mere chance you might have been deported
If you have pain in one tooth, rejoice that it is not all your teeth
that are aching.
Rejoice that you can afford not to read the 'Daily Citizen'; that
you have not to drive a sewage cart, nor to be married to three women
If you are removed to a police cell, jump for joy that it is not the
fiery gehenna that you have been taken to.
If you are flogged with a birch rod, kick your legs in rapture, and
exclaim: "How very happy I am that it is not nettles I am being flogged
If your wife has been unfaithful to you, rejoice that she has
betrayed merely yourself, and not your country.
[* This piece appeared in the original in No. 17 of the humorous paper
'Oskolki' in 1885, when Chekhov, then only twenty-five, was being paid
literally in farthings for his contributions. 'Life is Wonderful' has
not been included in Chekhov's collected works. *]
"Plays and Stories by Anton Tchekhov"
translated by S.S. Koteliansky
Everyman Library #941
J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London