Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To His Sister.

KRASNOYARSK, May 28, 1890.

What a deadly road! It was all we could do to crawl to Krasnoyarsk and my trap had to be repaired twice. The first thing to be broken was the vertical piece of iron connecting the front of the carriage with the axle; then the so-called circle under the front broke. I have never in all my life seen such a road — such impassable mud and such an utterly neglected road. I am going to write about its horrors to the Novoye Vremya, and so won’t talk about it now.

The last three stations have been splendid; as one comes down to Krasnoyarsk one seems to be getting into a different world. You come out of the forest into a plain which is like our Donets steppe, but here the mountain ridges are grander. The sun shines its very best and the birch-trees are out, though three stations back the buds were not even bursting. Thank God, I have at last reached a summer in which there is neither rain nor a cold wind. Krasnoyarsk is a picturesque, cultured town; compared with it, Tomsk is “a pig in a skull-cap and the acme of mauvais ton.” The streets are clean and paved, the houses are of stone and large, the churches are elegant.

I am alive and perfectly well. My money is all right, and so are my things; I lost my woollen stockings but soon found them again.

Apart from my trap, everything so far has been satisfactory and I have nothing to complain of. Only I am spending an awful lot of money. Incompetence in the practical affairs of life is never felt so much as on a journey. I pay more than I need to, I do the wrong thing, and I say the wrong thing, and I am always expecting what does not happen.

. . . I shall be in Irkutsk in five or six days, shall spend as many days there, then drive on to Sryetensk — and that will be the end of my journey on land. For more than a fortnight I have been driving without a break, I think about nothing else, I live for nothing else; every morning I see the sunrise from beginning to end. I’ve grown so used to it that it seems as though all my life I had been driving and struggling with the muddy roads. When it does not rain, and there are no pits of mud on the road, one feels queer and even a little bored. And how filthy I am, what a rapscallion I look! What a state my luckless clothes are in!

. . . For mother’s information: I have still a jar and a half of coffee; I feed on locusts and wild honey; I shall dine to-day at Irkutsk. The further east one gets the dearer everything is. Rye flour is seventy kopecks a pood, while on the other side of Tomsk it was twenty-five and twenty-seven kopecks per pood, and wheaten flour thirty kopecks. The tobacco sold in Siberia is vile and loathsome; I tremble because mine is nearly done.

. . . I am travelling with two lieutenants and an army doctor who are all on their way to the Amur. So my revolver is after all quite superfluous. In such company hell would have no terrors. We are just having tea at the station, and after tea we are going to have a look at the town.

I should have no objection to living in Krasnoyarsk. I can’t think why this is a favourite place for sending exiles to.

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Your Homo Sachaliensis,
A. Chekhov.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06