Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To N. A. Leikin.

IRKUTSK, June 5, 1890.

Greetings, dear Nikolay Alexandrovitch!

I send you heartfelt good wishes from Irkutsk, from the depths of Siberia. I reached Irkutsk last night and was very glad to have arrived, as I was exhausted by the journey and missed friends and relations, to whom I had not written for ages. Well, what is there of interest to write to you? I will begin by telling you that the journey is extraordinarily long. From Tyumen to Irkutsk I have driven more than three thousand versts. From Tyumen to Tomsk I had cold and flooded rivers to contend with. The cold was awful; on Ascension Day there was frost and snow, so that I could not take off my sheepskin and felt boots until I reached the hotel at Tomsk. As for the floods, they were a veritable plague of Egypt. The rivers rose above their banks and overflowed the meadows, and with them the roads, for dozens of versts around. I was continually having to exchange my chaise for a boat, and one could not get a boat for nothing — for a good boat one had to pay with one’s heart’s blood, for one had to sit waiting on the bank for twenty-four hours at a stretch in the cold wind and the rain. . . . From Tomsk to Krasnoyarsk was a desperate struggle through impassable mud. My goodness, it frightens me to think of it! How often I had to mend my chaise, to walk, to swear, to get out of my chaise and get into it again, and so on! It sometimes happened that I was from six to ten hours getting from one station to another, and every time the chaise had to be mended it took from ten to fifteen hours. From Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk was fearfully hot and dusty. Add to all that hunger, dust in one’s nose, one’s eyes glued together with sleep, the continual dread that something would get broken in the chaise (it is my own), and boredom. . . . Nevertheless I am well content, and I thank God that He has given me the strength and opportunity to make this journey. I have seen and experienced a great deal, and it has all been very new and interesting to me not as a literary man, but as a human being. The Yenissey, the Taiga, the stations, the drivers, the wild scenery, the wild life, the physical agonies caused by the discomforts of the journey, the enjoyment I got from rest — all taken together is so delightful that I can’t describe it. The mere fact that I have been for more than a month in the open air is interesting and healthy; every day for a month I have seen the sunrise. . . .

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