Letters of Anton Chekhov, by Anton Chekhov

To A. S. Suvorin.

BLAGOVESHTCHENSK, June 27, 1890.

The Amur is a very fine river; I have gained more from it than I could have expected, and I have been wishing for a long time to share my transports with you, but the rascally steamer has been rocking all the seven days I have been on it, and prevents me writing properly. Moreover, I am quite incapable of describing anything so beautiful as the shores of the Amur; I am at a complete loss before them, and recognise my bankruptcy. How is one to describe them? . . . Rocks, crags, forests, thousands of ducks, herons and all sorts of beaked gentry, and absolute wilderness. On the left the Russian shore, on the right the Chinese. I can look at Russia or China as I please. China is as deserted and wild as Russia: villages and sentinels’ huts are rare. Everything in my head is muddled; and no wonder, your Excellency! I have come more than a thousand versts down the Amur and seen a million landscapes, and you know before the Amur there was Lake Baikal, Transbaikalia. . . . Truly I have seen such riches and had so much enjoyment that death would have no terrors now. The people on the Amur are original, their life is interesting, unlike ours. They talk of gold, gold, gold, and nothing else. I am in a stupid state, I feel no inclination to write, and I write shortly, piggishly; to-day I sent you four papers about Yenissey and the Taiga, later on I will send you something about Lake Baikal, Transbaikalia, and the Amur. Don’t throw away these sheets; I will collect them, and they will serve as notes from which I can tell you what I don’t know how to put on paper.

To-day I changed into the steamer Muravyov, which they say does not rock; maybe I shall write.

I am in love with the Amur; I should be glad to spend a couple of years on it. There is beauty, space, freedom and warmth. Switzerland and France have never known such freedom. The lowest convict breathes more freely on the Amur than the highest general in Russia. If you lived here, you would write a great deal of good stuff and delight the public, but I am not equal to it.

One begins to meet Chinamen at Irkutsk, and here they are common as flies. They are the most good-natured people. If Nastya and Borya made the acquaintance of the Chinese, they would leave donkeys alone, and transfer their affection to the Chinese. They are charming tame animals.

. . . When I invited a Chinaman to the refreshment bar to treat him to vodka, before drinking it he held out the glass to me, the bar-keeper, the waiters, and said: “Taste.” That’s the Chinese ceremonial. He did not drink it off as we do, but drank it in sips, eating something between each sip, and then, to express his gratitude, gave me several Chinese coins. An awfully polite people. They are dressed poorly, but beautifully; they eat daintily, with ceremony. . . .

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