Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
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New Version by Libby Appel from Literal Translation
by Allison Horsley

Excerpt from Uncle Vanya, Act II:

VOINITSKY
The storm’s coming.

Lightning.

Here we go! Hélène and Sonya, go to sleep. I came to relieve you.

SEREBRYAKOV
(Frightened.) No, no! Don’t leave me with him! No. He’ll talk my head off!

VOINITSKY
But they’ve got to get some rest! They didn’t sleep at all last night.

SEREBRYAKOV
Let them go to sleep, but you go too. Thank you. I implore you. In the name of our former friendship, just go. We’ll talk later.

VOINITSKY
(With a grin.) Our former friendship… former…

SONYA
Be quiet, Uncle Vanya.

SEREBRYAKOV
(To his wife.) My dear, don’t leave me with him! He’ll talk my head off.

VOINITSKY
Can you believe how ludicrous this is …

MARINA enters with a candle.

SONYA
You ought to be in bed, Nyanya. It’s very late.

MARINA
The samovar is still boiling. You can’t exactly expect me to go to bed.

SEREBRYAKOV
No one is sleeping, everybody is exhausted, I alone am in a state of bliss.

MARINA
(She goes over to SEREBRYAKOV, tenderly.) What is it, my dear? Are you in pain? My legs ache too, they ache so. (She adjusts the blanket.) You’ve been in pain such a long time. Vera Petrovna, Sonyechka’s mother, may she rest in peace, never slept either, she was killing herself taking care of you… She loved you very much … oh yes …

Pause.

Old people are like children; they want someone to feel sorry for them, but no one feels sorry for the old. (She kisses SEREBRYAKOV on the shoulder.) Let’s go to bed, my dear … Let’s go, my little boy … I’ll make you some limeleaf tea, I’ll warm your legs… I’ll pray to God for you…

SEREBRYAKOV
(Moved.) Let’s go, Marina.

MARINA
My legs ache too, they ache so. (She leads him together with SONYA.) Vera Petrovna was killing herself, always crying… You, Sonyechka, were still little then… Come, come, my dear …

SEREBRYAKOV, SONYA, and MARINA exit.

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
I’m completely exhausted with him. I can barely stand on my feet.

VOINITSKY
You’re exhausted with him, and I with myself. This is the third night I haven’t slept.

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
Something is wrong in this house. Your mother hates everything, except her own pamphlets and the professor; the professor is irritated, he doesn’t trust me, he’s afraid of you; Sonya is angry with her father, angry with me and hasn’t talked to me for two weeks; you hate my husband and openly hold your own mother in contempt; I’m short-tempered and at least twenty times today I started to cry… There is something very wrong in this house.

VOINITSKY
Shall we cut the philosophy, please!

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
You, Ivan Petrovich, are educated, intelligent, and you must see that the world is not being destroyed by thieves and fires and wars, but rather by hatred, hostility, from all these petty squabbles… You shouldn’t add to the noisy grumbling around us, you should be helping to find peace in your own family.

VOINITSKY
Help me find peace in myself! My darling… (He presses her hand to himself.)

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
Stop! (She takes away her hand.) Go away!

VOINITSKY
Soon it’ll stop raining, and everything in nature will be refreshed and alive. Only I alone will not be refreshed by the storm. Day and night, I’m strangled by the idea that my life is irrevocably lost – that I’m dead – that I wasted my life – that I spent my life on trifles. Here – take my life, take my love. What good are they to me, what have I done with them? My feelings are dying away in vain, like sun beams falling into a dark pit … I’m dying.

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
When you talk to me about your love, I just go numb and I don’t know what to say. Forgive me, I have nothing to say to you. (She tries to go.) Good night.

VOINITSKY
(Blocking her way.) If you only knew how I suffer from the thought that next to me in this very house another life is dying – yours! What’re you waiting for? What damned righteous morality stops you? Don’t you see…

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
(Intently staring at him.) Ivan Petrovich, you’re drunk!

VOINITSKY
Possibly, possibly…

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
Where’s the doctor?

VOINITSKY
He’s here… he’s spending the night. Possibly, possibly… Everything is possible…

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
Why are you drinking so much?

VOINITSKY
Because it makes me feel alive… Don’t try to stop me, Hélène!

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
You never used to drink so much and you never talked so much… Go to sleep! I’m bored to death with you.

VOINITSKY
(Pressing her hand.) My darling… beautiful, marvelous…

YELENA ANDREYEVNA
(With vexation.) Leave me alone. This is just disgusting. (She exits.)

VOINITSKY
(Alone.) She’s gone…


Uncle Vanya, Act I, 1899

Excerpt from Uncle Vanya, Act IV:

MARINA
(Returning with a tray, on which are a glass of vodka and a slice of bread.) Eat something too.

ASTROV drinks the vodka.

Na zdorovye, dear one. (She bows low.) But take a little bread.

ASTROV
No, I’m fine… Good luck. (To MARINA.) Don’t see me off, nurse. It’s not necessary.

He exits; SONYA goes after him with a candle, to see him off; MARINA sits in her own chair.

VOINITSKY
(He writes.) “On the second of February vegetable oil twenty pounds… On the sixteenth of February vegetable oil twenty pounds… Buckwheat…”

Pause. Little bells are heard.

MARINA
He’s gone.

Pause.

SONYA
(Returning, she places the candle on the table.) He’s gone…

VOINITSKY
(Counting on his abacus and making notes.) Total… fifteen… twenty-five…

SONYA sits and writes.

MARINA
(She yawns.) God be merciful…

TELYEGIN enters on tiptoe, he sits by the door and quietly tunes the guitar.


Uncle Vanya, Act III, 1899

VOINITSKY
(To SONYA, running his hand through her hair.) My child, it’s so painful! If only you knew how painful it is!

SONYA
What can we do, we must go on living!

Pause.

We’ll live, Uncle Vanya. We’ll live through many long days, many long nights; we’ll patiently endure all the ordeals that God sends us. We’ll work for others, never knowing rest. And in our old age, when our time comes, we’ll humbly die and there beyond the grave we’ll speak of how we suffered, how we wept, how we knew bitterness, and God will take pity on us – you and I — Uncle, sweet Uncle, ahead of us is a radiant, wonderful, graceful life, and we’ll rejoice. Then we’ll look back on our present unhappiness with sadness and tenderness, and with a smile – and we will rest. I have faith, Uncle, I truly believe, truly…

Sonya is on her knees and she puts her head on his hands; with a weary voice.

We will rest!

TELYEGIN quietly plays on the guitar.

We will rest! We will hear the angels, we will see all of the heavenly diamonds in the sky, we will see how all the evils of the earth, all of our suffering will be covered with mercy – mercy over the entire world. And our life will be as quiet, gentle, sweet, as a caress.  I believe, I believe… (She wipes his tears with a handkerchief.) Poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you’re weeping… (On the verge of tears.) In your life you never knew joy, but wait a little, Uncle Vanya, wait a little… We will rest… (She embraces him.) We will rest!

The watchman taps.

TELYEGIN quietly strums. MARIA VASILYEVNA writes in the margins of her pamphlet; MARINA knits a stocking.

We will rest!

The curtain slowly lowers.

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