Let me share with you a wise and funny short story by one of my favourite authors, Anton Chekhov. Welcome to literary Thanksgiving on Beautycalypse! 


Life is Wonderful

by Anton Chekhov, 1885
translated by yours truly, 2013

Life is quite unpleasant a business, but it is not hard to make it wonderful. To do so, it’s not enough to win 200,000 in a lottery, receive a White Eagle order, marry a pretty one, or have an impeccable reputation – all these acquisitions are temporal and you’ll become acquainted with them oh too easily. To feel happy everyday, even in times of trouble and sorrow, you only need the following: (a) learn to be satisfied with the present and (b) rejoice at the knowing that “it could have been so much worse”! It isn’t hard:

When the matches in your pocket suddenly catch fire, rejoice and thank the Heavens that your pocket doesn’t contain powder kegs.
When poor relatives invade your summer house, don’t turn pale, but call out, joyfully: “So glad it’s not the police!”
When you get a splinter in your finger, rejoice: “So glad it’s not got into my eye!”
If your wife or sister-in-law practises scales on the piano, don’t lose your cool, but beam with joy for you’re listening to music, not to the howling of jackals or to caterwauling.
Rejoice that you’re not a streetcar horse, nor Koch’s comma-shaped bacterium, nor a flesh-worm, nor a pig, nor a donkey, nor a bear trotted around by a gipsy, nor a bedbug… Be happy that you’re not limped, not blind, not deaf, not mute, not affected with cholera… Be happy that right now you’re not in a prisoner’s box, not facing a creditor and not discussing royalties with your editor.
And if you are imprisoned, can’t you be happy that you’re not been brought to a worse place?
If you have pain in one tooth, be happy that not all your teeth ache.
Be happy that you don’t need to read the Grazhdanin newspaper, or sit on a sewage facility; that you aren’t married to three…
When they bring you to a police department, jump with joy and be happy that you’re not being brought to the hellfire.
If you are flogged with birch rods, dangle your legs and shout out: “I’m so happy that it’s not stinging nettles!”
If your wife cheated on you, rejoice that she betrayed you and not your homeland.
And so forth… Follow my advice, good soul, and your life shall be jubilation.


(The original is public domain; the Russian original can be found here; the above translation is for your reading pleasure only – if your want to use it in bits or in whole, please be fair and get in touch in advance.)

11 replies on “Literary Thanksgiving or: Life is Wonderful!

    1. this video is amazing! this “tough father” is absolutely right with everything and his way of putting it with the simplest words resonates with pretty much everybody. so gonna share it with my friends! – thank you ❤

      what I love about chekhov is the elegant, wry, sometimes laconic wtriting style and the sarcastic, and fine, and kind humour, not unsimilar to some fine british writing, that shines through everything. I have a stephen fry record of reading chekhov. it's a treat!

  1. ha! Rejoice that you’re not a streetcar horse, nor Koch’s comma-shaped bacterium, nor a flesh-worm, nor a pig, nor a donkey, nor a bear trotted around by a gipsy, nor a bedbug…

    1. my favourite author. always funny, always wise, always kind. and that beard! and those glasses! 😉
      and yes! I’m totally thankful for having met you and many other wonderful individuals, all throught this blog – but more on a daily basis so 😉

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