Taishō Cherry Orchard

Having fallen in with a bad crowd, I am reading a 1923 edition of Вишнёвый сад (The Cherry Orchard), with translation by Jenny Covan and romanization by the Council for Period Detail: Tchekhoff, Liuboff, Firce. It's so old that the "Passer-by" (Прохожий) of Act II is "A Tramp". It's so old that the introduction (by editor Oliver M. Sayler) ends like this:

Nor is it remarkable that the Moscow Art Theatre holds "The Cherry Orchard" almost as holy ground. With this play it bade goodbye to a fellow-craftsman with whom its destiny was strangely intertwined. Its various rôles have been guarded jealously by the actors who first embodied them. And so to-day [!] nearly two decades after, Stanislavsky still plays Gaieff; Mme. Knipper, the playwright's widow, Mme. Ranevskaya; Leonidiff, Lopakhin; Moskvin, the blundering clerk Yepikhodoff; Gribunin, the garrulous landowner Semyonoff-Pishchik; and Alexandroff, the footman Yasha.

(I think that's the right Gribunin... but who was Alexandroff?)

I wasn't sure whether to blame the awkwardness of Yasha calling Dunyasha a "small cucumber" instead of a "little cucumber" on the age of the translation, but then I found another translation of a Russian work which seems to date from 1898 and which does it the expected way:

'O my lieutenant!
My little cucumber!
My little love!
Dance with me, my little dove!'

Best of all, it has margin notes in the old orthography!

patchouli = インド人の用ふる香料

インド人の用ふる香料, "Perfume used by Indians", but written using 用ふる mochifuru, attributive form of mochifu ( = modern mochiiru, "use").

Elsewhere, "frivolous" is glossed as fuwafuwa [shita], spelt ふはふは (fuhafuha). Heron is 蒼鷺, with the furigana awosagi. Intellectually you know that people used to write this way—that it was the standard spelling of Japanese—but it's a thrill to see it scrawled in the margin.

And there are some vocabulary differences too. "Cockroach" is glossed as aburamushi, but nowadays most people would say gokiburi (or maybe that's just a Tokyo thing?). "Between you and me and the gatepost" is koko-kiri no hanashi, an extinct ancestor of koko dake no hanashi ("a conversation only for here [not to be repeated elsewhere]").

Also, the Moscow Art Theatre really knew how to stage a play. Check out this photograph of Act III:

The climax of Act III in Tchekhoff's "The Cherry Orchard," at the Moscow Art Theatre

It's like a clown car in there.

Popularity factor: 11

Peter Maydell:

>most people would say gokuburi

Typo for gokiburi, or actually a Tokyo thing?


Ugh... typo, now fixed. Thanks.


Just wanted to add that 'gokiburi' is said in Okinawa, too.


Having spent about ten years in western Japan and Hokuriku, I can say that "gokiburi" is indeed "gokiburi".

方言の地図帳,from 小学館, although it doesn't mention gokiburi, is an interesting book with a lot of cool stuff in it - comparing three hundred or so words in standard Japanese with their regional equivalents across each municipality of Japan.


I love finding second hand books with notes in them, where did you find the book?

language hat:

Nikolai Grigorevich Alexandrov (1870-1930), here on the right as Yasha, a role he played on opening night in 1904 (Moskvin as Epikhodov is on the left). Don't say I never did you any favors.


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Just wanted to add that 'gokiburi' is said in Okinawa, too.


LH, you're a stand-up guy.

Jon, I got it at Good Day Books. They're more my connection for recently-published secondhand stuff, but sometimes you do find something good and old there.

KokuRyu: Thanks for the confirmation! I have I think a similar book from Gakken (but it doesn't have "cockroach" in it either). It's fun reading but I'm wary of relying on it too much because I know that someone from the area in question will pop up to contradict me if I do...


Aburamushi used to mean cochroach? It's modern meaning is aphid, isn't it? I wonder how and when the change took place?

Also Jim Breen's JDIC has an interesting figurative meaning for aburamushi: a visitor to a red-light district who's only there to look.


Yeah, "aburamushi" used to mean "roach"... Maybe that used to include aphids, and got narrowed later. Not sure myself.

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