Sakhalin Island

I’m currently reading: Sakhalin Island by Антон Павлович Чехов 📚

I first heard of “Sakhalin Island” while reading Haruki Murakami’s excellent “1Q84”. For reasons that I’m still not clear about, Tengo reads an extract from Chekhov’s book to Fuka-Eri when she wants to be read to in bed. Murakami quotes an extended section about the Gilyak, the indigenous ethnic people from the North of the island.

I found the description of the Gilyak fascinating and so decided to dig out the Chekhov travelogue. I found a cheap Kindle edition which I dip into from time to time, whenever I get bored with reading fiction. Chekhov describes his journey in 1890 from European Russia, across the continent to Sakhalin Island, which is on Russia’s East coast, North of Japan.

At that time Sakhalin was a penal colony and the details of the journey across Russia, the conditions on the island, and the stories of the people he met paints a detailed picture of Siberia and the Russian Far East.

About 40% of the English translation is footnotes - both Chekhov’s and extensive notes by the translator. The latter are really interesting, providing a lot of background which would have been known to the original Russian readership. Most of the pages have multiple footnotes.

Unfortunately this ebook edition was cheap, because the formatters didn’t bother to link the footnote markers in the text to the footnotes - I can see it would have been a long and tedious job. As a result I either have to juggle bookmarks so that I can jump backwards and forwards between the main text and footnotes - or have the book open on two Kindles - one showing the main text and the other the associated footnotes. But it is well worth the effort.