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Transcribing Anton Chekhov to 21st Century Silicon Valley Noir

As part of an exercise in writing short stories, I’ve been attempting to transcribe Chekhov (considered by many to be the foremost short-story writer ever) into modern-day Silicon Valley. A great exercise, which can be applied to any of your favorite writers. A sample follows below:

Chekhov – A Murder

“The evening service was being celebrated at Progonnaya Station. Before the great ikon, painted in glaring colours on a background of gold, stood the crowd of railway servants with their wives and children, and also of the timbermen and sawyers who worked close to the railway line. All stood in silence, fascinated by the glare of the lights and the howling of the snow-storm which was aimlessly disporting itself outside, regardless of the fact that it was the Eve of the Annunciation. The old priest from Vedenyapino conducted the service; the sacristan and Matvey Terehov were singing.

Matvey’s face was beaming with delight; he sang stretching out his neck as though he wanted to soar upwards. He sang tenor and chanted the “Praises” too in a tenor voice with honied sweetness and persuasiveness. When he sang “Archangel Voices” he waved his arms like a conductor, and trying to second the sacristan’s hollow bass with his tenor, achieved something extremely complex, and from his face it could be seen that he was experiencing great pleasure.

At last the service was over, and they all quietly dispersed, and it was dark and empty again, and there followed that hush which is only known in stations that stand solitary in the open country or in the forest when the wind howls and nothing else is heard and when all the emptiness around, all the dreariness of life slowly ebbing away is felt.

Matvey lived not far from the station at his cousin’s tavern. But he did not want to go home. He sat down at the refreshment bar and began talking to the waiter in a low voice.

“We had our own choir in the tile factory. And I must tell you that though we were only workmen, our singing was first-rate, splendid. We were often invited to the town, and when the Deputy Bishop, Father Ivan, took the service at Trinity Church, the bishop’s singers sang in the right choir and we in the left. Only they complained in the town that we kept the singing on too long: ‘the factory choir drag it out,’ they used to say. It is true we began St. Andrey’s prayers and the Praises between six and seven, and it was past eleven when we finished, so that it was sometimes after midnight when we got home to the factory. It was good,” sighed Matvey. “Very good it was, indeed, Sergey Nikanoritch! But here in my father’s house it is anything but joyful. The nearest church is four miles away; with my weak health I can’t get so far; there are no singers there. And there is no peace or quiet in our family; day in day out, there is an uproar, scolding, uncleanliness; we all eat out of one bowl like peasants; and there are beetles in the cabbage soup. . . . God has not given me health, else I would have gone away long ago, Sergey Nikanoritch.” 

 

Maulik – A Murder in Mountain View

“The evening programming session was being celebrated at Hacker Dojo. Before the huge logo, painted in glaring colors on a background of black, stood a crowd of programmers with their significant others and a few kids, also also the architects and data scientists who worked close by the office. All stood in silence, fascinated by the glare of the overhead screen and the lashing of the rain that was falling outside, regardless of the fact that it was still Fall in California. The senior architect from Google gave a speech; a data scientist and Michael Tierly were listening.

 Michael’s face was beaming with delight; he was furiously cutting-code on his laptop, stretching his hands before him as if he wanted to take-off from the couch. His keyboard clicked and clacked with a honied persuasiveness. When he got his code to compile he waved his arms like a conductor, trying to shake-off the stiffness and soreness in his tendons, and when he ran the executable, he realized he’d achieved something extremely complex, and from his face it could be seen that he had experienced a pleasure of orgasmic intensity.

Finally the event was over, and they all quietly dispersed, and the office was dark and empty again, and there followed a hush known only to the late-night coders in Silicon Valley office-parks or SoMA lofts, when the incandescents blink and nothing else is heard and when all the emptiness around, all that is felt is the dreariness of life slowly ebbing away.

Michael lived not far from the dojo at his cousin’s townhouse. But he didn’t feel like going home. He sat down at the Irish pub in downtown Mountain View and began talking to the waiter in a low voice.

“We had our own programming team in the Code Factory. And, I gotta tell you, while we were fresh out of school, our coding was first-rate. We were often invited to Google, and when their Director of Engineering, Doctor Cerf, gave a seminar, we had his programming team working with ours. Only they complained that our code wasn’t efficient enough, “those kids don’t make it compact” they used to say. It’s true we often didn’t start till six or seven and it was past midnight when we finished, so sometimes our code wasn’t the most precise, but boy was it fun!” enthused Michael. “Damn good, Serge! But working out of my Dad’s home is a pain. The nearest Starbucks is four miles away; with my bad feet I can’t walk that far; anyway, no coders hang out there. Plus, it’s a mad-house in our family, there’s no piece or quiet;”

 

To Be Continued

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