“Years Later” is from Peter Stamm’s second story collection, We’re Flying (Other Press), translated by Michael Hofmann. Stamm is an award-winning Swiss writer whose novels include Seven Years, Agnes, Unformed Landscape, and On a Day Like This. His short fiction has been published in The New Yorker. He lives outside of Zurich.
Stamm said this about the origin on his story: Some years ago – probably 2004, a hundred years after Anton Chekhov died – the Swiss magazine Du dedicated an entire issue to the great writer. They asked me and another young author to rewrite one of his stories. I was at first a bit shy about doing this, as I greatly admire Chekhov, but I finally decided to do it anyway as a kind of homage. The good thing about the job was that it made me reread many of the stories. Even though they seem not at all outdated, it was hard to find one that could be transferred into our time and that wasn’t too short or too long.
Finally I chose “Old Age,” a short and quite simple story. I set my version in the Swiss village where I grew up and adopted those characters who had lived there when I was a child—the beautiful alcoholic woman, the successful architect, the lawyer. I think I only kept one or two of Chekhov’s sentences, the rest of the story was all new. But I hope that I have captured the feeling of loss and of regret that reigns in the original story.
Kirkus Review said of the collection: “Renowned in European literary circles, Switzerland’s Stamm didn’t achieve his stateside critical breakthrough until his novel (Seven Years). This story collection is even better, with pieces that read like the Zurich equivalent of Camus or Kafka, occasionally laced with a bit of Ibsen or Ingmar Bergman.”