translated by Andrew Upton
Protasov, detached and idealistic, wants only to immerse himself in chemical experiments to perfect mankind. He’s more or less oblivious to the voracious advances of the half-crazed widow Melaniya and his best friend’s unrelenting pursuit of his wife, let alone the cholera epidemic and the starving mob at his gates. While Nanny fusses round, Protasov’s admiring circle, variously sceptical, romantic and lovesick, spar over culture and the cosmos. Only Liza, neurotic and patronized, feels the suffering of the peasantry and senses that their own privileged world is in jeopardy.
Written during the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, Maxim Gorky’s darkly comic Children of the Sun depicts the new middle-class, foolish perhaps but likeable, as they flounder around, philosophizing, yearning, or scuttling between test tubes, blind to their impending annihilation. This translation by Andrew Upton was first performed at the National Theatre, London, in 2013.