Pseudopod 336: The Abyss

by Leonid Andreyev

“The Abyss” (1902) was published as a response to “The Kreutzer Sonata” (Leo Tolstoy’s fictional argument for the ideal of sexual abstinence). This story caused great commotion because of its candid and audacious treatment of sex.

LEONID ANDREYEV (1871-1919) was a Russian playwright, novelist and short-story writer. He is one of the most talented and prolific representatives of the Silver Age period in Russian history. In the years between 1898 and 1905 Andreyev published numerous short stories on many subjects, including life in Russian provincial settings, court and prison incidents (where he drew on material from his professional life as a police-court reporter for a Moscow daily newspaper), and medical settings. His particular interest in psychology and psychiatry gave him an opportunity to explore insights into the human psyche and to depict memorable personalities. He soon turned to the theater, writing numerous, well-received plays. Andreyev’s style combines elements of realist, naturalist and symbolist schools in literature. Fate and Chance are the two dark, unknown, at times brutal forces which dwelt ever before his mind’s eye. His symbols are full of horror and at times unbending atrocity. Copies of his novels THE RED LAUGH (1904) and THE SEVEN WHO WERE HANGED (1908) were found in the library of H. P. Lovecraft. He supported the February Revolution, but foresaw the Bolshevik’s coming to power as catastrophic. In 1917, he moved to Finland where he spent his last years in bitter poverty, and his premature death from heart failure may have been hastened by his anguish over the results of the Bolshevik Revolution. His last novel, SATAN’S DIARY, was left uncompleted.

Your reader this week – Tanja Milojevic – says she’s “huge into voice acting” and you can hear evidence of the same at her radio drama podcast “LightningBolt Theater of the Mind”.”

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“’Look, the sun has set!’ she exclaimed with grieved astonishment.

‘Yes, it has set,’ he responded with a new sadness.

The light was gone, the shadows died, everything became pale, dumb, lifeless. At that point of the horizon where earlier the glowing sun had blazed, there now, in silence, crept dark masses of cloud, which step by step consumed the light blue spaces. The clouds gathered, jostled one another, slowly and reticently changed the contours of awakened monsters; they advanced, driven, as it were, against their will by some terrible, implacable force. Tearing itself away from the rest, one tiny luminous cloud drifted on alone, a frail fugitive.

Zinotchka’s cheeks grew pale, her lips turned red; the pupils of her eyes imperceptibly broadened, darkening the eyes. She whispered:

‘I feel frightened. It is so quiet here. Have we lost our way?’

Nemovetsky knitted his heavy eyebrows and made a searching survey of the place. Now that the sun was gone and the approaching night was breathing with fresh air, it seemed cold and uninviting. To all sides the gray field spread, with its scant grass, clay gullies, hillocks and holes. There were many of these holes; some were deep and sheer, others were small and overgrown with slippery grass; the silent dusk of night had already crept into them; and because there was evidence here of men’s labors, the place appeared even more desolate. Here and there, like the coagulations of cold lilac mist, loomed groves and thickets and, as it were, hearkened to what the abandoned holes might have to say to them.

Nemovetsky crushed the heavy, uneasy feeling of perturbation which had arisen in him and said:

‘No, we have not lost our way. I know the road. First to the left, then through that tiny wood. Are you afraid?’

She bravely smiled and answered:

‘No. Not now. But we ought to be home soon and have some tea.'”

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