Leonid Andreyev: Author, painter, photographer

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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Leonid Andreyev: Author, painter, photographer

Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 2016, 2:17 pm

I quickly wrote this up after noticing that LT has listed Andreyev's birthday as 9 August (or the 21st . I wonder what it was under the earlier calendar?), and that we hadn't created an entry for him. I read his unsettling stories several years ago, around the same time as I was reading The Blind Owl. Stories like "Lazarus", "The Red Laugh", and "The Abyss", seemed extensions of the black, hieratic script of Hedayat's novel. It's been some time since I have read Andreyev, or about him, so I enjoin others to contribute their knowledge, or, for those who have yet to have encountered him, to become acquainted with the artist and his work. Here is a good introductory link, emphasizing the element of the uncanny in Andreyev's writings:


And a review I wrote some years back for "Lazarus", the impression of a first reading:

Lazarus, after three days “under the enigmatical sway of death”, inexplicably returns to the community of the living. He is received with great joy – and indiscretion. At a “welcome home” party thrown in his honor, a guest asks several times what being dead was like and receives no answer. But the other guests begin to fear their host without knowing why, and one by one they take their leave (As his own household does, in less than the fullness of time).

The narrator tells us that Lazarus “brought something back with him from the other side”. He who in (former) life was affable and fond of jokes is now taciturn, expressionless, indifferent to everything. Indeed his experience has literally transformed him. Visible are bluish, running to deep violet, creases in his flesh between his fingers and around his eyes – which seem sunken, their pupils a flat, fathomless black. His body has acquired a sort of uncanny stoutness, perhaps bloated in arrested decomposition. As time passes, Lazarus sits in his house without heat, without light and, but for one occasion, without company. A bored sculptor of beautiful bodies hears of him and requests his hospitality. Sitting in the silence and the dark, the sculptor asks, with growing unease, if Lazarus might have at least somewhere a bottle of wine. Time passes and darkness spreads when Lazarus answers: "I was dead". The guest takes his leave of Lazarus and his happiness on the same morning. Upon his return to decadent Rome, he completes one last work which inspires horror in his admirers, who urge him to destroy it.

Lazarus, the staring abyss, the walking lazaretto, is shunned by men. The peasants speak of tying bells to him to give warning of his approach (this is rejected in that these bells heard approaching in the night might ring grim portent), even of killing him. But this, even Augustus dares not do.

Lazarus leaves his house during the day to wander into the desert and stare at the sun. One day he is summoned by Caesar to Rome. Caesar, game to every challenge, desires audience with this messiah of despair. The imperial lackeys were able to rouge over the terrific pallor, to paint on the lines of a faint smile, but they could not mask his annihilating gaze. Augustus himself shrinks from its cancerous scope. In Lazarus's dark eyes he scries empires not yet founded in ruins, shrouds woven from the swaddling prepared for infants already in the tomb... life crawling from the ocean depths toward the sun and into the black vastation of time (like Bede's bird). In Bede and Pascal, life was depicted as a bright interruption of an engulfing infinite dark. But Lazarus was dead. He stares at the improbable sun, which, like Atlas, holds the unbegotten from the obliterated, himself inhumed in and host to the maggot of decay.

Lazarus, escorted out of the eternal city, his eyes seared out per imperial decree, again follows the sun into the desert and disappears - absorbed, or dead, never seeing, never seen again.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 2016, 10:49 am

There is a note of Lazarus in Alcestis (Euripides): a thoroughly callow husband sends his wife down to death in order to preserve his own life (after his aged father refuses to die in his stead). A sense of horror creeps into the drama after Herakles wrests the woman back from Death and she returns, mute, to the home of her husband, who takes her back, without scruple, and certainly without any sense of oppression, into his home.

elokuu 12, 2016, 5:45 pm

I would sell a kidney to obtain a copy of the impossibly scarce sole printing(other than cheap pod reprints) of Andreyev's biblical trilogy, Lazarus, Ben Tobit and Judas Iscariot(tr. W.H. Lowe, p. Francis Griffith, 1910).


elokuu 12, 2016, 8:31 pm

We discussed Andreyev's "Lazarus" among the Deep Ones last year.

elokuu 16, 2016, 10:21 am

I need to get out more often.... Has anyone read Satan's Diary?

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2016, 9:13 pm

>3 DavidX:

Not exactly... the complete trilogy was reprinted amongst several additional stories in the possibly less scarce 1920 International Book Publishing edition of When the King Loses His Head (tr. Archibald J. Wolfe). I'm not sure, but they might also be included in the 1947 J. Westhouse edition called Judas Iscariot and Other Stories.

elokuu 17, 2016, 2:48 pm

Judas Iscariot is included in Russian Symbolist Theatre: An Anthology of Plays and Critical Texts and the other two can be found in The Seven That Were Hanged, and other stories - though I assume DX was willing to go into dialysis only for the rare 1910 edition.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 20, 2016, 2:25 am

Thank you very much for all this very useful and difficult to find information on editions and translations. It is specifically the W.H.Lowe translation of the complete trilogy that I want and I am completely obsessed with finding that rare 1910 edition. I have read that internet archive e-text every year around Easter for several years now. I like to call it, "The Gospel According to Leonid". Easter Sunday afternoons I can be found sitting in the backyard staring at the sun. I will get that rare edition one of these days!

The 1947 J. Westhouse edition of "Judas Iscariot and other stories" contains only the stories "Judas Iscariot", "The Christians" and "The Phantoms", which I find very frustrating. I really like the dust jacket though.

>6 vaniamk13:

I was unaware that another translation of the complete trilogy had been published in the 1920 International Book Publishing edition "When the King Loses His Head". I will look for that right away. Many thanks!

>7 Randy_Hierodule:

My kidneys probably aren't in good enough condition to sell at this point anyway.

>5 Randy_Hierodule:

I am heading to Colorado for a sabbatical in a few days and just downloaded the kindle version of Satan's Diary to read while I am there.

elokuu 20, 2016, 1:11 pm

Enjoy your trip, David - and the fine comestibles available there, and let me know what you think of the book.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2016, 4:01 am

I'm very excited to read "Satan's Diary" and the fine comestibles should enhance the experience I think.

I wanted to post this favorite passage from "Lazarus" as translated by W.H. Lowe in that elusive 1910 edition.

"All objects seen by the eye and palpable to the hand became empty, light and transparent, as though they were light shadows in the darkness; and this darkness enveloped the whole universe. It was dispelled neither by the sun, nor by the moon, nor by the stars, but embraced the earth like a mother, and clothed it in a boundless black veil.
Into all bodies it penetrated, even into iron and stone; and the particles of the body lost their unity and became lonely. Even to the heart of the particles it penetrated, and the particles of the particles became lonely.
The vast emptiness which surrounds the universe, was not filled with things seen, with sun or moon or stars; it stretched boundless, penetrating everywhere, disuniting everything, body from body, particle from particle.
In emptiness the trees spread their roots, themselves empty; in emptiness rose phantom temples, palaces and houses--all empty; and in the emptiness moved restless Man, himself empty and light, like a shadow.
There was no more a sense of time; the beginning of all things and their end merged into one. In the very moment when a building was being erected and one could hear the builders striking with their hammers, one seemed already to see its ruins, and then emptiness where the ruins were.
A man was just born, and funeral candles were already lighted at his head, and then were extinguished; and soon there was emptiness where before had been the man and the candles.
And surrounded by Darkness and Empty Waste, Man trembled hopelessly before the dread of the Infinite."


elokuu 24, 2016, 5:11 pm

I am leaving for Colorado tomorrow, but I have already begun reading Satan's Diary. After reading just the first few paragraphs this book already promises to be among the most fantastic and profound that I have ever read.

An excerpt from the first page or pages(It's hard to tell on the kindle):

"...The extraordinary cannot be expressed in the language of your grumbling. If you do not believe me, go to the nearest insane asylum and listen to the inmates: they have all realized Something and wanted to give expression to it. And now you can hear the roar and rumble of these wrecked engines, their wheels revolving and hissing in the air, and you can see with what difficulty they manage to hold intact the rapidly dissolving features of their astonished faces!

I see you are all ready to ply me with questions, now that you learned that I am Satan in human form: it is so fascinating! Whence did I come? What are the ways of Hell? Is there immortality there, and, also, what is the price of coal at the stock exchange of Hell? Unfortunately, my dear reader, despite my desire to the contrary, if I had such a desire, I am powerless to satisfy your very proper curiosity. I could have composed for your benefit one of those funny little stories about horny and hairy devils, which appeal so much to your meagre imagination, but you have had enough of them already and I do not want to lie so rudely and ungracefully. I will lie to you elsewhere, when you least expect it, and that will be far more interesting for both of us.

And the truth—how am I to tell it when even my Name cannot be expressed in your tongue? You have called me Satan and I accept the name, just as I would have accepted any other: Be it so—I am Satan. But my real name sounds quite different, quite different! It has an extraordinary sound and try as I may I cannot force it into your narrow ear without tearing it open together with your brain: Be it so—I am Satan. And nothing more."

P.S. It is also already plainly evident that this book was a major influence on Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita", which is a favorite of mine and of everyone else who has read it I think.

Don't everyone go snatching up the few copies of this book available online. If the real copy I have saved in my basket to order when I get back from Colorado disappears, I will curse you! ;)

elokuu 24, 2016, 6:20 pm

>11 DavidX: have a high time with Andreyev in CO!

elokuu 30, 2016, 1:44 pm

>11 DavidX: I will need to put that one on the night stand with Axel.

Hope you enjoy CO. better than I did (impoverished poison-fed post-grad ne'er-do-well earning scant bean money at Casa Bonita). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Bonita

elokuu 30, 2016, 5:47 pm

>13 Randy_Hierodule: lots of changes since then, maybe you could get a job as a bud tender? ;-)

elokuu 31, 2016, 8:51 am

I've had that job ;-).

lokakuu 24, 2016, 8:09 pm

I came back here to report that Satan's Diary was all that I hoped it would be. Satan visits the world, finds life unbearable and immediately starts contemplating suicide. As unhappy and depressing a book as ever was written, poetic and darkly humorous in a way that makes only lunatics in asylums laugh. The gravitas is amplified by the fact that Andreyev actually died after writing it. Unforgettable, I may never recover.

14. Hello there tros! Colorado was bliss! Loved the mountains and the herbage. Unfortunately I eventually had to return to Dallas. :(

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