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Author Topic: Pseudopod 336: The Abyss  (Read 10034 times)

Bdoomed

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on: June 01, 2013, 09:06:24 PM
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”.



“’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.’”




PLEASE HELP PSEUDOPOD AND ANSWER A VERY SHORT DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEY AT THIS LINK. IT WILL HELP US IMMEASURABLY! and thank you!

SURVEY



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Unblinking

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Reply #1 on: June 04, 2013, 02:14:43 PM
I don't know what it was about this story but I had a lot of trouble focusing on it.  Maybe it was the accent, the cadence, the tone, words, not sure.  I like her voice, and the words had an interesting rhythm to them, but I just was having trouble focusing on what the words were actually saying.  I decided I'd listen to the end, figuring that I'd grasp the thread of the story at some point and could then play catch up, but that didn't really happen either.

Which is all to say, I like the reader's voice, but I didn't absorb enough to really be able to comment on the story.



Frungi

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Reply #2 on: June 05, 2013, 06:40:49 AM
I also had trouble focusing on this story, so I can’t really speak to it; the thing that stood out to me most was how the reader, who sounds like she’s Russian, suddenly switched to a surprisingly good American hick voice for a couple minor characters. I’m… I’m not sure if that’s a compliment. :D



flintknapper

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Reply #3 on: June 05, 2013, 06:57:04 PM
I also had a hard time with this one. I could not follow much of it. The pacing of the story seemed off to me or something. Commenting on it would prove difficult.

I really wanted to like it. Some of my favorite genre fiction has been written by Russian authors (Strugatsy, Glukhovsky, and Asimov). I even like late nineteenth and early twentieth century Eastern European fiction. In fact, I am a fan of the historical fiction by Poland's Sienkiewicz.

... but I just couldn't do it. I could not get into this one. My hat goes off to pseudopod for selecting this though, it certainly is different.



schizoTypal

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Reply #4 on: June 05, 2013, 07:09:10 PM
I applaud the attempt at this one, and I definitely got a feeling from it. A wonderful feeling, even! Something probably only available to those of us who have had "Mystical" experiences in our lives. The problem is, I have no idea what it was about and I couldn't for the life of me re-tell the story to another person.

And to the narrator - your voice is BEAUTIFUL.



adrianh

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Reply #5 on: June 05, 2013, 07:27:24 PM
Like the others commenters so far this one didn't really work for me. Had trouble focussing on it until the last ten minutes. I understood it - but it didn't move me. Not sure whether this was the cadence of the reading, the story, or the translation.

I have to admit that most of the Russian literature I've tried of this period doesn't really work for me either. So it just might be a personal thing.

I mentioned the translation since it can make such a big difference. I know I've read different translations of the same Stanislav Lem story where one has left me dead, and the other in fits of laughter. Translation is hard.

Alasdair closing piece was quite awesome though. Bravo sir.



Bdoomed

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Reply #6 on: June 06, 2013, 06:46:53 AM
I thought I was just spacing out too much!  Somewhat glad to hear it wasn't just me, I restarted this story three times, each time I was about 5 minutes in.  I gave up when I had to do something else, and decided to go back to it later.  I love her voice, and so it was a pleasant listen, but for the life of me I have no idea what was going on.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


MacArthurBug

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Reply #7 on: June 07, 2013, 06:43:54 PM
I had a LOT of difficulty with this story. I liked the story well enough, but the story telling style felt off. The narrators accent felt more Asian then Russian and the spaces between words felt wrong. Perhaps this was intentional, to develop the increasing unease we as the audience should experience in this piece. However, since the story itself snaked all over the place, keeping up with it and trying to focus past the odd timing between words was actually painful for me. I don't mean this as an insult to the narrator. I'm positive that this piece was a challenge, and her voice is very melodic.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


spiderking

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Reply #8 on: June 09, 2013, 05:00:25 AM
Despite the distraction of the conflicting accents, it is my humble belief that those that were not moved by this story have never spent time in the abyss.  

The abyss is a place you go when something is so horrific, so unbelievable and so unreal happens that your psyche separates strangely from your body in order to survive.  And when you have so detached from yourself, it seems only logical to become someone else.  There sometimes occurs a reconciliation with reality by forcing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome onto your brain, because the only way you can survive without going mad is to make a connection to the perpetrator.  To try to make sense of anything, and in attempt to and salvage what you know of the laws of society, humankind, and sometimes of physics itself, there is chaos of identity.  

However, the most important question is how to escape this abyss once one has been thrust into the gaping maw of the sarlacc.  If there is no hero such as Han Solo to rescue you, and you have no Mandalorian armor like Fett, how indeed does one escape?

More than the almost supernatural insight into human nature Andreyev forced us to endure, the epilogue by Alisdair pushed me over the edge to tears.  I lie; more than tears, more like uncontrollable sobbing.  Because there are so many reasons to stay in the abyss, and so little, but important reasons to get out.  

I searched for a transcript of the beautiful addition to this story, but could not find it.  I could transcribe it from the podcast, but risk making a mistake and marring a Alisdair's perfect treatise to those of us who have experienced or still reside in the depths of the abyss.

Dear Alisdair, would it be possible for you to please post the transcript of this most eloquent summary to this story?  It would mean a great deal to me, and I am sure, to many others as well.

It reminds us that perhaps there is more to life than this:   "In its belly you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a…thousand years."
―C-3PO translating for Jabba the Hutt

Thank you Alisdair, for your heartfelt and scarily accurate observations of the world, yet again.

Sincerely,
SpiderKing (which as we all know, is always devoured in the end)
« Last Edit: June 09, 2013, 05:39:29 AM by spiderking »



Sgarre1

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Reply #9 on: June 09, 2013, 05:22:02 AM
Quote
how to escape this abyss once one has been thrust into the gaping maw of the sarlacc.

Once the sarlacc was called Choronzon!



spiderking

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Reply #10 on: June 09, 2013, 05:36:51 AM
Ah, how apropos.  And affiliated with the same first name as our esteemed host as well.  Ура Спасибо!



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Reply #11 on: June 10, 2013, 02:15:59 PM
Despite the distraction of the conflicting accents, it is my humble belief that those that were not moved by this story have never spent time in the abyss.  

The abyss is a place you go when something is so horrific, so unbelievable and so unreal happens that your psyche separates strangely from your body in order to survive.  And when you have so detached from yourself, it seems only logical to become someone else.  There sometimes occurs a reconciliation with reality by forcing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome onto your brain, because the only way you can survive without going mad is to make a connection to the perpetrator.  To try to make sense of anything, and in attempt to and salvage what you know of the laws of society, humankind, and sometimes of physics itself, there is chaos of identity.  

Maybe you're right.  If you have to have been there to get the story, I guess it's not for me.



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Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 11:59:58 PM
Allow me to be a voice of dissent in the rumble.

I thought this story was terribly, hauntingly beautiful. The opening passage of the two lovers, modest and so sweetly falling into love filled me with apprehension unlike recent horror stories have; this being old school Russian, and this also being Pseudopod, I knew that these two were doomed and I knew it was going to break my heart to listen to it happen. I appreciated the slow, languid pace the story took, and it was paired perfectly with narrator, who made me feel like I was floating on this cold, quiet river taking me somewhere I didn't really want to go, but felt compelled to go anyways.

Listening to this actually reminded me more of poetry than prose, to be honest, which is where I think the trouble in following the actual story spawned from. It flowed almost too well, and it was easy to drift away. At least, until the final act. The writing with Nemovetsky descend deeper and deeper into helplessness was so different from the writing where he was in control, it was like a punch to the gut. The writing wasn't quite beautiful anymore; it was harsh, staccato, and made me uncomfortable. Frankly, I felt awful listening to it, which was the most perfect feeling from this situation. Straight up, I think this story and the narrator are one of my favorites from this year. (Although, I did not like the accent switch. It was waaaaaaay jarring, and took me straight out of the story for a bit. Understand why she went that way, but think a better decision would've been to stick with the Russian all the way through. How did southern Americans get to Russia? We'll never know!)

Alisdair made me cry. He swept in like a smooth voiced eagle, taking me away from my Russian literature sad place. Thank you, sir, you do amazing work.



Sgarre1

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Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 12:22:52 AM
Thanks for making me smile!



schizoTypal

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Reply #14 on: June 13, 2013, 01:45:31 AM
Despite the distraction of the conflicting accents, it is my humble belief that those that were not moved by this story have never spent time in the abyss.  

The abyss is a place you go when something is so horrific, so unbelievable and so unreal happens that your psyche separates strangely from your body in order to survive.  And when you have so detached from yourself, it seems only logical to become someone else.  There sometimes occurs a reconciliation with reality by forcing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome onto your brain, because the only way you can survive without going mad is to make a connection to the perpetrator.  To try to make sense of anything, and in attempt to and salvage what you know of the laws of society, humankind, and sometimes of physics itself, there is chaos of identity.  

However, the most important question is how to escape this abyss once one has been thrust into the gaping maw of the sarlacc.  If there is no hero such as Han Solo to rescue you, and you have no Mandalorian armor like Fett, how indeed does one escape?

More than the almost supernatural insight into human nature Andreyev forced us to endure, the epilogue by Alisdair pushed me over the edge to tears.  I lie; more than tears, more like uncontrollable sobbing.  Because there are so many reasons to stay in the abyss, and so little, but important reasons to get out.  

I searched for a transcript of the beautiful addition to this story, but could not find it.  I could transcribe it from the podcast, but risk making a mistake and marring a Alisdair's perfect treatise to those of us who have experienced or still reside in the depths of the abyss.

Dear Alisdair, would it be possible for you to please post the transcript of this most eloquent summary to this story?  It would mean a great deal to me, and I am sure, to many others as well.

It reminds us that perhaps there is more to life than this:   "In its belly you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a…thousand years."
―C-3PO translating for Jabba the Hutt

Thank you Alisdair, for your heartfelt and scarily accurate observations of the world, yet again.

Sincerely,
SpiderKing (which as we all know, is always devoured in the end)

I've certainly spent my share of time there. Too much, entirely. I recognize that description so well, and I remember it fondly if anything. It's the actual act of paying enough attention to remain aware that the narrator is still speaking that eludes me. If anything, I think the problem with paying proper attention to this story comes from a very accurate portrayal of that abyss, to the extent that it sort of draws you there.



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Reply #15 on: June 15, 2013, 04:48:06 PM
True horror comes from that moment in which one loses the distinction between the oneself and the monster.



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Reply #16 on: June 17, 2013, 01:51:47 AM
"The Abyss" is a very hard, very powerful story.  Tanja Milojevic did a terrific job throughout.



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Reply #17 on: June 25, 2013, 12:41:17 PM
Alasdair is the main reason I listen to pseudopod - horror is not usually my genre of choice. This story showcases an aspect of horror I find more terrifying than any amount of monsters or gore - the abyss of despair that is so easy to descend, and as was so eloquently described in the outro, so painful and slow to ascend. Thank you.

Every day is an adventure.


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Reply #18 on: June 25, 2013, 10:16:01 PM
This was really, really dark, and very poetic.  The whole nightmarish countryside with its repetitive scenery and its looping roads, the abruptness and sheer arbitrariness of the brutality, and the slow, spiraling descent at the end: extremely well done.  This is a story that has been carefully, obsessively built more than written, and it was extremely unsettling and discomforting.  (Which is what horror ought to do, really.)

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Sgarre1

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Reply #19 on: June 26, 2013, 04:50:09 AM
Thanks for making me smile... again!



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Reply #20 on: October 24, 2013, 04:40:49 PM
This one is definitely worth hanging around for. The bleak and brutal ending has stood the test of time. I felt distinctly uncomfortable by the time the closing music rolled around.

However, if this was written today, the intro could benefit from tightening. The philosophical response to other works has no easy context, so I struggled with staying focused. I think this would be near perfect if we had a construction of the innocent loving relationship followed by its destruction without the extra material. This is also probably why I don't read Russian literature.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #21 on: December 11, 2019, 03:35:55 PM
Andreyev's "Lazarus" is a story that I read in high school and has always stuck with me. Nice to hear some of his other work.



“The Abyss” (1902) was published as a response to “The Kreutzer Sonata” (Leo Tolstoy’s fictional argument for the ideal of sexual abstinence).



I wasn't aware of Tolstoy's nutty opinions when I first read "The Kreutzer Sonata" and, while reading it, I thought that he had done a masterful job of creating a Poe like tale of madness and obsession. And then I read the afterword by Tolstoy where he proclaims that all of the beliefs of the lunatic main character are his own.  That afterword is the equivalent of tearing down Edgar Allan Poe's house and finding an old woman in the chimney, a dead cat in the wall, and an old man's heart underneath the floorboards.


p.s. Here's a link to the online text of Lazarus if anyone is interested:

https://americanliterature.com/author/leonid-andreyev/short-story/lazarus