The Lower Depths: Scenes from Russian Life

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Branden Books, Jan 1, 1995 - Drama - 108 pages
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In a crowded dark room live the dregs of Russian society: a thief, a prostitute, her pimp, and several other criminals and outcasts. The general humdrum drama of their lives goes on as they get into fights, have disagreements, counsel one another over their losses, and so on. Luka, an idealistic spiritual sort, finds his way into the group, and starts to spread his message of hope and positive thinking. This spurs the plot along a bit, because many in the group are hard-bitten realists who have no truck with faith or hope...

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Page 36 - I've got to go too ... ah, the service! Why should people be pulled apart when they brawl? They finally quit fighting of their own accord . . . when they are tired of thumping each other . . . the best thing to do is to let them get their bellies full of fighting . . . then they don't row so often . . . they aren't in shape to.
Page 13 - I've heard at least a thousand times. Actor. As it says in Hamlet, "Words, words, words." A magnificent piece, "Hamlet" — I've played the grave digger. Kleshtsch. [Entering R. from the kitchen.] Will you begin to play the broom? Actor. That's very little to you. [Strikes his breast with his fist.] "The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons. Be all my sins remembered!
Page 12 - My organism is poisoned with alcohol. [Sits introspectively on the bunk before the stove.] SAHTIN. Orgism. Organism [derisively] . ANNA. [To KLESHTSCH.] Andrew Mitritch. KLESHTSCH. What is the matter now? ANNA.' Kvaschnya left some custard for me. Go eat it. KLESHTSCH. [Crosses to her.] Won't you eat? ANNA. I won't. Why should I eat? You — work. You must eat. KLESHTSCH. Are you afraid? Do not despair. Perhaps you'll be better again. ANNA. Go, eat. My heart is grieved ; the end is near. KLESHTSCH....
Page 20 - That would be nice. You, my guests, would soon guzzle up the whole place, and me in the bargain. ... I am much too open-handed for you. [Sits on the bunk, U.] Yes, old devil! Waked me up out of my best sleep. ... I was having a beautiful dream. I dreamed that I was fishing, and suddenly I caught a big trout. A trout, I tell you . . . only in dreams are there such great trout. ... I pulled and...
Page 64 - They only speak out of envy . . . because they have nothing to tell about themselves . . . NASTIAH. [Sits down again.] I don't want to ... I won't tell anything more ... if they don't like to believe it ... and laugh about it. [Suddenly brightens up. Is silent a few seconds, closes her eyes again and begins in a loud and rapid voice, keeping time with her hand, while in the distance ringing music is heard.] And I answered him: Joy of my life!
Page 41 - I'd just like to see you after you've put a couple of dozen away. . . . LUKA. Surely I wouldn't look better than I do sober. . . . ACTOR. Come, old fellow ... I will declaim for you a pair of pretty couplets. . . . LUKA. Couplets? What are they? ACTOR. Verses, don't you understand. . . . LUKA. Verses, for me ... poems? What do I want them for? ACTOR. Ah, they are so comical . . . yet sometimes so sad. . . . SAHTIN. Are you coming, couplet singer?
Page 96 - Pause.] BARON. [Thoughtfully.] For the genius. . . . Hm, yes . . . that brings to mind my own family ... an old family . . . back to Catherine's time ... of the nobility . . . knights ... we came from France . . . and entered the Russian service ... dignities accumulated on us. ... Under Nicholas I., my grandfather, Gustav Deville ... held a high post . . . he was rich. . . . Had hundreds of serfs . . . horses ... a cook. ... NASTIAH. Don't be lying . . . it's all a fake. . . . BARON. [Springing...
Page 74 - She stands with one hand on the balustrade and the other on the door post and laughs.] Natasha. So ... you love me with all your heart, and my sister. . . . Pepel. [Embarrassed.] What do I care for her? Her kind is nothing. . . . Luka. It does not matter, my daughter. One eats turnips when he has no bread. . . . Pepel. [Gloomily.] Have pity on me. It is no easy life that I lead — -friendless; pursued like a wolf. ... I sink like a man in a swamp . . . whatever I clutch is slimy and rotten . . ....
Page 62 - It is evening, the setting sun throws a red light against the fire-wall. Spring has just begun and the snow is scarcely melted. The black twigs of the elder-tree have not begun to swell. On the beam, side by side, sit NATASHA and NASTIAH. On the pile of boards LUKA and the BARON. KLESHTSCH lies on a heap of wood near the right wall.
Page 35 - LUE] Now, look out . . . now we've crawled down . . . ah, you poor child . . . How could you go around alone so, in your condition? Where is your bed? ANNA.

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About the author (1995)

Until the recent collapse of the Soviet state, Gorky was officially viewed as the greatest Russian writer of the twentieth century---an evaluation far above the true measure of his nevertheless considerable talent. Proclaimed the founder of socialist realism, he significantly influenced many Soviet writers, as well as others in Europe and in the developing world, and his works were for decades part of the Soviet school curriculum. His formal education was minimal. From the age of 11, he fended for himself with a variety of jobs. Self-taught, he published his first story, "Makar Chudra," in 1892. His first collection, Sketches and Stories (1898), is a romantic celebration of society's strong outcasts---the hobos and the drifters---and helped to popularize such literary protagonists. Foma Gordeyev (1899), Gorky's first novel, depicts generational conflict within the Russian bourgeoisie. A popular public figure on the left, Gorky was often in trouble with the tsarist government. During the 1900s, he was the central figure in the Znanie publishing house, which produced realist prose with a social conscience. Some of his own works were extremely successful. The play The Lower Depths (1902), set in a poorhouse and a strong indictment of social injustice, was not only a staple of Soviet theater but also influential in the United States. Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh was influenced by it. The propagandistic, extraordinarily influential novel Mother (1906) presents an iconic working-class woman who is transformed into a saint of the Revolution; its optimism in the ultimate triumph of the cause made it a prototype of socialist-realist fiction. During the years prior to 1917, Gorky published a number of autobiographical stories: All Over Russia (1912--18) (also Through Russia) and his memoirs; My Childhood (1913--14), My Apprenticeship (1915--16), and My Universities (1923). This trilogy shows his art at its best and includes some very lively reminiscences of such writers as Tolstoy and Chekhov. Although a Bolshevik party member since 1905, Gorky strongly criticized the new regime after the October Revolution: His collected articles from 1917-18, Untimely Thoughts, remained unpublished in the Soviet Union until recently. A cultural activist, he helped to save the lives of many writers, artists, and scholars during the cold and hungry years of the civil war. In 1921 he left Russia for Italy but returned permanently a decade later, recognized as the grand old man of Soviet literature. He then worked for Stalin's economic policies and presided over the institutionalization of socialist realism. At his death, he left unfinished a major novel of considerable interest, The Life of Klim Samgin, which he had been working on since 1925.

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