Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
After the Murder
By Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919)
From ‘A Dilemma: A Story of Mental Perplexity,’ translated by John Cournos

I RETIRED to the divan in my library. I had no desire to read; my entire body felt weary, and my condition in general was such as is experienced by an actor after a brilliantly played rôle. It was pleasant to gaze upon the books and pleasant to think that sometime later I would read them. I was pleased with my entire apartment, with the divan, and with Maria Vasilyevna. There flashed through my mind fragments of phrases from my rôle. Mentally I re-enacted certain motions which I had made, and occasionally critical thoughts glided languidly: In such and such a situation it could have been better said or done….  1
  My eyelids began to grow heavy, and I wanted to sleep, when languidly, very simply, like the other thoughts, there entered into my head a new thought, dominating with all the qualities of my thought: clearness, preciseness, and simplicity. Languidly it entered and remained. Here it is, speaking, as it were, in the third person:  2
  “It is very possible that Dr. Kerzhentseff is really insane. He thought that he simulated, but he is really insane—insane at this very instant.”  3
  Three or four times this thought reappeared, but I still smiled, uncomprehending:  4
  “He thought that he simulated, but he is really insane—insane at this very instant.”  5
  When I realized … at first I thought that Maria Vasilyevna had uttered this phrase, because it seemed as if there were a voice, and this voice appeared to be hers. Then I thought it was the voice of Alexis. Yes, Alexis, who was dead. Then I understood that it was my thought, and this was terrifying. Clutching my hair, I found myself somehow standing in the middle of the room. I mumbled:  6
  “So that’s how it is. All is ended. That which I feared has happened. I approached too closely to the border line, and now there is only one thing before me—madness….”  7
  That evening!  8
  Imagine to yourselves a drunken snake, yes, yes, precisely a drunken snake: it has saved its venom; it has increased its agility and swiftness, and its teeth are sharp and poisonous. It is drunk, and it is in a closed room, where are many trembling people. With its cold body it savagely glides among them, coils around their legs, buries its fangs in the very face, in the lips, and coils itself into a ball and stings its own body. And it seems that it is not alone, but a thousand snakes toss about and sting and devour themselves. Such was my thought, the same in which I believed, and in the sharpness and poison of whose teeth I saw my salvation and safeguard.  9
  The single thought scattered in a thousand thoughts, each of which was strong and hostile. They circled in a wild dance, and their music was a monstrous voice, sounding as from a horn, and issuing from some invisible depth. This was an evasive thought, the most terrible of all snakes, as it concealed itself in the darkness. From within my head, where I held it strongly, it entered into the secret recesses of the body, into its dark and invisible depths. And from thence it cried out, like a stranger, like an escaping slave, insolent and bold, in the consciousness of his security:  10
  “You thought that you simulated, but you were insane. You are small, you are bad, you are stupid, you, Dr. Kerzhentseff. Some sort of a Dr. Kerzhentseff, insane Dr. Kerzhentseff!…”  11
  Thus it cried out and I did not know whence came that monstrous voice. I do not even know who uttered it; I call it a thought, but perhaps it was not a thought. The other thoughts, like birds hovering over flames, circled in the head, while this one cried from somewhere below, above, at the side, where I could not see it or catch it.  12
  And the most terrible thing which I experienced was the consciousness that I did not know myself and never did. As long as my I found itself within my brilliantly lighted head, where all moved and lived in law-conforming order, I had understood and known myself, had reflected upon my character and plans, and was, as I had thought, a lord. Now, however, I saw that I was not a lord, but a slave, wretched and helpless. Imagine to yourself that you are living in a house containing many rooms, that you occupy one room and think that you dominate the entire house. And suddenly you discover that the other rooms are occupied. Yes, occupied. Occupied by some mysterious beings, perhaps people, perhaps something else, and the house belongs to them. You wish to learn who they are, but the door is locked, and no sound issues therefrom, no voice. At the same time you are conscious that precisely there, behind the silent door, your fate is being decided.  13

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.