“The devil suffered from ennui” | Read Maxim Gorky’s short tale “The Devil”

“The Devil”


Maxim Gorky

English translation by Leo Wiener

Life is a burden in the Fall,—the sad season of decay and death!

The grey days, the weeping, sunless sky, the dark nights, the growling, whining wind, the heavy, black autumn shadows—all that drives clouds of gloomy thoughts over the human soul, and fills it with a mysterious fear of life where nothing is permanent, all is in an eternal flux; things are born, decay, die … why? … for what purpose?…

Sometimes the strength fails us to battle against the tenebrous thoughts that enfold the soul late in the autumn, therefore those who want to assuage their bitterness ought to meet them half way. This is the only way by which they will escape from the chaos of despair and doubt, and will enter on the terra firma of self-confidence.

But it is a laborious path, it leads through thorny brambles that lacerate the living heart, and on that path the devil always lies in ambush. It is that best of all the devils, with whom the great Goethe has made us acquainted….

My story is about that devil.

The devil suffered from ennui.

He is too wise to ridicule everything.

He knows that there are phenomena of life which the devil himself is not able to rail at; for example, he has never applied the sharp scalpel of his irony to the majestic fact of his existence. To tell the truth, our favourite devil is more bold than clever, and if we were to look more closely at him, we might discover that, like ourselves, he wastes most of his time on trifles. But we had better leave that alone; we are not children that break their best toys in order to discover what is in them. Continue reading ““The devil suffered from ennui” | Read Maxim Gorky’s short tale “The Devil””

Two Witches — Hans Baldung

RIP Ken Russell

RIP Ken Russell.

Filmmaker Ken Russell died last night at 84. I was a huge fan of his weird wonderful films, including Lisztomania, The Music Lovers, overlooked gem The Lair of the White Worm, Altered States,  and my personal favorite, The Devils (based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon).

Russell’s films deeply divided critics, who alternately lauded his hyperbolic visual flair and dramatic staging or lashed out at the perceived bad taste of his films. Simply put, a Russell film is turned to 10 from the get go, a style that worked well for strange projects like Lisztomania and Tommy, based on The Who’s concept album.

Russell’s career began provocatively with an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love; the film featured a nude wrestling match between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. Russell was able to push the limits of good taste, narrative cohesion, and sensory overload throughout the 1970s, but his career faltered in the 1980s, due in part, perhaps, because mainstream culture eventually caught up with him. Despite the histrionics and camp that marks much of his work, Russell’s singular vision as a filmmaker undoubtedly influenced a generation of filmmakers who would go on to turn the music video into an art form.

While Russell’s sensational synesthesia is not for everyone (I distinctly remember friends asking me to turn off The Devils in college), his films hold up remarkably well—and not just as documentation of the strange, grand period of filmmaking that was the 1970s. They are still provocative, even today. Russell was a strange bird, a filmmaker blending high art with popular culture who constantly pushed his audience. Do yourself a favor and check out one of his mind twisting films.