Savva – Monologue (Kondraty)

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A monologue from the play by Leonid Andreyev

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Savva and The Life of Man: Two Plays by Leonid Andreyev. Trans. Thomas Seltzer. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1917.


[stepping nearer and speaking in a lowered voice] There is no God here — there’s only the devil. This is a terrible place to live in, on my word it is, Mr. Savva. I am a man of experience.

It’s no easy thing to fright me. But I am afraid to walk in the hall at night. To you educated people, he appears in a nobler aspect, of course; but to us plain, simple people, he reveals himself as he really is.

We have no peace in our monastery; there is always such a noise and clatter there. Everything is quiet outside; but inside there are groans and gnashing of teeth. Some groan, some whine, and some complain about something, you can’t tell what.

When you pass the doors, you feel as if your soul were taking leave of the world behind every door. Suddenly something glides from around the corner — and there’s a shadow on the wall.

Nothing at all — and yet there’s a shadow on the wall. In other places it makes no difference. You pay no attention to such a trifle as a shadow; but here, Savva Yegorovich, they are alive, and you can almost hear them speak.

On my word of honor! Our hall, you know, is so long that it seems never to end. You enter — nothing! You see a sort of black object moving in front of you, something like the figure of a man.

Then it stretches out, grows larger and larger and wider and wider until it reaches across the ceiling, and then it’s behind you! You keep on walking. Your senses become paralyzed.

You lose all consciousness. And God is impotent here. Of course we have sacred relics and a wonder-working icon; but, if you’ll excuse me for saying so, they have no efficacy.

None whatever. If you don’t believe me, ask the other monks. They’ll bear me out. We pray and pray, and beat our foreheads, and the result is nothing, absolutely nothing.

If the image did nothing else than drive away the impure power! But it can’t do even that. It hangs there as if it were none of its business, and as soon as night comes, the stir and the gliding and the flitting around the corners begin again.

The abbot says we are cowards, poor in spirit, and that we ought to be ashamed. But why are the images ineffective? The monks in the monestary say … well, it’s hard to believe.

It’s impossible. But they say the devil stole the real image long ago — the one that could perform miracles — and hung up his own picture instead.

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