The Lower Depths
A Play by Maxim Gorky


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"I'm One of the Good Guys!"

“Lies are the religion of slaves and masters.  Truth is the god of the free man.”

   - Maxim Gorky, The Lower Depths

I'm currently reading The Lower Depths, a 1902 Russian play set amongst a community of impoverished people.  I first heard of the play in 2004 when The Criterion Collection released two film versions in a single package. I collect the films of Kurosawa Akira, so the DVD set was already a must, but the brilliant Jean Renoir adaptation also shines through and made the acquisition most welcome.

I have no clear favorite of the two films, as both present unique visions of the play (with not only differing cultural standpoints from the Russian play, but at opposite ends of WWII).

Reading the brief background of Gorky's life in the introduction made me want to read more of the history of Russia, something hopefully without the color of Cold War propoganda.

I'm drawn to this perhaps in the same way that I'm drawn to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (including the BBC adaptation of it), through my knowledge - particularly honed over the past two years - that it would take so little to push anyone into that situation, that it would take so little to push me into the status of abject poverty.  I don't mean that I'm still clinging by my short fingernails to a decent income bracket; I've always been aware of it.  Prolonged unemployment just makes it easier to see and causes one to dwell on the disturbing possibilities.  (See my essay regarding my 1997 encounter with a street person, "I'm One of the Good Guys!")

[I've completed reading the play, more to come when I get some time.]

Being fond of both the 1936 French film (Les Bas-fonds) and the 1957 Japanese version (Donzoko), when I stumbled across a copy of the 1974 paperback in a library sale, I pounced.  That was a very fruitful Thursday trip to children's Storytime with Cyndi and Antonio.  (I also purchased a BCE of All the President's Men that night, which I need to read soon as well.)