In the Guest-House

Review

In this story published in 1923 the central hero is the monk Brother Marko, the protagonist of other three tales. The story “In the Guest House” describes his position in the monastery. He is a peasant of limited intellect, given to expressive language quite inappropriate to his calling. He is profoundly confused by the complexities of the vocation thrust upon him by his relatives. He does, however, find himself a niche in the life of the monastery that suits his temperament. He is given charge of overseeing work on the monastery lands, of the animals and wines, and of attending to the needs of the travelers who stay in the monastery guest- house.

Although he is confused by the dogma of his religion, Marko finds that he is sometimes granted moments when he feels in perfect communion with his God. These moments occur most frequently when he is working on the land, digging or planting out cabbages. Marko’s faith is subjected to a severe test when a Turkish visitor is brought into the guest-house fatally ill. His companions leave him in Marko’s care, ostensibly to seek help, but they do not return. As he tends the sick man, Marko is overcome by a desire to save the soul of the dying infidel. His eagerness gives him a new eloquence and he surprises himself with the fluency with which he half remembers phrases this onslaught silently, but when at last he is about to die and incapable of speech Marko brings a crucifix for him to kiss. Summoning his last strength, the Turk spits at it. Marko is appalled he seizes the cross and rushes out into the summer night, his head throbbing with fury.  But the monk has the image of a Christian God willing to accept all sinners, whatever this professed religion.