Evenings Near Kiev

Ben, in his sixties, speaks to us from his study late at night, surrounded by darkness in Evenings Near Kiev.  He says protestors are being burned alive in Kiev and Gogol has been whispering to him.  Refusing to eat, Gogol has almost finished the second part of Dead Souls, his masterpiece, but he is tormented by “an incredible confusion of voices and visions” that cause him to make things.  Ben says that when he was a teenager, long before he had heard of Gogol, he would write in notebooks for hours and then take the notebooks to the trash barrel and burn them.  Ben goes back to the imagistic effusion of Gogol’s voices and visions and then tells us of Ruskin burning hundreds of erotic drawings of his idol, Turner.  Ben returns to a series of images related to Gogol and then tells us that the wife of the translator and explorer Richard Burton burned thousands of pages of his unpublished manuscripts and journals when he died.  More visions of Gogol precede Ben telling us that Savanarola “made a huge mountain of books and paintings” and burned them as Botticelli cheered him on.  Ben narrates more of Gogol’s nightmarish visions and tells us that Joyce tried to burn the first draft of A Portrait of the Artist but his wife Nora, who could not read, pulled it from the flames.  Ben says the Devil whispered in Gogol’s ear that creation is evil and he must destroy what he loves so the world can’t take it from him.  Gogol throws the manuscript into the fire.  Ben says he sits in an empty house, alone, with his life’s work around him and it all seems a mockery.  Protestors are being killed, set on fire, in Kiev and when he closes his eyes he sees a girl dancing naked for him in front of the mirror.  The stars disappear from the sky as the Devil sneaks towards the moon, burns his fingertips on it, and eats it.

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