Monday 15 March 2021

Sleeping Forever Beneath the Dry Earth (Part 5)

Shostakovich talking with Rudolf Barshai in the early 1970s

And here is the final part of my book. I am really pleased with a lot of what's in this part (if I say so myself), though there are a few things I would like to change, including one bit that I don't think works at all. If you've made it this far and would like to let me know what you think, you can leave a comment or email me via the contact form. Maybe one day you'll get to see this with pictures and world bubbles? We can but dream.

Part 5 – Spring 1969

Scene 1


Rudolf Barshai is getting ready to leave his apartment. He puts on a scarf and picks up his bag. He opens his door. A postman is outside. He looks up and hands Barshai two pieces of mail.

Postman: Comrade Barshai.

Rudolf Barshai: Thank you.

Barshai opens the first letter, which reads:

“In response to the request of 14th January, the District Union of Workers has decided that Comrade Barshai has no need for a telephone”

RB: No need! My mistake.

The second letter is a telegram, which reads:

“Rudolf Borisovich, please ring me as soon as possible! D Shostakovich”

RB leaves his building, heads to a call box. He has to wait. When his turn comes, he dials the number.

RB: Dmitri Dmitrievich, this is Barshai.

DS: Rudolf Borisovich! This is most urgent. How many percussionists do you have in your orchestra?

RB: Err… two, but we find more when necessary.

DS: Very good. Wonderful! This is very important information for me.

RB: Can I ask what you are working…

RB starts, but there is *click*. DS has hung up.

Later, RB is on the podium, in front of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra.

RB: We’ll pick it up from there after lunch.

Assistant: Rudolf Borisovich, telegram for you.

RB opens the telegram, which reads:

“Rudolf Borisovich – please ring me most urgently! D Shostakovich”

RB is next seen on the phone.

DS: How many double basses can you get?

RB: As many as you need.

DS: Excellent! Thank you.

He hangs up. RB hangs up, again a little confused. The phone then rings. He answers.

DS: Rudolf Borisovich?

RB: Here.

DS: I have too much to ask you! What’s the earliest you could see me?


Scene 2

The Town of Zhukovka, near Moscow.

RB steps off a bus on a leafy street, carrying a folder in his hand. Around him are the signs of spring: he wears a coat, but there are buds and leaves on the trees. He walks along a wide track lined with rough trees and bushes. A cat walks in front of him; he reaches down to stroke its head. He then comes to a wooden house. He looks at the house, then checks a piece of paper with an address on it. He looks around. While he has his back turned to the house, Irina Shostakovich appears at the front door.

IS: Rudolf Borisovich!

RB: Irina Antonovna!

IS: Won’t you come in? Mitya’s so looking forward to seeing you.

RB: Of course. I don’t suppose you know what he’s up to?

IS: He’ll explain everything.

They enter the house. DS is sitting with Kirill Kondrashin, who leaps up and strides over to RB.

KK: Rudik!

RB: Kirya – good to see you! I didn’t know you were involved with this.

KK: I’m not. The honour falls elsewhere this time, my old friend.

DS is trying to stand, with great effort.

RB: Dmitri Dmitrievich, please don’t worry…

IS: Mitya.

DS: I’m fine! Thank you so much for coming.

RB: It’s an honour to be invited.

IS: Mitya, a drink for the occasion?

DS: Go ahead, please! But I’d better stick to my prescription.

KK: What’s that?

DS: Water.

Irina is getting glasses and pouring vodka, which she hands around.

RB: What’s the occasion?

DS: Well, the birth of something special. I do think this one is very special, actually.

KK: A landmark.

DS: Thank you, Kirill Petrovich! (to RB) Did you get the poems?

RB: I did. Quite a journey, though, I think you omitted the title?

DS: I’ve finally settled on Symphony No 14.

KK: Isn’t it wonderful? We’ve waited with baited breath, Rudik!

RB: Well I’ll drink to that.

They drink. RB then gestures to a large book on the table.

RB: And is this it?

DS sits back down.

DS: Mm. Doesn’t look much, like that, but in there are the darkest things I could dream.

RB: The verses were… astonishing.

DS: They still chill me. All those poets were young. They didn’t see old age.

KK: Well I’m eager to hear it. This seems something very new.

DS: I really don’t think I’ve written anything to equal it. My whole life has been moving towards this point. I thought at one time that my best music belonged to my youth, but here we are.

RB: Is the premiere arranged?

DS: Hardly. I’ve yet to ask the conductor!

RB: Who is it to be?

DS: I’m really hoping that you will do me the honour.

RB: Are you… serious?

DS: Oh, but if it’s not…

RB: It would be the greatest honour of my life.

DS: Thank goodness! I’ve rather fallen in love with your wonderful chamber orchestra.

RB: I only hope I can do it some justice.

DS: You are younger than me. But you know the truth of what it says. I’m sure of it. I know you were only a boy, but you remember that time. (He looks at Irina) Youth couldn’t hide any of us from that.

A pause.

RB: I must say I’m dying to have a closer look at the score…

DS: Don’t worry, Rudolf Borisovich. We’re alone.

RB: Yes… alright. I suppose one looks for a way out of talking about… that sort of thing.

DS: I know. I do. I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding tricky subjects. When I was young, I let them talk me out of writing tricky music. I suppose it was the sin of wanting to live. But I’m not young now. While I can see, and hear, and put the pen on the paper, I want to address this… end that is waiting for all of us. I want to tell everyone that they’re not alone, that we’ve all seen it and lived with it. Will you help me, Rudolf Borisovich?

RB: There’s no question.

DS: I’m so very grateful. You recall what Apollinaire says? “The day is dying, see how a lamp/ is burning in the prison./ We are alone in my cell,/ fair light, beloved reason.” Let us be the lamp.

DS starts to stand again.

DS: I’d really like to play the symphony for you.

Irina and Barshai move to steady him.

DS: Don’t worry! I’m alright. 


Scene 3

Outside the Zhukovka dacha. Kondrashin is walking with Barshai, and waving back to Irina, who is stood in the door of the house. They walk away up the track towards the road. Some time passes between them before either speaks.

RB: This is all… unexpected.

KK: What were you expecting?

RB: I don’t know. To give some advice.

KK: He doesn’t need advice. He doesn’t take it, anyway!

RB: Well I can happily comment on matters of orchestral texture. But what this symphony says – I can barely take it in.

KK: That’s why he writes this stuff down – so there’s at least a blueprint. But you and I – we only need to understand so much.

RB: Were you hurt? That he didn’t choose you?

KK: Not at all. I had my holy scripture. And Melodiya were good enough to issue the Gospel According to Kirill Petrovich on long-playing record.

RB: I don’t know if I’m ready to be an apostle.

KK: It’s like he said. This country made you ready.

RB: I’ll have to approach Khrennikov.

KK: Details. Khrennikov can foul up your plans, if he pleases, but you’ll come through. This is a gift, one we are uncommonly lucky to have been granted. It will live on when you and I are just footnotes in a book or names on a record sleeve.


Scene 4

In Tikhon Khrennikov’s office. Khrennikov sits behind a large desk. Barshai is on the other side, lower than Khrennikov. Khrennikov is reading some papers. There is silence. Eventually:

Tikhon Khrennikov: This is not ideal. These texts and their subjects are… unfortunate.

RB: I think it’s a very important work. Very deeply felt, very serious.

TK: That may be. This is Lenin’s anniversary year. Perhaps Comrade Shostakovich has forgotten…

RB: … I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Dmitri Dmitrievich’s memory…

TK: … and after his good sense with the symphonic poem October, it would have been expected that he might produce something more in the spirit of this time of celebration.

RB: Should you decide to refuse permission then…

TK: Refuse? Refuse? We are not in the business of censorship, Rudolf Borisovich.

RB: I have been advised that space at the Conservatoire might be…

TK: Despite what you might think, allocation of performance and rehearsal space is not a simple matter.

RB: But this is Shostakovich we’re talking about.

TK: (after a pause, in which TK leans forward in his chair) We are talking about complicated arrangements. At the very least, we will require an audition for the symphony, in order to be certain that scheduling it for public performance does not have… unfortunate consequences for anyone involved.

RB: And then you’ll authorise a premiere?

TK: I’m sure I needn’t remind you that the Union of Composers does not allow or prevent anyone’s music being heard. It is simply the responsibility of the composer in question to ensure that their work is fit for public consumption.


Scene 5

At DS’s Moscow apartment. Irina is on the phone. As she speaks, DS appears behind her, looking somewhat worried.

IS: Did he give you a date? That’s a pity. I’ll pass that on. Mitya’s very worried about the score – are they nearly finished with it? ... Oh. Well, we’ll see you next week then, Rudolf Borisovich. ... And to you.

DS is now in the next room, looking at a game of patience laid out on the table.

IS: Barshai says Khrennikov’s demanding a run-through. (There’s no response) Mitya?

Irina gets up and approaches DS, who’s standing at the table. She looks round him at the cards on the table.

IS: The 3 on the 4?

DS: Uh… I looked right through that. I can barely think!

IS: You mustn’t worry. The score will be back in no time.

DS: Maybe you’ve more faith in copyists than I do. No one ever saw the score of the 4th Symphony again. They had to stich it all together again from the parts.

IS: Barshai says they’re nearly done with it.

DS: Barshai?

IS: Yes, he was just on the phone.

DS: You didn’t say.

IS: Mitya, I have letters to write.

Irina goes back to the other room. DS goes to the piano and picks out a tune with one hand. Irina is sorting papers when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Isaak Glikman.

IS: Issak Davidovich! This is an unexpected pleasure.

IG: Irina! Yes, I arrived a day early and wanted to come straight over.

IS: He’ll be glad of the distraction. Me too. He’s worried sick about them losing his symphony.

IG: Well, I’ve news from Kozintsev on King Lear. Might take his mind off it.

Irina takes Glikman’s coat. Glikman goes to the door of the room in which DS is poking at the piano. He waits a moment.

IG: Give me a few more notes – I’m sure I’ll have the tune.

DS spins around.

DS: Issak Davidovich! I thought you were…

IG: Tomorrow. Yes. I came early. I hope you don’t mind.

DS: Just as long as you’re not hiding any well-wishers.

IG: I think I shook them at the station. Listen, Dmitri Dmitrievich, I have some news of Grigori Kozintsev.

DS: There’s too little time for well-wishers.

IG: Kozintsev?

DS: Oh? How is he?

IG: Alright. No younger. Working on Lear.

DS: Does he want me?

IG: You are his first choice.

DS: How can I commit? Is he close to shooting?

IG: He’s…

DS: I might die before they ever play my symphony. How can I think about film music?

IG: He’d just like to talk some things over.

DS: I don’t have the capacity… I keep playing the symphony, again and again. Maybe it won’t fall out of my head then. If they lose it, maybe I can write it out again. But if I die, what then? No score, no composer? What if I go? I wait to be taken in the night, but you don’t know when! That particular visitor doesn’t do the courtesy of knocking on the front door.

IG: Alright. No plans. Kozintsev will wait. But I don’t think talking about tomorrow, or next month, or even next year will make them less likely to happen. I’ll leave this with Irina Antonovna, and if you want to look, then that’s up to you.

Glikman steps out of the room to see Irina.

IG: He’s in a state.

IS: I know. It’s hard to see him like this. It’s getting hard.

There’s a knock at the door.

IS: Now who could that…

Irina opens the door. It’s Maxim and his young son Dmitri.

IS: Maxim! How good to see you! And little Mitya too!

Little Mitya: Hello Irina Antonovna.

IS: What excellent manners!

MS: I think they skipped my generation - apologies for not phoning ahead.

IS: You wouldn’t have got through – it’s barely stopped.

MS: And Isaak Davidovich! This is a fine little reunion.

IG: We seem to be called together at such moments.

DS joins them in the hall.

Little Mitya: Dedushka!

DS: Maxim! And little Mitya! Are you scoring lots of goals for me?

Little Mitya: Some. But I like being in goal.

DS: Good. That was my position, once upon a time.

DS pats little Mitya on the head.

DS: A fine lad. What a fine lad.

IS: Won’t you come and have some tea?

As the visitors head into the apartment, DS turns to Glikman:

DS: You know, when I see little Mitya, I remember that when I’m gone, I won’t really be gone!


Scene 6

At a rehearsal for the 14th Symphony. Barshai is conducting the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in a large rehearsal room. DS and Irina are sitting behind.

IS: Rudolf Borisovich says the run-through is confirmed for 21st June.

DS: It’ll be heard at least once, then!

IS: The first of many, Mitya.

Barshai is seen conducting the orchestra. DS is captivated. Barshai stops the orchestra, and a hand is seen prodding him sharply in the back. He looks around with real surprise. DS is grinning, standing behind him.

DS: Keep going! I never imagined it would sound this good!


Scene 7

At the Shostakovichs’ Moscow apartment. DS is standing, looking at the front door. He looks down at some papers he is holding. He then rubs his face, and has an anguished expression.

DS: Is there time for patience? No.  I’d have a drink, if only Dr Ilizarov hadn’t been quite so firm about it.

DS puts down the papers and picks up a tie. Putting it around his neck, he motions to the paper and says:

DS: Did you have a look my notes?

IS: I did. There are some powerful things there.

DS: Hopefully it’ll convince one or two sceptics to humour me for an hour or so, just as long as I don’t lose my voice.

DS fumbles with his tie.

IS: Here.

Irina comes to tie it for him.

DS: Oh it isn’t usually this bad!

IS: Mm, though this is a particularly special one.

DS: It is, you know. I think it’s my best. I think it might also be my last.

IS: You’ve said that before.

DS: I feel I might not have any choice in it this time.

IS: You’ve said that before too!

Irina straightens his tie and buttons his jacket.

DS: Irischka, what would our lives have been like if we could have met when we were both young?

IS: Well, you’d have been able to tie your own tie and there’d have been nothing for me to do!

DS: You might have had a family of your own.

IS: Mitya, you’re my family.

DS Smile gently.

IS: Now, come on. Let’s go and hear it.


Scene 8

The Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. We see DS sitting, looking anxious.

IS: It’s alright Mitya. There are friends all around.

DS looks surprised. He turns and sees Aram Khachaturian.

AK: We wouldn’t miss this, my old friend!

Slava Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya are beside Khachaturian.

GV: Hello Dmitri Dmitrievich!

IS: Did you see Maxim over there?

Maxim waves.

IS: And look, Kirill Kondrashin. And Grigori Kozintsev too.

Kondrashin and Kozintsev wave.

Further away, Khrennikov is sitting with Pavel Apostolov.

Khrennikov: Who’s he talking to now? Pavel, can you see? I can’t see.

Apostolov: No… I can’t…

At that moment, Barshai walks on to the stage, bows, and gestures to DS. DS stands, turns sideways, and speaks to the audience. He is holding a folded piece of paper in his hand.

DS: We… We are going to rehearse my... my 14th Symphony.

Audience member: Is that Shostakovich speaking?

Audience member 2: Shush! I can’t hear what he’s saying!

DS: I would like to say a few words about this piece. Err… there are 11 poems. I’m not going to read them – I read out badly – but this is the gist 

Khrennikov: What’s the matter with you?

Apostolov: I don’t feel so good.

DS: The first two are by Federico Garcia Lorca. De profundis is about the very severe and threatening calm that you find in graveyards, then Malaguena, a Spanish dance, happens at a tavern where there are drunken fights. Knives are drawn and death comes in and reaps his bloody harvest. After this are six poems by Guillaume Apollinaire. Lorelei lives for love, but is a sentenced by judges and a bishop to imprisonment in a convent. But she escapes and falls into the Rhine where she imagines that her beloved is waiting for her.  After this comes The Suicide, about the suffering and torments of a man who takes his own life. In On Watch, a bullet catches up with a soldier. His beloved has a premonition about it. The next poem seems to be about the same woman, who hysterically mourns her lost love. The seventh poem, also by Apollinaire, is a noble and decent protest against injustice.

The next poem is by Wilhelm Kuchelbecker, the Russian Decembrist poet. It’s a message to his friend Delvig, about the beauty of many things: creative work, the struggle for great ideals, and friendship. Oh, and I forgot: Before that, there is a is the letter from the Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Sultan of Constantinople, which expresses great outrage and hatred towards everything that is evil, base, dirty and repulsive. The penultimate poem grieves for a great poet who had just passed away, and this little poem tells us that death is lying in wait for us everywhere.

You are probably wondering why it should be that I have suddenly decided to devote so much attention to such a cruel and terrible phenomenon as death. These things play on the mind. I am not so old, I suppose, but I feel the shells are falling closer and closer to me and taking with them friends and dear ones.

We see Ivan Sollertinsky.

And all this reminds me constantly of those words of Nikolai Ostrovsky, that life is given to you only once and it needs to be lived honestly, beautifully in every respect and in such a way as to not do anything shameful.

We see Nina Shostakovich, with DS half in the frame.

When writing this symphony, I thought of the death of Boris Godunov: When Godunov is finished off, a moment of lightness seems to set in. This comes, I think from religious beliefs, which I do not share: though life may be bad, when you died everything would be alright, and you could expect complete peace in the next world. Death terrifies me, because I see nothing beyond it.

We see a number of the Babi Yar Jews.

I myself feel closer to Mussorgsky, whose cycle Songs and Dances of Death is a great protest against death and a reminder that one should live one’s life honestly, nobly and decently and never do anything bad. For, alas, it will be a long time before our scientists figure out immortality, and death awaits us all. I see nothing good about such an end to our lives.

We see Irina as a child, with her parents.

We are going to play the symphony now, and I must ask you to be very quiet as we wish to record it to see what problems there are. I am sorry for this.

DS sits down. He smiles to Irina and takes her hand. Then, he waves to Barshai, who is ready to start on the stage.

Barshai conducts. The bass sings the first song. Then, we see Apostolov in the audience, who is looking very ill.

Khrennikov: What has got into you!?

Apostolov suddenly stands, clutching his chest with a pained expression on his face and bulging eyes. He reaches the aisle, and staggers for the exit. There are gasps and mutterings from the audience. The performance continues. In the hall foyer, Apostolov falls to his knees, and then lands face-down on the floor. He is dead. As he falls and dies, we see the performance come to an end in the hall, with strings scrubbing and Barshai’s wide eyes in close-up. His hand is raised. There is silence. DS’s head drops in seeming exhaustion. Then there is great applause. DS rises to his feet and moves slowly to the stage. He goes onstage and bows. When he returns, he thanks some people as he passes them. His attention is drawn to a developing crowd at the back of the hall.

DS: Ira, what’s going on at the back?

IS: Isaak says it’s Pavel Apostolov. He had a heart attack! He’s dead!

DS: What?! Oh, no, no. That’s not what I wanted. Not at all. My goodness.

IS: It’s not your fault.

DS: I didn’t ask for this! Can’t we talk about death without being dogged by it?

In the foyer, amid a crowd, Apostolov’s covered body is being taken away on a stretcher.

On one page, we see a number of Shostakovich’s relatives and friends, and each is speaking about what they have just heard.

Maxim is speaking to his wife:

Maxim: My God. Do you think the music did that? He hounded father, you know.

Grigory Kozintsev is speaking to an unseen companion:

Kozintsev: There were so many images in there. I suppose that’s the film-maker’s curse! But I need time to work through it all.

Kondrashin is speaking to a companion:

Kondrashin: His way with humour amazes me. How did do it, in this of all pieces?

Companion: I’m sure I heard some dancing skeletons!

Kondrashin: Exactly!

Galina Vishnevskaya is speaking to Mstislav Rostropovich:

Vishnevskaya: It’s all so unspeakably tragic. But true, no? I can barely wait to sing it.

DS is being congratulated by members of the audience. Irina handy back. Glikman and Irina speak:

IG: I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this one being created.

IS: You see the bits and pieces, but you can’t imagine what it is until, well, now.

IG: It’s beyond our comprehension, yes. I think he’s made a mighty tombstone. But it isn’t impassive. It grips me and forbids me to blink. And where ever I go, I’ll carry it with me. It’s for all those who don’t have a grave of their own, I think.

IS: Now they have this.

IG: Let’s hope it lasts and very long time.

IS: Mm. I’m sorry, Isaak Davidovich. My head is swimming with many things.

IG: It’s alright. It takes a lot of strength, to be this close to the flame.

IS: It’s not that. I’m just overwhelmed by thoughts… and memories.

IG: There’s much to say. But maybe, away from so many burning ears.

DS is standing in the crowd, and is approached by Khachaturian.

AK: Dmitri Dmitrievich! Remarkable. I’m awed and shaken, in equal measure.

DS: Thank you, Aram Il’yich, Thank you!

Just then, some other people approach, congratulating DS. He thanks them. When the leave, AK leans in.

AK: What do you see when you imagine death?

DS: Well, I, er…

AK: We’ve seen him, you and I! Although not for…

He abruptly straightens and smiles and more people pass nearby.

AK: … Yes Dmitri Dmitrievich! We must speak more about the orchestration.

As the people pass away, AK leans back in, conspiratorially:

AK: What I mean to say is: He had a face. We saw him, you and I, and I might have thought him immortal, had I not seen his open casket. 

More well-wishers pass, and when they’ve gone, DS realises that AK has vanished. Irina meets him.

IS: I can go and bring the car round now, unless you want to stay? Are you alone?

DS: Aram Khachaturian and I were just reminiscing, but he’s gone. Is… Apostolov still out there?

IS: I saw an ambulance, but...

DS: I think I’d just like to go home now. I’ve summoned something and I’d like to slip out before it sees me.

Irina takes DS’s hand and they smile to each other. We see Glikman, standing apart and looking on at them. He has a melancholy expression.


Scene 9

Outside the hall. DS gets into the waiting car. IG is already waiting inside. Barshai comes out to see him off. Kondrashin is there also. Barshai speaks briefly to Irina.

RB: Is he happy, do you think?

IS: He is very happy, but tired.

RB: I’m so thrilled.

IS: He’ll be in touch, soon.

Irina gets into the front of the car, and Barshai  and Kondrashin wave it off.

Kondrashin: Good job, Rudik. Good job. 


Scene 10

In the car.

IG: There’s another of your wonderful symphonies in the world. Will you have a drink to celebrate?

DS: I mustn’t. And they might still refuse permission!

IG: Ach, not now. Every writer and musician in Moscow was there.

IS: And many asked me to pass on their congratulations.

DS: They’re all too kind, of course.

IG: Anyway, there’s no way our esteemed colleagues at the Composer’s Union will want to spread the rumour that your symphonies are fatal for officials!

DS: Please. Don’t even joke about it.

IG: I’m sorry. But I did tell you there’d be surprises to come.

DS: I surprised myself most of all! I’d so convinced myself I’d go before hearing the thing that I can barely believe I’m still here.

IS: Well I think we should have a drink to more surprises. And it’ll count, even if you stick to water.

DS: Good surprises, only. I don’t like the bad sort. No more of those, please.

IG: Of all the people, though. You have to admit there’s certain poetry to it.

DS: No. There is no poetry in death. That’s still a soul that’s gone forever, and it isn’t for me to judge its value. It can strike at any moment. We are never safe. All any of us can do is work, and keep on working, and die with our boots on. That’s important. I mean to live by this rule.

He looks out the window.

In the morning, I think I might ring Rudolf Borisovich. I’ve an idea I’d like to set some more poems soon. And there’s King Lear to think about.


You know what? I think I might have a little drink after all.

The car drives through Moscow.

The end.


Sunday 14 March 2021

Sleeping Forever Beneath the Dry Earth (Part 4)

Here is part 4 of my written-but-as-yet-unillustrated graphic novel about Shostakovich in the 1960s, Sleeping Forever Beneath the Dry Earth. It includes an interlude set in 1965, which I'm not sure if I'll keep. Incidentally, a version of the final speech of part 4 was the first bit of the whole book I ever wrote. I was sitting on the steps of the Albert Hall in London in the summer of, I think, 2016, queueing for a BBC Prom concert.

If you've landed on this page and want to start from the beginning of the book, click here.

Interlude – 1965

At Shostakovich’s Moscow apartment. DS is in his study. He is standing at his desk, holding the pages of a letter in one hand.

DS: (To himself) Really… just… really.

Irina enters, holding some papers.

Irina: Are you talking to me, Mitya?

DS: (Briefly still reading) How can… Irina, have you seen this?

Irina: No. I haven’t started intercepting your mail!

DS: Tischenko’s gone too far. I need to tell him.

Irina sits, putting down the papers.

Irina: What does he say?

DS: He’s been lecturing me about Yevtushenko, saying… oh, are you sure? Aren’t you in the middle of something?

Irina: I’m here now. Go on.

DS: Oh… well he’s setting me straight about Yevgeny Aleksandrovich. It’s nothing new. I heard it all in ’62, though never from my own students.

Irina: What does he object to?

DS: He says all Yevtushenko does is moralise, tell the reader not to be cruel or deceitful.

Irina: What does he think is wrong with that? It’s important to be reminded of these things.

DS: Quite! I knew you’d agree.

Irina: Are you going to reply?

DS: I wouldn’t usually… but Tischenko is more talented than the others. He needs to know.

Irina: (getting up) Do you want me to take it down for you?

DS: No – I’ve already started. I’ve reached a third side already. (Picking up his own letter) So, I thank him for his letter – there’s always room for civility, even in a telling off! Then – here we are – “I am offended on behalf of my favourite poet, or one of my most favourite poets - Yevtushenko. Let's put on one side such things as syllabic beauty, inventive rhymes etc. I don't much understand things like that. You do not like it that he sits on your shoulders and teaches you what you already know: "Don't steal honey", "Don't lie" etc. I also know that one should not do that. And I try not to do it. Except that it is never boring to me to hear those thoughts repeated one more time. Perhaps Christ talked about such things better, and maybe better than anyone. But that doesn't take away the right to speak about such things from Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, J.S.Bach, Mahler, Mussorgsky…” Then I think I’ve gone round in circles, and I’ve put a rather strange imagine in his mind, the pious composer… here: “Every morning, instead of prayers, I bring to mind a couple of poems by Yevtushenko: "Boots" and "A Career". "Boots" speaks of our conscience, "A Career" speaks of morality. You cannot get rid of your conscience. To lose a conscience is to lose everything.” And then after that I’ve started quoting the bible. Whatever will he think of me? I’ll sound like some aged father from the old days.

Irina: No, I think you’re quite right. Though…

DS: What, Ira? Please tell me.

Irina: It’s just… I did feel Yevtushenko lost the moral high ground by changing Babi Yar.

DS: Now, I’m really not sore about that. He did what he thought he must.

Irina: He could have consulted you. He was your partner in the Thirteenth. I never told you… that did anger me.

DS: And others. I know. But I do so admire him, and I do so hate falling out with people. Now I suppose I’m heading for a falling out with Tischenko. 

Irina: But you must defend what you believe. Shall I leave you to finish it off?

DS: Mm. I should. Though I’m rather losing faith in my own little sermon. I’ll see Tischenko soon and I could mention it then. Though I probably won’t.

Irina: Perhaps speaking out is the best way to honour the poet’s best ideals. (She gets up) Call me if you want me to read it.

DS gestures his thanks as Irina leaves. He looks closely at his own letter. His shoulders sink. Finally, he folds it and throws it into the bin. He leaves the room. The room is empty for a frame. Irina enters, looks back to the door, then retrieves it from the bin and reads. 

Part 4

Scene 1

Early 1969. The Kremlin Hospital, Moscow.

DS is in a hospital bed, in a private ward. There is a window behind him on his left. It’s daylight outside. He is sleeping in a sitting position with his head bent forward. His glasses are on the bed in front of him. A book is slipping from his hands.

There is a shout from beyond the ward. DS wakes up with a start, head jerking upright. He reaches around for his glasses, finds them, and puts them on. He picks up the book again – The Diary of Anne Frank – and squints at it, trying to find his place. Finally, he gives up, places the book on the bed and looks around the room, his eyes eventually falling downward.

A nurse enters the ward.

Nurse: Dmitri Dmitrievich? Your wife is on the phone. Shall I bring it in?

DS: Yes, thank you! Very kind.

The nurse wheels in the phone, which is on a trolley.

DS: Thank you.

DS Takes the receiver and presses it to his ear.

DS: Ira? Irischka? Can you hear me?

IS: Yes Mitya. I can … you.

DS: Say again?

IS: I said… Oh, it’s not a good line.

DS: In any case, it’s wonderful to hear your voice.

IS: And to … yours too.

DS: It must be a relief to be free of all my needs! Nice and quiet.

IS: It is quiet, yes, but I’m thinking about you all … time. I look at the clock and think “it’s time to get Mitya some tea” but then you’re not there. Are they bringing you tea?

DS: Now and then. I can’t complain.

IS: Are you sleeping?

DS: Yes, sometimes. The poor wretch along the corridor often cries out in the night. It is rather frightening, though it must be hell for him.

IS: Is there anything the nurses can do? It’s important that you sleep.

DS: I’m fine. What have you been doing? I miss hearing about what you’ve been doing.

IS: Editing some articles. Nothing unusual.

DS: Does that mean the new issue is coming?

IS: Not yet. The last one will have to sustain you a little longer.

DS: Mm. I’ve read most of poems several times. There are some good ones. Which reminds me – did you manage to find the Rilke volume?

IS: And the Lorca, yes.

DS: I’m itching to see them again.

IS: I’ll bring them with me as soon as I’m allowed.

DS: I do hope it’s soon. The nurses are tight lipped about the end of the quarantine. Some nasty’s broken out, but they won’t say what. It could be days, or it could be a week – two!

IS: As soon as … let me … be with you.

DS: I’m dying to see you and have a proper conversation. Though there’s something about the quiet here. It’s given rise to strange and wild music – my thoughts are gripped by it! I think something’s coming Ira, something that couldn’t have come a moment before. Irina…? 

DS holds the phone away from his head. The line is dead. He replaces the receiver.


Scene 2

Night, in the hospital. DS is in bed, with the light on. In his hands is a large score – Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death. He is leafing the pages. He stops. He reads the vocal line.

“Forest and glades, no one is around./ A snow storm is crying and groaning”.

We see him from the window, which is streaked with rain.

“It feels as in the gloom of the night/ The Evil One is burying someone;/ Hush, it is so!”

DS looks up. There is a yelp from the man in the other room. DS sinks, in fright, further into his bed.


Scene 3

DS is in his hospital bed, asleep. IG sits beside the bed. There is a pile of books on the bedside table.

DS’s eyes open. He opens his mouth, but doesn’t say anything.

IG: Dmitri…

DS: (groggily) Irina… where?

IG: It’s Isaak Davidovich.

DS: (smiling weakly) Ahh. Old friend. My old…

IG: It’s ok. No need to speak. Rest.

DS reaches around for his glasses and puts them on. He looks towards IG and sees the pile of books.

DS: What’s that… Rilke! Is Irina here?

IG: She is. She’s only gone for a moment.

DS: You have no idea how wonderful it is to see you. Peace and quiet is all very well, but I could do without living through such a long spell again.

IG: Fortunately, you did live through it.

DS: Were many taken? Poor souls.

IG: They haven’t said. How are you feeling?

DS: I’m fine. Just fine. Though my hand is next to useless. And my legs are quite painful. And I have a terror of waking up and finding I’ve lost my sight or the use of the other hand. Or of not waking up at all.  But I’m fine, really. Besides, I’ve had Anne Frank for company.

IG: An apt companion.

DS: Now, Isaak Davidovich. I don’t suppose anyone brought her three good meals a day. Enough of me: have you been alright? Has Irina?

IG: I’ve at least been busy, and enjoying more letters that usual.

DS: Well, as I said, time on my hands. And the replies cheered me up. Too much of my other mail has been bringing news of deaths of people I knew when I was young.

At this moment, a nurse and doctor enter the room.

Nurse: Now, Dmitri Dmitrievich, don’t move.

The nurse takes his blood pressure and quotes it to the doctor, who writes it down. They leave.

DS: (Looking glum) They measure me all the time. I’m surprised they don’t just count “days until expiration” and be done with it.

IG: It’s just blood pressure. Nothing sinister. And anyway, Irina Antonovna is being stoic. Let’s keep things bright for her.

DS: I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that one.

IG: Come on – you’ve given so much.

DS: Stop it. I’m not a saint. You always try to make me out to be some sort of superhuman, but I’m not. I’m very human. I shit and piss and say stupid things. I’m one of the worst there is. But I’ve been given an angel.

IG: I don’t want to hear you talking this way.

DS: Well, they’ll all say it when I’m dead so why not now?

IG: I won’t let them.

DS: Isaak Davidovich! You’d have to live for ever – assuming anyone remembers who I was half an hour after I’m gone – and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

At this moment, Irina enters the room.

IS: You’re awake!

DS: Ira! What a relief to see you.

Irina goes to the bed and kisses DS.

DS: Who are all those people out there?

IS: I don’t know, but I’ve a mind to have a word with the doctors and getting you some more peace and quiet.

IG: We were just discussing angels and demons. You’ll never guess which one Dmitri Dmitrievich has himself pegged as.

IS: Oh I can. I’ve heard that one before.

DS: Well this sinner’s very pleased with his books. Thank you Irischka.

IS: I brought some more manuscript paper too.

IG: Have you written much down yet?

DS: Bits and pieces. In the night, the sound of it fills my head, and it’s still there in the morning.

IG: I’m dying to hear it.

DS: I’d sing it for you, but the experience would cure your curiosity.

IS: Have you thought of a title?

DS: I did think about that for a long while. I had time on my hands, you see. But, for the first time I can recall, I really don’t know what it is I’ve written!

IS: Well, I’m hoping there’ll be room for Lorelei.

DS: Oh yes! I want to start with Lorca’s De Profundis – sounds religious, doesn’t it? Then, some real violence: “Death walks in and out of the tavern”. Though I’m a little worried about the reference to “the smell of women’s blood”. Some of our more discerning critics might get the wrong idea. Then there’s Lorelei.

IG: Is this all one singer?

DS: No – two! Lorelei needs a man’s and a woman’s voice.

IG: I must admit that I don’t know this one.

IS: It’s the saddest story.

DS: Do you have the Apollinaire there? Really, Isaak, you must hear this.

Irina opens a book, finds the page and hands it to DS.

DS: Thank you. So:

(As DS reads, we see the action of the poem illustrated)

“In Bacharach lived a witch with fair hair

who let all the men around die of love.

“The bishop summoned her to his court

and acquitted her on account of her beauty.”

IG: I don’t know this Bacharach, but their legal system has some odd precepts.

DS: Ha! So:

“ ‘Oh lovely Lorelei, your eyes are made of precious stones,

which magician gave you the power of sorcery?’ 

“ ‘I am weary of life and my eyes are accursed;

oh bishop, those who have looked at me have perished.

“ ‘My eyes are not precious stones but flames,

throw this sorcery to the fire.’

“ ‘That fire is consuming me, oh lovely Lorelei,

somebody else has to condemn you, for you have enchanted me.’

“ ‘Bishop you laugh. Pray rather to the Virgin for me,

let me die and may God protect you.

“ ‘My lover has left for a distant land,

let me die for there is nothing I love.

“ ‘My heart is so heavy that I must necessarily die,

I would die if I would dare look at myself.

“ ‘My heart is so heavy since he is no longer there,

my heart has been so heavy since the day he left.’

“The bishop summoned three knights armed with lances:

take this demented woman to the convent.

“ ‘Go away Lore in madness, away Lore with tremulous eyes,

you shall become a nun dressed in black and white.’

“ So the four left down the road,

the Lorelei implored them and her eyes glowed bright like stars.

“ ‘Knights, please let me climb onto that rock so high

for I may see my beautiful castle one last time.

“ ‘To see once more my reflection in the river

and then I shall go to the convent of virgins and widows.’

“Up there, the wind blew her untied hair,

the knights cried: Lorelei, Lorelei.

“ ‘Down there, on the Rhine, comes a boat

and, on board, there is my lover, he has seen me and calls.

“ ‘My heart becomes so tender, it is my lover returning.’

She leans over and falls into the Rhine.

“To see her in the water, the beautiful Lorelei;

her Rhine-coloured eyes, her sun-like hair.

DS: What do you think?

IG: I think she’s powerfully tragic. There’s a little of Katerina Izmailova in there too.

DS: Mm. I think Apollinaire and Leskov share a certain sympathy for women pushed around by men.

IG: What else is there?

DS: Let’s see. Next there’s…

There are loud voices at the door. The doctor calls over to Irina:

Doctor: There’s some men here for Dmitri Dmitrievich. They say they’re from… which publication did you say…?

Reporter: (calling out) Is Shostakovich there?

Irina: What on earth…?

Doctor: They say they’ve been promised an interview

Reporter: Are you going to recover, Dmitri Dmitrievich?

DS looks bewildered.

DS: Well…

Irina: No! Do they just let anyone walk in here? (To the doctor) My husband is supposed to be resting… no, all of you – out you go!

Irina leaves the room, leaving DS with IG, who sits back beside the bed.

DS clasps his face, which is a picture of distress.

IG: Just despicable. Walking in here like that.

DS still looks lost.

IG: Really. Without scruples, those people.

DS: Maybe this is how the dying feel when vultures begin to circle.

IG: Come on. No one’s dying. Look – how about I read some of this poetry?

DS: Not just now.

IG: I don’t suppose there’s anything cheerful here.

DS: No. It’s all sad poems by people who died too young. I used to devour the stuff. Now I can’t help thinking all the poems are about people we used to know.

A pause.

IG: Do you know what popped into my head recently? When you invited the whole Zenit squad for dinner! You remember?

DS: Yes - a fine evening.

IG: When was that. ’37? ’38?

DS: ’40, I think. You know how many of them died in the war?

IG: Mm.

Another pause.

IG: I think I’ve got a paper here, if you want to hear some news?

DS: Mm. Ok.

IG looks into his bag and pulls out a newspaper.

DS: Isaak, what do you think happens when we die?

IG: Well… I… I think there’s an awful lot of fuss, and of course, depending on how many people spent time sucking up to you, a really terrific funeral…

DS: No, Isaak. I’m serious. Who knows what becomes of Lorelei’s soul? What is there after all… this?

IG: Oh. Something. Maybe warmth and contentedness. I don’t know about any General Secretary of the Heavens, but…

A pause.

DS: Mm. I imagined that, at one time.

Another pause.

IG: If the stories of my youth are any guide, you’ve no need to worry unless you frighten death itself. I recall heaven judging those sorts of antics very poorly…

DS is not paying attention, instead looking away despondently.

IG: Dmitri?

DS: Yes…? Oh. Forgive me. I don’t mean to be inattentive. I’m tired and these morbid thoughts are clouding my mind. I only slept a little last night - our friend along the corridor was in full voice. It’s funny that you mention Zenit, because when I did at last drift off, I dreamed I was at the Lenin Stadium, of all places, in full Zenit kit, mid-match, running deep into the opposition half. The crowd was roaring appreciatively. And as the ball found my feet, I looked up to find our old friend Shelagin alongside me, appearing just as he must have during the ’37 season. You remember that? He smiled at me as one would to a close teammate, and as I returned the kind acknowledgement, he disappeared in the blast of an exploding shell, and there was only a shallow crater and a shower of earth where he’d been. I dodged another blast, and then to my right I saw beside me dear Ivan Sollertinsky, whose friendship I’ve so missed these past years. I felt a deep stab of horror as he too vanished in a fresh shell blast. And as the noise and the smoke subsided, the pitch and stands stood eerily empty, and then snow began to fall, filling the craters and covering the earth all around. I stood for a while, desolate in the silence. Then, I ran on into the thickening blizzard, and looking back, saw only the soft impression of my own feet in the snow. Now, if you’ll forgive me, I feel the need to be alone for a while – please, my dearest friend, this is no slight against your much valued company!

Glickman leaves. DS removes his glasses and covers his eyes with his free hand.

Read the fifth and final part here.

Sleeping Forever Beneath the Dry Earth (Part 3)

Shostakovich and his son Maxim on the Moscow-Leningrad express train, in 1962.

This is the third part of my written-but-not-yet-illustrated graphic novel about Shostakovich in the 1960s, entitled Sleeping Forever Beneath the Dry Earth. It gets a bit silly in the middle, and I'm not sorry. I'm not quite sure the end lands in the way I want, so I may revise it a little at some point. If you want to see the bit of Kozintsev's Hamlet that features in this part, click here (you also get a little bit of Anastasia Vertinskaya as Ophelia first). Oh, and a "General" is a type of enormous Soviet steam locomotive developed in the 1950s, but which was no longer in use on the Moscow-Leningrad line by 1964. Enjoy.

(If you've not read the preceding parts, start here)

Part 3 – January 1964

Scene 1

At Leningradsky Station, Moscow.

Nothing can be seen – steam obscures all view. Voices are seen from the steam, but no people at first.

Irina Shostakovich:  Mitya, our coach is… I can’t see you.

Dmitri Shostakovich:  I can’t see anything!

The steam begins to clear.

DS: Is it… no… It is! Irina, a General!

IS: A what?

DS: An unexpected delight! I haven’t seen one for years!

The steam has cleared enough now to see DS staring at the train in amazement.

IS: I’m going to find our compartment.

DS: (To the driver) Hello, excuse me… Why the change of engine?

Driver:  It’s too cold. Diesel’s out.

DS: It’s magnificent!

Driver: Mind out – steam’s coming.

Steam pours out of the engine and the scene is quickly filled with white steam again.

DS: Thank you!

IS: (from beyond) Mitya…

DS:  *cough* I’m coming! *cough* Oh. *cough* Oh dear…

White out.


Scene 2

On the train. DS stands at the door of the compartment. Irina is seated.

IS: Mitya… You’re a state! Give me your glasses.

DS: I’ve been steam cleaned! I’m wrinkle-free now.

Irina cleans DS’s glasses.

DS: Oh, it takes me back. If it weren’t for the pain in my legs, I could almost be a young man again, catching a train to an away match in some provincial football stadium.

IS: I’m still waiting for you to take me to one.

Irina hands back his glasses.

DS: Ira! You’ve kept this passion for the beautiful game to yourself.

IS: I’d like to see what it’s like.

DS: You’re too late, I fear. My football days are gone. And besides, when would we find the time?

IS: Shall we ask for tea?

DS: This is like the old days!

IS: Tea, Mitya?

DS: Oh? Oh yes! What a splendid idea.

The train moves off and is seen travelling through the outskirts of Moscow.

DS: Did you pick up Grigori Kozintsev’s letters, Ira?

IS: Yes, Mitya. Don’t fret. I’ve got the musical scenario here.

DS: Yes, I’ll have that, thank you.

DS takes the document and leafs through the sheets of paper.

DS: Look at this… there is a lot of music required here. We’ve got the title sequence to think about, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Ophelia’s death. It’s a lot! Here it just says “Scene with Ghost – seven minutes”. That’s a lot of time to fill.

IS: I’m sure it will be easier when you’ve seen the footage.

A brief pause while DS looks at the scenario.

IS: I could do with that tea now.

DS: Tea and the view of the steam from our mighty locomotive wafting by. There are worse places to be. Do you remember your first train journey?

IS: Yes. From Leningrad to Lake Ladoga.

DS: A summer holiday?

IS: No, Mitya, in 1941. During the evacuation.

DS: Goodness, Irina. I am sorry. I’d quite forgotten myself.

IS: Don’t apologise. I was six. I don’t remember that much. It was crowded. Children cried, though I don’t think I did.

DS: It was frightening enough to us adults. You must have been a brave child.

IS: Used to the terror, I think. You can get used to anything when you’re young. Except the hunger.

DS: Were you with your grandparents?

IS: I was. I didn’t think Grandmother would even make it to the train, but she did.

DS: How strange to think of us both in that city at that time. You know they flew us out? I’ve never been able to board an aeroplane since without flinching at the thought of German artillery trying to pick us out of the sky.

IS: And here we both are, going back, on the train.


Scene 3

Later the same day. At the Lenfilm Studio, Leningrad.

Irina and DS are walking with Isaak Glikman

DS: And I’m afraid, Isaak, that I really wasn’t thinking…

IS: Mitya, it’s fine. And you enjoyed the journey so much – that brought me pleasure.

DS: Irina is far more forgiving than I deserve. Thank you, Irishka! I wish you could have seen the engine, Isaak. It was like travelling in the company of an old friend.

IG: I always felt one was fast friends with a steam locomotive, until it gifted you a face full of steam.

DS: I am in the unfortunate position of being able to agree.

They reach the studio entrance

IG: Here we are. (To the security guard) Good afternoon Sasha – Dmitri Dmitrievich and Irina Antonovna are here with me.  Is Grigory Kozintsev in the building?

Sasha: Yes – he’s booked… projection room three. It’s down…

IG: I know the way, Sasha. Dmitri Dmitrievich? Into the labyrinth.

Isaak, Dmitri and Irina make their way along darkened corridors within the film studio.

DS: Ah! It’s barely changed.

IG: I often used to find you here, before the war.

DS: This is a place of many ghosts.

IS: How many caught in the siege, I wonder.

DS: What a dreadful time.

They continue in silence for a while. The studio corridors are quite dark. DS stops to look through an open studio door. When he looks back, Irina and Glikman are nowhere to be seen. He realises he is alone.

DS: Isaak…? Irina..? Ira…? Oh… Oh dear.

DS heads along a darkened corridor, past racks of costumes. He comes to a larger space, which opens up into a gloomy castle hall.

DS: Oh! Elsinore!

DS continues, awed by the scale. Voices are heard in the distance. DS walks on.

DS: Hello? Isaak?

DS wanders through another door, towards the voices. He walks right into a set for a film. There is a crew shooting a scene in a circus, with actors and two dogs which are getting out of control.

Director: Cut! Can’t you keep that wretched dog in shot?

Crew 1: (to DS) Who are you?

DS: Oh I’m sorry… I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.

Director: Lights! We’ll reset the scene.

Crew 2: Grab the dog! He’s off!

Crew 1: Which one? Barbos? Or Bobik?

Crew 2: I don’t know! The one running around the set!

DS backs out the door with an apologetic expression. He is again in a darkened corridor. In the distance, there are voices.

Innokenty Smoktunovsky: I can hardly bear to watch it.

Anastasia Vertinskaya: At least you got to do something with your face.

They are leaning against a studio wall, smoking cigarettes.

ISm: Wonderful. You did see the faces he made me pull? And everything I suggested he ignored.

AV: It is Kozintsev’s Hamlet, I suppose.

DS is seen recognising the name of the film as he approaches the pair.

ISm: Let him pull faces, then.

AV: Well I’m coming round to it. It’s very beautiful.

ISm: Hallelujah! Those hours playing with lighting weren’t for nothing.

AV: He probably would have got it done quicker if you hadn’t argued so much.

ISm: So it’s my fault?

DS has reached them.

DS: Excuse me, excuse me, I am sorry…

ISm: Who are you? No one’s allowed here.

DS: I’m so sorry. I was with my wife and my friend Isaak Davido...

ISm: What are you talking about?! We haven’t seen…

AV: Kesha! It’s Shostakovich!

ISm: Good God!

DS: I am sorry, but could you direct me to Grigory Kozintsev’s room?

AV: Yes! Please, follow me.

DS: Thank you – most kind.

AV glares at ISm, who shrugs emphatically.


Scene 4

At the screening room.

Grigori Kozintsev, IS and IG and standing talking. GK is touching IS’s shoulder reassuringly.

AV: Grigori Mikhaylovich, I think we’ve found a friend of yours!

IS: Mitya!

Grigori Kozintsev: Dmitri Dmitriyevich! I was starting to worry that we’d misplaced my favourite composer. I’ve got some stories for you! Are you well? But quickly, did my notes answer all your questions on the musical requirements?

DS: Mm… well…

GK: Ask me anything, please.

While the conversation continues, DS sits with IS, IG and GK. ISm sits behind.

DS: … the ideas are only coming to me slowly.

GK: Trust the pictures. The editor tells me some of them are even quite good.

IS: We have been looking forward to seeing the footage, haven’t we Mitya?

GK: Wonderful. We were just about to look at one more scene then it’s lunch. Did I talk to you about the ghost?

IS: No. We’re ready to be surprised!

GK: Then I think you might like this. (To the technicians) Vanya – roll it.

The Ghost Scene plays.

Film: night time – a clock is seen, with figures revolving. Horses, moving uneasily. Hamlet’s group walk through a creaking wooden door. They step back in surprise. The ghost is seen beside the castle.

HORATIO: Look, my lord, it comes!

HAMLET: Angels and ministers of grace defend us!

Horses bolt into the mist. Hamlet runs up a bank behind the ghost. The ghost moves in front of the castle with Hamlet seen moving behind. DS is seen watching with mouth open. The ghost then moves above the tiny figure of Hamlet. Hamlet addresses the ghost at the water’s edge.

HAMLET: Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further.

Ghost: Mark me.

HAMLET: I will.

Ghost: And lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold.

HAMLET: Speak; I am bound to hear.

Ghost: So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.


Ghost: List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love--

Ghost seen moving towards frame.


Ghost: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

DS watches, mouthing “most unnatural”.

HAMLET: Murder!

Ghost: Murder most foul, as in the best it is;

But this most foul, strange and unnatural.
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.

HAMLET: O my prophetic soul! My uncle!

After Hamlet’s reaction, ISm is seen behind DS looking exasperated. 

Ghost: Ay, that adulterate beast,
to his shameful lust
The will of my queen:
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be.
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in my ears did pour
The distilment;
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!

Ghost’s face seen. Irina now looks in amazement

IS: His eyes! 

Ghost: Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:
Adieu, adieu! Remember me. Remember me.

The ghost is gone as the dawn breaks 

Hamlet: The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!

GK: Vanya, stop there.

The film stops and the lights come up.

IS: My goodness Mitya! Did you see his eyes?

DS: The ghost? That shook me, I must say.

GK:  Ready for something to eat?

IG: I’ll go and check everything’s ready.

GK: Thank you Isaak. Shall we?

DS: Wonderful. Irina, something to eat?

IS: (Resurfacing from her own thoughts) Eat? Yes. Lunch. Could it come here? Are you feeling up to the walk, Mitya?

DS: Yes. I feel quite revived by the wonderful footage.

GK: You like it?

DS: Yes – wonderful!

GK: What about Pasternak’s text?

DS: Wonderful! Everything is quite wonderful.

GK looks to IS for assurance.

IS: I’m quite sure Mitya will have a lot more to say when we’ve seen more.

DS: Yes – wonderful. (DS turns to IS) I just hope I can muster that sort of inspiration! I don’t want to disappoint those two great masters who were so kind to give me the job.

GK: (turning back to DS) I confess I haven’t spoken with William of Stratford about it, but I understand that old man Kozintsev’s overjoyed to be working with his favourite composer again.

DS: Let’s just wait until one particular soliloquy is scored. Then we can breathe out.

GK: Don’t dwell. Hamlet cannot be a succession of Great Speeches. Fanfare and portent are for monarchs and circuses, not for questions of conscience.

DS: But isn’t it the heart of the play? Doesn’t it need the most searching music?

GK: I can only speak for myself, but I find my thoughts turn most deeply inward in the most banal of situations – tying my shoelaces, or looking out the train window. At those moments, it’s quiet, and the monologue in my head is a gentle, constant one. An observer would see nothing but the vacancy of thought upon my face.

DS stands to go with GK, but pauses for a moment to steady himself.

GK: Are you ok?

DS: I’m fine. Only, these days conscience and all those other voices are having to share the space between my ears with another which complains loudly of the pain in my legs. Yes, I’ll be just fine. Do you remember, Grigori Mikhaylovich, rushing around these corridors, what, 30 years ago, to find a piano and hammer out some cue? It all seemed easier then. Lighter.

GK: It did. But it’s easy to forget the effort it all cost us, when the sweat’s dried and we’re no longer out of breath. Time seems to dissolve the memory of doubt. And you think “did it really cost me this much before? Surely not.” But it did. More, maybe.

They walk towards the door, and DS stops again. An idea has occurred to him.

IS: Do you want to sit awhile, Mitya?

DS: No, no it’s not that. That clock, at the beginning. Could I suggest something?

GK: Of course.

DS: Just an idea. Leningrad once had fine bells. Your clock, just now, reminded me of that.

GK: Mm. With the figures.

DS: Yes! The King’s court has its fanfares. Perhaps the night has its bells and its own special music. Melodies that call out all the strange and deathly things and that speak too softly to hear in the day. I can feel a tune coming, something that would send a chill of fright and regret down your spine if you were awake late enough to hear it.

GK: This is the stuff! How wonderful to work with you again. Just a minute. Vanya...!

GK leaves DS and IS, to speak with his crew.

IS: See, it’s coming together already.

DS: Being back here stirs a lot of things.

IS: It does.

DS: Do you remember the old bells?

IS: No, not really.

DS: Leningrad was at least for me once filled with friends and… football games. Can this ever have been a happy place for you?

IS: It might still. It’s getting better. I’m sorry, Mitya. We should be concentrating on the music. But I wasn’t expecting that film to make me feel this way. When I saw the ghost’s eyes just now, I thought, with shame, that I can’t remember their eyes. Mother, Father, any of them. I don’t even have a photograph.

DS: Irischka…

IS: I was only six.

IG comes back along the corridor, and sees DS and Irina speaking.

IS: This is indulgent – Anyway, look. Here’s Isaak come back to find us. (calling out) Thank you Isaak Davidovich! (Isaak waves back)

DS: (just to Irina) Ira, it’s important. But you’re right – let’s not get left behind. Knowing my luck, we’d get very lost in this… tomb of a place and I’ve no desire to become one of Lenfilm’s ghosts just yet!

DS and IS head off into the studio corridors towards IG.

On to part 4.