When Maximov-the-Drinker collapses on his settee after a five-day binge, visions of his first love and glimpses of life as it once was, and can never be again, flood his mind. A horrible sense of sadness and regret overwhelms him – he has wasted his youthful years on drink.
When his housekeeper enters the room the next morning, she finds in place of her master, and the settee on which he slept, a vat of ruby-red wine. The local priest, captain of the military garrison and Chernov-the-Moneylender, visit the house. Awed by such a strange and compelling sight, they agree to keep the discovery between themselves until a military delegation arrives from Petersburg.
However, none of them can resist sampling the wine, each experiencing wondrous visions. What’s more, the vat miraculously replenishes itself, providing an inexhaustible supply. Soon word spreads throughout the town and all who drink of it become desperate to gain exclusive access…at their peril.
The Holy Drinker is written in the style of a Gogolian fable. It is set in a provincial Russian town at the turn of the twentieth century.