Gogol

Portrait of Nikolai Gogol circa 1840 from Wikipedia

Portrait of Nikolai Gogol circa 1840 from Wikipedia

This morning I have been going through all the daily updates I have been getting from Goodreads, but have not read. Here’s an interesting one.

“I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone.”   –Nikolai Gogol

Goodreads notes:  “Novelist and playwright Nikolai Gogol (born March 31, 1809) feared being buried alive. When his grave was exhumed, his body was lying face down, giving rise to the rumor that the author’s greatest fear had come to pass.” I read some of Gogol’s most famous works as an undergraduate and loved them.  I need to re-read them just for the sheer pleasure of reading them. Gogol was an eccentric Russian (though born in the Ukraine) author/satirist of the early nineteenth century and is best known for his unfinished novel “Dead Souls” about a man who travels through the country buying up the dead.   He is also known for his short stories, particularly “The Nose” a fantasy about a nose that detaches itself from its owner one day and takes on a life of its own and “The Overcoat”, a story about an impoverished government clerk (copyist, if I recall correctly), whose prize possession is a beautiful overcoat and who comes back from the dead to find it.   He was known for being a satirist, rather than a writer of horror, but a few of his most famous works verge on what might be termed ghost stories or fantasy as can be seen above.  He is a master author, however, and his works bear checking out no matter what your preferred modern genre is. Wikipedia has this to say about his style:

D.S. Mirsky characterized Gogol’s universe as “one of the most marvellous, unexpected – in the strictest sense, original[28] – worlds ever created by an artist of words.”[29] The other main characteristic of Gogol’s writing is his impressionist vision of reality and people. He saw the outer world romantically metamorphosed, a singular gift particularly evident from the fantastic spatial transformations in his Gothic stories, A Terrible Vengeance and A Bewitched Place. His pictures of nature are strange mounds of detail heaped on detail, resulting in an unconnected chaos of things. His people are caricatures, drawn with the method of the caricaturist – which is to exaggerate salient features and to reduce them to geometrical pattern. But these cartoons have a convincingness, a truthfulness, and inevitability – attained as a rule by slight but definitive strokes of unexpected reality – that seems to beggar the visible world itself.[30] The aspect under which the mature Gogol sees reality is expressed by the Russian word poshlost’, which means something similar to “triviality, banality, inferiority”, moral and spiritual, widespread in some group or society. Like Sterne before him, Gogol was a great destroyer of prohibitions and romantic illusions. It was he who undermined Russian Romanticism by making vulgarity reign where only the sublime and the beautiful had reigned.[31] “Characteristic of Gogol is a sense of boundless superfluity that is soon revealed as utter emptiness and a rich comedy that suddenly turns into metaphysical horror.”[32] His stories often interweave pathos and mockery, while “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” begins as a merry farce and ends with the famous dictum, “It is dull in this world, gentlemen!”

Thoughts?  Comments?

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