PS is a voracious reader and a bibliophile. She has her own library with a collection of thousands of books of different genres.
Always consider what is important and not what is beautiful. Beauty will come of its own accord.
— Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was an Ukraine-born Russian dramatist and writer. He was considered to be the most important figure in Russian literature. Most of his early work is influenced by Ukrainian culture and folklore.
Amazing Facts about Nikolai Gogol
- He was often called “mysterious dwarf” by his schoolmates.
- He was highly skilled in mimicry, which encouraged him to try his hands on acting.
- He started writing while studying at Nizhyn Gogol State University.
- He was appointed as a professor at the University of St. Petersburg to teach Medieval History but later resigned due to no qualifications.
- He was a friend with a great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. His death had a strong impact on his (Gogol’s) writings.
- He had a passion for art, Italian literature, and opera.
- His extreme ascetic practices severely affected his health and as a result, he fell into depression and died nine days later.
- He has been featured several times on Russian postage stamps worldwide.
- Several streets in different towns including Moscow, Odessa, Vladimir, Riga and many more are named after him.
- He has been mentioned several times Dostoyevsky’s novels such as Crime and Punishment.
Gogol’s work has been characterized as unexpected and remarkable with superior originality in the strictest sense. Here is the list of his best work that you must add to your reading list:
1. The Carriage
- The Carriage is about the life of a former cavalry officer, who lives near a small town in Russia.
- Gogol wrote the story after getting inspiration from Pushkin’s Takes of Belkin.
- The story brilliantly describes the plight of inhabitants and their protest against the local climate.
- It is a short-story with details magnificent enough to match the size of the novel.
- The protagonist is Pyfagor Pifagorovich Chertokutsky, who’d to resign from his post due to some scandal. He is a well-renowned landowner.
- The town is full of depressed people and has a bleak environment, but after the arrival of Chertokutsky, the town becomes lively as other cavalry officers visit him frequently for drinks and late-night parties.
2. Dead Souls
- Dead Souls is an excellent exemplar to describe of the Russian literature.
- It is about the adventures of a traveler named Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov and the people he meets.
- It is said that Gogol destroyed some of its final parts before his death, but it is still considered to be a complete and remarkable piece.
- The story discusses the life of serfs before their emancipation in 1861 in Russia, landowners had the right to sell, buy and mortgage them like any other possession. They were measured by the word “souls” such as “seven souls of serfs”.
- The protagonist is Chichikov, who is a middle-aged man, living in a small town to acquire “dead souls”.
3. The Overcoat
- The Overcoat is about a poverty-stricken government copyist, Akaky Akakievitch Bashmachkin, who works in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. The story discusses his journey of life and unimaginable death.
- Though he has immense dedication for his job, he’s hardly recognized for his hard work.
- He is often taunted by his fellow clerks who make fun of his worn-out overcoat, which is irreparable.
- He wishes to buy an expensive overcoat with luxury comfort, but he doesn’t have enough money to fulfill his desire.
- Vladimir Nabokov was in awe with Gogol’s work and called him a perfect blend of Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.
4. The Nose
- The Nose is a comical satire that focuses on a St. Petersburg official and his nose. According to the story, his nose leaves his face and sets a life of its own.
- The usage of the nose as the main source of the story comes from Gogol’s own strange shaped nose, which was the subject of jokes many times.
- The main character is Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov, who is highly obsessed with his rank and wakes up one morning to discover his nose is missing.
- Later, he finds out his nose has set life of its own and is now settled at a rank of State Councillor, higher than his rank.
5. Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka
- Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka is a collection of different short stories.
- In this book, Gogol has shared his own experience of Ukraine that includes his childhood memories and life of peasants.
- It is considered to be one of the most influential works that gave him prominence in Russian literature as a unique and innovate writer.
- The story starts with a bookkeeper named Rudy Panko, where “Rudy” means “red” in Ukrainian, who informs the readers about the set of tales he’s heard.
- He carries on by discussing the peasants’ lives and lavish parties. It is Ukrainian folklore in many aspects.
6. The Portrait
- The Portrait is about the life of a young and poor artist named Andrey Petrovich Chartkov. He is extremely curious to buy a portrait that he saw in an art shop.
- The portrait is spellbinding and throws him in a dilemma. He, now, understands he needs to struggle to make his way through his talent and thus, achieve money and fame.
- Later in the story, Chartkov does achieve success, but as said in the narration, “A true pleasure can’t be achieved by fame if it is gained by stealing and not by hard work.”
- The main aim of this story is to highlight the influence of corruption and money on art.
- Mirgorod is a Russian term for the Ukrainian city named Myrhorod, which means “city of peace” (in both the languages).
- It is a collection of well-renowned short stories including Viy, Taras Bulba and much more.
- Mirgorod didn’t receive early financial success, but later it was counted as Gogol’s most successful and optimist work.
- It was greatly appreciated by Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin and hailed him as the head of Russian literature.
- After reading this book, Vladimir Nabokov, once, said, “When I’m looking for sheer nightmare, I’d imagine Gogol writing down the stories similar to Mirgorod about ghosts haunting the cities and people.”
Having a Ukrainian origin, Gogol’s early work was mostly inspired by Ukrainian folklore due to which most of his work was banned from publishing in Russia. Later, he revised some of its work and rewritten them to match the Russian culture.
Gogol is considered to be one of the legendary Russian writers and dramatists. His creations have inspired several films and other famous writers of the 19th century Russia.
© 2019 Prachi Sharma