The Russians Part 2: Nikolai Gogol

I don’t know if you noticed, but this post is rather late. How ridiculous is it that I forgot about my own challenge? Anyway, sometime in late April I remembered to pick up the Collected Tales and Plays of Nikolai Gogol that I had reserved at the library ages ago. It was a scary, big, leather bound edition, and it was heavy. Lugging it around everyday was a bit difficult but it was definitely worth it.

I read Dead Souls in the past, and while I appreciated the subject matter I found it a bit hard to read. But The Overcoat and Diary of a Madman were superb, so I didn’t know what to expect from Gogol this time. I was very pleasantly surprised by The Squabble (also known as The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarelled with Ivan Nikiforovich). Who knew Gogol was funny? This is a humourous story set in a small town, all the characters are practically caricatures yet remarkably realistic specimens of the type of people they are supposed to be.

The laughs were followed by tears as I couldn’t resist rereading Diary of a Madman which followed The Squabble. This is beautiful and  heartbreaking, possibly my favourite short story ever. Another story in the volume that is worth mentioning is The Nose. I’m not so sure what this was supposed to be. I think I just didn’t get it, I kept thinking that everything that happens in it, which is not a lot, had some kind of meaning but I’m not sure what. If anyone has read it and understood what Gogol’s point was with this, I would really like to hear your thoughts…

Overall, I liked most of the stories of Nikolai Gogol. I’m really glad I read this book as I now realise he was a much more versatile writer than I had assumed. Next up in the challenge line-up is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Here’s hoping I won’t forget.


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