Nikolai Gogol

Easton Press Nikolai Gogol books

Dead Souls Chichikov's Journeys; Or, Home Life in Old Russia - The Collector's Library of Famous Editions - 1972

Franklin Library Nikolai Gogol books

Taras Bulba and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol - Collected Stories of the World's Greatest Writers - 1984


Writer Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, born on March 31, 1809, in the Ukrainian Cossack village of Sorochyntsi, was a Russian dramatist, novelist, and short story writer whose works had a profound impact on Russian literature in the 19th century. Gogol's unique blend of humor, surrealism, and keen social commentary set him apart as a literary pioneer. Raised in a Ukrainian household with a strong Cossack heritage, Gogol's early exposure to folk traditions and superstitions influenced his later literary works. After completing his education at the Nizhyn Gymnasium, he moved to Saint Petersburg in 1828 with dreams of becoming a writer.

Gogol gained widespread recognition with the publication of his first major work, Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (1831), a collection of Ukrainian folk tales and short stories. The success of this work established his reputation as a talented storyteller. His subsequent work, Mirgorod (1835), continued to explore the folk traditions and historical themes of Ukraine. In 1836, Gogol published what is arguably his most famous work, the satirical novel Dead Souls. This novel, part of a planned trilogy, follows the adventures of the protagonist, Chichikov, as he travels through provincial Russia attempting to purchase deceased serfs (referred to as "dead souls") to acquire land. The novel is a social and political commentary on the flaws of the Russian feudal system and the moral decay of society.

Despite his literary success, Gogol struggled with personal and existential challenges. He experienced a spiritual crisis and withdrew from society, becoming increasingly introspective. In 1842, he embarked on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, seeking spiritual clarity. The journey had a profound impact on him but did not entirely alleviate his inner turmoil. Gogol's later years were marked by a series of creative struggles and frustrations. He burned the manuscript of the second part of "Dead Souls" and produced works that reflected his preoccupation with mysticism, such as "The Overcoat" (1842), a short story that explores the dehumanizing effects of poverty. Nikolai Gogol's life was tragically cut short. In 1852, at the age of 42, he succumbed to a self-imposed starvation regimen. The circumstances surrounding his death remain the subject of speculation and debate.

Gogol's impact on Russian literature is immeasurable. His unique style, blending realism with elements of fantasy and satire, laid the groundwork for later literary movements. His works continue to be studied, adapted, and celebrated for their insights into human nature, social critique, and the rich cultural tapestry of Russia in the 19th century.


Dead Souls

The first of the great Russian novels and one of the indisputable masterpieces of world literature, Dead Souls is the tale of Chichikov, an affably cunning con man who causes consternation in a small Russian town when he shows up out of nowhere proposing to buy title to serfs who, though dead as doornails, are still property on paper. What can he have up his sleeve, the local landowners wonder, even as some rush to unload what isn’t of any use to them anyway, while others seek to negotiate the best deal possible, and others yet hold on to their dead for dear life, since if somebody wants what you have then no matter what don’t give it away. Chichikov’s scheme soon encounters obstacles, but he is never without resource, and as he stumbles forward as best he can, Gogol paints a wonderfully comic picture of Russian life that also serves as a biting satire of a society as corrupt as it is cynical and silly. At once a wild phantasmagoria and a work of exacting realism, Dead Souls is a supremely living work of art that spills over with humor and passion and absurdity.

Since its publication in 1842, Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp. As Gogol's wily antihero, Chichikov, combs the back country wheeling and dealing for "dead souls" deceased serfs who still represent money to anyone sharp enough to trade in them we are introduced to a Dickensian cast of peasants, landowners, and conniving petty officials, few of whom can resist the seductive illogic of Chichikov's proposition. This lively, idiomatic English version by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky makes accessible the full extent of the novel's lyricism, sulphurous humor, and delight in human oddity and error.

Gogol hoped to show the world “the untold riches of the Russian soul” in this 1842 novel, which he populated with a Dickensian swarm of characters: rogues and scoundrels, landowners and serfs, conniving petty officials–all of them both utterly lifelike and alarmingly larger than life. Setting everything in motion is the wily antihero, Chichikov, the trafficker in “dead souls” deceased serfs who still represent profit to those clever enough to trade in them.

Dead Souls is eloquent on some occasions, lyrical on others, and pious and reverent elsewhere. Nicolai Gogol was a master of the spoof. The American students of today are not the only readers who have been confused by him. Russian literary history records more divergent interpretations of Gogol than perhaps of any other classic.

Chichikov, an enigmatic stranger and conniving schemer, buys deceased serfs' names from their landlords' poll tax lists hoping to mortgage them for profit and to reinvent himself as a likeable gentleman.

Taras Bulba and Other Tales

Taras Bulba and Other Tales is a collection of stories written by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, one of the most renowned Russian authors of the 19th century. The collection contains several distinct tales that showcase Gogol's unique blend of satire, dark humor, and vivid storytelling. The centerpiece of the collection is the titular story, "Taras Bulba," which follows the life of a Cossack warrior and his two sons during the tumultuous times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Gogol's depiction of the fierce and proud Cossack culture, along with the intense conflicts and vivid battle scenes, brings to life the spirit of the era and the struggles of the characters. In addition to "Taras Bulba," the collection includes other notable tales such as "St. John's Eve," a mysterious and atmospheric story set during a pagan festival, and "The Portrait," a haunting tale of a painter's obsession with his subject. These stories exhibit Gogol's ability to delve into the depths of human nature, exploring themes of identity, passion, and the supernatural. "Taras Bulba and Other Tales" is a captivating collection that showcases Gogol's mastery of storytelling and his exploration of themes that remain relevant today.

Taras Bulba is a magnificent story portraying the life of the Ukrainian Cossacks who lived by the Dnieper River in the sixteenth century. Taras Bulba is an old and hardened warrior who feels a little rusty from lack of action. When his two sons return from school at Kiev, he eagerly takes them to the "setch," the camping and training island of the Cossacks. There they spend their time drinking and remembering old glories. It happens, however, that the Cossacks are going through an uneasy truce with their Turkish hegemones and the Tartar horsemen. Taras Bulba, always the warmonger, harangues the Cossacks, engineers a change in leadership, and leads them to attack the Catholic Poles. The Cossacks ride West, destroying everything they meet with extraordinary brutality. Finally, they lay siege to a walled city, but Andrew, Taras's younger son, discovers that the woman he loves is inside. A masterful and brutal story of the horrors of war.

With the Tales of Mirgorod, published in 1845, the awareness of the evils that torment humanity and which, following an inevitable drift, will cause its defeat emerges in Gogol's work.
The flowering farms, the boundless expanses of the Ukrainian steppe are accompanied by pain, violence, destruction, malice, death as the breaking of an agreement between the living. Conflict arises, the fury to prevail and to influence the freedom of others for one's own exclusive advantage. That is, the society in which Gogol lives unhappily is born. For this reason, the four stories present themselves as a natural and dramatic trait d'union between the astonished lyricism of the Vigils and the bitterness of the Petersburg cycle, in which everything is lie, deception, abuse of power, madness, death.

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