Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich
GOGOL, NIKOLAI VASILIEVICH
(1809–1852), short-story writer, novelist, playwright, essayist.
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, whose bizarre characters, absurd plots, and idiosyncratic narrators have both entranced and confounded readers worldwide and influenced authors from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Franz Kafka to Flannery O'Connor, led a life as cryptic and circuitous as his fiction. He was born in 1809 in Sorochintsy, Ukraine. His father was a playwright; his mother, a highly devout and imaginative woman and one of Gogol's key influences. By no stretch a stellar student, Gogol showed theatrical talent, parodying his teachers and peers and performing in plays.
In 1828 Gogol moved to Petersburg with hopes of launching a literary career, His long poem Hans Kuechelgarten (1829), a derivative, slightly eccentric idyll, received only a brief and critical mention in the Moscow Telegraph. Dismayed, Gogol burned all the copies he could find and left for Lübeck, Germany, only to return several weeks later. In 1831 he met the poet Alexander Pushkin. His first collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (1831–1832), folk and ghost tales set in Ukraine and narrated by beekeeper Rudy Panko, reaped praise for its relative freshness and hilarity, and Gogol became a household name in Petersburg literary circles.
Gogol followed the Dikanka stories with two 1835 collections, Arabesques and Mirgorod. From Mirgorod, the "Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich" (nicknamed "The Two Ivans"), blends comedy with tragedy, prose with poetry, satire with gratuitous play. Describing the two Ivans through bizarre juxtapositions, the narrator explains how the fatal utterance of the word gander (gusak ) severed their friendship for good.
Gogol's Petersburg tales, some included in Arabesques, some published separately, contain some of Gogol's best-known work, including "The Nose" (1835), about a nose on the run in full uniform; "Diary of a Madman" (1835), about a civil servant who discovers that he is the king of Spain; and "The Overcoat" (1842), about a copyist who becomes obsessed with the purchase of a new overcoat. In all these stories, as in the "Two Ivans," plot is secondary to narration, and the tension between meaning and meaninglessness remains unresolved.
In 1836 a poor staging and mixed reception of Gogol's play The Inspector General precipitated his second trip to Europe, where he stayed five years except for brief visits to Russia. While in Rome he wrote the novel Dead Souls (1842), whose main character, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, travels from estate to estate with the goal of purchasing deceased serfs (souls) to use as collateral for a state loan. Chichikov's travels can be considered a tour of Gogol's narrative prowess. With each visit, Chichikov encounters new eccentricities of setting, behavior, and speech.
In 1841 Gogol returned to Russia. There he began a sequel to Dead Souls chronicling Chichikov's fall and redemption. This marked the beginning of Gogol's decline: his struggle to establish a spiritual message in his work. His puzzling and dogmatic Selections from Correspondence with Friends (1847), in which he offers advice on spiritual and practical matters, dismayed his friends and supporters. Various travels, including a pilgrimage in 1848 to the Holy Land, failed to bring him the strength and inspiration he sought. Following the advice of his spiritual adviser and confessor, the fanatical Father Matthew, who told him to renounce literature, he burned Dead Souls shortly before dying of self-starvation in 1852.
See also: dostoyevsky, fyodor mikhailovich; golden age of russian literature; pushkin, alexander sergeyevich
Karlinsky, Simon. (1976). The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Maguire, Robert. (1994). Exploring Gogol. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Nabokov, Vladimir. (1961). Nikolai Gogol. New York: New Directions.
Senechal, Diana. (1999). "Diabolical Structures in the Poetics of Nikolai Gogol." Ph.D. diss., Yale University, New Haven, CT.
"Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gogol-nikolai-vasilievich
"Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gogol-nikolai-vasilievich
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.