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The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol by…
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The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol

by Nikolai Gogol

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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God, what is our life! An eternal discord between dream and reality!This Everyman's Library edition collects all of Nikolai Gogol's short stories. The Ukrainian-born Gogol wrote in the nineteenth century and is considered to be the bridge between Russian romantic fiction and modern realism. He influenced the likes of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Kafka. The collection is divided into two sections: Ukrainian Tales and Petersburg Tales.

Given that Gogol came from the rural Ukraine and later moved to the city, one might think the two types of tales reflect these different times in his life. In fact, though, Gogol's portrayal of Ukrainian peasant life is inaccurate and largely made up by the author, despite its authentic-seeming folkloric framework. See, Gogol was the type of writer who just kind of winged it as he went along. This can make for entertaining reading, as one is constantly surprised by what happens next in a story.

In these tales, Gogol's prose presents itself as an erratic blend of magical realism, absurdity, and satire. Gogol apparently was unimpressed with Petersburg and, with the inspirational help of his government work, quickly set about lampooning urban society with a gleeful viciousness. Minor officials are openly mocked for their vanity and pettiness. People lose their noses. Dogs talk and even write letters. Plot is tangential to Gogol's prosaic meandering. It's almost as if one can point to the sections of a story where he got bored and decided to shift gears. He doesn't hide this.

One can only imagine the deep impression Gogol's writing must have had on other writers of his time who were beginning to yearn for a break from the staid sentimentality of existing fiction. Gogol was a rule-breaker, and these tales show a writer intent on following his crazed muse far and beyond the existing literary boundaries of the time. Recommended for fans of all the other modernist writers who eschewed literary conventions while indulging in robust satire of the absurd mess we call modern society. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
My first reaction to Gogol was bewilderment. It's funny, and engaging to read, but...what the hell is it about? I'm not sure what the point of "Diary of a Madman" is, although I know I enjoyed it.

Pevear and Volokhonsky's intro is helpful, although it contains a number of minor spoilers. Their point is that if you try to understand Gogol, you are failing: Gogol himself didn't understand Gogol. "We still do not know what Gogol is," says some guy they quoted. P&V write that Gogol, as compared to traditional storytellers, "has nothing in mind. Memory plays no part in his work. He does not know where the act of writing will lead him."

Pushkin, an early and ardent supporter, wrote, "Here is real gaiety - honest, unconstrained, without mincing, without primness. And in places, what poetry! What sensitivity! All this is so unusual in our present-day literature that I still haven't recovered." And that seems fair to me. It's still unusual now (although at least we have Borges); maybe we should shut up about what it means and just have a good time with it. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
"When and what time he had entered the department and who appointed him, no one could recall. However many directors and other superiors came and went, he was always to be seen in on and the same place, in the same position, in the same capacity, as the same copying clerk, so that after a while they became convinced that he must simply have been born into the world ready-made, in a uniform, and with a balding head."

from "The Overcoat"


"And the runaway was your household serf?"

"What household serf? That would be no great swindle! The one that ran away was...my nose..."

"Hm! What a strange name! And did this Mr. Nosov steal a large sum of money from you?"

"Nose, I said...you've got it wrong! My nose, my own nose, disappeared on me, I don't know where. The devil's decided to make fun of me!"

"Disappeared in what fashion? I'm afraid I don't quite understand."

"I really can't say in what fashion; but the main thing is that he's now driving around town calling himself a state councillor. And therefore I ask you to announce that whoever catches him should immediately present him to me within the shortest time. Consider for yourself, how indeed can I do without such a conspicuous part of the body? It's not like some little that I can put in a boot and no one will see it's not there..."

from "The Nose"

( )
  pessoanongrata | Mar 30, 2013 |
I prefer the more cynical, satirical urban tales to the provincial supernatural tales. After all, who can resist a haughty nose that thinks it's too good for you? ( )
  Carl_Hayes | Mar 30, 2013 |
This version of Gogol's Collected Tales includes his Ukranian and Petersburg Tales of which, now Tales can be complete without The Nose and The Overcoat (the story that Dostoyevsky's credits as the beginning of modern Russian Literature, "we all came from Gogol's Cloak"). If you have never read any Gogol, you need to read those two stories, it explains all his other stories. There is something about them a mystical quality along with folktales that all dovetails into criticism of human nature and politics. There are morality tales that damn Russian Beauracracy.

I first became fascinated with Gogol in College. He wasn't assigned reading for a literature class, but brought up during a 19th Century European History Class. The one thing I loved about that class was the literature references and how they defined and impacted the time. He focused on Gogol's Dead Souls which is a wonderful book that details the Russian character as Huckleberry Finn defines the American character. However, Dead Souls doesn't even touch his short stories. They are simply amazing and I read them, incredulous that someone could have that vivid of an imagination. I loved all these stories!

Gogol has the Devil pluck the moon from the sky, wrestle with his characters, and is tricked himself in one story. In others, fantastic images and hilarious incidents punctuate Russian life and exposes our own human nature. Our need to be recognized, to be important, to pull ourselves up by pushing others down, all combined in these wonderful and imaginative tales. I've always been a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne, but Gogol's stories certain surpass him. What Hawthorne implies, Gogol implements, these are simply amazing stories.

Some Passges:

"My God! My God! Why this misfortune? If I lacked an arm or a leg, it would still be better; if I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen--just take him and chuck him out the window!" p. 308 of the story The Nose

"But nothing in this world lasts long, and therefore joy, in the minute that follows the first, is less lively; in the third minute it becomes still weaker, and finally, it merges imperceptibly with one's usual state of mind, as a ring i the water, born of a stone's fall, finally merges with the smooth surface." p. 311 of The Nose

I imagined the story The Overcoat was part lesson, part ghost story that reminded me of the La Llorona. It's a class Russian tale that exposes how we treat our fellow man, corrupt and insensitive bureaucracy, and revenge.

"Let me be. Why do you offend me?" -- and in these penetrating words rang other words: "I am your brother." and the poor young man would bury his face in his hands, and many a time in his life he shuddered to see how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed in refined, cultivated manners, and God! even in man the world regards as noble and honorable..." p. 386 from story The Overcoat

"Thus everything in holy Russia is infected with imitation, and each one mimics and apes his superior...His usual conversation with subordinates rang with strictness and consisted almost entirely of three phrases: "How dare you? Do you know with whom you are speaking? Do you realize who is standing before you?" p. 405 from story The Overcoat. ( )
  shadowofthewind | Aug 29, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nikolai Gogolprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Contains:
St. John's Eve, The Night Before Christmas, The Terrible Vengeance, Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka & His Aunt, Old World Landowners, Viy, The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich, Nevsky Prospect, The Diary of a Madman, The Nose, The Carriage, The Portrait; The Overcoat.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375706151, Paperback)

When Pushkin first read some of the stories in this collection, he declared himself "amazed." "Here is real gaiety," he wrote, "honest, unconstrained, without mincing, without primness. And in places what poetry! . . . I still haven't recovered."

More than a century and a half later, Nikolai Gogol's stories continue to delight readers the world over. Now a stunning new translation--from an award-winning team of translators--presents these stories in all their inventive, exuberant glory to English-speaking readers. For the first time, the best of Gogol's short fiction is brought together in a single volume: from the colorful Ukrainian tales that led some critics to call him "the Russian Dickens" to the Petersburg stories, with their black humor and wonderfully demented attitude toward the powers that be. All of Gogol's most memorable creations are here: the minor official who misplaces his nose, the downtrodden clerk whose life is changed by the acquisition of a splendid new overcoat, the wily madman who becomes convinced that a dog can tell him everything he needs to know.

These fantastic, comic, utterly Russian characters have dazzled generations of readers and had a profound influence on writers such as Dostoevsky and Nabokov. Now they are brilliantly rendered in the first new translation in twenty-five years--one that is destined to become the definitive edition of Gogol's most important stories.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:40 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A new translation offers thirteen satirical and fantastic stories of downtrodden characters who are set upon by the powers that be.

» see all 4 descriptions

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