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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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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I was pleasantly surprised by Gogol's short stories, as they were much more fun to read than I was expecting. Especially when it comes to short stories (not usually my favorite medium) and the great writers of western canon, I expect the pieces to be well-crafted, but also tending toward the more formal, and not necessarily entertaining. Gogol's short stories are not just well-written, but varied in subject matter, creative in execution, and are very entertaining to boot.

Gogol's Dead Souls didn't work for me. It was excellently written, and funny in parts, but the structure was repetitive, and the joke was subject to diminishing returns. These short stories emphasize what is best in Gogol's writing, and avoids many aspects I found irritating in his longer work. For one, they are not at all repetitive- on the contrary, they feature impressive variety. The first few stories in this collection focus on folklore, other stories paint a portrait of country life, other stories look at the bustle of cities. Some stories are funny, others creepy (Viy, The Portrait), still others bizarre (The Nose, The Diary of a Madman), and even a couple sad tales are thrown into the mix (Old World Landowners, The Overcoat). Gogol furthermore explores different formats with his stories, as some have a frame narrative (St. John's Eve), others have a chatty narrator (Nevsky Prospect), another is epistolary (Diary, obviously). Every story in this collection is different, and not just on the surface, as the stories have different tones and moods as well. I didn't think there was a dud in the bunch (well, The Carriage was essentially a dozen page long joke, and not a laugh-out-loud funny one at that, but even it managed to be amusing). By the time I finished this collection Gogol's writing had inspired a range of emotions in me, as well as given me a full image of Ukrainian and Russian life in the 1800s, from the corrupting cities to the witch-haunted countryside.

The collection is also great fun to read in that Gogol's stories are a clear inspiration to many of the authors that came after him. Reading The Night Before Christmas can't help but remind you of Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. The Nose is a less unnerving but still surreal precursor to the works of Kafka. It's easy to imagine that Oscar Wilde read The Portrait sometime prior to writing his own story on the subject. It's equally easy to imagine that Lovecraft read The Portrait, and probably The Terrible Vengeance too given its depiction of man as insignificant pawns toyed with by greater powers that are indifferent to our fate. Gogol is one of the big names in Russian literature, not just for the quality of his writing, but for blazing a trail that many later authors followed, and noticing these influences gave me another layer of enjoyment in his writing.

That isn't to say that his works are flawless, however. A few stories, namely Nevsky Prospect and The Portrait, felt like two tales shoved together despite differences in tone that didn't mesh well together. A few of the stories felt unfinished, like both of the Ivan stories (though one was explicitly left unfinished, and to be honest, what annoyed me the most about that story was that I wanted to know the ending, which is pretty much the weakest criticism there is). As already mentioned, The Carriage wasn't quite up to snuff with the other works in this collection. All that being said, however, the collection was still excellent overall. I haven't read enough Chekhov yet to say for sure, but as of right now I'm putting Gogol above both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as the finest writer of Russian short stories I've yet come across. Definitely give this collection a read. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Good collection of short stories by a Russian master writer. Too bad Gogol seems to have been forgotten. America could benefit by embracing him. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
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 |
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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.

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