Background[ edit ] Early in his career Gogol was best known for his short stories, which gained him the admiration of the Russian literary circle, including Alexander Pushkin. After establishing a reputation, Gogol began working on several plays. His first attempt to write a satirical play about imperial bureaucracy in was abandoned out of fear of censorship. In , he sought inspiration for a new satirical play from Pushkin. My hand is itching to write a comedy
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His mother descended from Leonty Kosyarovsky, an officer of the Lubny Regiment in As was typical of the left-bank Ukrainian gentry of the early nineteenth century, the family spoke Ukrainian as well as Russian. It was there that he began writing. He was not popular among his schoolmates, who called him their "mysterious dwarf", but with two or three of them he formed lasting friendships.
Very early he developed a dark and secretive disposition, marked by a painful self-consciousness and boundless ambition. Equally early he developed a talent for mimicry, which later made him a matchless reader of his own works and induced him to toy with the idea of becoming an actor. In , on leaving school, Gogol came to Saint Petersburg , full of vague but glowingly ambitious hopes.
He had it published, at his own expense, under the name of "V. He bought all the copies and destroyed them, swearing never to write poetry again. Literary development[ edit ] Cover of the first edition of The Government Inspector In Gogol brought out the first volume of his Ukrainian stories Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka , which met with immediate success.
At this time Russian editors and critics such as Nikolai Polevoy and Nikolai Nadezhdin saw in Gogol the emergence of a Ukrainian, rather than Russian, writer, using his works to illustrate supposed differences between Russian and Ukrainian national characters.
Despite the support of Pushkin and Sergey Uvarov , the Russian minister of education, his appointment was blocked by a Kyivan bureaucrat on the grounds that Gogol was unqualified. During this time he also developed a close and lifelong friendship with another Ukrainian, the historian and naturalist Mykhaylo Maksymovych. Petersburg , a job for which he had no qualifications. He turned in a performance ludicrous enough to warrant satiric treatment in one of his own stories.
At the final examination, he sat in utter silence with a black handkerchief wrapped around his head, simulating a toothache, while another professor interrogated the students.
Commemorative plaque on his house in Rome Between and Gogol worked with great energy, and though almost all his work has in one way or another its sources in these four years of contact with Pushkin, he had not yet decided that his ambitions were to be fulfilled by success in literature. During this time, the Russian critics Stepan Shevyrev and Vissarion Belinsky , contradicting earlier critics, reclassified Gogol from a Ukrainian to a Russian writer.
The comedy, a violent satire of Russian provincial bureaucracy, was staged thanks only to the intervention of the emperor, Nicholas I. From to Gogol lived abroad, travelling through Germany and Switzerland. Gogol spent the winter of —37 in Paris ,  among Russian expatriates and Polish exiles , frequently meeting the Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz and Bohdan Zaleski.
He eventually settled in Rome. For much of the twelve years from Gogol was in Italy developing an adoration for Rome. He studied art, read Italian literature and developed a passion for opera.
Concurrently, he worked at other tasks — recast Taras Bulba and The Portrait , completed his second comedy, Marriage Zhenitba , wrote the fragment Rome and his most famous short story, " The Overcoat ".
In the first part of Dead Souls was ready, and Gogol took it to Russia to supervise its printing. It appeared in Moscow in , under the title, imposed by the censorship, of The Adventures of Chichikov. The book instantly established his reputation as the greatest prose writer in the language. Little did they know that Dead Souls was but the first part of a planned modern-day counterpart to the Divine Comedy of Dante. While visiting the capitals, he stayed with friends such as Mikhail Pogodin and Sergey Aksakov.
During this period, he also spent much time with his old Ukrainian friends, Maksymovych and Osyp Bodiansky. He intensified his relationship with a starets or spiritual elder, Matvey Konstantinovsky, whom he had known for several years.
Konstantinovsky seems to have strengthened in Gogol the fear of perdition damnation by insisting on the sinfulness of all his imaginative work. Exaggerated ascetic practices undermined his health and he fell into a state of deep depression. On the night of 24 February he burned some of his manuscripts, which contained most of the second part of Dead Souls. He explained this as a mistake, a practical joke played on him by the Devil.
Gogol was mourned in the Saint Tatiana church at the Moscow University before his burial and then buried at the Danilov Monastery , close to his fellow Slavophile Aleksey Khomyakov. His grave was marked by a large stone Golgotha , topped by a Russian Orthodox cross.
The authorities moved the Golgotha stone to the new gravesite, but removed the cross; in the Soviets replaced the stone with a bust of Gogol. Joseph Stalin did not like it, however, and the statue was replaced by a more orthodox Socialist Realism monument in His pictures of nature are strange mounds of detail heaped on detail, resulting in an unconnected chaos of things.
His people are caricatures, drawn with the method of the caricaturist — which is to exaggerate salient features and to reduce them to geometrical pattern. But these cartoons have a convincingness, a truthfulness, and inevitability — attained as a rule by slight but definitive strokes of unexpected reality — that seems to beggar the visible world itself.
Like Sterne before him, Gogol was a great destroyer of prohibitions and of romantic illusions. He undermined Russian Romanticism by making vulgarity reign where only the sublime and the beautiful had before.
A more conventional statue of Gogol at the Villa Borghese gardens , Rome. Gogol himself, an adherent of the Slavophile movement, believed in a divinely inspired mission for both the House of Romanov and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Similar to Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Gogol sharply disagreed with those Russians who preached constitutional monarchy and the disestablishment of the Orthodox Church.
After defending autocracy , serfdom , and the Orthodox Church in his book Selected Passages from Correspondence with his Friends , Gogol came under attack from his former patron Vissarion Belinsky. The first Russian intellectual to publicly preach the economic theories of Karl Marx , Belinsky accused Gogol of betraying his readership by defending the status quo.
Gogol himself appeared skeptical about the existence of such a literary movement. Although he recognized "several young writers" who "have shown a particular desire to observe real life", he upbraided the deficient composition and style of their works. In the s a group of Russian short-story writers, known as the Serapion Brothers , placed Gogol among their precursors and consciously sought to imitate his techniques.
The leading novelists of the period — notably Yevgeny Zamyatin and Mikhail Bulgakov — also admired Gogol and followed in his footsteps. In Vsevolod Meyerhold staged The Government Inspector as a "comedy of the absurd situation", revealing to his fascinated spectators a corrupt world of endless self-deception. The building contains the fireplace where he burned the manuscript of the second part of Dead Souls. Belinsky , for instance, berated his horror stories as "moribund, monstrous works", while Andrei Bely counted them among his most stylistically daring creations.
Mirsky declared it "a piece of sheer play, almost sheer nonsense". In recent years, however, "The Nose" became the subject of several interesting postmodernist and postcolonial interpretations.
The Russian composer Alfred Schnittke wrote the eight-part Gogol Suite as incidental music to The Government Inspector performed as a play , and Dmitri Shostakovich set The Nose as his first opera in — a peculiar choice of subject for what was meant[ by whom?
Gogol painted him as supremely exploitative, cowardly, and repulsive, albeit capable of gratitude. But it seems perfectly natural in the story that he and his cohorts be drowned in the Dniper by the Cossack lords. Above all, Yankel is ridiculous, and the image of the plucked chicken that Gogol used has made the rounds of great Russian authors.
What Sholem Aleichem was borrowing from Gogol was a rural East European landscape that may have been dangerous, but could unite readers through the power of collective memory.
The Beginning in August Legacy[ edit ] Gogol has been featured many times on Russian and Soviet postage stamps; he is also well represented on stamps worldwide.
In , the National Bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative coin dedicated to Gogol.
Nikolaj Vasiljevič Gogolj