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Such was the stature of Nikolai Gogol in 19th-century Russian literature that the great Dostoevsky remarked that he and his contemporaries had all ‘crawled out from under Gogol’s overcoat’. ‘The Overcoat’ was one of Gogol’s most celebrated stories, about a shy and downtrodden clerk and his fatal desire for an expensive new coat. It was a landmark in Russian naturalism and in the development of the short story as a literary form. More than a century and a half later, Gogol’s exuberant tales continue to dazzle readers with their characteristic blend of pathos and dark humour. This Folio edition gathers together, for the first time, 13 of his most celebrated stories – each one a masterpiece.
Gogol’s mixture of the everyday and the bizarre earned him the epithet of the ‘Russian Dickens’, but his voice remains distinctively his own. Ranging from earthy Ukrainian tales to satires of St Petersburg life, this collection showcases the inventiveness of Gogol’s work. In ‘Ivan Fidorovich Shponka and his Aunt’, a bachelor abandons his army career and returns to the family farm to help his ailing aunt – who turns out to be in strapping good health (‘a dragoon’s moustaches and high topboots would have suited her better than anything’). In ‘The Nose’, a barber finds a nose in his bread which then takes off and tries to live a life of its own (‘I am an independent individual’) and in ‘Diary of a Madman’, a civil servant records his own tragicomic slide into insanity.
The stories are as varied as the characters that inhabit them, but all share a liveliness and strangeness that is unmistakably Gogolian. The Collected Stories offer breathtaking proof of his idiosyncratic genius.
Review by MrMuse on 12th Jul 2012
"I plumped for this book knowing next to nothing about the author and his work and I am very happy I chose to do so. The writing itself is diverse, weird, and intellectually stimulating; a thread of to..." [read more]