Books by Nikolai Gogol

THE SQUABBLE by Nikolai Gogol
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2003

The great gifts for farcical detail and satiric characterization that distinguish such later masterpieces as Dead Souls and "The Government Inspector" are amply displayed in these three earlier stories, set in Gogol's native Ukraine (a.k.a. "Little Russia"). "The Carriage" (1836), about a disgraced cavalry officer's failed attempt to impress his social and military superiors, is a crisp narrative suffused with Chekhovian pathos—as is the more ambitious "Olde Worlde Landowners" (1835), which is simultaneously lament and lampoon, portraying the ingenuous overindulgence of a subsequently vanished leisured class. The hilarious 1834 title story, a naïve narrator's effusive account of a trivial neighbors' feud that produces years of litigation and tragicomically wasted lives, is a classic demonstration of the mastery of both hyperbole and understatement that made Gogol (1809-52) a unique and irreplaceable writer. Read full book review >
THE COLLECTED TALES by Nikolai Gogol
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 4, 1998

Pevear and Volokhonsky continue their remarkable conquest of 19th-century Russian fiction with this lively new translation of 13 of "the Russian Dickens's" wildest and finest stories. Excluding only lesser pieces from Gogol's earliest volumes (though one misses the madly romantic novella "Taras Bulba"), this selection offers richly colloquial versions (which sound like spoken narrative) of such classic "Ukrainian Tales" as the imperturbably melodramatic "The Terrible Vengeance" and the memorably lurid vampire tale "Viy," and also "Petersburg Tales" like the deliriously surrealistic "The Nose" and that uniquely dreamlike, and seminal, portrayal of a timid clerk's acquisition and loss of his only meaningful possession: "The Overcoat." Pevear's informative Preface persuasively emphasizes the personal, nonpolitical, and, to some degree, haphazard nature of the distinctive alchemy by which a deeply flawed and troubled soul managed to create some of the most colorful and haunting fiction of his century. Read full book review >
SOROTCHINTZY FAIR by Nikolai Gogol
by Nikolai Gogol, adapted by Sybil Schonfeldt, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, translated by Daniel Reynolds
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: April 10, 1991

First, this is not Gogol's lengthy original—a ribald, satirical picture of village life in the Ukraine, a story that turns on peasant gullibility, takes anti-Semitism for granted (Gogol is also merciless toward women, and everyone else), and is as rich in pungent detail as Washington Irving's tales—a grand piece of social history that would surely be problematic out of context, by one of Russia's 19th-century masters. Now, this text: reduced to one-fifth, a faithful outline of most of the events, this American translation of a German adaptation for children reads well enough, but almost all of Gogol's vibrant tapestry of peasant life has vanished, along with so many details of plot and character that the truncated remnant is puzzling at best—it's not even clear that the devils here are figments of rural credulity. But Spirin's illustrations, evidently inspired by the full text, are splendid. Known for his lush, romantic paintings for fairy tales (most recently The White Cat, 1990), this Russian artist uses his considerable skill here to far more interesting effect. Swirling, Brueghel-like crowds of lusty peasants—some rendered in vivid hues and others, drained of color, in a cinematic haze—mix with half-fantastic pigs and devils that seem to protrude through rips in the parchment-like paper: superb, imaginative response to Gogol's earthy story. The two belong together (publisher, please note!); meanwhile, these illustrations are too good to miss. (Fiction/Picture book. 8+) Read full book review >