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Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol

Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol[2†]

Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, born on March 19 March 31, New Style, 1809, in Sorochintsy, near Poltava, Ukraine, Russian Empire now in Ukraine[[?]], was a Ukrainian-born humorist, dramatist, and novelist[1†][2†]. His works, written in Russian, significantly influenced the direction of Russian literature[1†][2†][3†]. Gogol was one of the first to use the technique of the grotesque[1†][2†], and his stories have also been noted for their proto-surrealist qualities[1†][2†]. His novel “Myortvye dushi” (1842; Dead Souls) and his short story “Shinel” (1842; “The Overcoat”) are considered the foundations of the great 19th-century tradition of Russian realism[1†][2†][3†].

Early Years and Education

Nikolai Gogol was born on March 20, 1809, in the small Ukrainian town of Sorochintsy[1†][2†][5†]. His family belonged to the ‘petty gentry’ and spoke both Russian and Ukrainian[1†][2†][6†]. From a very young age, Gogol developed a keen interest in Ukrainian-language plays and helped his uncle stage them[1†][6†]. His father, who died when Gogol was 15 years old, was an amateur playwright and wrote poetry in Ukrainian as well as Russian[1†][2†].

Gogol’s childhood was marked by his dreamy and withdrawn nature, and he was deeply affected by the death of a younger brother[1†][5†]. At the age of 12, he was sent to the high school at Nezhin[1†]. There, he distinguished himself with his biting tongue, his contributions of prose and poetry to a school magazine, and his portrayal of comic old men and women in school theatricals[1†]. However, he was a mediocre student but well behaved[1†][5†].

In the 1820s, Gogol received education from a higher art school in Nizhyn[1†][6†]. It was here that he learned the art of writing and practiced his skills[1†][6†]. This period of his life played a significant role in shaping his literary career.

Career Development and Achievements

After completing his education, Gogol moved to St. Petersburg in 1828, hoping to enter the civil service[1†][2†]. However, he soon discovered that without money and connections, he would have to fight hard for a living[1†]. He even tried to become an actor, but his audition was unsuccessful[1†]. In this predicament, he remembered a mediocre sentimental-idyllic poem he had written in high school[1†]. Anxious to achieve fame as a poet, he published it at his own expense, but its failure was so disastrous that he burned all the copies and thought of emigrating to the United States[1†].

Despite these early setbacks, Gogol managed to get a poorly paid civil service post in the Ministry of the Interior[1†][7†]. During this time, he started writing lively pieces for magazines about his memories of Ukraine, combining realistic accounts of life there with fantastic stories about demons, witches, and other creatures of Ukrainian folklore[1†][7†].

In the early 1830s, Gogol developed a passion for Ukrainian Cossack history[1†][4†]. He eventually obtained a position as a Professor of Medieval History at the University of St. Petersburg[1†][4†]. However, he was ill-qualified for the job and resigned in 1835[1†][4†].

Gogol’s works, such as “Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka”, were influenced by his Ukrainian upbringing, Ukrainian culture, and folklore[1†][2†]. His later writing satirised political corruption in contemporary Russia[1†][2†]. Despite this, Gogol enjoyed the patronage of Tsar Nicholas I who liked his work[1†][2†]. The novel “Taras Bulba” (1835), the play “Marriage” (1842), and the short stories “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich”, “The Portrait” and “The Carriage”, are also among his best-known works[1†][2†].

Many writers and critics have recognized Gogol’s huge influence on Russian, Ukrainian, and world literature[1†][2†]. His unique style of writing, which combines surrealism, dark humor, and the use of the grotesque, has left a lasting legacy in the literary world[1†][6†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Nikolai Gogol’s literary career was marked by a series of significant works that had a profound impact on Russian literature. Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works not only represents a milestone in Gogol’s career but also made a significant contribution to Russian literature as a whole. They showcase Gogol’s unique style, his ability to combine the real with the surreal, and his sharp critique of contemporary society[2†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Nikolai Gogol’s work has had a profound influence on both Russian and world literature. His unique style, which combines elements of the real and the surreal, has been the subject of much analysis and debate[9†].

Gogol’s work is characterized by his innovative use of style and subject matter. He created a unique art form that depicted the manners of petty officials, small landowners, and the fantastic and all-too-real people who inhabit the three worlds he describes: the Ukraine, St. Petersburg, and the Russian heartland[9†]. His influence can be detected most noticeably in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, which centers on a conceit not unlike Nikolai Gogol’s hapless titular councillor in Gogol’s "The Nose"[9†].

Inside Russia, Fyodor Dostoevski is reputed to have begun the saying that “we all came from under Gogol’s ‘Overcoat,’” meaning that Gogol’s stories originated the themes, social and spiritual anguish, and other literary preoccupations of the rest of Russian literature[9†].

Gogol’s artistic vision was rooted in the classical and romantic traditions, which furnished him with patterns for his earliest literary experiments. However, an initial lack of success led him to search for inspiration elsewhere. He found it ultimately in the everyday realities of contemporary Russian life, an inexhaustible fund of material that his unique perception reworked to produce some of the best-loved classics of Russian literature[9†].

Gogol’s work, particularly his novel “Dead Souls” and his play “The Government Inspector”, laid the foundations of the school of realism in Russian literature[9†][10†][11†]. His critical examination of political corruption in contemporary Russia, as depicted in “The Government Inspector”, remains one of his most enduring contributions[9†][10†].

In conclusion, Gogol’s work represents a significant milestone in the development of Russian literature. His unique style and innovative use of subject matter have left a lasting impact on both Russian and world literature[9†].

Personal Life

Nikolai Gogol was born into a family of minor gentry in the Ukrainian Cossack town of Sorochyntsi[2†][12†]. His father, Vasily Gogol-Yanovsky, was a Ukrainian writer living on his old family estate[2†][12†]. He had five other children and died when Gogol was 15 years old[2†][12†].

Gogol grew up in the Ukrainian countryside, rich with Cossack traditions and folklore[2†][7†]. His childhood was idyllic, but he used to hear the uncanny voices of the dead at night in the darkness[2†][7†].

In terms of relationships, Gogol met and fell in love with Joseph Vielhorsky in 1838[2†][13†]. However, their relationship was short-lived as she died in 1839[2†][13†]. This tragic event inspired one of his best works of the times, "Nights at the Villa"[2†][13†].

Gogol passed away on February 21 March 4[[?]], 1852, in Moscow, Russia[2†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Nikolai Gogol’s legacy is profound and far-reaching. His unique style of writing, which often employed the technique of the grotesque[2†], has influenced many writers and critics[2†][4†]. His works have been recognized for their proto-surrealist qualities[2†]. Gogol’s influence was acknowledged by many notable authors, including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, and others[2†].

Gogol’s impact on Russian literature is particularly significant. He is often attributed as the originator of the Natural School, a literary movement that arose in Russia in the 1840s[2†][4†]. His works, such as “Dead Souls” and “The Overcoat”, are considered the foundations of the great 19th-century tradition of Russian realism[2†][1†].

Gogol’s legacy also extends beyond literature. He has been featured many times on Russian and Soviet postage stamps and is well represented on stamps worldwide[2†]. Several commemorative coins have been issued in his honor in the USSR and Russia[2†]. In 2009, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative coin dedicated to Gogol[2†].

Gogol’s work continues to be celebrated and studied for its depth, complexity, and influence. His contribution to literature and his impact on later generations of writers affirm his place as a key figure in the literary world[2†][1†][4†][14†][15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Nikolay Gogol: Ukrainian-born writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  3. Book Summary - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  4. Sevenov - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  5. Encyclopedia.com - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  6. Famous Authors - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  7. History Today - The Birth of Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  8. Goodreads - Book: Complete Works of Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Nikolai Gogol Analysis [website] - link
  10. eNotes - The Government Inspector Analysis [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Dead Souls Analysis [website] - link
  12. IMDb - Nikolay Gogol - Biography [website] - link
  13. SunSigns - Nikolai Gogol Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  14. Harvard University Press - Nikolai Gogol [website] - link
  15. Bookstr - Nikolai Gogol: A Profound Legacy in Grotesque Absurdism - Bookstr [website] - link
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