Nikolai Gogol
Born in

Sorochyntsi, Poltava guberniya, Ukraine

March 31, 1809

Died

March 4, 1852

Gender

male

About Nikolai Gogol

Gogol (Николай Гоголь) was born in the Ukrainian Cossack village of Sorochyntsi, in Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire, present-day Ukraine. His mother was a descendant of Polish nobility. His father Vasily Gogol-Yanovsky, a descendant of Ukrainian Cossacks, belonged to the petty gentry, wrote poetry in Russian and Ukrainian, and was an amateur Ukrainian-language playwright who died when Gogol was 15 years old.

In 1820 Gogol went to a school of higher art in Nizhyn and remained there until 1828. It was there that he began writing. Very early he developed a dark and secretive disposition, marked by a painful self-consciousness and boundless ambition. Equally early he developed an extraordinary talent for mimicry which later on made him a matchless reader of his own works.

In 1828, on leaving school, Gogol came to Petersburg. He had hoped for literary fame and brought with him a Romantic poem of German idyllic life – Ganz Küchelgarten. He had it published, at his own expense, under the name of "V. Alov." The magazines he sent it to almost universally derided it. He bought all the copies and destroyed them, swearing never to write poetry again.

Gogol was one of the first masters of the short story, alongside Alexander Pushkin, Prosper Mérimée, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was in touch with the "literary aristocracy", and was taken up by Vasily Zhukovsky and Pyotr Pletnyov, and (in 1831) was introduced to Pushkin.

In 1831, he brought out the first volume of his Ukrainian stories (Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka), which met with immediate success. He followed it in 1832 with a second volume, and in 1835 by two volumes of stories entitled Mirgorod, as well as by two volumes of miscellaneous prose entitled Arabesques. At this time, Gogol developed a passion for Ukrainian history and tried to obtain an appointment to the history department at Kiev University. His fictional story Taras Bulba, based on the history of Ukrainian cossacks, was the result of this phase in his interests.

Between 1832 and 1836 Gogol worked with great energy, though almost all his work has in one way or another its sources in his four years of contact with Pushkin. Only after the presentation, on 19 April 1836, of his comedy The Government Inspector (Revizor) that he finally came to believe in his literary vocation.

From 1836 to 1848 he lived abroad, travelling throughout Germany and Switzerland, as well as spending the winter of 1836–1837 in Paris.

Pushkin's death produced a strong impression on Gogol. His principal work during years following Pushkin's death was the satirical epic Dead Souls. 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.

After the triumph of Dead Souls, Gogol came to be regarded as a great satirist who lampooned the unseemly sides of Imperial Russia. However, Dead Souls was but the first part of a counterpart to The Divine Comedy. The first part represented the Inferno; the second part was to depict the gradual purification and transformation of the rogue Chichikov under the influence of virtuous publicans and governors – Purgatory.

His last years were spent in restless movement throughout the country. He intensified his relationship with a church elder, Matvey Konstantinovsky. He seems to have strengthened in Gogol the fear of perdition by insisting on the sinfulness of all his imaginative work. His health was undermined by exaggerated ascetic practices and he fell into a state of deep depression. On the night of 24 February 1852, 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. Soon thereafter he

Quotes by Nikolai Gogol

“Happy the writer who, passing by characters that are boring, disgusting, shocking in their mournful reality, approaches characters that manifest the lofty dignity of man, who from the great pool of daily whirling images has chosen only the rare exceptions, who has never once betrayed the exalted turning of his lyre, nor descended from his height toto his poor, insignificant brethren, and, without touching the ground, has given the whole of himself to his elevated images so far removed from it. Twice enviable is his beautiful lot: he is among them as in his own family; and meanwhile his fame spreads loud and far. With entrancing smoke he has clouded people's eyes; he has flattered them wondrously, concealing what is mournful in life, showing them a beautiful man. Everything rushes after him, applauding, and flies off following his triumphal chariot. Great world poet they name him, soaring high above all other geniuses in the world, as the eagle soars above the other high fliers. At the mere mention of his name, young ardent hearts are filled with trembling, responsive tears shine in all eyes...No one equals him in power--he is God! But such is not the lot, and other is the destiny of the writer who has dared to call forth all that is before our eyes every moment and which our indifferent eyes do not see--all the stupendous mire of trivia in which our life in entangled, the whole depth of cold, fragmented, everyday characters that swarm over our often bitter and boring earthly path, and with the firm strength of his implacable chisel dares to present them roundly and vividly before the eyes of all people! It is not for him to win people's applause, not for him to behold the grateful tears and unanimous rapture of the souls he has stirred; no sixteen-year-old girl will come flying to meet him with her head in a whirl and heroic enthusiasm; it is not for him to forget himself in the sweet enchantment of sounds he himself has evoked; it is not for him, finally, to escape contemporary judgment, hypocritically callous contemporary judgment, which will call insignificant and mean the creations he has fostered, will allot him a contemptible corner in the ranks of writers who insult mankind, will ascribe to him the quality of the heroes he has portrayed, will deny him heart, and soul, and the divine flame of talent. For contemporary judgment does not recognize that equally wondrous are the glasses that observe the sun and those that look at the movement of inconspicuous insect; for contemporary judgment does not recognize that much depth of soul is needed to light up the picture drawn from contemptible life and elevate it into a pearl of creation; for contemporary judgment does not recognize that lofty ecstatic laughter is worthy to stand beside the lofty lyrical impulse, and that a whole abyss separates it from the antics of the street-fair clown! This contemporary judgment does not recognize; and will turn it all into a reproach and abuse of the unrecognized writer; with no sharing, no response, no sympathy, like a familyless wayfarer, he will be left alone in the middle of the road. Grim is his path, and bitterly he will feel his solitude. Read more...
Nikolai Gogol
Topics: writing