Using, or rather mimicking, traditional forms of storytelling Gogol created stories that are complete within themselves and only tangentially connected to a meaning or moral. His work belongs to the school of invention, where each twist and turn of the narrative is a surprise unfettered by obligation to an overarching theme.
Selected from Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, Mirgorod, and the Petersburg tales and arranged in order of composition, the thirteen stories in The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogolencompass the breadth of Gogol's literary achievement. From the demon-haunted “St. John's Eve ” to the heartrending humiliations and trials of a titular councilor in “The Overcoat,” Gogol's knack for turning literary conventions on their heads combined with his overt joy in the art of story telling shine through in each of the tales.
This translation, by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, is as vigorous and darkly funny as the original Russian. It allows readers to experience anew the unmistakable genius of a writer who paved the way for Dostevsky and Kafka.
Table of Contents
St. John’s Eve
The Night Before Christmas
The Terrible Vengeance
Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt
Old World Landowners
The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich
The Diary of a Madman
About Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol was born in 1809; his family were small gentry of Ukrainian cossack extraction, and his father was the author of a number of plays based on Ukrainian popular tales. He attended school in Nézhin and gained a reputation for his theatrical abilities. He went to St Petersburg in 1829 and with the help of a friend gained a post in one of the government ministries. Gogol was introduced to Zhukovsky, the romantic poet, and to Pushkin, and with the publication of Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka(1831) he had an entrée to all the leading literary salons. He even managed for a short period to be Professor of History at the University of St. Petersburg (1834-5).
Diary of a Madman and The Story of the Quarrel between Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich appeared in 1934, The Nose in 1836, and The Overcoat in 1842. Gogol also wrote the play The Inspector (1836), Dead Souls (1842), and several moralizing essays defending the Tsarist regime, to the horror of his liberal and radical friends. He lived a great deal abroad, mostly in Rome, and in his last years became increasingly prey to religious mania and despair. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1848, but was bitterly disappointed in the lack of feeling that the journey kindled. He returned to Russia and fell under the influence of a spiritual director who told him to destroy his writings as they were sinful. He burned the second part of Dead Souls, and died in 1852 after subjecting himself to a severe regime of fasting.
About Richard Pevear
Richard Pevear has published translations of Alain, Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Savinio, Pavel Florensky, and Henri Volohonsky, as well as two books of poetry. He has received fellowships or grants for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the French Ministry of Culture. Larissa Volokhonsky was born in Leningrad. She has translated works by the prominent Orthodox theologians Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff into Russian.
Together, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have translated works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov, and Pasternak. They were twice awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize (for their versions of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), and their translation of Dostoevsky’s Demons was one of three nominees for the same prize. They are married and live in France.
About Larissa Volokhonsky
Larissa Volokhonsky was born in Leningrad. She has translated works by the prominent Orthodox theologians Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff into Russian.
Together, Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear have translated Dead Souls and The Collected Tales by Nikolai Gogol, The Complete Short Novels of Chekhov, and The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Notes from Underground, Demons, The Idiot, and The Adolescent by Fyodor Dostoevsky. They were twice awarded the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize (for their version of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and for Tolstoy's Anna Karenina), and their translation of Dostoevsky's Demons was one of three nominees for the same prize. They are married and live in France.