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Reading Hall  » GOGOL, NIKOLAI

 Gogol, Nikolai, (1809-1852), was a major Russian playwright, novelist, and short story writer. In the West, his writing is admired for its ornamental use of language, its romantic treatment of theme, and its use of the fantastic, the grotesque, and caricature. In Russia, he is best loved as a humorist.

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was born in Ukraine. In 1828, Gogol went to St. Petersburg to become an actor but decided on a literary career. In 1832, he won attention for Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, a collection of Ukrainian tales.

Gogols most important contribution to Russian drama was The Inspector General (1836), a satire on corruption among provincial government officials. The play was so harshly criticized that Gogol decided to live abroad. He spent most of the years from 1836 to 1844 in Rome, and returned to Russia in 1848. In 1842, he published the first part of Dead Souls, a novel about a swindler who creates a scheme to cheat the government by using the names of dead serfs. That year, he also published his most famous short story, "The Overcoat," a tale about a pathetic clerk.

As years passed, Gogol worried increasingly about the moral influence of his works on the Russians. He felt he had failed to express the positive essence of the Russian soul in his characters. As he worked on the second part of Dead Souls, he grew melancholy. While living in Rome, he fell under the influence of a fanatic priest. The priest convinced him that his second novel was evil and demanded that he destroy it. Gogol burned the novel on Feb. 24, 1852, and died several days later.

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