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The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol (Vintage Classics)

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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, Mi 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.


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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, Mi 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.

30 review for The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol (Vintage Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Garima

    "We all came from Gogol's overcoat." Fyodor Dostoevsky During my childhood, like many other kids, I was also in the habit of listening to bedtime stories. They were usually told by my father or my grandmother. My granny stuck to stories she knew already, either related to her life in her village or some anecdotes related to Hindu Mythology where there is no dearth of tales. My father however had to come up with a new story every time in an on-the-spot manner. These stories used to be sweet, simple "We all came from Gogol's overcoat." Fyodor Dostoevsky During my childhood, like many other kids, I was also in the habit of listening to bedtime stories. They were usually told by my father or my grandmother. My granny stuck to stories she knew already, either related to her life in her village or some anecdotes related to Hindu Mythology where there is no dearth of tales. My father however had to come up with a new story every time in an on-the-spot manner. These stories used to be sweet, simple, at times illogical but enjoyable nevertheless. The topics used to vary but the purpose was the same, to put me to sleep with sweet thoughts in my head to carry forward to the dream world. These are the luxuries one enjoys being a child but soon our dependence on such stories fades away and inadvertently we start finding solace in a more complicated network of words to excite us. Lately I’ve been reading some twisted literature and enjoy it too but thanks to Italo Calvino, I also became particularly inclined to short stories and started looking for some good collection by other writers and thereupon came across Nikolai Gogol. Initially his simple introduction that I encountered was: Russian writer who introduced realism to Russian literature (1809-1852). Later after reading few of his stories, I searched a little more and found this extended introduction: Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer.Considered by his contemporaries’ one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism and the grotesque. But to be honest, I just don’t want to objectify him with any of that literary jargon. For me he is just a story-teller who knew his gift very well and wanted his readers to enjoy his beautifully crafted tales with that child-like excitement and curiosity. For most of the time, I felt like being present at this imaginary set up consisting of a full moon night, with bonfire burning in the middle of a beautiful meadow in a nice country place, and a wise old village patriarch is reciting stories that his old eyes had long witnessed in his wondrous life . The only difference is that those stories are not for children. This bizarre collection has generous use of outlandish and idiosyncratic elements conveying dark humor in its highest form making each single story worth reading and re-reading. Though of course there are some which are better than others namely The Nose, The Overcoat and The Diary of a Madman, which are mainly in the same league of brilliance covering themes such as alienation in society and status & class anxiety imbued with ruthless satire. These stories are heavily based on nonsensical musings and that’s the very thing that would strike a chord with its readers i.e enjoying the supposed nonsense and making out logical interpretations of the same. Some sources have revealed baffling implications of certain props Gogol applied to his works. He definitely had a fixation with human Nose which features in most of these stories. (view spoiler)[ As suggested by wiki “The critic Yermakov offers a Freudian interpretation of Gogol's fixation on noses as a form of castration anxiety. Yermakov contends that Kovalev's missing part in "The Nose" represents his fragile masculinity. In "The Diary of a Madman", Poprishchin discusses how noses live on the moon and says, "And when I pictured how the earth is a heavy substance and in sitting down may grind our noses into flour, I was overcome with such anxiety... I hurried to the state council chamber to order the police not to allow the earth to sit on the moon." Many of the nonsensical comments reveal his repressed castration anxiety as he constantly worries how forces outside of his control could emasculate him. Another notable example occurs while he is being tortured by the grand inquisitor, when he randomly interjects, "However, all this has been rewarded by my present discovery: I've learned that every rooster has his Spain, that it's located under his feathers." In this passage, he equates the country of Spain to a rooster's genitalia obscured by his feathers. This bizarre comment offers revealing insight into Poprishchin's Spanish fantasy as an attempt to protect his fading masculinity and sexual virility. (hide spoiler)] . The Overcoat recounts the story of a socially withdrawn clerk whose fatal obsession with getting him a new overcoat/cloak turned into a series of unexpected consequences. I especially liked its starting: “In the department of -- but it is better not to mention the department. There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of justice, and, in a word, every branch of public service. Each individual attached to them nowadays thinks all society insulted in his person. Quite recently a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in which he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were going to the dogs..” Diary of a Madman is another masterpiece of a short story surrounding around schizophrenia and depicts the protagonist’s gradual declivity into madness due to his confinement to societal pressures and the standard identity imposed upon him which was in no way unique or special to make him feel a man of some importance. It also presents a broader view upon Russia’s identical crisis in the wake of the 19th century. The Nose is a satirist aim at societal hypocrisy and administrative & bureaucratic set-up, along with The Overcoat . Apart from them, I was really looking forward to reading The Viy, a tale reproduced from a specimen Russian folk-lore having facets of magical realism. Now I knew that I was supposed to get scared by reading it but I really don’t get frightened by just ‘reading’ such stories so I deliberately created an environment wherein I sat alone in a dim-lighted room at midnight and read it. It worked, Yes. Speaking of which I thoroughly enjoyed The Mysterious Portrait which had its share of supernatural elements supported by important life lessons based on spirituality and recognizing the good and the evil in this world. Stories like ‘How two Ivans quarreled’ (Apparently Ivan was Gogol's favorite character name probably because it was his younger brother’s name who died at the tender age of 8) is a sweet story supported by the old world humor. I equally relished rest of the stories like Old Fashioned Farmers, The Fair of Sorotchinetz, An Evening in May, Mid-Summer Evening, and The Carriage though there were instances of getting a bit bored due to some detailed descriptions of the settings and characters but since they were necessary points for the development of narrative I’ll blame that on my impatience. The main thing I found common w/r/t all these stories at least in my case is that they evoked a very balanced set of emotions in me. There was no extremity I experienced, being it sadness, happiness, bewilderment or sympathy. It was as if Gogol is implying, “Oh you’re feeling sad for that character, take this!” and the very next moment I started to laugh at some turn of events in the narration. Therefore the pathos he created around his works were skillfully juxtaposed with hilarity and there lies Gogol’s strength as an outstanding writer who changed the face of literary world and influenced many great works which later served and still serving as the epitome of great literature. I’m glad that it was through these short-stories that I’ve begun my expedition into the world of Russian Literature and also that of Gogol’s before reading his celebrated ‘Dead Souls’.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    To those interested in the short fiction of Gogol, I couldn’t recommend a better collection. All the masterpieces are here, the selection is representative, the translation is vigorous, and the introduction is informative and helpful. Of course the masterpieces of the St. Petersburg period are here (“The Nose,” “The Diary of a Madman, “Nevsky Prospect,” “The Overcoat”), Gogol’s macabre and satiric depictions of humiliation and madness among the bureaucrats of Russia’s capital city, but the master To those interested in the short fiction of Gogol, I couldn’t recommend a better collection. All the masterpieces are here, the selection is representative, the translation is vigorous, and the introduction is informative and helpful. Of course the masterpieces of the St. Petersburg period are here (“The Nose,” “The Diary of a Madman, “Nevsky Prospect,” “The Overcoat”), Gogol’s macabre and satiric depictions of humiliation and madness among the bureaucrats of Russia’s capital city, but the masterpieces of Gogol’s Ukrainian period are here also (“St. John’s Eve,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “The Terrible Vengeance,” “Viy”), those exuberantly improvisational riffs on folklore themes filled with witches, wizards, and exorcisms (plus a czarina’s slippers, a flight on the back of a devil, and a monster whose eyelids stretch all the way down to its feet.) The St. Petersburg tale’s are well known, but the Ukrainian tales are an equally valid—and more vivid and high-spirited—expression of Gogol’s genius. I am, however, happy to see that some of the lesser tales—fine stories, only lesser when compared with Gogol’s best—are here too, giving the reader a more balanced and representative sampling of the author’s work. From the Ukraine, we have the more mundane accounts of Ukrainian small town and country life (“Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt,” “Old World Landowners,” “The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich”) which show us a somewhat sunnier side of Gogol, and from St Petersburg, we have two memorable tales (“The Carriage” and the “Portrait”), the first slightly marred by an abrupt ending, the second by an excess of moral seriousness. The translation is by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the husband-and-wife team best known for their translations of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. As is usual with their collaborations, this translations seeks a perfect balance between faithfulness to the original Russian idioms and a natural, flowing English style. And is usual with their translations, they often find it. Pevear himself wrote the introduction to this volume, and it is a helpful, for he understands Gogol’s contradictory nature: an improvisational genius, entranced both by the marvelous and the realistic, yet haunted by the fear that he had failed to achieve what was for him a sacred task: Gogol was made uneasy by his works. They detached themselves from him and lived on their own, producing effects that he had not foreseen and that sometimes dismayed him. He would write commentaries after the fact, trying to reduce them to more commonplace and acceptable dimensions. But their initial freedom stayed with them. It was inherent in his method of composition, and in his astonishing artistic gift—astonishing first of all to himself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    William2

    “St. John’s Eve” is a tale of a Faustian bargain cut so Pyotr might win the confidence of his sweetheart’s avaricious father and, thus, the sweetheart herself. The story is phantasmagorically rich and speeds along with astonishing velocity. The Night Before Christmas” strikes me as proto-Mikhail Bulgakov. The story of witches and devils and Cossacks and peasants feels (at times) like an abandoned fragment from The Master and Margarita. It has that kind of madcap tone. “The Terrible Vengeance” Patc “St. John’s Eve” is a tale of a Faustian bargain cut so Pyotr might win the confidence of his sweetheart’s avaricious father and, thus, the sweetheart herself. The story is phantasmagorically rich and speeds along with astonishing velocity. The Night Before Christmas” strikes me as proto-Mikhail Bulgakov. The story of witches and devils and Cossacks and peasants feels (at times) like an abandoned fragment from The Master and Margarita. It has that kind of madcap tone. “The Terrible Vengeance” Patches of melodrama here but otherwise readable. Weakest story so far. Ghosts call “I can’t breathe” (seriously) from a graveyard. It turns out there’s a sorcerer is on the loose. He takes the form of a father-in-law who murders his own daughter who is the wife of a Cossack chief. A massacre of neighboring Poles occurs. Mayhem generally. Still reading

  4. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    Do you remember that bit in Through the Looking-glass where the Red Queen turns into a sheep? ‘Oh, much better!’ cried the Queen, her voice rising into a squeak as she went on. ‘Much be-etter! Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!’ The last word ended in a long bleat, so like a sheep that Alice quite started. She looked at the Queen, who seemed to have suddenly wrapped herself up in wool. Alice rubbed her eyes, and looked again. She couldn't make out what had happened at all. Was she in a shop? And wa Do you remember that bit in Through the Looking-glass where the Red Queen turns into a sheep? ‘Oh, much better!’ cried the Queen, her voice rising into a squeak as she went on. ‘Much be-etter! Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!’ The last word ended in a long bleat, so like a sheep that Alice quite started. She looked at the Queen, who seemed to have suddenly wrapped herself up in wool. Alice rubbed her eyes, and looked again. She couldn't make out what had happened at all. Was she in a shop? And was that really – was it really a sheep that was sitting on the other side of the counter? When I was a kid I was obsessed by this passage. That a writer should ‘make things up’ was something I accepted instinctively – nothing could be more natural than to invent incidents, people, even whole species, for a story. But that the basic preconditions of reality – the laws of physics, the relationship between senses and experience – that these could be simply ignored, or blended at will – that a queen could become a sheep, mid-sentence, with no explanation considered necessary…that just blew my mind. I reread this little section endlessly, amazed by how I would fall for the sleight-of-hand even while aware of it. And that nonsensical line of speech (Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!) is, silly as this sounds, one of the most talismanic in all literature for me. It represents something fiction can do that cannot be done by any other medium.     A Terrible Revenge Carroll had the device down perfectly, and I reckon that's why the Alice books, despite being written for children, have such a hold over literary history. It is easy to see that a queen becoming a sheep in 1871 is not far away from a salesman waking up as a giant insect forty-four years later. Reading Gogol's ‘The Nose’ (Нос) was therefore a bit of a join-the-dots moment for me, because here we have the literary ancestor of all such techniques. I especially loved that exquisite moment where our noseless narrator first glimpses a familiar figure in the streets of Petersburg: Something inexplicable took place before his eyes: a carriage was stopping at the entrance, the carriage door flew open; a gentleman in uniform, bending down, sprang out and ran up the steps. What was the horror and at the same time amazement of Kovalyov when he recognised that this was his own nose! At this extraordinary spectacle it seemed to him that everything was heaving before his eyes; he felt that he could scarcely stand; but he made up his mind, come what may, to await the gentleman's return to the carriage, and he stood trembling all over as though in fever. Two minutes later the nose actually did come out. He was in a gold-laced uniform with a big stand-up collar; he had on chamois-leather breeches, at his side was a sword. From his plumed hat it might be gathered that he was of the rank of a civil councillor. Everything showed that he was going somewhere to pay a visit. He looked to both sides, called to the coachman to open the carriage door, got in and drove off. What makes this so wonderful is the matter-of-fact prose: Kovalyov may be astonished, but the narrator is not. In the unlikely event that such a scene would even occur to any other writer, it's very easy to see that, in less skilful hands, paragraphs of description might be dedicated to convincing you of how a two-inch nose can have become a six-foot personage capable of wearing clothes and of moving of its own accord. Gogol makes no attempt whatever to convince, to persuade. He just relates the impossible. For him, clearly, this epistemological malleability is something that has been inherited from folktales. The earliest stories in this collection are basically Ukrainian folk stories, and I found them mostly tiresome and overblown. Only later, when you get to the good stuff, do the earlier stories become more interesting in retrospect, because you can see where a lot of his techniques originated.     St John's Eve The unrestrained demonic hijinks of his earlier stories are gradually brought under control and funnelled into specific themes and ideas – as in ‘The Portrait’ (Портрет), for instance, where a strong element of supernaturalism is used as a means to comment on artistic integrity. Even in the straighter stories, though, an underlying uncertainty bubbles up into a sense of genuine weirdness, especially in the later works – there's an almost Nervalian, unhinged quality that manifests itself in odd little unexplained narrative devices. There is certainly something eerily convincing about ‘A Madman's Diary’ (Записки сумасшедшего), with its progressively insane dating system. ‘I don't remember the date,’ one entry is headed. ‘There was no month either.’     The Nevsky Prospect This collection culminates in the very influential ‘The Overcoat’ (Шинель), a story that oozes with proto-Freudianism and that seems, despite its comic-philosophical flourishes, to be papering over some underlying terror. Neverthless, ‘The Nose’ remains my favourite piece. It is just so odd, so resistant to any satisfactory interpretation, and the idea that it might just be intended at face value is almost frightening. ‘What is utterly nonsensical,’ Gogol asserts with appealing simplicity, ‘happens in this world.̀’ This particular edition from the Folio Society comes with eleven beautiful iconographic illustrations from Peter Suart, a few of which are scattered above. They complement Gogol's brand of formal weirdness perfectly.

  5. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    First: this is not The Complete Tales. The unlearned distinction between Collected & Complete has angered completists the world over. Collected means incomplete: a mixtape of works that constitute, critically, the best this writer has to offer. Complete means the totted-up totality, depending upon what is being completed, i.e. Complete Works is ambiguous and open to omissions, depending on what is classed as a work—prose? plays? Just assume a fuller completion when it’s Complete, not Collected. First: this is not The Complete Tales. The unlearned distinction between Collected & Complete has angered completists the world over. Collected means incomplete: a mixtape of works that constitute, critically, the best this writer has to offer. Complete means the totted-up totality, depending upon what is being completed, i.e. Complete Works is ambiguous and open to omissions, depending on what is classed as a work—prose? plays? Just assume a fuller completion when it’s Complete, not Collected. Except in those rare moments when Collected means Complete. In the case of Gogol, Yale U Press have the one Complete Tales in print, in two volumes, incorrectly lumped with the Collected Tales eds. This beautiful Everyman’s hardcover edition (and, presumably, the paperback equivs) omit a slab of material from Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, which only exists as an old Oxford paperback conflated with Mirgorod stories, suggesting the work is so lacklustre it doesn’t bear reprinting. For the sake of tedious exactitude, this edition omits all the story fragments, and, from Evenings: The Fair at Sorochintsï, May Night or the Drowned Maiden, The Lost Letter, A Bewitched Place. From Mirgorod, Taras Bulba is omitted (available as a separate book from the Modern Library). These tales, presumably, are found in Yale’s Complete Tales. The tales in this Collected Tales perform the Gogol mixtape function perfectly, from the rambling horror of Viy and The Night Before Christmas to the hilarious sinister satire of The Nose and The Overcoat. Not all the tales spark and sizzle, like the slight St. John’s Eve and Old World Landowners, but the best of these, the bestest, are, at their bestestest, some of the premier examples of the Russian short story: chilling and macabre, thigh-splitting and mad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    Russian literature, so full of enigmas, contains no greater creative mystery than Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol(31 March 1809 – 4 March 1852). He has done for the Russian novel and Russian prose what Pushkin has done for Russian poetry. Before these two men came, Russian literature can hardly have been said to exist. It was pompous in effect, with pseudo classism with strong foreign influences. In the speech of the upper circles there was an over fondness for German, French, and English words. Betwe Russian literature, so full of enigmas, contains no greater creative mystery than Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol(31 March 1809 – 4 March 1852). He has done for the Russian novel and Russian prose what Pushkin has done for Russian poetry. Before these two men came, Russian literature can hardly have been said to exist. It was pompous in effect, with pseudo classism with strong foreign influences. In the speech of the upper circles there was an over fondness for German, French, and English words. Between them, the two friends, by the force of their great genius, cleared away the debris which made for sterility and erected in their stead a nude structure out of living Russian words. The spoken word borne of the people gave soul and wings to literature. Only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to sour. Coming up from little Russia, the Ukraine, with cossack blood in his vains, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into a body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils and gave the Russian novelist direction to this very day. I think the introduction above, which is used by a multitude of website, including Amazon, describes Gogol's work and person the best. I read this collection of tales throughout 2019 and really enjoyed the 'other worldliness' of them all. Once again, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translated and annotated this volume splendidly. They made the reading of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov a good experience too. With the footnotes and annotations added to their work, they just make a much bigger literary adventure possible for so many readers. Therefore, it was a delight to find this work from them as well. This collection includes: Ukrainian Tales: -St. John's Eve; -The Night Before Christmas; -The Teriible Vengeance; -Ivan Fyodorovich Sphonka and His Aunt; -Old World Landowners; -Viy; -The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforvich; Petersburg Tales: -Nevsky Prospect; -The Dairy of a Madman; -The Nose; -The Carriage; -The Portrait; -The Overcoat. There is a touch of modern authors such as Garrison Keillor and Richard Russo to these old world tales. Nikolai Gogol was a raconteur par excellence, in my view anyway. Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol(31 March 1809 – 4 March 1852) was a Russian dramatist of Ukrainian origin. Although Gogol was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in his work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of surrealism and the grotesque ("The Nose", "Viy", "The Overcoat", "Nevsky Prospekt"). His early works, such as "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka", were influenced by his Ukrainian upbringing, Ukrainian culture and folklore. His later writing satirised political corruption in the Russian Empire (The Government Inspector, Dead Souls). The novel Taras Bulba (1835) and the play Marriage (1842), along with the short stories "Diary of a Madman", "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich", "The Portrait" and "The Carriage", are also among his best-known works. Nevertheless, subsequent generations of radical critics celebrated Gogol (the author in whose world a nose roams the streets of the Russian capital) as a great realist, a reputation decried by the Encyclopedia Britannica as "the triumph of Gogolesque irony" The leading novelists of the period – notably Yevgeny Zamyatin and Mikhail Bulgakov – also admired Gogol and followed in his footsteps. Source: Wikipedia Well, this was just the formal introduction to the experience your might enjoy when deciding to read Nikolai Gogol. I found the stories so rich in atmosphere, detail, and pathos. Romantic (a little bit of romantic escapism), yet very often satirical, with a touch of nostalgia for his homeland. His pessimism of life came through as well. There was a fine balance between the elements he so effortlessly incorporated into his work. He described his childhood farm and the surroundings so vividly: the landscapes, peasants, boisterous village lads, the folklore populated with witches, devils, demonic figures and fantasy. In between he threw in realistic incidences(political criticism et al) of the times they were living in. It was like looking at an old Russian painting and without warning being swept into it. One can hardly draw a comparison between Gogol and Franz Kafka. There is no comparison as far as clarity of thought and intent is concerned. Gogol was passionate about life itself. He loved writing. He loved the intrigue of living. Franz Kafka was a troubled, tragic soul. But brilliant at it in his own right. I'm just mentioning this in case someone considers reading Gogol, which I highly recommend. His work is light, yet dark; playful, yet serious; raw; unpretentious; from the soul. His work is brilliant. So many authors, such as Kafka, Dostoevsky, Yevgeny Zamyatin, and Mikhail Bulgakov would later borrow from his brilliance and keep his memory alive. In fact, years later, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was to exclaim that all Russian realists had come “from under Gogol’s greatcoat.” I strongly recommend this article: Writing the Russian Reader into the text: Gogol, Turgenev, and their Audiences. Some quotes from his work - just to wet your appetite :-) Goodreads Quotes of Nikolai Gogol's works I made so many notes, that this review will turn into a book if I keep at it. lolol. So I will refrain. I can only accomplish that by sitting on my hands! Oy! Forgive me :-) but here is a few: There was a church in the hamlet, of St. Panteleimon if I remember rightly. A priest lived by it then, Father Afanasy, of blessed memory. Noticing that Basavriuk did not come to church even on Easter Sunday, he decided to reprimand him and put him under a church penance. Penance, hah! He barely escaped. “Listen, my good sir!” the man thundered in reply, “you’d better mind your own business and not go meddling in other people’s, unless you’d like to have that goat’s gullet of yours plugged with hot kutya!” What could be done with the cursed fellow? Father Afanasy merely announced that anyone who kept company with Basavriuk would be regarded as a Catholic, an enemy of Christ’s Church and of the whole human race. ...~from St. John's Eve ... it’s easier for a woman to kiss the devil, meaning no offense, than to call another woman a beauty. ~from St. John's Eve... ...“If you ever show up in my cottage again, or even just under the windows, then listen, Pyotr: by God, that’ll be the end of your black moustache, and your topknot as well; here it is going twice around your ear, but it’ll bid farewell to your head or I’m not Terenty Korzh!”...~from St. John's Eve ...He kept looking to see if the tree’s shadow was getting longer, if the setting sun was getting redder—and the more impatiently as it went on. So drawn out! God’s day must have lost its end somewhere. ...~from The Terrible Vengeance ...The river is not mutinous. He grumbles and murmurs like an old man: nothing pleases him; everything has changed around him; he is quietly at war with the hills, forests, and meadows on his banks, and carries his complaint against them to the Black Sea....~from The Terrible Vengeance This collection was truly a highlight of 2019.

  7. 5 out of 5

    James

    Nikolai Gogol, based on the image results my Google search spat back, reminds me of that quietly excited classmate who's usually game to tag along with you for some mischief-making. Whoopee cushions and joy buzzers presumably hadn't been around then, so one shudders at the tricks his imagination must've improvised. From his eyes shines a look too knowing not to have exposed his hastily-planned cover-ups and landed him in a few or hundred detentions, spent here sweeping grounds and there copying Nikolai Gogol, based on the image results my Google search spat back, reminds me of that quietly excited classmate who's usually game to tag along with you for some mischief-making. Whoopee cushions and joy buzzers presumably hadn't been around then, so one shudders at the tricks his imagination must've improvised. From his eyes shines a look too knowing not to have exposed his hastily-planned cover-ups and landed him in a few or hundred detentions, spent here sweeping grounds and there copying lines. In short: my kinda guy. Russian literature, since books began making me feel things, has been for me that scary mountain whose lack of obvious footholds has sent me running home into the squishier bosoms of easier genres, whose peak is peopled with happy campers roasting marshmallows while animatedly discussing scenes from this Dostoevsky classic or that Tolstoy epic. What sure hand would, as soon as I attempt the climb, save me from tripping over the first loose rock and snap my neck? Gogol's, while mindful to point out where not to step, wouldn't hold mine, yet what convinced me more to turn to his works first of all was learning of the ripples they caused that soon impacted on others' in waves. "We all came out of Gogol's 'Overcoat'," some dude said, which, prisoner to that tedious no-stones-left-unturned school of thought that I am, rather finally shut the case. No gripes to be had here about that, to be on the same page, as evident by how finding no more of the book to savor left me so restless my withdrawal dissipated only when I spent half an hour the next day at the bookstore, head-deep inside The Inspector-General a similar collection of another company included (and, along with several other shorts, this one has omitted for crimes against humanity convenience). Let's come back to the point: the hype? It's real. Where Gogol's praisers have stumbled is that they haven't been louder about it. Each of the stories, 13 in all (and more besides that lay scattered elsewhere), springs from a mind able to hop between moods as simply as switching socks and, more impressively, capture all that in writing that not so much reads as flows. By no means, mind, does Gogol here achieve infallibility: St. John's Eve, where the roller-coaster rolls out of the station, and The Terrible Vengeance get so twisty and turny I had to read the latter twice before heads and tails could be made of it. The Carriage, fangirled over to no end by Anton Chekhov, fell short of my hopes, which, granted, the preceding unbeatable trifecta kicking off the second half of the book set impossibly high. The Overcoat, too, didn't much measure up to those same expectations. People, at least in the earlier parts, are either regularly found with their "arms akimbo" or perennially "vexed." But for all that, any misgivings don't matter so much the more I think on them. If they're not because my attention wandered, they're a placement issue; if not that as well, then nitpicks. Where there are strike-outs, Gogol makes up for a hundredfold in home runs. The Night Before Christmas is hugely fun and entertaining, the vibe throughout fit for a 90's Saturday-morning cartoon, albeit one soon headed for the chopping block on account of complaints from parents outraged at their bumpkins' being exposed to such degenerate content as "a devil who had one last night to wander about the wide world and teach good people to sin." Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt contains the strangest dream sequence that, contrasted with the mundane goings-on its characters face in the waking world, not enough weed will ever exist to help make sense of it. Old World Landowners, even without witches and devils, is still plenty captivating with two old couple, developed masterfully, taking center stage. The second-scariest short of the lot, Viy, proves books can take years off such scaredy-cats as me as well as that closet scene The Ring have long sucker-punched unsuspecting viewers with. Wrapping up the first half of Gogol's colorful re-imagining of his country's rural life is The Quarrel, which boasts of a higher laugh-per-page rate than any other short to date—"Excuse me for appearing before you in my natural state," says the more corpulent main character called Ivanovich Nikiforovich after being barged in on by his friend, neighbor, and soon-to-be-bitter-rival. St. John's Eve, either, doesn't lack for bright spots, and even those are soon outshone into white oblivion by a passage of just astounding imagery in The Terrible Vengeance that describes the Dnieper river to musical perfection. Gogol's genius, aimed at the then-capital, burns even hotter. While not as inventively and unapologetically fantastic and outrageous as their Ukrainian predecessors, the Petersburg Tales, far from stumbling for their lack of broomstick-riding witches, moon-stealing devils, and the odd incest, are likelier than the former to worm their way into the collective subconscious to there make a permanent home. The devil, representative in Gogol's wacky world of the ubiquitousness of bad influences whose seduction every day tempts us, lurks even in the city, but almost as an afterthought: what need have we of the ultimate troublemaker when man himself can beat the master at his own game? In the majority of the shorts, no puppet master hides behind purple curtains, pulling levers and pushing buttons to nudge events his way. The result is often spectacular. Nevsky Prospect throws a knockout from the opening bell, soaking us with ejaculations the narrator makes over what a great place Nevsky Prospect is, and then magnifies the microscope over two acquaintances, each different in their approaches, chasing after two women spotted there. Gogol, at one point, shows so powerfully what it is to fall in love that it would still be a more effective form of communication than if telepathy were possible. The Diary of a Madman, as the title gives away, takes us into the mind of an apparently healthy everyman whose mental deterioration should well satiate that morbidly curious class of gawkers-by who gravitate towards car-accident sites. Dogs exchanging letters and talking politics aren't even the weirdest things here. Next, The Nose seems straightforward enough, almost too straightforward: someone finds someone else's nose inside his bread one morning and, after his story's more or less wrapped up, we trail the said noseless man as he tries to locate it. No other story, however, has ever so completely robbed me of my words, myself prostrate with awe at Gogol's audacity, as this one where he blindsides you with the last expectation you can think of. It's a tough act no one wants to follow, so The Carriage, with its relatively normal happenings, can be forgiven for not wowing some people. The Portrait, on the other hand, picks things up and Gogol is back where he's comfortable: keeping therapists in business by sending to their recliner chairs us traumatized readers. The story, separated into two parts, details the rags-to-riches-to-ruin life of an artist called Chartkov, whose painting skills are moderate and potential unmistakable, who happens upon a mysterious portrait of a creepy old man. His stare, which Gogol's description gives major heft, is worse to imagine than to watch the best horror has to offer cinema. In a nutshell: there's gold hidden behind the portrait's frame that Chartkov exploits to better his position in society and that in the end destroys him. The second part delves fully into the portrait's origins and is no less mesmerizing. Along the way, Gogol touches on the artist's life and their creative process, social manipulation and superficiality, competition and obsolescence. It's a meaty story with something for everyone and, as with most of his works so far, to relish anew with every reread. The Overcoat, the last in line, continues the supernatural element The Portrait brought back, but dominated by the more down-to-earth routines of mediocre, bullied outcast Akaky Akakievich, it takes a backseat. After his tatty overcoat, a source of ridicule at work, became useless as protection against the brutal Russian winter, Akaky gets another made, which gains him confidence and popularity. His moment in the sun doesn't last, though, and from there does the story return to more familiar grounds: doom and gloom. This second bookend may have suffered from the same positional problem The Carriage did (the lesson here: short-story collections read from cover to cover are bound to favor some and hurt others), but hindsight is its friend. There's a matter-of-fact, deadpan quality to the narration that gets funnier in retrospect. A long-suffering tone there also can't be missed when the writing takes great pains to explain how Akaky Akakievich came by that name, the purpose of which section is obvious and hilarious when (Wikipedia to the rescue!) you read later that it is the Russian equivalent of "John Johnson" as well as sounds like the Russian word "obkakat" or "kaka," meaning "to smear with excrement," that makes it read as "Poop Poopson." The idea that the likes of Dostoevsky wasn't above toilet humor warms these cockles greatly. Then, on the aforementioned Russian winter, it's not generally that it's the enemy of poor people, but that it's the enemy of people "earn[ing] a salary of four hundred roubles or thereabouts." The exactitude is killer. Another: "An order was issued for the police to catch the dead man at all costs, dead or alive." Added to Gogol's in-jokes and humor is a question that, if given any consideration, is an easy road to a panic attack: what's your overcoat? Another character features in the story that goes by no other name than "the important person," and in answer, he would probably bring up his rank, which is as much smokes and mirrors as Akaky's overcoat is that masks their total ignorance about certain workings of the world. The balance between such introspective moments and the satirical asides in this story and the others is, if you ask me, not a half-bad explanation for why Gogol is ducking awesome.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Gogol wrote many fine short stories, almost all of which, I think, are collected here. Since I read the more well-known "Petersburg" tales recently, I skipped those, though the P/V translations are always better. The gems here are the stories subsumed under the "Ukrainian Tales", most of which deal with supernatural themes, in my opinion, Gogol's real forte. "St. John's Eve" and the "Night Before Christmas" deal with hellish visitation and torment. "Viy", one of my favorites (also check out the Gogol wrote many fine short stories, almost all of which, I think, are collected here. Since I read the more well-known "Petersburg" tales recently, I skipped those, though the P/V translations are always better. The gems here are the stories subsumed under the "Ukrainian Tales", most of which deal with supernatural themes, in my opinion, Gogol's real forte. "St. John's Eve" and the "Night Before Christmas" deal with hellish visitation and torment. "Viy", one of my favorites (also check out the surreal film version from the 60s), finds a young seminarian watching over a dead girl's corpse...until she opens her eyes. It's all downhill from there. The other stories collected here are funny variations on Gogol's latter-day themes one finds in Dead Souls, the silliness of the provincial gentry and the general absurdity of society in general, whether through social mores, litigation, or fancy carriages.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    My first reaction to Gogol was bewilderment. It's funny, and engaging to read, but...what the hell is it about? I'm not sure what the point of "Diary of a Madman" is, although I know I enjoyed it. Pevear and Volokhonsky's intro is helpful, although it contains a number of minor spoilers. Their point is that if you try to understand Gogol, you are failing: Gogol himself didn't understand Gogol. "We still do not know what Gogol is," says some guy they quoted. P&V write that Gogol, as compared to tr My first reaction to Gogol was bewilderment. It's funny, and engaging to read, but...what the hell is it about? I'm not sure what the point of "Diary of a Madman" is, although I know I enjoyed it. Pevear and Volokhonsky's intro is helpful, although it contains a number of minor spoilers. Their point is that if you try to understand Gogol, you are failing: Gogol himself didn't understand Gogol. "We still do not know what Gogol is," says some guy they quoted. P&V write that Gogol, as compared to traditional storytellers, "has nothing in mind. Memory plays no part in his work. He does not know where the act of writing will lead him." Pushkin, an early and ardent supporter, wrote, "Here is real gaiety - honest, unconstrained, without mincing, without primness. And in places, what poetry! What sensitivity! All this is so unusual in our present-day literature that I still haven't recovered." And that seems fair to me. It's still unusual now (although at least we have Borges); maybe we should shut up about what it means and just have a good time with it. 2017-11-17 Diary of a Madman The madman is a clerk, and right away hears two dogs chatting. One belongs to the directir's hot daughter. Never mind, never mind. Silence. The dogs are corresponding by letter; he steals the letters to find out more about the daughter. Meanwhile, Spain is in turmoil: the throne is vacant. It cannot be, he says, that there was no king. A state cannot be without a king. There is a king, only he's somewhere unknown. ...luckily our clerk realizes that he is actually indeed the king of Spain. (Around this time the dates on his diary entries start getting more royal - from Dec. 8 to the 86th of Martober, to "date none. The day had no date." He is eventually returned to Spain, which bears a passing resemblance to an insane asylum, where he is shaved and beaten and possibly murdered.

  10. 4 out of 5

    kaelan

    These tales (and novellas) are incredible. I was already familiar with "The Overcoat" and "The Nose", both of which exude a certain bureaucratic, Bartleby-ish vibe. But what especially impressed me this time around were the earlier "Ukrainian Tales", such as the poignant "Old World Landowners" and the indescribably disturbing "Terrible Vengeance", which combine folklore, proto po-mo narrative and surreal nightmare logic into something completely and utterly sui generis. Less impressive, in my vie These tales (and novellas) are incredible. I was already familiar with "The Overcoat" and "The Nose", both of which exude a certain bureaucratic, Bartleby-ish vibe. But what especially impressed me this time around were the earlier "Ukrainian Tales", such as the poignant "Old World Landowners" and the indescribably disturbing "Terrible Vengeance", which combine folklore, proto po-mo narrative and surreal nightmare logic into something completely and utterly sui generis. Less impressive, in my view, is the now ubiquitous Pevear-Volokhonsky translation. I'd enjoyed PV's version of The Brothers Karamazov – a novel largely consisting of dialogue and plot – but found their doggedly literal approach ill-suited to such a vibrant prose stylist as Gogol. In their hands, Gogol's language often came across as stiff, awkward and vaguely academic. (I had a similar problem with their translation of Bulgakov.) People say that Guerney's the one to get when it comes to Dead Souls, but English-language readers of the Tales may just need to buckle down and learn some Russian... A highly rewarding read, nonetheless.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jean-marcel

    This anthology is so achingly good that I read it slowly over a period of abouta year, and when I was through I was extremely sad that there weren't any more tales for me to come to afresh. But I can still re-read these many a time and always gain once again that feeling of a glorious, unfettered sort of artistic madness that teeters on so many precipices but never falls nor falters. Here we have wild humour, sincere and touching expressions of humanity, carousing, feasting, absurdity, and threa This anthology is so achingly good that I read it slowly over a period of abouta year, and when I was through I was extremely sad that there weren't any more tales for me to come to afresh. But I can still re-read these many a time and always gain once again that feeling of a glorious, unfettered sort of artistic madness that teeters on so many precipices but never falls nor falters. Here we have wild humour, sincere and touching expressions of humanity, carousing, feasting, absurdity, and threatening darkness touched with a hint of irreverent levity even at the worst of times. I love the Ukrainian tales, with their lyrical style and descriptions of tiny hamlets and provincial revelry. But, these are not cozy tales; in fact, there is a real grimness leaning over your shoulder in many of these. "Viy" utterly surprised and thrilled me with its depiction of the macabre and the horrific, especially as I didn't imagine at the time any writers in Gogol's time addressing the supernatural with such plain, open language and without a hint of repentence or avoidance of the "bloody details". "Viy" even became the basis for Mario Bava's classic film Black Sunday, one of the ultimate gothic revenge movies, but believe it or not, the Gogol story is even darker. It's also kind of funny, though, especially with all of Gogol's descriptions of the young priest and his fruitless efforts to get away from the village so he wouldn't have to perform an exorcism. Then there's "A Terrible Vengeance", which is probably the dreariest, grimmest thing in this anthology and makes you feel bitter toward everything. But, Gogol seems to be saying, "you need this! You simply must be reminded!" I notice a certain sad wistfulness in the Petersburg tales. I get the feeling that Gogol, while kind of set afire by the cosmopolitan glories of Petersburg, missed his homeland terribly. Of course I could be misapprehending here, but the character of the stories in the second half of the anthology is different....the pain more introspective, the appeals to human nature touched by genuine sad experience. I was particularly moved by "Nevsky Prospekt", which is a story so modern in its apprehensions and depictions of urban life that its quite startling and eye-opening. I wonder if Dickens ever read Gogol? The style of Gogol, whether told (and these stories really do all feel as though they were told, and not written) in Petersburg or Kiev and the surrounding villages, is steady and assured throughout the book. And lest you think that in Petersburg Gogol gave up his provincialism and love of the fantastic and strange, think again....all this stuff is very much still alive in the big city. There's nothing that Gogol can see that can't, at some point, be touched by the supernatural and eerie. This is in fact one of the things that I love most about him. He tells his stories as though they were folk knowledge, but the introduction in this book stresses that in fact they weren't and that he really made most of this stuff up himself. I've a feeling he would have been a strange, compelling man to meet. The translation by Pevear and Belakhovsky is excellent, and although I don't know Russian, I always look for their translations of Russian classics because they feel very genuine somehow, very natural and alive with their attempt to communicate the lyrical power of the writers whose work they bring to the english-speaking world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I'm a Gogol admirer & I've given five stars to other Gogol works & collections, so why four this time? Well, possibly because of the translation. I know I'm in the minority here, but I wasn't captivated by the Pevear/Volokhonsky version. I've read quite a few of these stories before, and I remember liking them much more last time around. I've heard the opinion that their work is more true to the original - does this mean I don't like Russian literature as much as I thought I did? Only time will te I'm a Gogol admirer & I've given five stars to other Gogol works & collections, so why four this time? Well, possibly because of the translation. I know I'm in the minority here, but I wasn't captivated by the Pevear/Volokhonsky version. I've read quite a few of these stories before, and I remember liking them much more last time around. I've heard the opinion that their work is more true to the original - does this mean I don't like Russian literature as much as I thought I did? Only time will tell I suppose; it's only an opinion after all, and there are lots of different translations of Russian works that I have enjoyed. Perhaps the above issue contributed towards my very slow reading on this one, but I don't think time matters when they are individual/short stories. On a positive note I hadn't read 'The Portrait' before, and that was one of my favourites.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    Gogol’s wild and wonderful fantasies expose the phantasmagoria of his imagination-from the lowly civil servant who haunts to streets of St Petersburg in search of his overcoat, to the man who one days wakes up to find his nose has disappeared and is walking the streets disguised as a titular councillor, Gogol’s tales are by turns whimsical and melancholy, exposing the irrationality and absurdities of life. Some people, shockingly, call Gogol a “realist”-whilst he may have intermittently dabbled i Gogol’s wild and wonderful fantasies expose the phantasmagoria of his imagination-from the lowly civil servant who haunts to streets of St Petersburg in search of his overcoat, to the man who one days wakes up to find his nose has disappeared and is walking the streets disguised as a titular councillor, Gogol’s tales are by turns whimsical and melancholy, exposing the irrationality and absurdities of life. Some people, shockingly, call Gogol a “realist”-whilst he may have intermittently dabbled in what he deemed “realistic” fiction, none of his characters are remotely real, instead they exist as vague shadows who exist upon the fringes of Gogol’s outlandish mind, so although Nevsky Prospect is essentially a tediously told story about a morosely idiotic and inattentive artist falling in love with a papier-mâché girl, it is saved from the brink and banality by Gogol’s wonderful and unique long, rambling metaphors, like a thief is able to steal a pumpkin from a field at night, when the moon is as round as the button on a soldier’s uniform. (A very Gogolian metaphor!) “Both the muddy, clumsy boot of the discharged soldier, under whose very weight the granite appears to crack, and the miniature shoes, as light as a puff of smoke, of the young lady who, like a sunflower to the sun, turns her head towards the glittering shop windows, the rattling sable of the ambitious ensign that leaves a sharp scratch-everyone displays his own strength or weakness…” Gogol as a realist is tedious, but as a fantasist when he gives free reign to his imagination like a master who frees his horse to gallop in the sallow, sodden fields (another Gogolian metaphor) he is unmatchable; never read grotesque Gogol to learn about people, but read Gogol to be enchanted and entranced, ‘Gogolized’ as Nabokov put it; his works are like the cool remnants of wax from the burned out candle of his mind; strange and surreal, they will drip constantly through the readers mind even long after they read them. None of Gogol’s stories are as profound as ‘The Overcoat’ the story of Akaky, a pathetic and snivelling civil servant, who dreams of one day owning an overcoat, only to have it stolen from him. Gogol is able to capture the lowliest and most vulnerable members of society, not due to promote any social or political message, but to demonstrate the dignity of every human being, even those as pathetic as Akaky and their constant struggle to find happiness in a world which only offers them pain. Gogol is able to capture these awkward and weird characters, because he was essentially one of them himself, an outside from birth onwards, Gogol was sensitive to the plight of the outsider in society and was able to give them a voice without sounding tendentious or sentimental. Gogol is also able to capture the absurdity of human behaviour, in this case that of civil servants and our often illogical social conventions-such as the bellicose yet ultimately pathetic director, whose dressing down of Akaky inadvertently leads to his death and yet Akaky is able to avenge his mistreatment by the director by haunting him and stealing his overcoat after he dies; showing the director up to be the weak and weasely man that he is. The Nose is off-set with more humour than ‘The Overcoat’, as the protagonist, Major Kovalyov, wakes up to one day to find his nose has disappeared (we learn that the disappearance may have something to do with the nose tweaking habits of his barber, Ivan) and to run into him in the streets, only to greeted in haughty and supercilious manner and to find out later that his nose has attempted to flee the city under the guise of a state councillor, only to be stopped by some eagle eyed official. Although the absurdity of the tale was not lost on Gogol, it was no absurd in his mind, than the asinine social conventions which his plastic characters go through on a daily basis-for Gogol if a man can spend so much time worrying about the cut of his waistcoat, then it is really so absurd that a man can one day wake up to find his nose has disappeared; finishing Gogol is like waking from a long, deep and absurd dream (or nightmare).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    Even if he had published nothing but Dead Souls, Gogol would still have a claim to be one of Ukraine's all-time greatest novelists. Luckily for us, he kept writing, and these excellent short stories show that his transition to becoming a more "Russian" writer did not dampen his humor or invention one bit. This collection shows off both sides of Gogol's output: first, the strange, magical Ukrainian stories full of drunken peasants, quarreling landowners, hilarious religious bigotry, and fantastic Even if he had published nothing but Dead Souls, Gogol would still have a claim to be one of Ukraine's all-time greatest novelists. Luckily for us, he kept writing, and these excellent short stories show that his transition to becoming a more "Russian" writer did not dampen his humor or invention one bit. This collection shows off both sides of Gogol's output: first, the strange, magical Ukrainian stories full of drunken peasants, quarreling landowners, hilarious religious bigotry, and fantastical adventures that he wrote to exoticize his homeland to his new Russian friends. Second, there's the more conceptual St. Petersburg stories, which have more realist settings but no less surreal plots, with maddening bureaucracies, inexplicable transformations, and copious humiliations for the unfortunate denizens of the Russian capital. The second half has the more famous stories like The Nose and The Overcoat, which show Gogol's gift for presenting absurd situations in a straightforward, even poignant way, but even the earlier stories have their touches of genius, often coming across as minor theatrical masterpieces or as undiscovered fairytales. Almost no one was better at taking a mundane scene, adding an outlandish twist, and then following that wherever it led to emerge on the other side as a savage social critique.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    There's not a bad story in this batch! But I especially loved "Nevsky Prospect" and "The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich". These are long stories, but they are cozy and full-of-life stories that I want to read out loud by a campfire. Nobody alternates between the absurdly comical and the frightfully chilling like Gogol. The first half (Ukrainian Tales) tells more stories that are mystical in nature, sounding sometimes like folktales, dealing with witches and devils. There's not a bad story in this batch! But I especially loved "Nevsky Prospect" and "The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich". These are long stories, but they are cozy and full-of-life stories that I want to read out loud by a campfire. Nobody alternates between the absurdly comical and the frightfully chilling like Gogol. The first half (Ukrainian Tales) tells more stories that are mystical in nature, sounding sometimes like folktales, dealing with witches and devils. The second half (Petersburg Tales) have some of that as well, but more surreal unexplained occurrences (like "The Nose") and other oddities. Gogol makes hilarious observations about his characters and their hypocrisies. He also inserts his own (or his persona's) storyteller voice in almost every story, wedging himself inside of them (sometimes the narrator's voice adds a whole new dimension to the basic story) would hardly work for any other writer but Gogol is not just any other writer. Ah, but before we go on, we should first acquaint the reader somewhat with this remarkable character, Nikolai Gogol...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Split into two sets of stories - those that take place in Ukraine and those in Russia, this is a collection that takes pride of place on my bookshelf. The theme of each story tends to deal with the darker aspects of human nature – depravity, poverty, the squandering of talent and opportunity, groupthink and malice. However, the narrative never dips into over-sincerity or narcissistic exposition. There is a sharp, honest, knowing quality to the writing that is evident from the surface level aesth Split into two sets of stories - those that take place in Ukraine and those in Russia, this is a collection that takes pride of place on my bookshelf. The theme of each story tends to deal with the darker aspects of human nature – depravity, poverty, the squandering of talent and opportunity, groupthink and malice. However, the narrative never dips into over-sincerity or narcissistic exposition. There is a sharp, honest, knowing quality to the writing that is evident from the surface level aesthetics down to the very core of each story. There are some writers who are good storytellers and some who are known because of their penmanship skills. Even translated, Gogol is clearly both. The 13 stories in this collection, while undeniably Gogol’s, play with a range of styles and rhythms. He describes states of being and situations from the disintegration of one’s mind to the excitement a young girl can feel for her booties; From the combat of a warrior to a human nose on legs with prose that is completely fitting to each situation. He is not scared of playing with a reader’s expectations in this arena. Yet somehow the writing is never inconsistent, either. Pathos and menace are nearly always present, but somehow you feel comfortable in his hands. He plays and teases with you, drawing you in one direction before shoving you into another. Gogol paints his pictures with deep colours and complex textures, yet communicates all of this with a simple stroke, a glance in one direction that is fleeting but piercing, unapologetic, maybe dangerous in its unwavering loyalty to honesty. One scene (this does not spoil any of the stories), briefly shows a wizard flying past the moon in a magic saucepan. Written here this is sugar and twee. From the pen of Gogol it is delightful and energetic, entirely suited to the scene and, rather than squeezed in like a square peg into a pre-thought squarish hole, is in fact inevitable. It was reading this moment for the first time that I felt that rising excitement in my chest that tells me I’m reading genius. For me it’s a standout moment and one I return to again and again. But as I said, it’s not just the writing (and of course this is translated! Gogol is famous for the sophistication of his literary techniques but I shall never read his poetry as he intended me to) but the content of the stories, too. In the grand Russian tradition they tackle the very worst of humanity in a way that is rescued from cynicism with a tinge of optimism for the future, but Gogol’s inimitable - slightly mad, and obviously completely at odds with the world around him - mind doesn’t just twist some old formulas around but instead smashes them into each other and creates something brand new and rude in their originality. In each story you can see the germination of ideas explored by Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Kafka… and these ideas are spat out and dispensed with almost immediately. Most writers could spend a career delving into each one. The rate at which Gogol sprays them across the page is staggering and beautiful. It’s ‘The Mysterious Portrait’, however, that stands out as the true achievement. Anybody - anybody - who has ever had even an inclination towards art in the smallest bone in their body (in the ear, right?) needs to read it. Gogol lacerates through every affectation and whimsy in order to get to the truth in brutal fashion, executed with such style, with such sureness and swiftness and with such power that I find it difficult to type about right now without running downstairs to reread it. While dealing with lofty ideas and rich characters, the stories are also compelling and - importantly - fun. You want to see what happens. Not with dread or fear for the worst, but with excitement. It helps that even at his most morose, Gogol is funny. As with his writing style, he has it all - wit, sarcasm, slapstick and punch lines. He has his heroes and his villains, self-discovery, transcendence of thought and all-out action, the scenes of which put the imagination of Hollywood’s directors to shame. There is more packed into these 13 short stories than the entire careers of many giants of literature. If you read the stories in one sitting you’re left reeling, dizzy with ideas, unsure of which one to contemplate first. And the best thing about this collection is that this isn’t even Gogol’s best stuff. That would be Dead Souls Part I and II, which I’ll write about at some point in the near future.

  17. 5 out of 5

    will

    Gogol's tales in this book are split into two distinct sections. The first is concerned mostly with life in Ukraine in the early 19th century and is filled with superstitious people and the demons and devils they interact with regularly. The stories are tremendously funny but also strange and dark, mysterious in the best, most inexplicable way. I was reminded at times of the short work of Hawthorne, in which dark creatures often seem to be lurking in the woods, but Gogol feels more modern someho Gogol's tales in this book are split into two distinct sections. The first is concerned mostly with life in Ukraine in the early 19th century and is filled with superstitious people and the demons and devils they interact with regularly. The stories are tremendously funny but also strange and dark, mysterious in the best, most inexplicable way. I was reminded at times of the short work of Hawthorne, in which dark creatures often seem to be lurking in the woods, but Gogol feels more modern somehow. The second part deals with Petersburg and is decidedly more surreal. In "The Nose," a man wakes one day to find that his nose is gone from his face. He later meets this nose in the street wearing the military uniform of a general. These stories clearly prefigure Dostoevsky's writing ("Diary of a Madman" especially) and seem to lay the narrative and formal groundwork for writers like Walser and Kafka. This was one of the best and most riveting collections of stories I have read and I highly recommend it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A digression-free, lean review, gentlemen! exclamation points a-plenty! The first six Ukrainian tales are a tedious, dreadful slog. "The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich" has a funny premise, and funny moments, but is too bloated. Then, we hope Gogol gets better when he gets to Petersburg, and he mostly does. "The Nose" is really good; "The Overcoat" is great; and "Diary of a Madman" is awesome. The others are as clunker-ish as the first half of the entire book (though A digression-free, lean review, gentlemen! exclamation points a-plenty! The first six Ukrainian tales are a tedious, dreadful slog. "The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich" has a funny premise, and funny moments, but is too bloated. Then, we hope Gogol gets better when he gets to Petersburg, and he mostly does. "The Nose" is really good; "The Overcoat" is great; and "Diary of a Madman" is awesome. The others are as clunker-ish as the first half of the entire book (though I suppose "The Portrait" is alright). Honestly, stick with "The Nose," "The Overcoat," and "Diary of a Madman." The rest of this collection (that's 75% of it) isn't worthwhile. Did it suck? Well, maybe, but, you know, haters gonna hate.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A few old favorites, plus a number of Gogol stories I hadn't read before, including “The Portrait,” which seems to rank among his finest works. For those of you who haven't read Gogol, please do so as soon as possible-- the great unkempt beast of Russian literature emerges from the woods in these stories, and they're as full of as much violence, absurdity, superstition, and vodka-drenched misery as you could want. A few old favorites, plus a number of Gogol stories I hadn't read before, including “The Portrait,” which seems to rank among his finest works. For those of you who haven't read Gogol, please do so as soon as possible-- the great unkempt beast of Russian literature emerges from the woods in these stories, and they're as full of as much violence, absurdity, superstition, and vodka-drenched misery as you could want.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tomislav

    28 February 2009 - I have previously read Gogol's Dead Souls, so I thought I knew what to expect from this. But I was surprised by the supernaturalism of the earlier Ukrainian stories. After a while I came to think of them as written to a weekly television show level of entertainment rather than a literary audience. Situation comedies in some cases; thrillers in others. The later Petersburg stories are definitely more intentional and serious. And then there is the incomparable "The Nose". The con 28 February 2009 - I have previously read Gogol's Dead Souls, so I thought I knew what to expect from this. But I was surprised by the supernaturalism of the earlier Ukrainian stories. After a while I came to think of them as written to a weekly television show level of entertainment rather than a literary audience. Situation comedies in some cases; thrillers in others. The later Petersburg stories are definitely more intentional and serious. And then there is the incomparable "The Nose". The contents are as follows - UKRAINIAN TALES St. John's Eve The Night Before Christmas The Terrible Vengeance Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt Old World Landowners Viy The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich PETERSBURG TALES Nevsky Pospect The Diary of a Madman The Nose The Carriage The Portrait The Overcoat

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This was overall a big disappointment. Most of the stories I would rate no higher than 2 stars as they are boring, anti Semitic, sexist and often needlessly repetitious. A few gems (the overcoat and the portrait) boost the book to an overall 3 star. Gogol isn’t all he is made out to be in my opinion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Worth reading for the classic St. Petersburg stories, "The Overcoat," "The Nose," and "Diary Of A Madman." The Ukraine stories are not really as good. They have some beautiful nature descriptions but Gogol is much too sentimental about the daily realties of serfdom to capture the times he lived in. And the Cossack stories are absolutely putrid. The way Gogol tells it, those poor Cossacks just can't murder, rape, steal and drink in peace because they're always being hassled by armies of invading P Worth reading for the classic St. Petersburg stories, "The Overcoat," "The Nose," and "Diary Of A Madman." The Ukraine stories are not really as good. They have some beautiful nature descriptions but Gogol is much too sentimental about the daily realties of serfdom to capture the times he lived in. And the Cossack stories are absolutely putrid. The way Gogol tells it, those poor Cossacks just can't murder, rape, steal and drink in peace because they're always being hassled by armies of invading Poles and cheated by no-good Jews! The wonder of Gogol's career is that he evolved from a sentimental flatterer of the brutal oppressors to a sensitive chronicler of the daily lives of the oppressed. This collection of stories charts the evolution of a great artist by slow degrees, but can't really explain how or why he changed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Graham Wilhauk

    Yeah, I deleted the old review. It did kind of sum up my ideas of this book but it dogged on another great book I didn’t appreciate at the time in “Pride and Prejudice.” Let’s just say this is a page celebrating great books and not looking down on ones I don’t like. You never know which books will come around on you. Yes, past Graham, Nikolai Gogol was and still is, even long after his death, a great short story writer. A must read for any reader of Russian literature of any kind. I am giving th Yeah, I deleted the old review. It did kind of sum up my ideas of this book but it dogged on another great book I didn’t appreciate at the time in “Pride and Prejudice.” Let’s just say this is a page celebrating great books and not looking down on ones I don’t like. You never know which books will come around on you. Yes, past Graham, Nikolai Gogol was and still is, even long after his death, a great short story writer. A must read for any reader of Russian literature of any kind. I am giving this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Selbst

    Gogol's short fiction combines an observant eye for rural peasants and the urban poor and lower middle class. The short stories and novellas poke gentle fun at stultified village life in the first half of the 19th century and level sharper criticism at the emerging city life of St Petersburg, with an emphasis on the absurdities of Russia's class-obssessed society, as exemplified by the infamous Table of Ranks. With his persistent use of the supernatural, Gogol prefigures the later magic realism Gogol's short fiction combines an observant eye for rural peasants and the urban poor and lower middle class. The short stories and novellas poke gentle fun at stultified village life in the first half of the 19th century and level sharper criticism at the emerging city life of St Petersburg, with an emphasis on the absurdities of Russia's class-obssessed society, as exemplified by the infamous Table of Ranks. With his persistent use of the supernatural, Gogol prefigures the later magic realism of Latin American fiction of the 20th century.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I was in an airport in Nottingham, England with Ben filling out those "welcome to the country, now who are you?!" cards. We get up to th police clerk and I give him my card and move off to the side. Ben hands over his card. Trouble. Police clerk (sherrif of nottingham perhaps??) says "do you think you are funny?" and proceeds to berate Ben with such ditties as "Do you want to make y our girlfriend cry, I'll send you back to France!). Turns out that Ben put "rockstar" with the a as a star symbol f I was in an airport in Nottingham, England with Ben filling out those "welcome to the country, now who are you?!" cards. We get up to th police clerk and I give him my card and move off to the side. Ben hands over his card. Trouble. Police clerk (sherrif of nottingham perhaps??) says "do you think you are funny?" and proceeds to berate Ben with such ditties as "Do you want to make y our girlfriend cry, I'll send you back to France!). Turns out that Ben put "rockstar" with the a as a star symbol for his occupation. When we were let free to leave the Nottingham airport, I asked Ben why he did that. He said he thought it was funny and was very confused why the clerk didn't enjoy the lively alteration of his daily routine. I told him I found the whole situation hilarious, predictable, completely not upsetting, and that he needs to read more Russian lit.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Scott

    This version of Gogol's Collected Tales includes his Ukranian and Petersburg Tales of which, now Tales can be complete without The Nose and The Overcoat (the story that Dostoyevsky's credits as the beginning of modern Russian Literature, "we all came from Gogol's Cloak"). If you have never read any Gogol, you need to read those two stories, it explains all his other stories. There is something about them a mystical quality along with folktales that all dovetails into criticism of human nature an This version of Gogol's Collected Tales includes his Ukranian and Petersburg Tales of which, now Tales can be complete without The Nose and The Overcoat (the story that Dostoyevsky's credits as the beginning of modern Russian Literature, "we all came from Gogol's Cloak"). If you have never read any Gogol, you need to read those two stories, it explains all his other stories. There is something about them a mystical quality along with folktales that all dovetails into criticism of human nature and politics. There are morality tales that damn Russian Beauracracy. I first became fascinated with Gogol in College. He wasn't assigned reading for a literature class, but brought up during a 19th Century European History Class. The one thing I loved about that class was the literature references and how they defined and impacted the time. He focused on Gogol's Dead Souls which is a wonderful book that details the Russian character as Huckleberry Finn defines the American character. However, Dead Souls doesn't even touch his short stories. They are simply amazing and I read them, incredulous that someone could have that vivid of an imagination. I loved all these stories! Gogol has the Devil pluck the moon from the sky, wrestle with his characters, and is tricked himself in one story. In others, fantastic images and hilarious incidents punctuate Russian life and exposes our own human nature. Our need to be recognized, to be important, to pull ourselves up by pushing others down, all combined in these wonderful and imaginative tales. I've always been a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne, but Gogol's stories certain surpass him. What Hawthorne implies, Gogol implements, these are simply amazing stories. Some Passges: "My God! My God! Why this misfortune? If I lacked an arm or a leg, it would still be better; if I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen--just take him and chuck him out the window!" p. 308 of the story The Nose "But nothing in this world lasts long, and therefore joy, in the minute that follows the first, is less lively; in the third minute it becomes still weaker, and finally, it merges imperceptibly with one's usual state of mind, as a ring i the water, born of a stone's fall, finally merges with the smooth surface." p. 311 of The Nose I imagined the story The Overcoat was part lesson, part ghost story that reminded me of the La Llorona. It's a class Russian tale that exposes how we treat our fellow man, corrupt and insensitive bureaucracy, and revenge. "Let me be. Why do you offend me?" -- and in these penetrating words rang other words: "I am your brother." and the poor young man would bury his face in his hands, and many a time in his life he shuddered to see how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed in refined, cultivated manners, and God! even in man the world regards as noble and honorable..." p. 386 from story The Overcoat "Thus everything in holy Russia is infected with imitation, and each one mimics and apes his superior...His usual conversation with subordinates rang with strictness and consisted almost entirely of three phrases: "How dare you? Do you know with whom you are speaking? Do you realize who is standing before you?" p. 405 from story The Overcoat.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vinay Ayilavarapu

    **Warning: this text may contain spoilers** Review of Ukrainian Tales: A mixture of folklore, horror, drama, and comedies. This is was a very enjoyable read. Gogol is a very entertaining storyteller he seamlessly mixes witty lines with biting satire and profound sadness. 1. St. John's Eve - 3 Stars This was him stretching folklore storytelling muscles. 2. The Night Before Christmas -5 Stars One of my favorite stories in this collection. Its style might have influenced Bulgakov to write Master Margar **Warning: this text may contain spoilers** Review of Ukrainian Tales: A mixture of folklore, horror, drama, and comedies. This is was a very enjoyable read. Gogol is a very entertaining storyteller he seamlessly mixes witty lines with biting satire and profound sadness. 1. St. John's Eve - 3 Stars This was him stretching folklore storytelling muscles. 2. The Night Before Christmas -5 Stars One of my favorite stories in this collection. Its style might have influenced Bulgakov to write Master Margarita. The story beautifully blends sarcasm, romance and adventure to create a wonderful Christmas tale. 3. Terrible Vengeance - 4 Stars A tale of sorcery, Cossack pride and vengeance. 4. Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and his Aunt -3.5 Stars Just when you're getting to know the characters enjoy the story, it abruptly ends. 5. Old World Landowners - 4 Stars Bittersweet drama about the life of a couple living in the countryside of Ukraine. This reminds me of a Telugu movie called "Mithunam". 6. Viy - 5 Stars Horrifying and enthralling. This is where Gogol orchestrates folkloric themes to capture our imaginations. The emphasis on the journey of the protagonist is what makes this a memorable piece. 7. The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich - 4 Stars This story lays the foundations for theme that will explored later with "The Overcoat". Review of St. Petersburg Tales: The tone remains the same but the subject changes drastically. Gogol here examines the life of city dwellers with both hilarious & heartbreaking stories. 1. The Nevsky Prospekt - 3.5 Stars Told from a chatty narrator's perspective, it's a tale about how romantic & realistic ideals about women are in vain. Whereas the romantic takes his own life, the realist moves on. 2. The Diary of a Madman- 5 Stars A slow and creepy descent into madness told in epistolary format. Gogol story also touches upon the absurd race to achieve nobility through official ranks 3. The Nose- 5 Stars Carrying forward the themes established in the previous story. This hilarious story is about how a man's status in society is at risk when he loses his nose one day 4. The Carriage- 3.5 Stars The punchline for this story was not as effective as Gogol's better works 5. The Portrait - 5 Stars This story surprised me. It successfully merges earlier themes of horror & dread with the fame & society pressures. It reminds me of a story from Poe(The Oval Portrait). I wonder if they both influenced each other? 6. The Overcoat - 5 Stars Poignant and timeless tale about how life in a city doesn't worry about the individual's loss. It's also a tale about bureaucratic nightmare. Regards, Vinay

  28. 4 out of 5

    Frankie

    Like the PV translation of Dead Souls, this collection highlights Gogol's wordplay and "nameology" as only Pevear and Volokhonsky can. I've read The Overcoat before, mainly due to Dostoevsky's influence. He once said that "We all come out of Gogol's Overcoat." This collection shows Gogol's dual writing careers in his homeland Ukraine, and later in Petersburg. The duality is best defined by his subject matter. Much of the Ukrainian tales deal with folk superstitions, pastoral scenery and Cossack f Like the PV translation of Dead Souls, this collection highlights Gogol's wordplay and "nameology" as only Pevear and Volokhonsky can. I've read The Overcoat before, mainly due to Dostoevsky's influence. He once said that "We all come out of Gogol's Overcoat." This collection shows Gogol's dual writing careers in his homeland Ukraine, and later in Petersburg. The duality is best defined by his subject matter. Much of the Ukrainian tales deal with folk superstitions, pastoral scenery and Cossack family life, while the Petersburg tales expose glamorous yet irksome high-society. I enjoyed the quaint Cossack magic of the first half (ie. the physicality of the blacksmith in The Night Before Christmas, who strong-arms a demon and rides on his back, probably inspiring the legend of Pecos Bill). The Petersburg stories, however, are mature Gogol. Praise is inadequate regarding these stories, which represent the height of Gogol's career (Dead Souls is only slightly less perfect). Nevsky Prospect is the first, paralleling two of Petersburg's types – the starving artist and the lecher. The Diary of a Madman is the funniest story, wherein a man's mind slowly derails and treats him to chatting dogs and a sudden succession to Spain's throne. The Nose is probably Gogol's second most famous story, and the definite height of allegory, without a doubt inspiring Kafka's Metamorphosis 80 years later. The Carriage is a brief fable about evading responsibility. The Portrait is suspenseful and as well-developed as a novel, with Gogol's touch of the gradually-defined supernatural. The Overcoat finalizes the book. This story uses a reclusive character, Akaky Akakievich (fun to say), who sees hope in the world with the purchase of a new overcoat, but is promptly dragged into circumstances beyond his control and... Gogol's technique was prophetic of writing styles seen every day in modern literature. To read this, his most acclaimed stories, you'd be doing yourself a favor.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I was spurred to read this book because I had heard so much about how Gogol was a master of the short story. The book is in chronological order and is divided into two sections - Ukrainian Tales (his earlier works) and Petersberg Tales ( later works). I read the book in chronological order and almost abandoned it because I was having such a hard time choking down the Ukrainian stories, finding them rough, superstitous and tedious. But I'm glad that I soldiered on, because my persistence was rich I was spurred to read this book because I had heard so much about how Gogol was a master of the short story. The book is in chronological order and is divided into two sections - Ukrainian Tales (his earlier works) and Petersberg Tales ( later works). I read the book in chronological order and almost abandoned it because I was having such a hard time choking down the Ukrainian stories, finding them rough, superstitous and tedious. But I'm glad that I soldiered on, because my persistence was richly rewarded by the Petersberg Tales. They were so different - it was almost like going to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and walking past countless muddy portraits of potato eaters and other such fare, then suddenly stumbling onto his wonderful, technicolor, post-breadown stuff. I loved "Diary of a Madman", which is both hilarious and terrible, but would have to concede that the pick of the collection is his crowning glory, "The Overcoat." The way in which he captures the plight of those overlooked and/or looked down upon is at times almost physically painful to read because it is so true. The wonderful thing about about his last story is that it contains so many of the elements and themes of his earlier works, but honed to perfection. Origianlly, I thought I might only recommend the latter half of this collection, but if potential readers are interested in seeing how a great writer evolves, then I would definitely recommend reading the collection in entirety, and in order.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dachaublues

    Gogol is simply a master of social literature; I don't think I've ever had a better time reading short stories that the time I spent reading this. His stories may sometimes be simply folk tales, but they are told with such skill that the world of 19th century Ukraine almost feels real. The stories may have been light and airy diversions in the hands of another author but Gogol makes them so convincing that I'd not hesitate to believe him if he told me that the fantasy and absurdity that all his Gogol is simply a master of social literature; I don't think I've ever had a better time reading short stories that the time I spent reading this. His stories may sometimes be simply folk tales, but they are told with such skill that the world of 19th century Ukraine almost feels real. The stories may have been light and airy diversions in the hands of another author but Gogol makes them so convincing that I'd not hesitate to believe him if he told me that the fantasy and absurdity that all his stories contained came from personal experience. Every story here is vital; in them one sees hints of magical realism, modernism, romanticism, postmodernism and almost every literary genre that has defined the past two centuries. And of course, unlike most Russian novelists of the 19th century, Gogol never feels the need to wax on about humanity and existentialism. He is first and foremost a storyteller and such a good one that the insight does not come from ten page long conversations about "what is man?" and such but from the substance of the story itself. Above all, read the Overcoat. It has set a standard for short stories in my mind that has never since been reached. It is reminiscent of Hawthorne, except that it is much better. And bravo to the translators; a great work can become mush in the wrong hands, but they have done an adept job here in capturing the spirit and style of the original stories.

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