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The Diary of a Madman, the Government Inspector, and Selected Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 25, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol was born in 1809; his family were small gentry of Ukrainian cossack extraction, and his father was the author of a number of plays based on Ukrainian popular tales. He attended school in Nézhin and gained a reputation for his theatrical abilities. He went to St Petersburg in 1829 and with the help of a friend gained a post in one of the government ministries. Gogol was introduced to Zhukovsky, the romantic poet, and to Pushkin, and with the publication of Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (1831) he had an entrée to all the leading literary salons. He even managed for a short period to be Professor of History at the University of St. Petersburg (1834-5).

Diary of a Madman and The Story of the Quarrel between Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich appeared in 1934, The Nose in 1836, and The Overcoat in 1842. Gogol also wrote the play The Inspector (1836), Dead Souls (1842), and several moralizing essays defending the Tsarist regime, to the horror of his liberal and radical friends. He lived a great deal abroad, mostly in Rome, and in his last years became increasingly prey to religious mania and despair. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1848, but was bitterly disappointed in the lack of feeling that the journey kindled. He returned to Russia and fell under the influence of a spiritual director who told him to destroy his writings as they were sinful. He burned the second part of Dead Souls, and died in 1852 after subjecting himself to a severe regime of fasting.

Ronald Wilks studied Russian language and literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later Russian literature at London University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1972. He has also translated ‘The Little Demon’ by Sologub and, for Penguin Classics, My Childhood, My Apprenticeship, and My Universities by Gorky, The Golovlyov Family by Saltykov-Shchedrin and four volumes of stories by Chekhov: The Kiss and Other Stories, The Duel and Other Stories, The Party and Other Stories, and The Fiancée and Other Stories.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Robinson on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Do you buy this Penguin Classics translation by Ronald Wilks or the Vintage Classics version translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, currently the best translators of 19th century Russian novels? No contest. The other has 14 stories versus 8 here. Buy the other book if you must buy only one.

I bought both and have no regrets. The present book has two good features: it has a better introduction by Robert Maguire plus it has the play, The Government Inspector. And according to Nabokov, and it is hard to argue with him, that play is the best Russian play ever written. This is a 1972 translation, revised in 2005.

So, it has only 8 stories, but the book does contain an impressive introduction by Maguire, professor from Columbia University, international scholar, now passed away. The present book contains 7 stories translated by Wilks, the introduction by Maguire, plus the play. None of the stories are much over 50 pages and some are shorter. They are good examples of the writings and the literary techniques of Gogol. He is an extremely complex writer and one must read the analysis to appreciate the subtle features and nuances in his writings.

Two stories are from "the Ukrainian Tales" and five from the "Petersburg Tales," and as pointed out by Maguire, that is an editorial division only of Gogol's works, not a division created by Gogol. The former stories from the Ukraine include his use of witches and the devil.

Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852, Ukraine-Russia) is one the best known Russian writers. His masterpiece is Dead Souls. It is a charming and a highly entertaining novel about a man touring Russian farms by horse and buggy in the early 19th century. In addition, Gogol has approximately 19 well known short stories plus non-fiction writings.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Watters on February 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
"The Nose" -- which tells with an utterly straight face the improbable tale of a man who wakes up one day to find his nose missing, only to then later spot it running around town wearing the uniform of a government official -- is probably the single funniest work of serious literature ever written. When I was at university 20 years ago, a fellow literature student and three of her male admirers (myself counted among them) started a weekly "story night" in which each member of the circle would bring in something to read to the others. I'll always remember the night I brought in "The Nose" and read it aloud, and everyone was rolling with laughter. Gogol has the added distinction of being a major influence on 20th century comedy, including the films of Luis Bunuel and Woody Allen. A must-read.
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Format: Paperback
Penguin has published a selection of short stories and the play "The Government Inspector" by Nikolay Gogol (1809-52) one of the premiere Russian authors of the nineteenth century and all time.
The collection includes:
Ivan Fyodorvich Shponka and His Aunt-This delightful gem tells the tale of Ivan who is a retired Russian Army officer. He spends his days with his masculine and domineering aunt on a large estate in the Ukraine. Shponka is shy failing to court a fetching beauty on a nearby estate. Gogol is a word artist who is able to paint the scene of a rural Russia where peasants and landowners go about their humdrum lives. The story reminds me of a tale which could have been written by Anton Chekhov.
How Ivan Ivanonich quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich-This is the bittersweet, sometimes humorous, tale of two old friends who are estate owners. They quarrel over Ivanonich's eagerness to be given a beautiful rifle owned by Nikiforovich. Their dispute ends up in a law court where a rebellious pig eats court documents! The story is narrated by an invented character. A memorable and excellent piece of short fiction!
Nevsky Prospect-Located in St. Petersburg this tale deals with a man who is a dreamer. It is surreal in parts and is evocative of life in mid nineteenth century St. Petersburg dubbed "The Paris of the North." One of Gogol's greatest short stories;often anthologized.
The Nose-An asburdist tale in which a Nose leaves the face of a minor government official only to return to his face as the story concludes. It is a satire on Russian government and the human desire to win fame and prestige by holding office. A precursor to Kafka in its absurdist and disorienting story.
The Overcoat-The tragic tale of a little clerk who is very poor.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John on November 16, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I found this collection to be a nice sample of Gogol's work with a helpful introduction and endnotes.

I have long struggled to understand the Russian mentality (i.e. why their government is so corrupt and hurts the people so much) and I find Gogol's works to be helpful insight into the "thinking" of ordinary Russians.

And, yes, he does this with humor.

John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hugo Melo on June 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
I had never read Gogol but after reading this collection, I became an absolut fan. It contains one short story from the collection "Evenings On a Farm Near Dikanka", one from "Mirgorod" collection and 6 from the editorial cycle "Tales of St. Petersburg. The latter are absolutly magnificent, as is the play "the Goverment Inspector". This collection's only flaw is that it does not include "The Portrait"(from the Petersburg cycle), but it reamins however an amazing introduction to Gogols work. After reading this collection I was bent on collecting all of Gogol's work. I must say that the Petersburg cycle is undoubitly Gogol's most accomplished work, however I strongly recomend reading "Dead Souls" - a hilarious depiction of Russia's landowners, govermment officials and petit burgeousie- and "Evenings On a Farm Near Dikanka" - amusing tales of horror and Ukranian folklore, although the latter appears to be quite hard to obtain in english - I was very fortunate and happy to find it was published in Portuguese, my native tongue).
if you've never read Gogol before, prepare to laugh, ache and to be intellectually stimulated, all at once.
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