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Gogol's Art : A Search for Identity by Laszlo Tikos

Copyright © 1996 Laszlo Tikos

Gogol's Art was published in paperback in 1997 by Bati Publishers, PO Box 263, Leverett, MA 01054. (Price $15).

Permission is granted to make and distribute complete verbatim electronic copies of this text for non-commercial purposes provided the copyright information and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. All other rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter One -- First Literary Attempts : Poetry

Chapter Two -- The Ukrainisation of European Romanticism. First Attempts in Prose.Fragments.

Chapter Three -- The Wedding: The Central Organizing Force in the Early Short Stories: The Dikanka Cycle

Chapter Four -- Paradise Lost : Mirgorod

Chapter Five -- Arabesques: The Portrait.Nevskij Prospect. The Notes of a Madman

Chapter Six -- The Petersburg Stories: The Nose.The Overcoat.The Carriage. Rome.

Chapter Seven -- Dramatic Works: The Marriage. The Inspector General. The Gamblers. Fragments.

Chapter Eight -- Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends. Testament. Introduction. The " Women" Question. General Advice.Literature, Art. About The Dead Souls. Russia, Religion, Church.

Chapter Nine -- Dead Souls

Instead of an Epilogue

Bibiliography, Notes


Footnotes to Introduction

Chapter one from Gogol's Art : A Search for Identity by Laszlo Tikos


Chapter One --First Literary Attempts :Poetry: "Ode to Italy","Hanz Kuekhelgarten"

"The "creation " of Nikolay Gogol 1 as a writer did not start with his first published works. Already in secondary school Gogol tried his hand at writing, especially poetry. The subject was taught in school, both as part of the standard curriculum on Literature and in essay writing. Judging by the extant texts, Gogol's was not an exceptional poetic talent, even though some of his attempts indicate a certain technical aptitude, a fairly well-developed poetic insight and a generally happy choice of words (even if traces of oddity and awkwardness can be detected throughout),and a certain talent for adapting traditional forms of diction, form and content to his own purposes.

In judging Gogol's early attempts, consideration should also be given to family tradition. His father, Vasiliy Afanasyevic Gogol, was known in local circles as a poet of some standing and as an accomplished playwright. We know of the Gogol family's' fascination with the theatrical events organized at the neighboring Troscinsky estate where Vasily Gogol frequently participated as both playwright and actor. 2 This family tradition was, of course, another source of Nikolai Gogol's interest in literature in general and in the theater in particular, and was carried over into Gogol's school years: Gogol himself participated with great gusto in school theatricals, and in some instances, he was recognized as having an unusual comic talent. 3

In school, Gogol was, if not necessarily an eager, at least, an interested reader of the poetry of standard fare. We also know that young Gogol spent the extravagant sum of 40 rubles for the collected works of the German Romantic poet Schiller. Whether he actually read Schiller and how far he got with his reading is a matter of guesswork.

A further consideration in the history of his intellectual development is also the literature and poetry with which Gogol may have been acquainted. In the general curriculum of the school, 18th Century poetry seems to have been a most important concern. Kantemir, Derzhavin, and Zhukovski were the staple reading, while contemporary writers were kept on a short list. Pushkin, particularly, was thought to be a dangerous influence, because of his "scandalous" thinking, his "pornographic", revolutionary and other kinds of subversive poetry, as well as for his personal life style that must have contributed to his exile from St. Petersburg during Gogol's school years. But forbidden fruit is always the most desired, and as contemporary sources tell us, Pushkin was the idol of the young pupils interested in poetry. Pushkin's poems circulating either in handwritten form (the "samizdat " of the time), or in periodicals not necessarily recommended as school reading by the school authorities, were the source of information while submitting Pushkin's poems as their own exercises in creative writing was one of the favorite pranks recorded.

Further, Gogol was not Russian by birth. He was Ukrainian, a "little Russian", as they were called by the Russians' proper, and Ukrainian was his native tongue. Even though Ukrainian and Russian are closely related languages, just as Dutch and English still are, Russian was not Gogol's native tongue 4 but an acquired language. This fact is frequently overlooked in critical works dealing with Gogol, though it may account for some strange choices of vocabulary, especially in the poetry of his youth, and perhaps also some awkwardness of expression.

It goes without saying that the poetical attempts of young man in his mid and late teens are frequently derivative, especially if inspiration does not come directly from personal experience. Love lyrics are completely missing from Gogol's early poetry, thus giving rise to conjectures as to Gogol's lack of interest in sex as a youth as well as to speculations about homosexuality.

Whatever the case, the poetry that we have available indicates that Gogol's interest was not in love but in imitating the great poetical achievements of the past which deal with lofty topics, with classical subjects in an appropriately elevated style.

A long "Ode to Italy" 5 his first published work, March, 1892, provides a typical example of an infatuation with a classical subject in its five eight-line stanzas, its rhyme pattern of a,b,a,b,a,b,b,b written in five-foot iambic lines. Gogol extols an Italy which is both a paradise in the present and the birthplace of Western civilization in the past. It is the place to which the young poet's soul is drawn:
Italy, the beautiful country
my soul is longing and pining for her. 6 A description of the beauty of Italy follows in conventional images and in the final stanza Gogol (or rather, his poetic alter ego) delivers a confession which foreshadows an escapist tendency which was to surface in later work: his desire to get away to this wonderful country, where:
Rafael and Torquato are still alive [there]
Will I ever see you [Italy]
I am full of expectations
My soul is in radiance and my mind resounds.
I am drawn to you and I am burnt by your spirit
I am in heaven, full of sounds and trembling! 7 The poem is very likely an imitation -- perhaps of Goethe's Italian poems -- and as such is not remarkable, but the biographical implications are uncanny. Italy is the land to which some sixteen years later Gogol was to depart, leaving Russia in disappointment. In Italy, in Rome particularly, he was to find a spiritual homeland, "his own place" (svoe mesto ) for more than a decade. According to contemporaries who knew him in Rome, Gogol developed a real and profound love for that city, for antiquity, for Italy in general, and he became a proud guide and escort to visiting Russian friends.

The declamatory style -- the poet addressing a country and talking to it as if on equal terms -- remains characteristic of Gogol, and foreshadows the famous' "Troika" passage from the end of the first volume of Dead Souls .

Two artists,Torquato Tasso and Rafael are also significant as points of reference. Though we do not know how much Gogol knew about them, the very fact that one of them was a painter and the other an epic poet exerted an uncanny, fated significance for Gogol's life. Painting both as appreciation and actual practice remained a secret passion during his entire life, and many of his references to painting (as in "The Portrait ") offer an important internal guideline to understanding Gogol's mind. Tasso's work, on the other hand, would ultimately serve as one of the great examples of how to write an epic poem when Gogol came to face the artistic problem of formulating his Dead Souls.

"The Ode to Italy" is not merely derivative, it also contains a number of awkward turns of vocabulary and metaphor. It also shows Gogol's ability to sustain a lyrical presentation over four stanzas (32 lines) and bring the poem to a pointed conclusion: a confessional de«nouement which justifies the ultimate rationale of its lyrical nature and geographical descriptions, echoing the poet's desire to identify with the beloved object.

Thus we can say that Gogol's first published effort remains undistinguished as poetry but is important as the subconscious recognition or revelation to the poet himself of his "own place" and thus, "one's own fate".

The same could also be said of the long narrative poem "Hanz Kuekhelgarten". 8 The story is an idyll of young Romantic love between Hanz Kuekhelgarten, a young man in his late teens in Wissmar, an imaginary German town, and the young Luiza who lives next door. They grow up together and in due time, their friendship turns into romantic love. Their parents and neighbors approve of this tender relationship and expect that they will marry one day and live happily ever after. This future happiness is interrupted, however, by an unexpected event: a strange "disease" causes Hanz to become more and more moody and depressed, and the reader realizes that he is suffering from the fashionable ailment of the day known as "Weltschmerz " to German Romantics, as "spleen" in Byron's English and as "toska " in Russian Romanticism. The first symptom of this "disease" is his turning away from his beloved Luiza to the dead letter of books, especially books on History:
 


As an illustration of those "ancient times", Gogol presents his "Ode to the Ancient World", namely Greek and Latin antiquity. The meter changes from four-foot iambic lines in the basic narration to six-foot iambic meters, and show off Gogol's entire repertoire of Classical references, probably acquired in school:
 


As the poem progresses, the "Ode to Athens" is supplemented by another, an Ode to that other ancient civilization, Israel. Both of these Odes, presented as Hanz's daydreams, have the strength to tear him away from the idyllic happiness and domestic coziness of his relations with his beloved Luiza. His departure takes place in secret: he sneaks away from the happy village of Lunensdorf and is appropriately delayed by his own foreboding as to the fated nature of his impending journey. These events are delivered in eight Songs (in six-line, four-foot iambic stanzas). Here, for instance is "Song I":
 


Appropriately, the last stanza of the eight songs is devoted to a farewell to Luiza and the promise of a speedy return. "How could Hanz forget you?" he proclaims.

Gogol shows considerable skill in the following cantos by delaying the climax of the action -- there are echoes here of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, of Tatyana's dream and the nightmare before Onegin turns up at Olga's name-day party. So, for example, after Hanz's mysterious departure, Luiza's family tries to figure out what happened to Hanz, and, in a parallel to Pushkin's Tatyana, Luiza visits Hanz's empty room to search for clues to his departure. She finds all the books that Hanz has been reading, just as Tatyana finds the books after his departure in Onegin's study. Luiza finds Plato, Schiller (described as "capricious ") Petrarch, Tieck, Aristophanes and the "forgotten" Winckelmann. 12

Luiza has three nightmarish visions before we see Hanz arriving at Athens, his desired goal (Canto XIII). But instead of the expected elation, both Hanz and the reader are gravely disappointed:
 

This line is twice repeated in the Canto, underlining the leitmotif of the experience. Hanz finds the long row of lifeless ruins meaningless. Gogol in his own voice will two decades later have nothing to say about his visit to Palestine, the intensely desired Holy Land:
 
The traveler has discovered the difference between dream and reality -- in the basic insight of the Romantics -- and finds that things can be adored only from a "beautifying distance". He turns around and after two years finds his way home to Lunensdorf, only to face the realization that time has not stood still there, either. The pastor, an old friend of the family, has died and Hanz's visit to his grave presents the author with an opportunity to produce some "graveyard" poetry which reflects upon the vanity of earthly existence.

Luiza, on the other hand, has done nothing but dutifully and mournfully await the return of her beloved. Hanz has to admit his mistake, but he justifies his wandering -- his "Wanderlust" ,in true Romantic style, claiming that his journey has served a higher aim, and achieved unspecified "greater glory". (The same staple Romantic concept is formulated in Griboedov's play: Woe comes from Wit ) 15

Hanz's remorse is followed by a "Duma" or, to use a free translation, a "Philosophical Thought", another form of the Ode, on the happiness of those who have found their "own place":
 

This "highest goal" of existence is finding "one's own place", one's vocation, one's occupation:
 
After his presentation of the eternal quest for "one's own place", Hanz moves on and wraps up the loose ends of the story, and Luiza's faithfulness is rewarded by the return of her remorseful lover:
 
The family and neighbors throw a party and prepare what is understood to be Hanz's and Luiza's wedding, or at least their celebration of eternal love.

Now Hanz says good-bye forever to his " Wanderlust ":
 

But then a strange thing happens: having renounced his search as an illusion for the greater happiness of love and family, the returned wanderer is suddenly saddened. A long and somewhat confused simile follows, in which Gogol describes Hanz's sadness for his lost friends in school:
 
Thus, the unexpected ending of the idyll is not that they lived happily ever after, but rather a new round of sadness, an "ennui" which is compared unfavorably to losing one's school friends. Some of Gogol's later works, for example, some of the short stories from the Dikanka cycle, reflect the same baffling ending.( "The Fair at Sorochints "ends with a wedding, but with an unanticipated feeling of evil foreboding.)

The Epilogue of the " Ode to Italy" presents another non sequitur as an apotheosis of Germany, foreshadowing the apotheosis of Russia at the end of Dead Souls in Vol. I -- in both cases, geographical identification symbolizes the poet's spiritual homeland of the Holy Grail, the never-attainable " svoe mesto ".

"One's own place" -- and nothing else. This non-sequitur becomes an important artistic device in Gogol's works, beginning with Hanz's adoration of Germany and followed by a similar adoration of the Ukraine, by Popryscin's desire to move to his "beloved" Spain, and last, but not least, to Gogol's pathetic writings on Russia and the Russian troika at the end of the first volume of Dead Souls.

Thus the youthful but ambitious Gogol ends his poetic exercise with an apotheosis to Germany, the "spiritual homeland", and, in a sudden twist, informs us that Germany is important because the great poet Goethe lived there and Goethe's spirit is evoked as the guiding spirit in the creation of this poem.


Footnotes for Chapter One.

1. D.Fanger: op. cit.pp.3-23. Chapter I.:The Gogol Problem: Perspectives from Absence

2. L. Kent: The Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol. Vol. 1-2.. See also : V.V. Veresayev: Gogol' v Zhizni, Ardis. (Reprint). 1983

3. Milton Ehre, ed.: The Theater of Nikolay Gogol, Introduction.p. X . The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

4. V.V. Veresayev: Gogol' v Zhizni, Ardis. (Reprint). 1983 p.58 passim.

5. N.V. Gogol': Sochineniya (izd. 14-oye, St. Ptbg. 1898). t. 1. str. 49.

6. ibid.p.49.
Italiya - roskoshnaya strana
Po ney dusha i stonet i toskuet

7. ibid.p.49.
yeshchye zhivut Rafael' i Torkvat
uzryu l' tebya ya, i polnyy ozhidaniy
Dusha v puchakh i dumy govoryat
Menya vletchet i zhzhet tvoye dykhaniye
Ya v nebesakh ves' zvuk i trepetaniye...

8. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (A.N. SSSR. 937-52) t. 1. str. 61-99. The English translations are mine. L.T. A complete English translation is available with notes and critical commentaries in Nikolai Gogol :Hanz Kuechelgarten, Leaving the Theater& Other Works, ed. Ronald Meyer, Ardis, Ann Arbor. 1990

9. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (A.N. SSSR. 1937-52) t. 1. str. 68.
On lyubit bukvy v ney nemyye
Glagolyat v nikh veka sedyye
I slovo divnoye gremit

10. ibid.p.69.
Zemlya klassicheskikh, prekrasnykh sozidaniy
I slavnykh del, i vol'nosti zemlya
Afiny, k vam, v zharu chudesnykh trepetaniy
Dushoy prikovyvayus' ya.

11. ibid.p.78.

12. svoenravny. Petrarca, Francesco ( 1304-74), Italian poet; Ludwig Tieck ( 1773-1853), German Romantic poet, critic, translator; Aristophanes ( 444-380 ), Greek drama writer; Jochann-Joachim Winkelmann ( 1717-1768 ); German art critic, historian.

13. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (A.N. SSSR. 1937-52) t. 1. str. 89.
Pechal'ny drevnosti Afiny

14. ibid.p.89.
Nevyrazymaya Pechal'
Mgnovenno putnika ob'yemlet
...........
Yemu i goryestno i zhal'
Zachem on put' syuda napravil.

15. A.S. Griboyedov: Gorye ot uma. (Goslitizdat) M-L. 1961, str. 49. Okhota stranstvovat' napala na nego (The lust for peregrination has seized him )

16. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (A.N. SSSR. 1937-52) t. 1 str. 95.
Blagosloven tot divnyy mig,
Kogda v poru samopoznan'ya,
B porye moguchikh sil svoikh
Tot, nebom izbrannyy, postig
Tsel' vysshuyu sushchestvovaniya

17. ibid. p. 95
No mysl' i krepka, i bodgra
Yego trudam velikim uchit
Dya nikh on zhizni ne shchadit

18. ibid. p.99.
I spal stradaniy tyazh son
s yego dushi zhivoy i spokoynoy,
Pererodilcya snova on.

19. ibid. p.99.
I vas, kovarnyye mechty,
Blagotvorit uzh on ne stanet
zemnoy poklonnik krasoty.

20. ibid. p.99.
I razmyshyayet on i stonet
I s nerazryvnoyu toskoy
Slezu nevol'nuyu uronit.



Chapter Two --The Ukrainisation of European Romanticism: First Attempts in Prose: Fragments

Aside from poetic experiments, Gogol was actively attempting prose: a number of short pieces and some fragments date to the first year of his stay in St. Petersburg.Titles like "Woman", "The Teacher", "The Successful Mission" (the latter from the uncompleted novel, The Terrible Boar) and "The Hetman" testify to this activity. But soon the fragments give way to complete short stories (the first of these is "St. John's Eve") which initiate a new phase in Gogol's literary career. In rapid succession, he published two volumes with eight -- or ten if one counts the "Foreword" in both volumes -- short stories with the general title: Evenings on the Farm near Dikanka. His fame was made by these stories and when we realize that Gogol was only twenty-two or three years old, both the volume and the diversity of his activity can be more than appreciated. Contemporary criticism met his writing with growing attention and praise, and in no time Gogol became well-known in the best of the literary circles of the capital, which included Zhukovsky, Pushkin and others.

The Jan. 1 issue of the Literaturnaya Gazeta published the strange, lyrical "Woman". 1 In five pages of passionately overblown Romantic prose, Gogol presents an allegorical love-affair between a young man named Telekles, described as a disciple of Plato, and a young woman called Alcyone. The story begins in media res with raving tirades by Telekles who complains that both God and men -- meaning both Zeus and his teacher Plato -- have deceived him. Zeus distills "all the poison of creation" in a single drop and poisons his entire creation by fashioning woman. Man (here the male part of mankind), able to praise God before the creation of Woman, now can only curse Him. Inquiring into God's possible motives, Telekles surmises that God must have become envious of human happiness. But Plato, the teacher, also receives his share of the blame for he has taught his disciples that woman is godlike, heavenly creature, the ideal of beauty.

When Plato is challenged, namely for his statement that "Woman is hell's creation" ,he forces his young disciple to retreat step by step and to realize the erroneous nature of his views. His first question is whether Telekles is capable of love. The question is almost an insult to Telekles: of course he is, more than anyone in the world. Further questions lock the youth deeper and deeper into his own contradictions until he has to admit that both Zeus and the teacher were correct in praising and having created Man.

As the plot unfolds, we begin to understand that the purported love story is an allegory of the artist and his art, or rather an ars poetica. The Gods have created Woman (i.e. art) in order to soften Man's heart, in order to turn his gaze beyond the face of his fellow-man and so that he can see God in his fellow-man through Woman.

This may sound like a confused argument, partly because we are missing the intensely gender-related references in the Russian text. While the word "Man" does not imply the immediate specifics of gender in English, (especially not as mankind), in Russian ( chelovek ) it is masculine. Woman, and all the pronouns which refer to her are feminine. The impression is created in Gogol's text, therefore, that Telekles is talking literally about a love story and about his disappointment with the fickle nature of his beloved Alcyone. But Plato's meaning is different: it emphasizes the general principle embodied in the particular love story and is able to make clear to Telekles that Alcyone's love is the singularly ennobling factor in human relations and that therefore no single man can claim possession of her. Once we understand the underlying idea of this seemingly straightforward love story, it becomes obvious how well Gogol's idea about the meaning of art has been thought out. The example he presents through Plato is a portrait of a man (in the masculine sense) who is only the external appearance of an idea. Both words, Idea and Woman, are feminine in Russian. Only through this double presentation of the real face of humankind (both male and female) can we reach divinely inspired art. Otherwise, art is just a picture and a false one at that, with no inspiration behind it. And lo and behold, as soon as Plato's arguments reach and convince the young man, Alcyone appears. It is not quite clear, however, whether she is a living person. She appears like a goddess, and at least in the adjective, used to describe her , she has "marble" arms (mramornaya ruka ) and she may actually be a statue.

Finally, Telekles throw himself at the feet of the "godlike creature": when she bends over the young man, a teardrop falls on his inflamed cheek. ( Does this indicate that she feels compassion for him? Is he forgiven? And from now on will his newly won understanding of "Woman -- that is, of Art -- not hinder but further the unequal love affair ? )

Considering that Gogol was only twenty and a beginning artist, it is appropriate to recognize in this "Greek" allegory the complex inter-relationship between art and the artist. In many respects, it is a revealing picture with continued relevance for Gogol in his future writing. The formulation that art is unattainable when it is pursued with a misdirected "love", but returns willingly when man approaches it (her) humbly and with a genuine, "real" love, enables the artist to produce God-inspired art. This fundamental idea, in its variations, becomes the essential theme with which Gogol was to wrestle throughout his life as an artist.

This is the first formulation of his ars poetica (the divine inspiration of art). It merges readily with another aspect of his philosophy of art: "the eternal Wanderlust" (restless desire to roam) as it is expressed earliest in the narrative poem: "Hanz Kuekhelgarten". This story has been treated lightly by most commentators as an exercise in youthful derivation from German idealism, or as an awful example of Gogol's syrupy romanticism. But a closer look reveals Gogol's ars poetica as an allegorical investigation into the meaning of art. It is a passionate plea for a joyous recognition of a high-minded art, comparable to other great examples from world-literature -- Dante's Beatrice, Goethe's Graetchen in the concept of the "eternal feminine" (" das ewig Weibliche ").

For this reason, we have to disagree with Karlinsky's interpretation 2 which reads here homosexual passion into this story. Instead of homosexuality, Gogol has presented a quasi-Greek, classical allegory about the meaning of art, cloaked as a love fable: "Art is the homeland of the soul, the beautiful striving of man to see beyond the transitory, the return to man's innocence before the fall " : in other words, the place where "everything is home" ( vse rodina).

It is also interesting that Gogol has chosen the allegory of a Greek legend, or what resembles a Greek legend, for the love of Telekles and Alcyone is unknown to Greek mythology. 3 Alcyone is the heroine of a different myth, as Ovid tells us: She is the daughter of Aeolus, king of the winds, and the wife of Ceyx. To pursue his "Wanderlust", Ceyx leaves his wife and perishes in a storm at sea. The gods listen to the bereaved Alcyone's request to become a bird and turn her into a kingfisher so that she may join her husband in the waves.

The name Telekles does not appear in any ancient legend, unless Gogol had Teleclydes in mind, the Athenian comic poet who lived ca. 445 BC. Whether Gogol intentionally or not changed the name to Telekles is hard to say, but its etymology seems to make sense in Greek as the "distant flame". Did Gogol think of himself as a "distant flame", in love with the goddess of poetry and artistic inspiration?

A final comment on this "Greek" legend: throughout his literary life, Gogol takes well-known stories, fables and anecdotes and turns them into his own. In most cases, his renditions are somewhat baffling, often acting merely as the starting point rather than as the continuation or imitation of the original. " Vii " is a case in point, as is the story of " The Overcoat ", both of which will be discussed below.

But we should note here that the alleged "Greek" legend, with all its distortions of chronology -- Teleclydes could hardly have been a disciple of Plato -- nor does Telekles exist in Greek mythological, or for that matter, in historical literature, the invention is entirely Gogol's.

Another curious work of a similar nature is from the same period (dated late in 1830, except that it remained unpublished): "Boris Godunov " (Pushkin's Drama )" 4 which he dedicated to P.A.Pletnev. This short piece, consisting of about five printed pages, purports to be review of Pushkin's Boris Godunov which was published in 1831 (Gogol's dating of the article is probably a mistake). From the outset, it is obvious that the "review" is not so much an analysis of Pushkin's drama as it is a sort of short story and "legend" about the meaning of art.

It begins strangely as a fictional narrative greatly resembling the later Petersburg Tales. A medley of voices in a bookstore with people talking about Pushkin's Boris Godunov sets the stage. Much of the dialogue is clearly Gogol's ironic commentary on the banality of people's views on art and foreshadows a similar exercise some six years later in which Gogol will describe the reaction of the theatergoing public to his play,"The Inspector General" ("After the Theater"). Characteristically, the bookseller is the last person to say something; he praises the poem as one written with "feelings", since "4,000 copies were sold in two hours!" -- a nice Gogolian comment.

At this point, two other browsers enter the conversation: a certain Elladi and his friend Pollior. Elladi is the naive art-lover, while his friend Pollior seems to be an artist, or rather, a poet. Elladi wants to know what his friend thinks of Pushkin's work. Instead of a simple answer, he receives a lecture about the meaning of art. Gogol adds further refinements to some of the ideas, already expressed in "Woman", about how preposterous it is for the uninitiated to express an opinion about art. It is meaningless to rank artists; one can judge art only by the effect it has upon the recipient: real art is like "fire in one's veins", and the true artist is "God's incarnation".

The best way to test this effect is to read a work together with a "trusted friend": if the reading strengthens the friendship, if the friends' souls "merge" as the result of the artistic experience to the point that " man disappears and the soul enters a magnificent, unfathomable building, on the decaying debris of the body", then there is no more need to talk about the effect or the meaning of art.

Throughout this high-flying and passionate presentation, Pollior begins to sound more and more like the later Gogol, who gives practical advice to friends and readers on just about anything, from how to say their prayers to the best methods of farm management (e.g. Tententnikov's lectures in Dead Souls).

The same can also be said of the anticipated results: Gogol's advice will not lead to a better understanding of art, but provides the actual transformation of life in an instant. (A. Sinyavsky notes in his book In Gogol's Shadows , that from youth on, Gogol believed in and portrayed the possibility of a "miraculous" transformation of the world through a touch of "magic" ) . Here Gogol suggests that the result of this common reading of great literary works will be "so much goodness, so much profit, and so much mutual happiness to the world." 5

Especially interesting is the use of the word "profit", ( pribyl' ) i.e. a "tangible material gain". This remains an important consideration throughout Gogol's life until his unsuccessful attempts to turn the second volume of Dead Souls (through magic, of course) into a work beneficial to his "fellow citizens" ( sootechestvenniki ) body and soul.

The actual "review" of Pushkin's work is left to the very end. Here Gogol's text becomes breathlessly adulatory, clearly indicative of his high opinion of Pushkin's drama: "Oh, how great is the regal martyr (Boris Godunov)! He could have brought so much goodness, profit , happiness to the world -- and nobody understood him. Fate's decision hangs above his head .Past life, as if summoned by the sad pealing of a bell, surrounds him! The dead come alive ... and your [Pushkin's] wondrous images strike a sparkle and echo infinity, growing incessantly." 6

The "review" ends with a panegyric to the "wonderful poet" (divny poet ). Gogol addresses him here almost as a demigod. Talking to a demigod evidently calls for highly ceremonial language, and young Gogol apparently considered this an obligatory requirement for good art. His style becomes encumbered to the point of incoherence, and in an almost religious trance, the final paragraphs become an "oath " to " follow the holy example": "Like a man in fetters, surrounding reality ceases to exist, who does not hear, does not listen, does not understand anything. I am devouring your pages, wondrous poet." Then he speaks of the effect Boris Godunov has had on him: it makes history come alive, and in a moment like this, he continues," I would give anything to see a copy of myself in my fellow man What kind of treasures would I not sacrifice to acquire such a blessing! I would address heaven with raised arms: here, take everything, everything from me, but send this being who understands me! ... Oh, Almighty! Why did you give me an incomplete soul? Complete it now, or take back the other half!" 7

The urgency of some of these expressions becomes part of Gogol's permanent style, in fact, the very fabric of his art. Andrei Sinyavsky notes that the Selected Passages is permeated with this sort of breathlessness, which began as stylistic device in Gogol's youth. 8 Interestingly enough, this can best be seen in the comedies: in "The Inspector General", (Bobcinsky and Dobcinsky, the sc. the "homunculi", according to Nabokov 9) or in the high-pitched rhetoric of the tragic Ukrainian epic, the Taras Bul'ba.

Another example of this pattern of youthful leitmotifs is Gogol's treatment of history as a subject-matter for art. Referring to the historicity of Pushkin's drama, Gogol underlines the fact that Pushkin's work makes "history come alive" -- a feature so important to Gogol's own attempts to write about Ukrainian History. History for him is not a "science" (in terms of the Russian "nauka", or the German "Wissenschaft"); what interests him is that "the dead come alive" -- and is this not an uncanny foreshadowing of Dead Souls wherein Gogol "resurrects" the dead serfs by trading them as if they were alive? History is fiction, narration, a psychological drama. (Given that sort of understanding of history, it is easy to see why Gogol during the curious interlude in his career as a professor of History had great difficulties , in convincing the University authorities or his students, for that matter, that he was a disinterested scholar of history.)

Further on, Gogol uses an "oath" to express his "holy obligation" and to follow in Pushkin's footsteps: he swears that he is still "clean", unspoiled by the "abominable feeling of profit mindedness", fawning and petty egotism:, and therefore is still able to follow the "sacred standards of art" set by Pushkin. He swears to "die a horrible death" if he veer leaves this road. This sounds like the high-minded, lofty Cossaks in the Dikanka stories -- Danilo, for example -- swearing eternal faithfulness to their beloved.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the two interlocutors in this review have Greek-sounding names: Elladi and Pollior. The impression is created that they are taken from Greek mythology, perhaps Castor and Pollux, that is, to judge by the friendship they display and the lofty speeches they make. But the more one searches for the source of the "legend", the more it becomes obvious that Gogol has created his own mythology, or rather has cloaked his characters in mythological garb. Elladi is simply the Greek word for a Hellene, a citizen of ancient Greece, while the name of his partner, the poet Pollior, means a "rich man". Knowing that Gogol's financial situation was rather strained at the time, to say the least -- all his letters to his mother are variations on the same basic message, send money -- it is hard to imagine that Gogol, in applying the name Pollior to himself, would have meant richness in financial terms. It is rather spiritual richness that he is talking about. The other name, Elladi, is probably a reference to a friend, perhaps the professor of History, to whom this piece is dedicated. Gogol's application of a Greek name and his formula of a dialogue between two Greek learned men is a leftover from his classicist period and, judging by similar incidence in his later works (in Dead Souls, for example, Manilov's sons have Greek names), becomes a permanent feature of Gogol's art.

Looking further at the fragments and short stories of the period not included in the Dikanka cycles, the stories "the Terrible Boar" and "The Hetman" deserve mention. Both were published in the literary weekly, Literaturnaya Gazeta, in 1831, the first chapter called "The Teacher", in January 1, and second called "The Messenger", on March 22. 10

The stories, two chapters from an uncompleted novel, deal with the arrival of a new teacher in the Ukrainian village Mandryk, and describe the reaction of the villagers to the new- comer as well as this reaction to them. The second chapter continues a scheme that the new teacher and his freshly acquired friend , Kukhmister, " cook up": to obtain the hand of the beautiful young daughter of the village Cossack chieftain. The proposal is made on behalf of the teacher by his friend, a cook in the house of a middle-aged widow, where the teacher has found lodging. During the matchmaking, however, the matchmaker falls in love with the beautiful Catherine and proposes to her himself. The proposal quickly turns to kissing until it is interrupted by the wife of the local pub-keeper, Mrs. Simonikha, whose name is obviously Jewish. At this point, the story stops.

It has the same atmosphere as the tales in the Dikanka cycle. It is well written and humorous. Gogol is here at his best in stylistic and logical non-sequiturs, writing delightfully in a quaint Russian-Ukrainian language. The characters themselves are the typical Gogolian puppet-theater-like characters. The teacher, Ivan Osipovic (we do not know his surname), is freshly out of a seminary, or teacher's college.

He is not exactly a scholarly type, or, as Gogol puts it: "He was frightened by the abyss of wisdom." 11 He is the sort of scholar that many Ukrainian peasant Cossack sons probably were in the Latinized, Polish-oriented schools so well portrayed by Gogol in "Vii " and in Taras Bul'ba. He is the butt of needling and pranks by his fellow "scholars", very much like Gogol himself of Akaki Akakievic later in "The Overcoat". Since Ivan Osipovic was "not in a great hurry to graduate from the school", the incoming freshman classes taunted him for lack of progress. Further distinguishing features of this character include such remarkable possessions as his overcoat, which was light blue, with large, black bone buttons, which absolutely made him the seventh wonder of the universe among the villagers. Furthermore, his entire figure looked "like a bottle", ending with the narrow part, where his head was. In retrospect, some of Gogol's later characters are shaped here in this early Cossack "intellectual". Other remarkable qualities includeamong other things his "extreme fondness for eating" and tasting all kinds of home brew and cooking. A veritable Gogolian feast is presented to the reader -- just as in " The Old World Landowners ". The person providing him with all these worldly delights is a familiar Gogolian figure: the middle-aged woman: Anna Ivanovna, a widow, who may or may not be beyond sexual interests, even though there are hints that Ivan Osipovic was "fondly looking at the barrel-shaped" figure of his landlady. But, interestingly enough, the teacher is not greatly interested in the taunting and flirting village beauties. Instead, he strikes up a friendship with Anna Ivanovna's cook, identified only by his professional designation as "the Cook" (Kukhmister, probably from the German "Kochmeister "). But before we come to any wrong conclusions, such as of homosexual leanings, we discover that other passions join these two young men, "like Orestes and Pilad in the ancient world". The comparison is Gogol's --in a typical combination of the mock-classicist style in which low topics or characters are compared to well-known heroic situations or characters from classical Greek and Latin literature. Thus it is not sex, but rather another passion, for alcohol, that has united these two Ukrainian heroes. Curiously, later A. Sinyavsky, in his collection of aphorisms, Thoughts Unaware 12 speaks of the two basic passions of the Russian character, for sex and alcohol. He points out, however, that for the "real" Russian, sex is of secondary importance; the black magic of sex is usually left for "Frenchmen" and other non-Russian "foreigners", while "for the Russian", the "white magic" of alcohol is temptation number one.

Not surprisingly, Gogol quotes the Latin dictum, Homo proponit, Deus disposit (Man proposes but God disposes). The unexpected happens: Ivan Osipovic falls inadvertently in love with the beautiful Catherine after having glanced at her "lily-white body" as she was taking a bath in the local brook.

Now he sends his friend Kukhmister to act as a matchmaker. The matchmaker's falling in love with the intended match is a typical Gogolian topsy-turvy situation, a reversal of roles important to his fiction. How the story would have continued, and how the title, "The Terrible Boar", would have been played out, we do not know; but elements from the story will return in the Dikanka stories, for instance, the matchmaking by and to the wrong person in the " May Night"; and, of course, the entire fairy-tale Ukrainian village, with its "typical" characters, will come back in the Ukrainian tales and further down the road, even in certain features of Dead Souls.

Another fragment from the same period also deals with a Ukrainian theme from the history of the mid-17th Century, when the Ukraine was under Polish occupation following the "Time of the Troubles". For Gogol, this period of Ukrainian history takes place amidst a magnificent natural world, full of heroic deeds, superhuman heroes and splendid battles. The love affairs of the young are contrasted with graver concerns of the older generation. One of Gogol's best-loved themes was that history is an epic poem, surpassing in proportions and significance any ordinary narration. It was sustained and supported by his admiration for Homer's Iliad, his favorite of all heroic epics. One might ask whether he was first drawn by his love of the Iliad or by his interest in a heroic vision of Ukrainian history. Judging by other stories to be discussed later, it is tempting to say that Gogol's interest in the Iliad led to his interest in an heroic presentation of the Ukraine, and not the other way around. It should also be noted that in the Selected Passages he enthusiastically reviewed Zhukovsky's translation of the Iliad.

In this fragment, called " The Hetman " (Ataman) 13 Gogol portrays the beginning of the struggle for independence against Polish rule in the Ukraine. The Cossack troops, concentrating in the area of Zaporozhye, spread out to the occupied territories in order to attack the Polish Ulan units there. In the extant excerpt, the Cossack officer Taras Ostranitsa (apparently an early version of Taras Bul'ba ) visits the midnight mass in the village of Komyshna during the Easter celebration in April of 1645. The description of the Ukrainian night, the village church, the Cossacks' celebrating, all will become familiar images in Gogol's Ukrainian fiction, as will the elements of conflict: the thensions between the Roman-Catholic Poles and the Eastern Orthodox Ukrainians; and the feeling on the side of the Ukrainians that the Poles, like all Catholics -- are engaged in sacrilegious violation of their religion, their inherited faith. Gogol here reflects the voice of insulted national and religious sensibilities by portraying the Poles as employing Jewish tax-collectors. They collected taxes on the food brought for consecrationinto the church by the Cossacks during the Easter service to be consecrated as is the custom during Easter in the Orthodox Church. This insult is tolerated-grudgingly -- by most of the Ukrainians present, until a Jew bodily insults an old Cossack. When the help of a Polish soldier is sought, who behaves in a rude and insulting manner, the tolerance ends and the Ukrainians lynch the Jew. The same fate would have befallen the Polish Ulan as well, had the Cossack Captain from Zaporozhye (Taras Ostranitsa ) not intervened. He is at the Easter celebration incognito, and tells them that it is beyond the dignity of the Cossacks to fall upon "one single soldier".

Ostranitsa is followed by an old Cossack, Pudyko, who gives further details to Taras about the insulted national feelings, and presses the question (which was apparently the question of the entire Ukrainian nation) as to when the uprising against the Poles is to begin. Instead of an uprising, however, Gogol presents a love story: Ostranitsa secretly visits the beautiful eighteen year-old Galina(Galya) who, we discover, is not just his beloved, but also the daughter of a Cossack siding with the Poles.

Obviously the conflict between love and loyalty, leading to conflict between father and son inTaras Bul'ba , is being prepared here. We are also introduced to another element of Gogol's treatment of the topic: Galya's tortuous choice between her mother and her beloved Taras. Taras' predicament is also significant: he must decide whether Galya's hesitation to go with him is a sign of strong filial devotion to her mother, or of weak devotion to him. The other question here addressed is of the "proper place" ( svoe mesto ) for a hero. Is he to pursue family happiness (here, the love of Galya) or is he to forgo personal happiness for the sake of a sacred battle for the Fatherland? Under the direct influence of Galina's beautiful eyes, Taras considers leaving the Cossack camp or asking for pardon from the Polish King -- or from the Turkish Sultan with whom the Cossacks have also been on a war footing. The story ends with a colorful description of the Cossacks' celebration of Easter. There Taras has the opportunity to talk to his commanding officer, the Ataman, and asks him for some leave so that he can make a side-trip to Warsaw. It is not quite clear what he wants to do there, but the implication is that he wants to see if his personal plans will work out even though he lets the Ataman understand that he plans to go to reconnoiter the Polish forces. The Ataman's response is non-committal. At that point, the fragment ends.

The fragment is a masterpiece: a bittersweet, broad picture of "historical" Cossack life as Gogol has imagined it. Superhuman heroes permeate the tale with a sort of supernatural machismo . Similar portraits of such supernatural egos reappear in others of Gogol's Ukrainian tales (e.g. in Taras Bul'ba ) and have led some critics to the unjust accusation that Gogol is preaching these values as admirable, as positive. Gogol is no more chauvinistic than any other author of epic or historical work which depict an imaginary heroic world and not an actual historical reality. One has only to look at the seemingly contradictory attitude of the Cossacks to women: on the one hand, Taras adores his Galya; on the other, women are a curse, an aberration within God's creation, since they distract men from their "sacred obligation" to devote themselves exclusively to the "Holy Cause", be it the Fatherland, the "true" religion, manly camaraderie, or any other abstract notion demanding unconditional loyalty from the dedicated male. In portraying this machismo, Gogol is able to convey the notion of a "fated place" ( svoe mesto ) for the male in history, in a tragic determinism which in most cases leads to great personal and national tragedies -- as we shall see in Taras Bul'ba and in other pieces of fiction as well.

A further proof of Gogol's understanding of this tragic determinism implicit in gender is visible in his portrayal of older women who are mothers, nannies of the warrior Cossacks, or the wives of the older men. Gogol portrays them with astonishing tenderness and compassion as the ultimate tragic heroines, sufferers victimized by men's blind devotion to abstract causes. For this reason, this fragment drawn ostensibly from the heroic Ukrainian struggle against the Polish oppressors as seen through the romance of Taras and Galya, ends not with an exhortation on national causes nor a celebration of romantic love, but rather with a tragic understanding that human history's contradictions are born out on the aged backs and broken hearts of old women: "One had only to glance at the unhappy remains of a person, at this personified suffering, in order to feel in one's soul an indescribable and agonizing feeling. Imagine for yourself, an elongated, withered, passionless face, eyes black as coals, many years ago the very center of a fiery storm of passion, now staring ahead fixedly: lips the color of a dead body, which many years ago were as fresh as the radiant red of a ripe apple. And who could have imagined that these dry, withered ruins, these features, were many years ago so devilishly seductive, that the movement of these formerly proud and magnificent eyebrows granted a happiness unknown on earth! But everything has passed, passed unnoticed; and in its place has finally appeared only a passionless tolerance and boundless obedience." 14

With these youthful experiments and fragments, Gogol prepared the road for his entrance into literature which finally occurred with the publication of two volumes of short stories dealing with Ukrainian topics: Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka.

Footnotes to Chapter Two.

1. N.V. Gogol': Sochineniya (isd. 14-oye. St. Ptbr. 1898) t. 1. str. 53-114. (Yunosheskiye opyty) str. 67: (Zhenshchina.) See also : N.Gogol: Hanz Kuechelgarten et al. ed. R. Meyer op.cit. p. 95

2. Simon Karlinsky: op.cit. p.28

3. Edith Hamilton: Mythology. Little Brown, N.Y.1942.

4. N.V. Gogol': Sochineniya (izd. 14-oe. St. Ptbr. 1898) t. 1. str. 72

5. N.V. Gogol': Sochineniya (izd. 14-oye St. Ptbr. 1898) t. 1 str. 78.

6. N.V. Gogol': op.cit.p.73. The word Gogol uses is : pribyl ', i.e. profit .

7. .ibid.p.73

8. .ibid.p.75.

9. Abram Terts: V teni Gogolya, op.cit.p.35

10. .Vladimir Nabokov:N.V.Gogol.op.cit. p.58.

11. N.V. Gogol': op.cit.p.80 ( Ataman)

12. N.V. Gogol': op.cit.p.82 ( Ataman)

13. Abram Terts: Mysli vrasplokh. Rausen Publishers.N.Y.1966.p.79.

14. N.V. Gogol': op.cit.p.102.


Chapter Three -- The Wedding as the Central Organizing Force in the Early Short Stories: the Dikanka Cycle

The two volumes of Evenings on the Farm near Dikanka 1published in 1831 and 1832 when the author was twenty-two and twenty-three, paved Gogol's way into the innermost circles of Russian literature of the day. The stories were fresh, original, representing a new voice, the innovations of a strong young talent. The volumes showed a fertile imagination, an unfettered sense of humor, as well as an underlying preoccupation with transcendental issues: God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell appear in both humorous and horrifying form. The stories also displayed a creative discipline and hinted at a compositional design for a delicate balance within both volumes. Each volume contains four stories and a Foreword by a fictional story-teller, a certain "beekeeper", Rudi Panko; each ends with a story not being thematically to the tales preceding, served up as a sort of cadenza. This arrangement creates a sense of commonality among the different stories, a structure that Gogol was to retain in such future works as the " Terrible Vengeance" in which the two parts complement and explain one another-- and even in the intended second volume of Dead Souls. Such an arrangement seems to have grown out of Gogol's personal ars poetica which advocates a need for mystery, for an explanation which keeps the reader pondering on the story's "real" inner meaning.

A first look raises the question of the role of the fictional story-teller -- or story-tellers if we include the sexton as a separate narrator in "St. John's Eve ". We know from critical literature that Gogol did not originally have a fictional narrator for the volume as a whole. It was suggested to him by Pletnev, and Gogol obliged. the arrangement clearly had its advantages, since it allows the "real" narrator to hide behind the invented story-teller. It was, however, also a literary mannerism of the period -- we remember Hoffmann's tales like " The Sandman " or Pushkin's Belkin's Tales.

The first story, "St.John's Eve", published in 1831, offers such a fictional storyteller in Foma Grigorevic. The device must have made it easier for Gogol to supply another invented narrator for the entire series. He is Rudi Panko, a "beekeeper" (are there similarities to Gogol's father?), a talkative, provincial good-natured simpleton, who converses in a barely literate, colloquial language which is permeated with strange humor. But the Introduction itself is not just gossipy chatter, piling nonsense upon nonsense: Gogol has a definite goal in mind for the fictional narrator. Through him, Gogol explains to the "foreign" Russian readers -- that is, the audience in St. Petersburg -- Rudi Panko's stories are "legitimate" literature, as much so as the literature familiar to high society. Their styles are similar, they are told at evening gatherings in the Ukrainian countryside after work is done -- when people settle down to recount stories for each others' amusement in just the same ways that stories are told in the circles of Russian society at their own social gatherings. Funny stories, scary stories are the staple of this "oral literature", as well as folk songs, riddles, jokes and just plain babble, exuberant linguistic nonsense. Thus it should be obvious that Gogol's aim is not just a "realistic" retelling of some Ukrainian fables (some critics scolded him for not being true to the real folklore of the Ukraine) but rather discovering within them the "original source "of all mankind's literary, narrative activity. We are thus prepared for Gogol's excitement over the Iliad in Zhukovsky's translation and see why Rudi Panko spends so much time in the Introduction explaining the art of narration: a story must be told in the right place at the right time, using the right language and the right subject-matter. As an example of "bad" narration, he recalls the case of an "educated" young Cossack's telling school jokes (very much as in Gogol's own experience) to his village audience. The narration was unsuccessful because it violated these principles. Gogol presents the "right " way by introducing the second narrator: the village Sexton, Foma Grigorevic. A lesser writer would have given us an "exemplary tale", thus probably killing the reader's interest in the rest of the volume. But Gogol cleverly postpones our expectations through long preparation, never leading to what is expected -- since something more important comes up. The fresh rolls are simply taken out of the oven and everybody, including the narrator, falls for the rolls instead of listening to his tales.

Several elements are interesting here: even at this early age, and in these folklore-like stories, Gogol shows a serious interest in the art of story-telling as such -- in the ars poetica as well the personality of an artist. He spends a page in describing Foma Grigorevic's appearance: his character, habits, his coat, his boots, the fine handkerchief he uses to blow his nose, his tobacco box. "He took out his round lacquered snuffbox, flicked his finger on the mug of some Mussulman general..." 2 But, alas, he could not get to his story because of the freshly baked rolls. We see here the onset, noted so perceptively by Obolensky 3 of Gogol's preoccupation with food -- and this coming from a man who practically starved himself to death at the end and who all his life complained about pain in his stomach.

But quite apart from psycho-somatic phenomena, we also see that Gogol has already established a hierarchy in human values: narration is one thing; food is another as (or as Berthold Brecht expressed it: "Erst kommt das Fressen und dann die Moral!"--First stuff your belly and then talk about morals! ) 4 The topic recurs in Gogol's fiction, and as we shall see later, here he jocularly established the primacy of matter over spiritual considerations. This concept lies at the root of some of the most serious philosophical and religious challenges and in the crises of both Gogol's life and his fiction.

Beside Foma Grigorevic, Gogol -- or rather Rudi Panko --mentions another story-teller. This one remains mysterious, unnamed, because his stories are said to be horrible: "He has such a store of frightening tales that it makes the hair stand up on one's head." We are not told the identity of this mysterious story-teller: Can it be Gogol himself? Or does this anonymity rather represent Gogol's eternal urge for mystification, for a later "explanation", thus keeping his readers always on edge, awaiting the deŽnouement which never comes?

Clearly, confessions about the art of story-telling are as important as the stories themselves. they show a Gogol fully aware of his artistic achievement: his tales are by no means simple folk tales narrated by village bumpkins and transcribed by an illiterate scribe, but rather the Kunstmaerchen of the German Romantic age known to Gogol from the works of Hoffmann , 5 Tieck and others. With his Ukrainian tales, Gogol has followed one of the main literary trends of the period and has domesticated a foreign influence to his own visionary purposes.

Chronologically, the first story to be published was " St. John's Eve ", but when the stories were collected, this slipped to second place, to be replaced by "The Fair at Sorocints". The reasons for this change Gogol does not explain, but the internal logic of the sequence makes it clear that the change was significant. Why? For one thing, "The Fair at Sorocints" introduces the underlying philosophical vision that connects them all, namely, that the world is a topsy-turvy place to live in. At stake here are not just the usual human motives -- passions, love, greed, foolishness -- but also a transcendental interference in the form of the machinations of the Devil. Not since Medieval times was there a Russian writer who portrayed this world view with so much gusto, humor, fear and credibility as Gogol.

In "The Fair at Sorocints" , this view is offered in what we might call an Apocrypha to the known lore of the Devil (Chapter VII), for instance, in the tale where the " devil was kicked out of Hell...just as a peasant turns a dog out of his hut. Perhaps a whim came over him to do a good deed...and the poor devil was so homesick for Hell that he was ready to hang himself." 6

Sure enough, the Devil in his loneliness takes to drink and when he is broke, he pawns his "red jacket" to the Jewish innkeeper who, naturally, double-crosses him, selling the jacket before the Devil can redeem his pledge. The jacket has been sold to a "gentleman" who happened along opportunely, but who is subsequently robbed on the road by a gypsy who "... sold it to a peddler woman", who in turn, takes it back to Sorochints to the fair. Since she cannot sell it there, she thrusts it into a peasant's cart. It brings him bad luck as well, and he finally gets so angry at it that he chops it into pieces with an axe and casts the bits abroad. "But ever since, just at the time of the fair, the Devil walks all over the market place with a pig-face, grunting and collecting the pieces of his jacket." 7

This complex apocryphal narrative, with its far - reaching implications, ostensibly about the casting of the Devil from Hell, provides the "mythological" background to the "realistic" part of Gogol's story: a low-level peasant tale about the Cossack Solopy, who goes to the fair purportedly to sell his grain, but actually to have a good time without the supervision of his querulous wife, Khivrya. She is his second wife, and just like Tolstoy's Akula in the Power of Darkness 8is a sensuous, coarse, and, as we will discover, adulterous woman, immediately recognized by the young lads on the road as a "witch". She is fully aware of her husband's real intentions and certainly has no desire to let him go to the fair alone. She joins him so that she, too, can have a good time, in her own way. A good time for Solopy means getting drunk with like-minded buddies, while Khivrya has other things on her mind, namely, illicit sex. This sort of distribution of "earthly delights" is an important element in Gogol's presentation of the "inconstancy of the human condition" ("die Unzunlaenglichkeit menschlicher Verhaltnisse" -- as Brecht called it) 9 where corrupt, adulterous, sensuous sex takes the lowest rung on the hierarchy of human sinfulness, to be followed some way behind by drunkenness at the same level as gluttony. The paintings of Breugel of Hieronymus Bosch 10 or Dante's Divine Comedy 11 as well as Andrei Sinyavsky's The Fantastic Stories of Abram Tertz 13 spring to mind. Indeed, we can already observe an important element of Gogol's palette: a "medieval world view" (Mochulsky) replete with sins and horrible punishments which await sinners here and in the after life. God and, especially, the Devil, are direct participants in this world, present in an ever-confusing variety of manifestations, just as in a Medieval mystery play. Thus "realistic" occurrences appear to be so "alienated" from "everyday reality": everything that happens does so imperceptibly, on many levels -- not just on the here and now, but, also on the "heavenly" a-historical plane. Conversations only sound real, but they are actually distant echoes of "conversations" from other worlds, from "other dimensions". Actions appear almost dream-like, and "reality" and "fantasy" interact without any significant distinction. Doubtless, the reader will recognize in some of these phenomena, the standard Romantic sense of alienation from the perceptible world.

In"The Fair at Sorocints" ,the piggish actions of the adult sinners erupting in sex and drunkenness are appropriately matched by the Devil's appearances on earth: Pig snouts in all sizes and shapes wreck havoc on human desires, interrupting human interactions, be they the drunken parties of the men in the tavern or the amorous adventures of Khivrya and her would-be lover, Afanasi Ivanovic, son of the local priest. The conversation between the two is one of the funniest of Gogol's inventions: the hypocrisy of the priest's son is presented through an hilarious combination of ostentatious Old-Church Slavonic, colloquial Ukrainian and phrases from Russian languages.

In contrast to this corrupt debauchery is the innocent love of the young people, between Paraska, Solopy's daughter by his first wife, and a youth from the neighboring village, Gritsko Golopupenko. The etymology of the latter's name, by the way, is also hilariously funny: it is the composite of (goly ) naked, and (pupa ) backside. Love occurs at first sight, and a marriage proposal follows on the first moment. Is it any wonder, then, that their wedding closes the story as the victory of innocent love over the corrupt behavior of the step-mother and all the evil she represents ? Here, surely, is the Cinderella story in Ukrainian garb!

Thus, sex in itself is not the evil force. Sex, as a matter of fact, is symbolic of pure "earthly delight" manifest also in nature, as it is seen in the opening paragraphs where Gogol sings a hymn to the beauty of the Ukrainian countryside. As critics have noticed (Setchkarev, Karlinsky) , 14 Gogol has presented a primordial vision of Mother Nature, of fertility personified, in a Ukrainian Garden of Eden, where everything radiates with the joy of creation. The celebration of the wedding, therefore, is the most appropriate means for humanity to participate in the mystery of God's glorious design of the Universe.

It would be logical to assume that the story will close with this happy event, but Gogol ends it on a dark and mysteriously tragic foreboding note: the grotesque sight of old women, dancing at the wedding: "the old women, whose ancient faces breathed the in-difference of the tomb.Caring for nothing, indifferent, long removed from the joy of childhood, wanting only to drink and get drunk, it was as if a puppeteer were tugging the strings that held his wooden puppets, making them do things that seemed human; yet they slowly wagged their drunken heads, dancing after the rejoicing crowd, not once glancing at the young couple." 15

If this is a rather melancholy picture, indicative of Gogol's morbid preoccupation with the unavoidable nature of death and decay, the final sentences of the story extend this world-weariness (skuka ) to the narrator himself: "Is it not thus that joy, that lovely and fleeting guest, flies from us? In vain, the last solitary note tries to express gaiety; in its echo it hears melancholy and emptiness and listens to it, bewildered. Is it not thus that those who have been playful friends in their free and stormy youth stray one by one, lost, lost in the world, and leave their old comrade lonely and forlorn at last? Sad is the lot of the one left behind! Heavy and sorrowful is this heart and nothing can help him." 16

Here ends the first of the three love stories in Volume One. The others are more intricate and weave in more complex threads. "St.John's Eve ( Ivan Kupala )" derives its complexity from the philosophical problem of buying happiness at the price of the suffering of the Innocents. The identical problem tormented Ivan of Dostoevsky's Karamazov brothers. Gogol's version masks this question in all sorts of witchcraft, but it boils down basically to the question of whether the young lovers, Petro and Pidurka, can be happy at the cost of the life of Pidurka's innocent brother, the six year-old Ivas. Unwittingly, and under the influence of witchcraft via a "stranger" in the village called Basavriuk, (the word is an obvious form of the Slavic "bes", the Devil), Petro kills the boy and marries Pidurka. But the marriage is not blessed: Petro soon falls into a melancholy mood, and finally burns to ashes, before Pidurka's eyes. Pidurka in turn becomes a nun.

Quite apart from its moral skeleton, the story is a little jewel of narration. Gogol startes out again by creating some confusion as to the identity of the narrator and the origin of the story. In the first, half-page paragraph, at least five different narrators are identified . A narrator in the first person singular introduces another source: Foma Grigorevic, whose stories have been published by some "shady characters" : "...it happened that one of those people -- it is hard for us simple folk to know what to call them, for scriveners they are not, but they are like the artists at our fairs" they beg, they grab, they filch all sorts of things and bring out a little book, no thicker than a child's reader, every month or every week..." 17 If this were not confusing enough, Gogol thickens the plot, as one of these characters' publications which includes the story of Foma Grigorevic gets to Dikanka via Narrator Number Four: "that young gentleman in the pea-green coat of whom I have already told you and whose story I believe you have read, arrives from Poltava, brings with him a little book, and, opening it up in the middle, shows it to us." 18

Thus, having started with narrator Number One, we move to Foma Grigorevic, then to the scriveners, and finally to that young gentleman from Poltava in the pea-green coat. Four different narrators! But these are not all, for there is still one more, Foma Grigorevic's grandfather, whose story is the "true story".

It is not difficult to see that the young gentleman in the pea-green coat (and perhaps the scriveners, too) has much in common with Gogol himself. It is probably safe to say that we have caught Gogol in the process of writing himself into the stories , not unlike Gauguin's painting himself in the form of a brooding Devil in his idylls from Tahiti. 19

The story's structure is also remarkable: We are transferred to the long-forgotten depths of Ukrainian history, to a world similar to the Homeric world of Greece; but now, in Gogol's hands, it becomes a Ukrainian variant. All kinds of things, usually considered impossible, can "realistically" happen here, just as in Pushkin's fairytale world of Russian folklore in his Ruslan and Lyudmila. 20 - except that Gogol's folklore is Ukrainian history, his favorite hunting ground. It does not matter that Gogol identifies the action as having happened in the 16th Century (in accordance with accepted norms). For Gogol, these are a-historical times, in which he can freely create his reality according to his own image, just as God created the world "in His own image " ( po obrazu i podobiyu ). Therefore, in such an environment, Gogol can plainly state, "In this village there often appeared a man, or rather, the Devil in human shape." 21 No further explanation is necessary --Once the Devil appears, he goes about his own business like everybody else in the village. And what is the Devil's business? In Dostoyevesky's words, it is to be "...the necessary X in every indeterminate equation" 22 or, to put it differently, to make the impossible happen, to have people overstep social and moral limits, to commit a "transgression" (prestuplenie ).

Sex becomes the great temptation and, in contradistinction to the previous story, the young lover's innocent love cannot escape the damned consequences of the consummation of love. The fulfillment of desire comes with a price: the death of the innocent and the Devil cashes in on his investment: he takes the hero, Petro, soul and body, and sends his Pidurka to a nunnery.

There are other archetypal elements in the story of Petro and Pidurka. Petro is a servant at Pidurka's father's house -- a "kinless" person ( bezrodnyj 23 ) to boot, and thus an ineligible suitor for at least two reasons. Pidurka is the first beauty in the village and the daughter of the richest and most powerful man in the community. This social and almost transcendental inequality of the lovers is a recurring feature in Gogol's writing and serves as the source of many reckless and irrational actions.

The reason that the protagonists fall in love is explained: "Well, if a boy and a girl live near each other ... you all know what is bound to happen." 24 But, a sentence later , the "realistic" motivation is added: "Clearly, it was the Devil's prompting." 25

In another element of the archetypal situation, a "real, eligible" suitor appears: ".A Pole, all in gold braid, with mustaches, a saber, spurs, and pockets jingling like the bell on a bag." 26 Sure enough, he is mortally repulsive to Pidurka, but the wedding with the Pole has already been set, and the loving pair will need superhuman help to foil the Pole's evil design. At this point, the Devil obligingly steps in and offers his help. As can be predicted, the Devil is devious and has his own agenda: to destroy the innocent. This is what is going to happen to Petro and Pidurka. They achieve their aim but the price they pay ultimately destroys their happiness. The dilemma evolves from the classic conflict between ends and means.

The next story in this volume:" A May Night or the Drowned Maiden " 27 - has a wonderful epitaph in Ukrainian which sums up its essence: "The Devil only knows what to make of it! If Christian folk begin any task, they fret and fret like dogs after a hare, and all to no purpose; but as soon as the Devil comes into it -- lo and behold, the thing is done."28

And, indeed, we have here again a love story, but in a lighter vein than in "St.John's Eve" . Also about the classic lovers' predica-ment , it depicts the need to outwit the older generation; this time, as in "The Fair at Sorocints ", the older generation competes for the sexual favors of the young, and corrupt sex is pitted against innocent love. Through the intercession of the Devil, willy-nilly, the young lovers are united so that the Devil has involuntarily done a good deed--as in the apocryphal tale related in "The Fair at Sorocints "

"May Night "features yet another apocryphal addition to the considerations of witchcraft. Hence the double title "May Night " and "The Drowned Maiden" . "May Night "refers in a round-about way to the night before Easter and therefore to Christian values; while the second title, "The Drowned Maiden" refers to ancient beliefs about the revels of pagan witches -- just as in "St.John's Eve" , which supplies both Christian and Pagan time references: St.John's Eve (June 14), according to the Christian calendar and Ivan Kupala, according to the ritual of the pagan world.

This apocryphal addition to the Christian legend is told by the young lovers, Ganna and Levko, on a beautiful Easter night in May. She begins by saying, "Look there, far away, the stars are twinkling: one, two, three, four, five. It's the angels of God, opening the windows of their bright dwellings in the sky and looking out at us, isn't it? Yes, Levko! They are looking at our earth, aren't they? If only people had wings like birds, they could fly, there, high up, high up.Oh, It's dreadful! Not one oak here reaches the sky. But they do say there is some tree in a distant land whose top reaches right to heaven and that God descends on it to earth the night before Easter." 29

Levko completes this apocryphal tale: "No, Galya, god has a ladder, reaching from heaven right down to earth. The holy archangels put it up before Easter Sunday and as soon as god steps on the first rung, all the evil spirits fall headlong and sink down in heaps to hell. And that is why at Easter there is not one evil spirit on earth." Clearly, the underlying philosophical, religious concern here isto provide an illustration of God's manifestation on earth.

The fairy tale runs counter to the religious one. Ganna begins telling the story, but it is left up to Levko to complete it. Ganna's story tells of an evil stepmother who alienates a recently widowed, loving father from his daughter -- and who in just five days after her wedding manages to get him to expel his daughter from his house. The daughter drowns herself in a nearby pond next to an enchanted house. But the evil stepmother pursues her even there: She turns herself into a mermaid in the pond who looks like all drowned maidens, so that she cannot be distinguished from them. But the finishing act on Levko's part, is the victory, in the Apocrypha to the Christian story of Easter, over the machinations of the evil pagan witch, who will be identified in Levko's dream; and the drowned maiden is vindicated. In the deŽnouement, she gives Levko a note which he finds in his pocket on awakening. This subsequently leads to his long-desired wedding.

Thus the two mysterious stories, fighting as it were a duel over the soul of the innocent lovers, provide the transcendental background for the events on earth. And they are a topsy-turvy cascading flow of events, in which many elements are similar to a Ukrainian puppet theater's uproarious slapstick comedy: Levko is in love with Ganna, but Levko's father, the village mayor, has also cast an eye on her, literally one eye, because he is a "one-eyed" Devil. The trick is then how to save the innocent young lovers from the powerful seducer and, even more important, to achieve the support and blessing of an unworthy father. All kinds of comedy of error, slapstick, deviltry and witchcraft are needed to reach this end, though finally and mysteriously, it is accomplished and the loving pair are united.

The forms of evil here are basic human vices: lust, debauchery, drunkenness, gluttony, lying, bragging, piggishness, unfaithfulness, deception and the oppression of the defenseless orphans -- in short, Ukrainian versions of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Levko's father is the greatest offender: A "one-eyed devil", he anticipates the evil figure of the tailor in " The Overcoat ". His one eye is the hallmark of evil, since it can see only one side of reality, the side which holds the greatest value for him. Gogol presents a whole register (nine of them, actually) of his sins. He is a braggart; when he tells how he accompanied the Tsarina Catherine II on her trip to the Crimea, he humiliates -- one could say, castrates -- the other males in the village by helping himself to their snuff-boxes and tobacco: these function as important symbols for manliness not only here, but in general in Gogol's fiction, in the form of smoking, sniffing tobacco, or taking snuff and, by extension, in forcing one's way into the snuff-boxes of others. As the narrator tells us, "he was free to help himself to every one's snuff, and the sturdy peasant would stand respectfully, cap in hand, while the mayor fumbled with his bat, coarse fingers in the peasant's birch-bark snuffbox," 30 tyrannizing everybody in the village. "At the Council, although his votes were limited to a few, he always took the upper hand and on his own authority, sent whom he pleased to level and repair roads or dig ditches." 31 He was a slob; he always wore the same long coat, with a sash around his waist; he was a womanizer, the very essence of corrupt sex, and even the youngest girls in the village-greeted him respectfully. He was a widower, but lived with his "sister-in-law": They said in the village that " she was not his sister-in-law at all." The mayor allowed no female to pass without accosting her; indeed, at the outset of the story, the mayor is courting Ganna, thus finding himself in competition with his own son. His partner's (sister-in-law's) sexual promiscuity is also more than hinted at: she inquires carefully whether the visitor in the mayor's house has a wife, and whether his wife will live with him while he conducts his business in the village.

Sexual promiscuity also gets the father of the drowned maiden into trouble: His second wife is clearly a witch. She appears in her step-daughter's bedroom the first night she spends in the new house as a "black cat with steel claws" who will not tolerate any competition for her newly won husband's affection. Sex is also the source of further suffering, especially for the young: Sexual grief and the sorrow of unfulfilled love will supply the village pond with drowned maidens.

By contrast, Nature is lush and sexual, breathing the joy of creation and -- since it is Easter time -- of resurrection as well. The love of Levko and Ganna surely fits this positive message of the universe, and their victory over the forces of evil is not only the happy ending of a well-spun love story but also the happy ending of the religious apocrypha, as we have termed it.

Drunkenness and Gluttony are exemplified by the middle-aged peasant Kalenik, who adds to the general confusion of the Devil's making by coming home from the village pub drunk and stumbling into the wrong place at the wrong time as he hunts for his home. Indeed, at the end, Kalenik is still looking fruitlessly for his own house.

The sin of Gluttony has even its own coda in this tale: a "visitor" to the mayor, a coarse, money-hungry peasant -- perhaps the Devil himself in disguise , wants to set up a wine distillery in the village. He tells a tale about his mother-in-law: one night, her family was visited by a stranger at dinner-time as dumplings were being served. The stranger was offered food, but he ate so fast and so much that finally his host exclaimed, "Oh, that you may choke on that dumpling!" Sure enough, he choked, and then sat on the top of the chimney, "howling like a dog". 32 The characterization of the devil as glutton, choking on a dumpling and unable to get away from the site of his sins, reminds us that the dumpling, an old Ukrainian staple, can serve as a sort of litmus test which separates the good man from the bad, as in The Terrible Vengeance , where Katerina's father becomes suspect when he does not like dumplings (and doesn't drink vodka!).

The story has some other recurring elements as well, which are to become part of a permanent set of devices in Gogol's work. The corrupt mayor (glava here, though later he will reappear as the mayor gorodnichiy in "The Inspector General "),who terrorizes the community he is supposed to lead, takes bribes and abuses the population (sexually in the case of women). The drunken peasant, who represents sexual corruption in the older generation, especially older women -- who most frequently appear as witches; and the almost mythical higher authority, in this case the Commissioner (in "The Inspector General "the threatening news of his arrival as the "real" Inspector petrifies the characters of the play in a pose of frozen terror). Like a deus ex machina, he will set things to rights, or would, should he ever appear. Here we already anticipate the problem central to Gogol's fiction: Gogol's constant desire to present a mythical higher authority who will restore order and set everything in its "own place" (svoe mesto ) , coupled with Gogol's inability -- or unwillingness -- to allow the appearance of such an authority . Gogol surely understood that such a desired intervention would undermine the credibility of the story, even though 18th Century writers such as Fonvizin were able to portray such an outcome (see his play The Minor , where Mr. Pravdin [ Truth ], appears to save the day ) .

In general, the story has potential for a great stage play: It is a farce replete with a confusion of secondary story lines and set characters and the happy ending of a great wedding. No wonder, having found these so useful, Gogol later was to avail himself again of many of the same situations, conversations, characters, devices and structure.

The final story, "The Lost Letter : A Tale Told by the Sexton of the N...Church " 33 is the first not to include a love intrigue as its central organizing force. Instead, it is the story of "Grandfather", as told by the Sexton, his grandson, and his bouts with the Devil. The story is actually rather simple and straightforward: Grandfather, who is a regular Cossack, is selected as a messenger to carry a letter from the Hetman, the military leader of the Cossacks, to the Czarina. We do not know the contents of the letter, but obviously there must have been something in it that interests the Devil, since on the way he steals it, together with Grandfather's horse. In order to retrieve the stolen goods, the Cossack messenger descends into Hell and beats the Devil, or rather Devils, at their game of cards (duraki ). Thereupon, he finds himself on the roof of his own house, so that one wonders whether Grandfather has ever undertaken the journey at all -- or whether it was only a figment of his probably drunken imagination. Nevertheless, after the journey to Hell, Grandfather jumps on his horse and delivers the letter to the Czarina's palace.

The story ends in a non-sequitur: after the supposed journey to Hell, Grandmother appears in a trance, dancing against her will. Upon coming to, she tells of a vision of the Devil's machinations in their house. Her tale serves as a "realistic" explanation of the mystical events that have visited Grandfather. To give the reader further proof that the narration is a "true" story, Gogol presents a long list of evidence: Grandfather had not taken further precautions against the Devil. Their house had not been cleansed nor blessed by the Church. He has been given a strange annual reminder of his Descent into Hell: his wife's legs begin to dance involuntary on its anniversary and there is no stopping her.

Aside from its bare fairy-tale framework, the story is full of the narrative elements from folklore so characteristic of Gogol's Ukrainian tales. It begins with the identification of the Narrator and of the nature of Narration: Foma Grigorevic is the ostensible Narrator but he serves only as a conduit in retelling a story told by his grandfather, which must therefore be nothing really new or extraordinary since it is planted in "fact". On the other hand, Gogol emphasizes a magical relationship which is developing between the two different narrators and which figures as an important aspect of Gogol's quest for his "own place", the involuntary identification of his own world view with the identification of a new narrator with a previous one. Gogol tells us: "And when some kinsmen of one's own are mixed up in it [the story], a grandfather or a great-grandfather, then i'm done for. May I choke while praying to St. Varvara if I don't think that I am doing it all myself, as though I had crept into my great-grandfather's soul, or my great-grandfather's soul were playing tricks on me..." 34

Tricks are played not only by the great-grandfather's soul, but also by the narrators themselves. The grandfather's story, in a sober light, looks suspiciously like a self-justification after a drunken bout at the fair, where both the letter and the horse were lost or sold for drinks. Yet the grandson-narrator has second-guessed his grandfather's motives and so leaves enough non-sequiturs to explain his grandfather's motivations and to create the impression the he is merely an unreliable narrator.

The same could be said about the narrative time: we find ourselves again in the mythical Ukrainian past, Gogol's variant on Homeric time, when God, the Devil, and other mystical creatures existed side by side with man and when anything could happen, as the "true" story of the narrator has proven.

Considering further narrative elements, we might take a look at the selection of a grandfather as hero. Why has he been picked for that ill-fated task? It seems that his "education" got him into trouble: he was a "literate" man, literate enough to have memorized many of the Lives of the Saints (Zhitiya Svyatykh ) .

The situation is acceptable, except that in Gogol's world, anything that alters one's standing, ("one's own place"), or adds something to it that is out of the ordinary, can have fatal consequences. After all, a "real" Cossack has no business reciting by heart such things as the miraculous self-sacrifice of meek saints, whose very life story is the denial of everything that a "real" Cossack stands for. One might add, on the other hand, that Grandfather's story can also be read as an improvement, or a variation upon the podvig, (the heroic Christian action of the saints), where the hero defeats satanic forces not because of an idiosyncratic, "monkish" action, but because of his steadfastness, bravery and -- almost as an afterthought -- his having shown the Sign of the Cross to the Devil. Here, this aspect of the hero's character is not implicit, but the hero's identity and tribulations are to be further developed in other characters in the Second Volume in Taras' sons, who, were educated in Kiev, or in Katherina's father in "The Terrible Vengeance" .

As to the "realistic" details, upon a closer examination it becomes clear that there is as much real realism in this story as in the details of Dante's Divine Comedy. Realism is clearly of a visionary kind. Already, the first leg of the journey has announced evil foreboding: Grandfather has arrived at a place called Konotop -- The etymology may have to do with, kon', horse, and tonut" to drown, or cause to drown, thus providing a sturdy hint as to the ill-fated nature of the place. Here a fair is in progress. But strangely, everybody is lying about as if dead. The picture is alien, strange, and as foreboding as details in the Divine Comedy, or in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch or, in modern times, of Picasso. Gogol, of course, provides a "realistic" explanation: everybody is drunk. But animals, too?

Against this background a mysterious figure appears: a Cossack from Dniepr (he is unprovided with a name), the very figure of quintessential manliness, and the personification of an heroic past. He is dressed in "Trousers red as fire" (remember the red vest in "The Fair at Sorocints" ?), "a full-skirted blue coat and bright flowered sash, a saber at his side and a pipe with a fine brass chain dangling right down to his heels, a regular Dniepr Cossack. Yes, the good old days are over; you don't see many Cossacks nowadays." This Dniepr Cossack, a figure alien to grandfather's Cossacks, plays a fatal role in future developments. Grandfather meets him when he runs out of tobacco and is looking for the opportunity to borrow some. Unsurprisingly, the Dniepr Cossack materializes as if from thin air.

Thus, it is his passion for tobacco, Gogol's symbol for manliness, that waylays Grandfather as it will others of Gogol's heroes, who are led astray from the strait and narrow path of virtue by a petty temptation offered by that enemy of mankind, the Devil. Indeed, the Dniepr Cossack causes Grandfather to stop dead at the fair, drinking and carousing as if he had no further business in hand. This disastrous "friendship" does not stop here: The Dniepr Cossack and another mysterious companion join the hero on his further journey.

The companions continue carousing and drinking in a more remote place where the Dniepr Cossack confesses to the hero that he has sold his soul to the Devil and that the hour of paying up is at hand. Here, clearly, is the Faust story in Ukrainian garb. Indeed, next morning, the Dniepr Cossack, as well as Grandfather's hat (onto which the letter was sewed) and his horse are gone, as well as the mysterious companion. In order to retrieve them, Grandfather has to go through a journey into Hell in a Ukrainian version of Dante's vision.The devils and their consorts celebrate a version of the Walpurgisnacht (the Dark Night of the Soul) where else but in a dark forest, close to a place where gypsies live? In order to get there, one must follow a narrow path that leads to a brook, cross a bridge, and, once over the water and the bridge, one reaches one's destination, which proves to be none other than Dante's Cocytus or Goethe's Walpurgisnacht.

The creatures there have animal snouts: "pig faces, dog faces, goat faces, bird faces and horse faces". 35 They invite the hero to eat a gluttonous meal with them; but there is a problem: the food never reaches the hero's mouth; it always ends up in the mouth of another. Finally, Grandfather is offered a deal: if he wants to retrieve his cap, letter and horse, he must play cards with the monsters. If he wins one game, his wishes will be fulfilled; if he loses, "It's no use your fuming. You'll never see your cap nor maybe the world again." 36 The game is as bewitched as the food, yet Grandfather is finally saved when he remembers that all he has to do is make the sign of the Cross. He does so, and everything turns out all right: "Thunder boomed in Hell, the witch went into convulsions, and all of a sudden, the cap flew smack into Grandfather's face". 37 Nothing remains of the horse but a skeleton, but the hero is given another horse -- by the Devil -- which flies away with him and leaves him lying on the roof of his own house.

Gogol closes the first Volume of his Ukrainian Tales with this account of a descent into Hell together with some practical advice as to how to deal with the Devil. In the three previous tales, it was the power of innocent love that overcame the Devil's machinations. Here are neither innocent love nor innocent lovers; only the lone male who is apparently beyond sexual temptations. His steadfastness, determination, his Christian faith, have beaten the Devil at his own game. We see the repetition of a convention, and at the same time a reduction of religious intellectual or cerebral commitment to plain advice as to how to smoke tobacco, eat dumplings, or drink vodka.

We shall have much to say later about Gogol's faith, but now wish only to underline his realism in depicting the "other" world: the here-and-now are only local colors applied to the universal theme which sees Man as poised between Heaven and Hell, precariously holding onto, or in search of, "his own place".

The second volume provides further opportunities to witness the development of Gogol's mind. Again, a preface dwells on the problem of the Narrator. Gogol mentions four narrators, or would-be narrators: the "old fellow", who, of course, is Rudi Panko; then some new narrators, who will be introduced later; Foma Grigorevic; and finally, the "Gentleman with the pea-green coat" from Poltava, whose name is mentioned here for the only time as Makar Nazarovic.

But before any of them can tell their stories, Rudi Panko remembers his seventieth birthday, when seven people came to celebrate (as he has been celebrating for the last fifty years). They ruffle each other's tempers over the best way of pickling apples. Two particularly antagonistic voices speak, Foma Grigorevic's and the voice of the "gentleman with the pea-green coat" whose uncle was once a commissioner. It is agreed by those present, however, that the "gentleman with the pea-green coat" is not up to Foma Grigorevic's narrative talents.

If we recall that in the discussion of the first Preface we suspected that the "Gentleman with the pea-green coat" was Gogol himself, our suspicion is further corroborated. Gogol still retains the same fictional identity as an "outsider" in the fictive Cossack world, even though his "Uncle" , too, was once an authority, a commissioner. The "Gentleman's" authority is somewhat precariously supported by his uncle's authority as a commissioner, so he willingly cedes place to Grigorevic. Rudi Panko remains the principal narrator. His wistful remarks have permeated the Preface: once the narration is done, the narrator will be forgotten and "no one will remember the old beekeeper."

Aside from the nostalgic notes of leave-taking and the evocation of the transitory nature of things, even art, in an echo of Derzhavin's and Pushkin's preoccupation, the artist will not be spared by the merciless passage of time. The Preface offers some other fictional names of "those who came to celebrate Rudi Panko's birthday", and who, by the way, do not reappear anywhere in the stories and who deserve mention here only as an example of Gogol's linguistic inventiveness: Zakhr Ivanovic Khokhopupenko (..the laughing Ass); Stepan Ivanovic Kurocka (or the Little Chicken), Taras Ivanovic Smacnenki (the Tasty Little Morsel, or perhaps the Little glutton) and Kharlamy Kirilovic Khlest (or the Whip, which later in "The Inspector General " turns into Khlestakov).

These are all witness an artistic competition, like a duel of Minnesa"ngers, between Foma Grigorevic and the Gentleman with the Pea-green coat. All agree that the Gentleman is less skilled and less trustworthy than Foma Grigorevic -- is Gogol eternally playing hide-and-seek with his readers? Or is he himself really not quite sure of his proper role as narrator? We are face to face again with the issue of "one's rightful place" (svoe mesto.)

The first story in Volume Two is another of the Seasonal tales and is tied to significant dates in the Russian Church calendar. It narrates events by way of a wedding that illustrate the significance of the calendar in which every event of the year is a demonstration of the relentless march of Christian principles. Significantly, in accordance with the symbolism of numbers, this is the third in the cycle: "Christmas Eve " follows after " St. John's Eve " and "May Night" . Remarkably, all three focus on the night as the symbol of darkness and the pagan world, in contradistinction to the shining sun of daylight which represents the Christian world. In " St. John's Eve" Gogol dealt with the evil consequences of following a pagan philosophy in which the end justifies the means, in contrast to the Christian world view of God's retribution for the suffering of the innocents. This latter presupposes a change of heart resulting from Baptism -- St. John the Baptist's name carries with it the optimism of Christian theory in direct contrast to the view of the pagan Ivan Kupala (the etymology of the word is from kupatsya - to take a bath). In "May Night", the narrator focuses on the miracle of Resurrection celebrated at Easter time which makes the wedding of the innocent young lovers possible. In the third and final Christian story, the cycle is logically completed through its presentation of the victory of Christian principles on earth through the birth of Christ.

Again, pagan and Christian traditions clash.The pagan tradition is symbolized by an Apocrypha which posits the mysterious nature of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. In this case, the nature of God's justice is questioned: Why does God allow evil to exist, or, as Gogol puts the question: Why is God giving permission to the Devil to roam the world and seduce whomever he can? The answer in the Book of Job is here modified and the faithful are given ironclad assurances that all happens for a good purpose, and that the Devil's freedom of action is strictly limited: he can do his misdeeds only until the birth of Christ, when a New Age will begin. Then all deviltry must stop, and the true relationship between Man and God will be established. Therefore, the night before Christmas provides the Devil with his last chance to do mischief, and by Christmas morning, he and his evil deeds must be gone. This is the general apocryryphal view. The localized version, which as we shall see is a Ukrainian version of Greek/ pagan myths, connects with the general Apocrypha which the story provides.

Here, then are the standard, classical characters of the human comedy, translated into Ukrainian terms: The middle-aged, rich widower Chub (or, according to the etymology of the word, forelock) is a vain, aggressive He-Man; his beautiful, seventeen year-old daughter, a haughty, capricious but moldable girl; her future lover, and husband-to-be, the village blacksmith Vakula (who, by curious coincidence, is also a painter of icons); Vakula's middle-aged, widowed mother Solokha who, in keeping with the laws of the gogolian universe, is sexually promiscuous and therefore probably a witch. Add to these the cast of earthly players, the villagers who fall into two categories: the middle-aged males, out to win and enjoy Solokha's favors, and the young people intent on enjoying their innocent merry-making (like caroling). These young people have to establish and defend their own identity, especially sexually, against the corruption of the older generation. On the other planes there is only one player, the Devil. His counterpart, God or Christ, does not appear in person, even though both are manifest in the results of their action, the complete destruction of the Devil's purposes and the victory of innocent love despite his machinations.

The earthly Apocrypha focuses upon Vakula, the blacksmith and icon-painter, like his greek counterpart, Vulcan (Hephaistos). (Gogol's scrambling of the consonants should not lead us astray). His Ukrainian version of the Greek god is a good-natured, hard-working youth who, like his counterpart, is rather ugly among all the beautiful young Ukrainians, and is also madly in love with the most beautiful Oksana, a Ukrainian version of Aphrodite. Again the issue is the happiness of the young people, which runs into seemingly insurmountable obstacles because of the sexual and material corruption of the older generation. The agent and beneficiary in all the confusion is, unsurprisingly, the Devil,we recall Dostoyevsky's Devil's comment: "I am the necessary X in every indeterminate equation!" The Devil does not like what Vakula has done as an icon-painter since one of his murals depicted the downfall of Evil and the victory of God. Gogol tells us that : "He (Vakula) was a God-fearing man, and often painted icons of the saints; even now you may find his Luke the Evangelist in the church of T...But the triumph of his art was a picture painted on the church wall in the chapel to the right. In this he depicted St. Peter on the Day of Judgment with the keys of Heaven in his hand driving the Evil Spirit out of Hell." 38 And he concludes, "...from that day on the Devil has sworn to avenge himself on the blacksmith!" Clearly, the Devil has a Logical reason for his hatred.

In order to take revenge on Vakula, the Devil devises a fairly simple plan, namely, that Chub is not to permit the marriage of his daughter Oksana. The easiest way to achieve this purpose is for Chub and Solokha to get married, thus making Oksana and Vakula step-sister and brother, who, according to Orthodox law, cannot marry. The timing of the plan is for the last night before Christmas: the Devil steals the moon, while the witch Solokha steals the stars so that Chub and the rest of the villagers can be confused out of their minds with the desired result.Chub stays at home instead of going to a drinking party at the Sexton's house, and prevents the young couple's marriage. A magnificent deviltry, a carefully woven web of confusion follows, with most of the village dignitaries (including Chub) arriving at Solokha's where,in order to hide them from one another,she stuffs them into empty coal bags which her son Vakula had left behind. Vakula, on the other hand, stumbles over to Oksana's house. Later that night, in a breath-taking space flight on the Devils' back, he visits the court of Catherine II and gets her golden slippers which are part of the price set by Oksana as a condition for marrying him.

Finally, we see Oksana already holding a baby in her arms,in imitation of the picture Vakula had so much admired at the Czarina's palace, an icon of the Virgin and Child. Vakula is painting another mural for the church, this time depicting the Devil in hell, whose figure is so loathsome that everyone spits as they pass. And the women take their crying children up to the picture and say: "There, look what a kaka ! And the child, restraining its tears, would steal a glance at the picture and nestle closer to its mother" 39 The story overflows with fun, with exuberant playfulness in a sure-handed weaving of confusion and profound philosophical and religious implications. Gogol is already reaching the heights of his later works like in "The Nose "or "The Diary of a Madman".

All the details of the story are carefully crafted and coordinated. It is difficult to single out any for consideration, but in view of later developments, some still need special mention. For example, the detail that Vakula is not just a blacksmith but an icon-painter as well, so that the legend of Vulcan/Hephaistos has been transformed to Gogol's own needs, though the Greek god's weapon-making is de-emphasized -- and though, of course, as blacksmith, Vakula is fashioning all manner of artifacts for everyone in the village. His artistry, on the other hand, is a focus: in Gogol's Ukrainian world, it turns him into an icon-painter, so that the Heavenly Armorer of Greece is transformed. Not arms, but tools and icons are his trade, bearing witness to the reality of God's visible world (cf. Florinski: The Iconostasis ). 40 The icon-painter is thus not merely an artist creating out of his own, human mind and intuition, but rather a priest through whom god is incarnated to the faithful. In this manner, Vakula's paintings are truly a prophecy of the final damnation of the Devil and the victory of God on Earth. This promise makes of him a messenger, a go-between of the two worlds and therefore, an Angel. And his marriage to Oksana, the Christian (Ukrainian) Aphrodite, provides a connecting link between Man and God -- who, of course, is also Ukrainian.

Another detail deserving of comment is the form in which the Devil appears, his essence and modus operandi. If God's people are Ukrainian, then the Devil is a foreigner, of the worst kind, a German. He is also a ladies' man, trafficking with witches: Solokha is "neither beautiful nor ugly", "neither old nor young", but she is a promiscuous hypocrite and a suitable companion. The Devil's essence resides in tricks, temptations and lies. When he is finally overcome, Gogol comments: "And so, instead of tricking, tempting and fooling others, the Enemy of mankind has fooled himself." He operates by appealing to the basest human instincts, like promiscuity, as opposed to the selfless idealism of the young; also by prosaic manipulation of power, as opposed to the magnanimous egalitarianism and friendship of the young. But he is not victorious: his downfall is predicted, or rather, predetermined and comes about through some minor accident, a miscalculation as to some detail. Here, for example, the Devil overlooked the fact that Chub, confused in the darkness generated by him, will not ,as the Devil had planned go home, to meet Vakula, should he turn up. Instead, driven by promiscuous temptation, he stumbles straight into Solokha's house, where the Devil himself has settled down to while away the night pleasantly. Needless to say, neither Chub nor the Devil will reap the desired harvest; instead, they will have to witness the piling up of would-be lovers in Solskha's coal bags, to their great discomfort and dismay. Indeed, a feeling of disgust will be generated overall by the participants, and it is logical that Chub will give up the very idea of marrying Solokha as disgusting. Feelings of revulsion, ugliness and filth are left over when the Devil's tricks are unmasked. Thus it is highly significant that the final paragraph, depicting a mother's correction of her unruly child be expressed through the most basic childish world for disgust, kaka an almost universal term for excrement, as elementary in all languages as mama and papa. This definition of the Devil as kaka is one which Gogol will further develop.

The two other stories of the Second Volume are not connected to The Russian Orthodox calendar, nor are they connected to the theme of "The Fair at Sorocints" . The fictitious narrator is also missing.

"A Terrible Vengeance" 41 looks like a straightforward narration about the olden times, the mythical significance and possibilities of which Gogol was so fond. It begins in medias res: the wedding which provides the deŽnouement in the other tales is here at the outset. The Cossack captain, Gorobets (from gora -mountain- the etymology probably has something to do with mountains or being on the top of things), celebrates the wedding of his son to which all kinds of important people are invited. His adopted brother (nazvannyj brat ) Danilo Burul'bas accompanied by his young and beautiful wife, brings their one year-old son who is the visible symbol of their marital happiness. The child is also the surest sign of young love's victory over the Devil's manipulations. Someone has not come -- as Donald Fanger has so perceptively pointed out, in Gogol's work there is always an "absence of things" that is significant.

Hints abound that Katherina's father, a venerable old Cossack, has something oddly mysterious about him: he has been absent from the Cossack lands for twenty years; nobody knows where he has been before his strange return the previous year. Thus he was absent from his daughter's wedding, but the date of his return is significant since it neatly coincides with the birth of Katherina's and Danilo's son. Now he is absent from the wedding of his adopted brother's son or, at least, so it at first seems.

íhe tensely crafted text moves ahead with great force; soon we find ourselves in the middle of an uproar: As the groom's father holds up two miracle-working icons to the celebrants, the women and children notice an unexpected change in one of the Cossacks: He has turned into a monster, into a koldun, or sorcerer: He is none other than Katherina's father, who has a single secret passion, the desire for incestuous relations with his own daughter. In the stories previously discussed the sexual corruption of the older generation has been a manifestation of the Devil's influence.Here Gogol develops the topic to its logical extreme of incest. Twelve of the sixteen short chapters (or rather, thirteen, with the addition of a philosophical cadenza) are devoted to the presentation of the desperate efforts of the wayward father to achieve his desired goal:

Dreams and foreboding and now strange dream events follow in horrifying confusion. The characters behave as if they were acting out a Greek tragedy, and as if their fate had been predestined. Danilo, for example, the quintessential heroic, straightforward, and therefore doomed Cossack male, is devoted to his Cossack values, which are to fight the infidels, to defend the Christian faith, to drink vodka and eat dumplings, and to love his wife and son truly.

Of course, he is hopelessly outmaneuvered by Katherina's father, and his ultimate demise comes as no surprise. Nor does the death of his son and finally, Katherina's, both the result of the dealings of her merciless father. As the father changes his appearance, he uses devious tricks and magical events to fight the uneven battle. Gogol is at his best in portraying the relentless, mysterious, predetermined drive of the sorcerer to achieve his ends.The sorcerer father nevertheless, remains unsuccessful, as he never manages to possess Katherine, though his effort to do so destroys his entire family.

The mystery of this strange passion is explained in the remaining three chapters: the sorcerer finds himself trapped as he tries to flee the scene of his crimes, going always in the opposite direction and finally, when his horse turns his head back at him and "laughs at him", he realizes that some mysterious force has been driving him towards a strange and fated place, the Carpathian mountains. Here he stumbles upon a hermit, whom he asks to pray for him. The hermit refuses, saying that God would not allow him to pray for such a terrible sinner, whereupon the sorcerer commits his final misdeed and kills the hermit.With this sorcerer's destiny is completed: a mysterious giant rider arises above the mountains, picks him up and casts his dead body down into the abyss. There, the dead rise up, throw themselves at him, and begin to gnaw at him with their long and horrible teeth.

Chapter Sixteen (divided into smaller chapters) provides an explanation. An outside narrator, a bandurist -- a medieval lute player -- takes over. He sings of Ivan and Petro, two knights from the "long bygone times". Their story is the Ukrainized version of the Biblical legend of Cain and Abel. Just as in the Bible, the two brothers, here Ivan and Petro , act as symbols for Man's murderous instincts prompted by vanity and greed. Under King Stephen, the brothers have become mortal enemies, because Ivan, 'after an important battle, is thought to be favored over Petro. Petro, pushes Ivan and his young son off the mountain into a precipice in order to claim his brother's advantage. But he, too, dies and comes to God's final Judgment. God calls in his treacherously murdered brother and asks him to think of a punishment for Ivan since He himself is at a loss as to what the appropriate punishment should be. And Ivan obliges: in three short chapters he demands a punishment which amazes even God: It consists of seven points, which ultimately lead to eternal suffering of the guilty, that is, not the seventh, but the seven-times seventh generation. It also includes the complete annihilation of his own offspring, to be accomplished by Petro himself, in different guises and different generations. Finally, Ivan exults, "I shall rejoice looking at his sufferings!" Whereupon God pronounces: "A terrible punishment hast thou devised, O man , All shall be as thou hast said, but thou shalt forever sit on thy horse and shalt not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." 43The story closes with a further explanation: Petro's dead descendants are growing under the mountains and gnawing on each other. Their underground commotion is the cause of earthquakes.

We are dealing once again with an apocryphal parable of the eternal questions as to the unfathomable justice and the enigma of Judgment Day. From this perspective, we retroactively understand the story's title, "A Terrible Vengeance ". The English translation does not truly mirror the original Russian title: Strashnaya mest', which in Russian is literally " The Terrible Judgment" . We have already had the opportunity to observe Gogol hiding behind linguistic approximations, just as he has been hiding behind his different narrators. We propose, therefore, that the Terrible Judgment refers not only to the religious concept of the Last Day when God will pronounce Judgment, casting some away and choosing some, but also the moment when the Seventh Seal will be broken and all will be explained. We remember Marmaladov's saying that on that Day "we will understand everything, everybody... even my wife will understand everything" -- and we realize that Gogol is referring to the mystery of the entire concept of Divine Justice which will torture him increasingly. Was God shirking His responsibility in not punishing Petro and instead asking Ivan to devise a punishment for his treacherous brother? was God hiding behind Ivan (as Gogol hid behind his fictional narrators)? Or was He doing Ivan a favor -- or was He setting him up in allowing him to devise his own punishment? Or was it right that He should allow the revenge to be carried out, but then punish the innocent by barring him from Paradise and ordering him eternally to watch the suffering of the guilty: Or was it right to expect misericordia, divine compassion and forgiveness, from the victim of crimes which God himself will not forgive?

And, to return to the story, why did God allow the suffering and the destruction of the innocents, of brave Danilo, and chaste Katherina, who had to choose between filial duty and an almost transcendental disgust over her father's incestuous desires? Or why did God allow the death of their young son just for the sake of proving an abstract philosophical point? And finally, why did God deny the prayer of the sorcerer and his request for absolution when he asked the hermit to intercede on his behalf with God?

The questions could be further multiplied, but they would all point to the same basic dilemma and the sad realization that God's actions are unfathomable and that the further we explore them, the less intelligible they become. Furthermore, what we understand turns out to be grotesquely trivial as in the complicated explanation for earthquakes.

Gogol's religious questions are getting more and more serious. His so-called "religious crisis" some four years down the road (ca. 1836 and later) will not so much be the result of some kind of sudden or unexpected development, but rather the logical extension of these youthful preoccupation.

The final story in the Dikanka cycle, "Ivan Fedorovic Sponka and his Aunt", is introduced by a narrator who in his turn is hiding behind the authority of yet another narrator, Stepan Ivanovic Kurochka, whose story is retold here. The narrator excuses himself from the very outset, explaining that he has a poor memory ,we recognize the device of the unreliable narrator,and, to make things worse, that he does not know the ending of the story because his wife used the unguarded papers of the manuscript in baking a pie so that they were lost forever..

Gogol offers familiar excuses for the purportedly unreliable nature of the narration: as usual, first, it is told by a second narrator from hearsay, one with a bad memory at that; then the end is missing and finally, womenfolk think so little of the stories, seeing them as the foolish occupation of male loafers, that they can use the manuscript pages for more essential human activity like baking pies. Stories versus pies -- we recognize a Gogolian formulation of the basic human contradictions of mind and body.

The story of Ivan Fedorovic Sponka is told in five brief chapters about the quintessential Gogolian poslost ' the word that Nabokov defined among other things in his famous essay on Gogol as "self-satisfied mediocrity". 44 The word could also be translated as "smugness", or portentous stupidity. Everything in this tale breathes the air of poslost.'

It begins by introducing Ivan Fedorovic Sponka, the etymology of whose names suggests a "small hook", or even the sharp claws of a bird of prey (but some critics say it has something to do with a word in dialect indicating a diminutive phallus). We suspect that it might have some connection also with the etymology of the very name of Gogol, which in Ukrainian can also mean gander.

The focus is on the presentation of a strange life, one could almost say a perverted version of the Lives of the Saints. What makes one think in such terms is particularly the hero's awkwardness, throughout his life he has been considered harmless but weird and has never met with any approval from his peers and relatives, a misfit -- in other words, the sort of hero usually celebrated in the Lives of the Saints. We realize, of course, an immediate objection, that the Lives portray holy men whose strange behavior has to do with their being a yurodivy (or "holy fool"), for what is there holy about Ivan Fedorovic Sponka? Nothing, at least at the the point where the story stops. But we should remember that it is unfinished. Take any legend from the Lives of the Saints and stop it somewhere in the middle, where the strangeness of the hero has been recorded, and leave it without the final resolution, after the saint's death, when his strange behavior is explained and justified as the humble, self-effacing behavior of a hero who is destined for sainthood. The result would be the tale of a peculiar hero who behaves oddly in the eyes of normal people. He may walk in the snow barefoot, may torture his body in unimaginable ways, may fast outrageously, may spend his time chanting or mumbling strange, incoherent sentences. Only his sanctified end justifies his otherwise abnormal behavior.

Gogol's interest in medieval literature, especially in the Lives of the Saints, will be dealt with later. At this juncture, it seems sufficient to explain many of the story's strange features as well as the odd behavior of its hero.

The story begins with the Sponka's life in school. His teacher's name is recorded as Nikifor Ivanovich Deeprichastie or "Nikifor Ivanovich Participle". He is one of those morons who populate Gogol's pages and whom we plan to consider as the "wrong authority" when we explain Gogol's later crisis of belief. His teaching is based on guess-work, as we deduce from the name of the local school at Gadyac (gadat: 'from the word, guessing). His activity is focused not so much on implanting intellectual curiosity in his pupils as on beating and abusing them.During the hero's school years he was called by his nickname Vanyusha, (the proverbial Ivan, or Vanya, the Ivanuska Durachok of Russian folk-tales). These years were remarkable for only one thing: he started out as a model pupil and so was made a monitor by his Latin teacher. But when fellow-pupils who had not prepared their lessons wanted to bribe him with "a pancake soaked in butter", he could not resist the temptation: "He took the pancake...and began eating it." He did so at the very moment when the teacher entered the classroom, noticed his model pupil's unseemly behavior, took away the pancake, and beat the unworthy monitor. The characteristic features of this incident are that Ivan was naturally good but was unable to resist the material temptation of a slippery, buttery pancake; and finally, his fall from grace was punished by his teacher. The effect on him is terror and fear of punishment. As Gogol says, "the timidity which has always been characteristic of him, was more marked from that time forward." There follows a further generalization: "Possibly this incident was the explanation of his feeling no desire to enter the civil service, having learned by experience that one is not always successful in hiding one's misdeeds." 45 If, by the way, we look carefully at these details, it appears that we are not justgiven a glimpse of Gogol's personal reminiscences of his own school years (Chichikov's school memories will parallel Sponka's), but that salient features can again be related to The Lives of the Saints in the incident's individual steps.

In Gogol's assertion that Ivan was naturally good, that he could not resist temptation, that he sacrificed duty and a spiritual calling for some tempting food, and that, finally, sin is quickly followed by punishment which terrifies the sinner and renders him impotent, unable to face the further adventures of life, we have an opportunity to observe the operation of this psychological approach which will characterize the heroes of Gogol's later work.

Next, Ivan Sponka's military service is tapped. It was as undistinguished as his school years. As he was once a model student, he became a model officer, except in one thing: he did not do what most of the officers did,he did not carouse, drink, nor go wenching. He abstained not by choice but by virtue of an inborn inferiority complex. In other words, he displayed strange behavior, he was a yurodivyj a "fool in Christ" in the midst of the normal life swirling around him. His life is interrupted " only " after fourteen years of service.

The number fourteen by the way, is two times seven years, or, in religious terms, an unfinished, incomplete stretch of time which has ended with a letter from his aunt asking him to come home and take over the family farm. Now begins the third episode of his unfinished life-story, this time in his native environment. Sponka, have agreed immediately to his aunt's request, now finds that he enjoys being a landowner. Some of the tales's most lyrical passages are devoted to descriptions of Sponka's watching the peasants at work. (These, perhaps, foreshadow Gogol's practical advice to Russian landowners which we shall observe later in Selected Passages...) We see him watching sunsets and other of Nature's aesthetic displays, but the mood does not last long. In an inn on the way home, Sponka meets his neighbor,Grigory Grigorevic Storchenko, a landowner from the village of Khortyshce: the meeting is to have fatal consequences. The name of the village, in accordance with Gogol's predilections for suiting name to character,may have de- rived from the Polish word sztorcowac, or curse. Storchenko is described as a fat, foul-mouthed bully, a precursor of similar characters in gogol's later work.

Further details appear, almost as preliminary studies for Gogol's plays (e.g. "The Marriage " or for the Dead Souls ). Aunt Vasilisa Kasporovna Tsupcevska is a masculine, dominating, bossy woman who lacks any feminine charm or interest in sexual matters, even though her motivation to get Sponka to come home and take over the farm was dominated by grandmotherly feelings. She wants to see "grandchildren " around her. The topsy-turvy, run-down family farm, the peasants and their children, the village slum, Storchenko's invitation to a dinner where Sponka meets another neighbor, Ivan Ivanovich who is a habitual liar, and Storchenko's strange family -- all these are straight out of the traditions of a puppet theater and are important components of Gogol's poslost.

We note especially that Ivan Ivanovich , in an attempt to show off his education, mentions a late medieval Apocrypha "The Travels of a Moscow Merchant, Trifon Korobevnikov and His Comrades to Jerusalem, Egypt and Mount Sinai in 1838 ", as the latest in literary entertainment. Further, this Apocrypha speaks of the merits of monastic life, which appear to relate to Sponka's own history.

The same can be said of the two love intrigues. One is a murky passion of the older generation, while the other should have been the happy love affair of two young people leading to probable marriage. The older love intrigue concerns Sponka's deceased mother and her one-time neighbor, Stepan Kuzmic, who seem to have enjoyed an extramarital affair "before Sponka was born." This relationship seems also to be confirmed by Stepan Kuzmic's generosity, for he is suspected of having deeded some land to Sponka, the only trouble being that the deed has been frittered (swindled) away by the present owner of the land, Stepan Kuzmic's nephew, Storchenko. In order to resolve the complexity of a need for grandchildren combined with getting the land back to its rightful owners, Sponka's aunt suggests a marriage between him and Storchenko's daughter, Masha. The desired visit takes place and produces the famous, "romantic" dialogue between the would-be lovers about the "multitude of flies" which have appeared that summer. The irrelevance of their reaction is much like Sponka's inappropriate terror when he was caught eating pancakes in school and threatened with a mysterious punishment.

The unfinished story ends as Sponka realizes how dangerously close he has been to getting married, an idea which had not crossed his mind up to that point at all. His surprise may seem strange, since he was "only 37 years old", as his aunt so lovingly remarks. Instead of embracing the idea of marriage, he has a nightmare. This nightmare, consisting of twelve individual details, has been analyzed in critical literature -- with many Freudian overtones -- as indicating Gogol's fear of marriage, his distrust of women, or even probable homosexual tendencies. But from our point of view, it can be viewed as yet another case of the odd behavior we have traced, of the estrangement of the hero from "normal" life. As such, it can easily be related to similar details in The Lives of the Saints, in the temptation of Saint Anthony (251-356 AD.) by monsters who proffer their sexual blandishments. Anthony, known as Antonii the Great in the Russian Orthodox Church, was the founding father of monastic life. His name was later adopted by Antonii Pecerski (982-1073 AD.) the founder of the Kiev-Pecersk Monastery and of Russian monastic life in general.St. Anthony's struggles against the monsters of sexual-temptation were vividly depicted by medieval artists -- especially by Mathias Gruenewald (1460-1528) in his famous altarpiece at Isenheim in Germany. Could Gogol have had St. Anthony in mind as a model (podlinnik , or original, in the language of iconography) for Sponka's nightmare? We cannot say for sure, but the very fact that the nightmare consists of twelve episodes suggests the sacred nature of the vision. That Gogol practiced this secular handling of religious tradition is certainly a feature of his later fiction, as we shall see in our discussion of" The Overcoat" and "The Nose".

Should we accept the possibility of this interpretation, then the question as to why Gogol stopped the story here, apparently in medias res when the story is as yet incomplete, may be easier to answer. For one thing, the unfinished nature of the story comes into question: Can we be sure that we are not up against Gogol's usual bag of tricks, his hiding, relinquishing his "own place" behind issues secondary to the main argument and declaring a story unfinished when actually it has reached its logical end, as far as the argument is concerned? Perhaps in its tri-partite structure it is finished as it is.

If it were only a story about some strange Ukrainian character, then one could certainly see it as unfinished; but if the narrative was really moving in the direction of a legend from the Lives of the Saints, as we propose, then the first three incidents in Sponka's life, testifying to his peculiar nature, could just as well-be illustrations of a development which leads to the spiritual consequences of unconventional life and the hero's being recognized as a saint. Possible religious issues are the question of temptation, resisting temptation, and the nature of monastic life. This last was already an issue in the Dikanka cycle in "The Terrible Vengeance" , and will grow in importance both in Gogol's later fiction and in his real life as well.

What Gogol's intentions may have been, of course, it is hard to say, even though the general development of his work clearly moves in the direction here indicated. One thing is sure: The tale of Sponka parallels one of the first in the Dikanka cycle, where marriage, or the proposed marriage of a young couple does not solve the complex social and existential issues raised.Onthe contrary, the fear of commitment produces one of the most memorable of Gogol's nightmares.

The second volume of the Dikanka cycle closes with an eerily puzzling story, "A Bewitched Place-A True Story Told by the Sexton". Here again, a narrator retells one of his Grandfather's stories. It is a strange tale, without any love intrigue, and the subject is quickly defined: How to fool the Devil. "Well, we were talking about a man's being able to get the better, as the saying is, of the Devil. To be sure, if it comes to that, all sorts of things do happen in this world." 46This is a complicated narrative about Grandfather's planting a melon patch along the roadside in order to sell his harvest to passing travelers. One day, when a group of drivers, old buddies of his, stop, the conversation and merry-making reach a point where he orders his grandchildren to show off their dancing. Dissatisfied with their performance, he starts to dance himself. At a certain moment, however, toward the center of the circle, his legs stop functioning. He cannot go on and assumes that the Devil is interfering. After this preamble, he goes through several experiences with the Devil who takes him to a place he barely recognizes, makes his friends disappear, and finally shows him a site where he says a treasure is buried. This deviltry lasts three days. Grandfather returns home after these adventures, "wheeling like a barrel", and holding what he thinks is a pot of gold -- This, on closer inspection, turns out to contain only dirt and dung.

The story comes to rest here, with Grandfather delivering a sermon to his grandchildren: "Don't you believe it" , he would often say to us. " Whatever the foe of our Lord Christ says, he is always lying, the son of a bitch !There isn't a kopeck's worth of truth in him." 47 Foma Grigorevic ends the story with a sort of cadenza: "So you see how the Devil fools Man," and adds in explanation, "the Devil only knows what to make of it." 48

This ending is indeed dumbfounding. We ask why the Devil felt the need to interfere with Grandfather's harmless showing off: Why on earth was he irritated by Grandfather's dance? We do not know, but there seem to be certain parallels to "The Lost Letter ", which closes the first volume of the Dikanka cycle. The hero of both tales is a Grandfather who has done something unusual, something out of the ordinary. In "The Lost Letter ", he knows the holy texts by heart, for which reason, perhaps, he was sent on a mission to the Tsarina. Here, the Devil's irritation is triggered by Grandfather's dancing, which can be seen as out of the ordinary, as he wants to show off his strength and skill at an age inappropriate in the eyes of proper Cossack folk. Parallel lines can be detected in the fact that both grandfathers fight back, undeterred by the Devil's tricks. In their fight, they are both greatly helped by their habit of using tobacco -- sniffing or smoking tobacco, as we have indicated, plays an important role in the life of a man. Since it is a manly occupation, the Devil cannot tolerate it, reacting to it as a sign of independence and insubordination. Finally, there is a verbal recognition in both cases that the Devil can be conquered with manly determination; he can be shown up as a liar and not at all a powerful enemy, provided one knows how to resist him.

In surveying the stories in this cycle, we cannot help but recognize a somewhat surprising sequence. At first, even though the Devil is omnipresent, he can be defeated by the pure love of the younger generation. As the stories proceed, however, the Devil is shown to be more and more cunning. Even young lovers can lose to him if they make the wrong move somewhere along the road. And finally, young lovers disappear altogether and their place is taken over by tough old men, successfully fighting their lonely battle against the twisted forces of evil.


Footnotes to Chapter Three:

1. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch., t. 1, str. 103-309. Vechera na khutorye bliz Dikan'ki; in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.

2. .N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1. p.6.

3. A.Obolensky: Food-Notes to Gogol. op.cit.

4. Bertold Brecht: op.cit.p.111

5 The Tales of Hoffmann ( E.T.A. Hofmann) ed. tr. Michael Bullock. Ungar Publishing. 1963 See: Postscript p.245-passim

6. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.22.

7. .L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.22.

8. The Portable Tolstoy. ed.tr. John Bauley . Penguin Books. 1978.p.747-827

9. Bertold Brecht: op.cit.p.111

10. .Mario Bussagli, ed.: Bosch. Sadea/Sansoni.Ed. Firenze.1966.p.5

11. .Dante : The Divine Comedy. v.1.Hell. tr. Dorothy Sayers. Penguine Books.N.Y. 1949. p.104

13. .Abram Tertz: Fantastic Stories. Panheon Books.N.Y.1963. p.1-33.

14. .Setschkarev:op.cit. Karlinsky: op cit.

15. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.32.

16. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.33

17. .ibid.p.33

18. ibid.p.33

19. Fezzi, Elda: Paul Gaugin:The Complete Paintings. v.1-2.N.Y.1981.

20.A.S. Pushkin: Sochineniya v trekh tomakh. M-L. 1978, str. 7. (Prolog k Ruslanu i Lyudmilye).

21. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.35

22. Dostoyevskij: The Brothers Karamazov, op.cit.

23. Synonym to " bezdomnyy " = homeless.

24. .N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.37

25. ibid.

26. ibid.

27. ibid.p.39.

28. ibid.p.49.

29. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.49

30. ibid.p.52

31. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p.49

32. ibid.p.51

33. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 52

34. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 62

35. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 77

36. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 86

37. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 85

38. ibid.p.86

39. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 94

40. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1.p 94

41. Svyashch. Pavel Plorinskiy: U vodoradelovmysli. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. YMCA Prtess. Parizh. 1985. str. 111 passim.

43. N.V. Gogol: Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English:L. Kent: op. cit. vol. 1 p. 94

44. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1. p 94

45. V.Nabokov: N.V.Gogol. op. cit. p .65

46. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1. p 173

47. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1. p 176

48 N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 1. str. 103-309. in English :L.Kent: op. cit. vol. 1. p 198
 


Chapter Four -- Paradise Lost: Mirgorod

Soon after the publication of the Dikanka tales, Gogol published two new volumes, The Mirgorod 1 and Arabesques 2 .The Mirgorod, as it subtitle indicates, was to be understood as a continuation of the Evenings at the Farm near Dikanka. It has four stories: "The Old-World Landowners ', 3 Taras Bul'ba in volume I and "Vii " and the "Tale of How Ivan Ivanovic Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovic " 4 in volume II. Written between 1832 and 1834, they were published early in 1835. Gogol was just 26.

The genesis of the first to be published, the "Two Old World Landowners ", has been well established by critics. We know that in the summer of 1832, Gogol visited his own village, Vasilevka, for the first time since moving to St. Petersburg. On his journey home, he also stopped at the small provincial town of Mirgorod. The title of this new collection therefore springs from an actual place near Gogol's homeland.

The Mirgorod is made up of Ukrainian stories, but in contradistinction to the Dikanka cycle, they sound an elegiac note reflecting a nostalgic afterglow. "The Old World Landowners" has been understood by various critics as a tribute to either Gogol's own grandparents or to some other old people whom Gogol visited in Mirgorod on the way home. Certainly, it is a tribute to a generation of Ukrainians whom Gogol admired, people living in that Golden Age of Ukrainian history which plays such an important role in his writing.

That Golden Age, like the Ovidian aura prima, is clearly evoked from literature with the introduction of the heroes, Afanasii Ivanovic Tovstogubov and his wife Pulxeria Ivanovna, whom Gogol compares to Philemon and Baucis of Greek mythology. The comparison of the Ukrainian past with the Homeric age produces certain recurring elements: In making the comparison, Gogol exclaims: "If I were a painter and wanted to portray Philemon and Baucis on canvas, I could chose no other models." 5 His interest in how other art forms would deal with his topic was to remain a permanent preoccupation (as we shall see when we come to the Arabeski ). Greek mythology, indeed, serves as the underlying philosophical current and heightens our perception of Gogol's concern with the interrelationship of past and present, of the vanishing Golden Age in the face of the advance of the Iron Age. In this manner, he elevated the homely folk-tale to an idyll, a sentimental, bucolic which assumes idosyncronic flavor of Gogol's own philosophical outlook. A nostalgic view of the present here moves with biblical overtones as well, toward the Preacher's mourning over the vanitatum vanitas of all earthly joy.

Afanasii Ivanovic and Pulcheria Ivanovna live in the happy homestead of two people growing old together. Childless, they devote themselves completely to one another. He is the spoiled, but kind, child in the household, while his motherly wife abets her only darling and sees that the "child" is fed and clothed and pampered in every way. Food, especially, is the central issue in their lives and Gogol has a veritable feast in describing the variety of delicacies that Afanasii Ivanovic consumes at all possible and impossible times of the day and night.The couple's conversation is limited, indeed, to food; the entire operation of the farm is centered around preparing, storing and organizing all that is needed to keep Afanasii Ivanovic eating and drinking most of the time.If Afanasii Ivanovic's passion is eating, Pulxeria Ivanovna's is not only to keep the household machinery humming, but also to keep the rooms of the house as warm as a tropical forest.

The somewhat dull but happy and, for the loving couple, meaningful life is interrupted by Pulxeria Ivanovna's death, which brings the whole edifice tumbling sown. Her death is not sudden, but well prepared by the introduction of an anecdote which we know Gogol heard on the way to Vasilevka, perhaps in Mirgorod: An old lady had a favorite cat who ran away. She saw his disappearance as an omen of her own impending death. He speedy demise confirmed her fears.

Gogol seized on this anecdote as he had the fable on the cinovnik who craved a hunting gun but lost it on his first hunting trip by dropping it accidentally into the water -- the incident which became the prototype of Akaki Akakievic's adventures in "The Overcoat". But what a difference there is between the prototype and Gogol's handling here! Pulcheria Ivanovna too, has a small gray cat which one day gets lost in the "thick forest" surrounding the house. True that while the cat returns after three days of vagabonding, Pulcheria Ivanovna has taken its disappearance as a sign of her impending death. Indeed, soon thereafter she dies. Gogol weaves this story of superstition into the internal logic of the narration which runs throughout as a mysterious undercurrent: the simultaneous absence and all-permeating presence of sex.We have already seen that the couple is childless and that they have reproduced the parent-child relationship in their behavior toward one another but the inexplicable yet paradoxical absence and presence of sex is omnipresent. Even though there are no other males in the household, the multitude of maid-servants are pregnant most of the time; the little gray cat did not just run away but was seduced by the horrible wild toms roaming in the wilderness that surrounds the house. She was abducted: "...as a company of soldiers seduces a silly peasant woman". And the cat has run away from the warm, pleasant home to exchange her petted life for the harsh reality of life in the forest, because "she had adopted to romantic principle that poverty with love is better than life in the palace." The irrational ingratitude of this little creature foreshadows similar unreasonable and ungrateful behavior in such other stories as Taras' Bul'ba. Gogol has turned the superstitious anecdote which he had heard by accident into a major philosophical insight into human psychology, his vision of the dialectical pull between life and reason. Thus, Pulcheria Ivanovna's preoccupation with her death and the preparations for her funeral, the precautions she takes for caring for her "child", who is her husband, after her death, elevate the story from the incidental and the superstitious to the level of medieval narratives of the Lives of the Saints (cf. L. Tolstoy's description of Natalya Savishna in Childhood.).

We may now ask, did the stray cat's sexual experiences remind Pulcheria Ivanovna of the transitory nature of all human love, be it sexual, platonic or rather, did it indicate to her that the only permanence of physical existence is in the children we leave behind, and that Afanasii Ivanovic, left on his own, will make for a very fragile and helpless offspring? We do not know; Gogol does not answer, and in general does not stray from the humorous treatment of the heroic couple; but the underlying and serious philosophical implications were recognized by Pushkin and Belinski, as well as other early critics and admirers of his art. They especially recognized Gogol's genius in his ability to combine mutually exclusive feelings of humor and tragedy: of superstition and the most profound philosophical and religious questions, of bombastic historical commonplace with and original and disturbing philosophy of history.

Pulcheria Ivanovna's death, of course, has a devastating effect on Afanasii Ivanovic he soon turns into a child-like imbecile unable to perform even the most simple chores, until death relieves him of living out the life of an orphan.

But to return to Philemon and Baucis: the devoted couple, as we know, play unwitting host to Zeus and Hermes who have visited them incognito. For their warm hospitality the gods reward them not with gold nor material goods -- though they offer these - but rather with their dying together so that the survivor will not suffer the agony of loneliness. This blessing is not granted to Gogol's holy couple. In his times and his fiction, the gods -- or later the Christian God, are less gracious and forgiving. It is clear that the Golden Age has indeed passed and that we are on the threshold of the crude and ruthless Iron Age.

Interestingly, Gogol himself is not helpless in the course of his inquiry into the causes of this change. It did not come about, for "no reason at all" ( pochemu-to ), as the famous Gogolian formulation has it; it came about because of the way human society is organized, the way the economy is run, the way matters simply get out of hand. Indeed, careful scrutiny reveals another recurrent feature, a social critique on the sad affairs in the then Ukrainian and Russian economies. Afanasii Ivanovic presides over a wasteful household: his stewards rob him blind, the estate upon which his peace and his quiet, Epicurean life rests is in shambles and indeed, the Golden Age has already been worse than undermined during his lifetime. It is easy to recognize Gogol as a much maligned and political reformer in the much debated political and economic thesis inherent in the Selected Passages...later we shall see that his religious crisis did not burst suddenly upon him, but had been in preparation from the very outset of his activities..

The final destruction of the Golden Age comes on rapidly after Pulcheria Ivanovna's death, and the story ends on a melancholy note about the petty "banality" (poshlost' ) of the poverty-stricken wasteland, which was formerly the Ukrainian Garden of Eden. Both nevertheless reappear in the final story of volume I, the Taras Bul'ba 6. This represents Gogol's excursion into the Golden Age of Ukrainian history, the 16th Century, when the Ukraine was an independent nation not yet attached to Russia, and fighting for its existence against the strong Polish state.

Critics have often viewed this novella ( some 130 pages in 12 chapters --11in the first version ) as a romantic work on history, as Gogol's glorification of the Cossacks, especially abhorrent for their cruelty and crude male camaraderie. Particularly vehement is the negative criticism in Simon Karlinsky's work, where Gogol's novel is treated as a youthful aberration, a nationalistic, jingoistic warmongering, a worship of the worst features of Ukrainian history. Yet this view misses the continuous development of Gogol's thought of the distant past, a legendary Golden Age in his native land existing only in legends and fairy tales, as he clearly understood. How do we know ? Frequent asides, author's comments dispersed throughout, tell us that Gogol treated Ukrainian history in the same way that Homer treated Greek history. Indeed, there are lengthy passages in Taras Bul'ba where the Iliad is clearly presented as progenitor.

As in the Greek legend, the story deals with the final, decisive events in the life of a Ukrainian legendary hero, Taras Bul'ba, a 16-th century Hetman of the Dnieper Cossacks, though this chronology does not stand up to historical scrutiny. No matter: Gogol is not writing history ( even though he was a professor of history at the time the story was written ). He is dealing with the rise and decline of the hero and the hero's family. We first see Taras Bul'ba as he welcomes his sons, Osta and Andrei, on their return from the Latin school where they had been sent several years ago to receive an education. Now, their education completed, they are back home and ready to start "real" life. Real life is different from school: In school they were supposed to learn the humanistic values of the western Middle ages: Gogol offers a nostalgic picture of humanistic studies in the Kiev school which provided the Ukraine with a window onto western values through Polish intermediaries. Now, on their return to the Ukraine, their first order from their doting father is to forget what they have learned. Life for the "real" Cossack is not humanism but war, not the worship of the "beautiful lady" but male comradeship and hard drinking in the Cossack camps, killing and gathering booty -- all, of course, on behalf of Orthodox Christianity which must be defended against the Infidel, that is, the Polish Catholics who have subverted Orthodox Christianity.This heady mixture of values is bound to be a recipe for trouble.

The second motif runs like a contrapuntal fugue under the sadness of human folly. Offering a typical example, Gogol sighs: "But the future is unknown, and it stands before man like the autumn fog that rises from the swamp: in it the birds fly senselessly up and down, flapping their wings, not recognizing one another. The dove does not see the hawk, the hawk does not see the dove; and no one knows how far he is flying from his doom". 7

Taras takes his sons to the Cossack camp, vividly described in its confusion and male roughhousing: Gogol had a keen eye for the political structure of the Cossack camp of the Golden Age, noting its elective democracy and its adherence to the supremacy of the vox pouli as the vox dei .In this democratic society, the people demand a military campaign against the infidel Poles, a call which the leaders gladly obey.

The campaign launched, the Cossacks reach a fortified town held by the Poles. A siege follows, and it looks like a matter of time before the Cossacks will take the city, loot it, kill the enemy, and finish the campaign victoriously. Not surprisingly, disaster strikes: Taras' younger son, Andrei, on sentry duty, is hailed by a Tartar woman who is a messenger from the beleaguered city. Her news is disturbing: the Polish governor's daughter ( gubernatorskaya dochka ), whom Andrei has known and with whom he was once in love during his student days in Kiev, is in the city. She has learned that Andrei is among the Cossack troops and now wants to let him know that she is suffering and that she wants him to help her; "Go and tell him" the Tartar woman reports her saying, "if he remembers me, he must come to me; and if he does not, he must give a piece of bread for my old mother, for I do not want to see her die before my eyes. Let me die first, and her after me. Clasp his knees and entreat him. He, too, has an old mother; let him give us bread for her sake". 8 (The injunction "to clasp his knees" is interesting, as it is a familiar gesture of supplication in the Iliad, and unknown to the Ukrainian Cossacks.)

Masterfully, Gogol moves the story towards the anticipated tragedy: Andrei is still talking to the Tartar woman when he is caught by his father, who has been dozing in a nearby tent and now warns him: "Andrei", said old Bul'ba "there is a woman with you. I'll skin you when I get up. Women will bring you to no good." 9

The idea is recurrent in Gogol's stories. The elements now fall into place: the younger son, his mother's favorite and the more sensitive of the two brothers, follows the call of the Polish governor's daughter, the eternal feminine in Gogol's terms, all the way to his perdition. It is a forgone conclusion that he will leave the Cossack camp, that he will rob his own brother for food in order to carry it to the Governor's daughter. Worse is to follow on the heels of this single, but dangerous sidestep, this daring trafficking with the enemy: as soon as Andrei gets into the town, two unexpected things occur. First, he sees the real and ugly effect of war on the starving, suffering city dwellers, not the manliness and glory of war in which he has been led to believe. If Gogol's aim had been to glorify war, and the marauding Cossacks in general as some critics would have us believe, the scene would not have been included in the story. But obviously, Gogol's aim is different, as was Homer's, or other great epic writers': to show a man caught up in the moment of agony and having to make the unaccustomed, the most unwelcome, the most painful decision in his life on his realization of the right path of action.

This realization also prepares for the second jolt: he sees the woman he has loved since his student days in Kiev now reduced to suffering "for no reason at all" (pochemu to ), or for the simple reason of her having been born on the wrong side of history -- and he, Andrei, is the cause of her suffering! We recognize a new version of the Shakespearean story of the Capulets and Montagues in Ukrainian garb in yet another variant of Ovid's tale of Pyramus and Thisbe.

The tragedy unfolds in Chapter Six (the evil number). The tender confession of the lovers is equivalent to a rebellion against their father's orders and will result in their death sentence. As Andrei cries, his heart breaking: "And what are father, comrades and country to me?...He tosses his head and draws his figure erect like a poplar..."Who says that my country is the Ukraine? Our country is what our souls seek, what is most precious of all hinges to it. You are my country! Here is my country!" 10 The chapter closes with Gogol's comment: "And ruined is the Cossack! He is lost to Cossack chivalry. He will see the camp no more -- nor his father's farms, nor the Church of God. No more will the Ukraine see the bravest of her sons who undertook to defend her. Old Taras will tear the gray hair from his head and curse the day and the hour he begot such a son to shame him."The events are chronologically foreordained, or, in Pasternak's formulation in the poem, "Hamlet", at the end of Doktor Zhivago:


Not only will Andrei not return to the Cossack camp, but he will become a highly motivated turncoat who volunteers his services to the Polish governor in order to fight the Cossacks who are ravishing the governor's daughter and her fellow Poles. In the next battle between the Poles and the Cossacks, we find Andrei leading the Polish troops. His bravery and military prowess are unsurpassed --but,of course, he is on the wrong side in the battle line. The next step in the tragedy is inevitable: Taras has his son captured alive and shoots him himself, shouting: "I begot you, and now I shall kill you".

Gogol's comment slows down the action: "Andrei was pale as a sheet, he lips could be seen to move and he uttered a name, but it was not the name of his country, nor of his mother nor of his brother; it was the name of the Polish beauty. Taras fired ." 12

Need one say that this is but the beginning of the downfall of the house of Bul'ba, of the unfolding of an Ukrainian Oresteia ? That Osip, the elder son, soon will be taken prisoner by the Poles during a cruel raid of vengeance of the Cossacks, and that Taras will have to witness the execution of his first-born after excruciating torture -- and that, finally, Taras himself will be killed, roasted alive, after further raids upon Poland?

Gogol's pen frequently reaches existentialist heights, showing human folly as a fated, permanent aspect of human, and perhaps even divine, history. What else can one call the conversation between Taras and the itinerant Jewish merchant, Jankel, after Taras has discovered that his son Andrei is in the besieged city by his own volition? The conversation is Shakespearean in its tragic insights into the nature of human blindness and the mechanism of the moving forces of history; blind ideological conformity has been pitted against the free choice of the individual. Taras can understand his son's defection only as an enemy act, while Jankel presents him with the unheard of, sacrilegious idea that Andrei switched sides as a result of his own free choice --- as in a quasi-biblical freedom of choice which inevitably causes the downfall of the mighty, a freedom of choice pitted against the ideologically correct "one's own place" (svoe mesto ), a freedom of choice bound by family and other loyalties and therefore fated.

Equally strong are the religious and perhaps sacrilegious overtones and implications of the scene which describes Osip's execution by the Poles. The fact that an innocent son is sacrificed by his father for "the father's idea" has serious religious implications in Christian doctrine, as does the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son, suggesting perhaps heretical and agonizing doubts as to the basic paradoxes implicit in Orthodox doctrine. When Osip in his final agony calls out for his father's help, the resemblance to Christ's final words on the cross are uncanny. To Christ's final words: "Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?", the Bible reports no answer, Gogol's Taras speaks out: "I hear you, my son!" 13

Taras' words are prophetic: "Farewell comrades ! he shouted to them. Remember me and come here next spring, and have a fine time of it! What have you gained, you Polish bastards? Think you that there is anything in the world that a Cossack would fear? Wait a while; the time is coming, the time is at hand, when you will learn what the Orthodox faith can do! Already nations far and near have an inkling that their ruler will rise up from Russia and that there will be no power on earth that will not submit to him..." 14

The prediction of Russia's ultimate victory in world history is expressed again in similar terms at the end of the first volume of Dead Souls in the well known troika scene. It is, of course, a non sequitur in this story but it insists on a permanent feature of Gogol's view of history. Whether he meant the actual, historical empire of Russia, or the Heavenly Jerusalem is an important question whose ambiguity foreshadows many of the disappointments, disagreements and angry exchanges between Gogol and his contemporaries after the publication of the Selected Passages... The question has also divided Gogol's admirers into two camps: those who could be described as Russian imperialists and the critics who are religious or philosophically minded. The first camp envisions Gogol as a protagonist of Russian imperialism -- for this reason he was dear to Stalinist Russia. The second, sees him in opposite terms as a critic deeply committed to the denial of the here and now on behalf of our heavenly mansions, the unattainable but unforgettable Holy Grail.We hope to be right in thinking that Gogol had the ideal Russia,in mind, eventough the two Russias were easily confused and overlapping in his own psyche.

Volume Two of the Mirgorod adds two stories to the sage,"Vii " and "How Ivan Ivanovic Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovic ".

" Vii " is one of Gogol's last witch stories and can be understood in many respects as a continuation of certain elements of the Taras Bul'ba , especially in its description of student life in the Ukrainian Latin School in Kiev, from which Osip and Andrei Bul'ba graduated, and which, very likely, resembles Gogol's own school experiences. It also contains the preoccupation with fairly tales that Gogol exploited in the Dikanka cycle. Indeed, the very title of the story is given a footnote which states that "Vii is a colossal creature of the popular imagination. It is the name among Little Russians for the chief of the gnomes, whose eyelids droop down to earth... The tale is folklore. I was unwilling to change it", Gogol tells us, and " I tell it almost in the simple words in which I heard it".

An American translator, Leonard Kent, comments on this note: "Gogol probably never heard it at all. No discovery has been made of the folklore source of Vii." Simon Karlinsky also has vehemently denied the validity of Gogol's statement, and it is accepted generally that Gogol's note is pure invention that Gogol is here showing himself at his best -- or worst -- like many of his characters who are " devious and cunning liars " .

As there is no proof that Gogol was not freely exercising his imagination in inventing both title and story, we believe that more credit should be given to Gogol's own statement, that " Vii ", or whatever the original name is of this "chief of the gnomes", seems clearly to belong to popular folklore, but to a corpus different from the standard Russian or Ukrainian catalogue within which researchers are delving. Gogol's may have originated with students, whose life is so vividly portrayed. Indeed, the entire narration begins with their going home after the end of a semester, traveling on the road -- sometimes for days and nights together -- passing time by telling "scary" stories to each other, as children might were they not spoiled now by more modern distractions. Thus the story may truly be of folk origin, and Gogol may have been telling the truth in his footnote.

School life here presented has much in common with the school we saw in "Spon'ka ". The teachers are undistinguished by erudition. Their method consists mainly of administering various kinds of punishments, making use of any instrument handy. These punishments are stoically tolerated by the student population as normal to teaching. The students are divided by age into four classes and also the school's four subjects matters. Gogol provides a nostalgic but bitingly grotesque picture of the students' virtues which have to do as much with learning as with fooling around, roughhousing, smoking and stealing food.

Particularly interesting are their remarks, surely reflecting Gogol's own school experiences, about the students' constant preoccupation with food. Food indeed, serves as the great temptation as the story moves in the direction of demonic. Food and the Devil are frequently connected in Gogol's mind as we have seen in the Dikanka stories -- or, for that matter, as we know from the tragic consequences of the obsession in Gogol's own life.

The hungry students devise all sorts of ingenious ways to get food for themselves and to wrench financial support. Besides thievery, Gogol lists other ways of obtaining food and money to support them at school. Perhaps these may again reflect Gogol's own experiences (or, if not, then perhaps they are part of the student folklore at the base of the story.) The students organize puppet shows ( vertep ), go caroling to the houses of the rich, and perform plays, comedies mostly, on biblical themes, e.g. the stories of Herodias and of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar. It is easy to move further, as Gogol does, to dealing with an image of itinerant students well-known to western Europe n the Middle Ages, and also to the westernized Ukrainian tradition of the student as the Devil's familiar. Goethe's Faust is, of course, a point in case: the student on the road, the student alchemist, the student magician are essential components of the tradition. Unknown to Russia proper, for lack of similar student establishments, nevertheless this aspect of intellectual life was well known to Gogol as a result of his studies.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the three students on their way home for a summer vacation have an encounter with the Devil or rather, with his feminine counterpart, a witch in the guise of an old woman. The theologian, Khalva, the philosopher Khoma Brut, and the student of rhetoric, Tiberi Gorobets, are involved in this adventure. After wandering on the road for days, hungry and tired, they arrive at a remote village and ask at the first house on the road to be admitted for the night. The adventure begins with ominous signs: everything seems to indicate that they are in a haunted house and that they are encountering the Evil One. An old woman answers the door. Unfriendly at first, she finally lets them in and puts them up in different places, since, as she says, she mistrusts them should they all stay together. Khoma Brut is accommodated in an empty sheep stall. In the middle of the night, he is paid a visit by the old woman. Although he does not understand what she wants, if soon becomes obvious that she is interested in sex. Khoma, recognizing her as a witch, tries to resist, but is unsuccessful, and the old woman jumps on his back. A breathtaking ride follows, which is also one of the most outspoken sexual passages in Gogol's fiction. At first, it is the witch who is riding Khoma, but as soon as he remembers his prayers and religious instructions as to how to resist the Evil One, the position changes and now it is Khoma who will ride the witch. At this point, a miraculous transformation occurs: the witch turns into a beautiful young girl and Khoma is left bewildered by the experience.

So completely do the miracle and the magic event transform Khoma, he is unable to continue traveling with his fellow students and he returns to Kiev. In Kiev, hungry and with nothing to do during the semester break, he undergoes another perplexing experience: the "baker's widow" takes pity on him and takes him home to feed his visceral as well as his sexual appetite. As a result, a third sexual encounter is to follow -- all three are somehow interconnected. everything is fated, or appears to be so, and under the guise of a lazily flowing realism lurks a growing streak of predetermination.

Just as Khoma returned to Kiev apparently against his own will, now he is sent away from Kiev to parts of the country he never wanted to see. The rector of the college calls Khoma one day, and explains that the college is sending him to the house of a very influential, rich Cossack whose daughter has fallen seriously ill; she has requested that Khoma Brut come to her bedside and read to her from the Bible, especially the Psalms. Khoma has a premonition (we remember that premonitions figure importantly in this fairytale world) that she must be the witch whom he thought he had killed. The reader, fascinated by this non-sequitur hardly notices it, unless he is willing to retrace his steps to the passage where Gogol described the witch turning into a young girl, moaning and "dying" -- one would think of sexual ecstasy. No, Gogol decided that Khoma Brut has actually killed her and the story becomes meaningful: the witch now seeks revenge on Khoma's ability to resist her power , to turn around the sexual game and to force her to reveal her true identity as a beautiful young vampire.

Though Khoma Brut balks every step of the way to the rich Cossack's house, there is nothing he can do. Irresistible forces suck him ever deeper into the whirlwind of events. As soon as he arrives at the house, he is informed, that the maiden, the pannochka , has already died. Instead of reading the Psalms at her bedside, he is now supposed to hold a three night vigil in the chapel at her coffin-side. Khoma immediately recognizes the dead girl as the witch. Masterfully, Gogol retards the action with a colorful fairytale of Ukrainian village life where Paradise was taken over by the Evil One. Different narrators tell their hair-raising stories, as in the Dikanka cycle, all of them about the pannochka who was a witch. Everyone adds his two cents -- they tell seven stories all told. Old Dorosh was ridden by her, just as Khoma was; the wife of another Cossack, Sheptun, saw her as a werewolf, who one day ran into her house and killed her year-old baby and drank the baby's blood. The stable hand and hunter, Mikita, has experienced evenworse ills: "One day the young mistress comes into the stables where he is rubbing down his horse. "Mikita" says she, "Let me put my little foot on you." And the foolish fellow, delighted, responded, "Not your foot only" says he "you may sit on me altogether ".The young mistress lifts her foot, and as soon as he sees her bare, plump white leg, he goes crazy." 15 The incident ended with a wild ride, not unlike Khoma's, following which Mikita fell sick and one day just "burned up entirely, burned up by himself" and turned into " a pile of ashes". 16

But as Gogol informs us, the villagers were fascinated by the subject matter: "Each in turn hastened to tell some tale about her. One had seen the witch in the form of a haystack come right up to the door of his cottage; another had his cap or pipe stolen by her, many of the village girls had their hair cut off; other had lost several pints of blood which she had sucked from them." 17 This masterful preparation of the expected denouement retards the main story line still further with an account of Khoma's hair-raising three nights in Church. Khoma survives the first terrifying night by remembering his prayers. The second night is still more frightening, while the third does him in. The mounting tension is exacerbated by such issues as the beauty and horror of the dead pannochka ' s face, her desire to overcome Khoma's resistance, and Khoma's remaining steadfast in his prayers and not being carried away by fear and curiosity. But desire to see, to experience the horrible, proves to be his final undoing. Had he stuck to his prayers, he could have escaped. But Gogol would have us realize that we are made in such a paradoxical fashion that we are unable to withstand the irrational desire to witness the horrible, or to suppress our desire to experience the taboo.We see here the Ukrainian version of the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. As soon as Khoma Brut lifts his eyes from the prayer book, the witch brings out the monster to overcome his resistance. The Vii has penetrated Khoma's circle of charms and succeeded in killing him.

As soon as the witch claims Khoma's body and soul, the monsters disappear and the defiled church is swallowed up by a dense thicket. Khoma Brut and his happy student life also disappear as if they had never existed.

A final in memoriam is then provided in a casual conversation in a tavern between Khoma's two former friends, Khalva and Gorobets, who by now have graduated from the school: "He was a fine man , " one says, "And he came to grief for nothing." Whereupon his partner interjects , "I know why he came to grief; it was because he was afraid. Had he not been afraid, the witch could not have hone anything to him. You have only to cross yourself and spit right on her tail, and nothing will happen. I know all about it. Why, the old women who sit in our market place in Kiev are all witches." 18

Many aspects of this tale reflect Gogol's permanent preoccupation. As we have already pointed out, the ominous sentence about "burning to ashes" reflects Gogol's grotesquely comic but simultaneously nostalgic view of a glorious past. Ukrainian Eden is but a strange and legendary memory. Gone, too, are the glorious student days as are the old traditions of Cossack bravery depicted in Taras Bul'ba, not to mention the vicious beauty of the pannochka. The charm of the "governor's daughter" has been the downfall of yet another deserving Cossack, since the tenacious destructiveness of the Evil One is ultimately stronger than any Christian remedy, be it in form of prayers or even of personal bravery. Last, but not least, since sexual temptations come from the devil, it is better to have nothing to do with them. Not only has poor Khoma been seduced so catastrophically by the fair sex, but he was not opposed to them either. Once the Devil discovered his weakness, the poor student was defenseless against his machinations. The beautiful, bucolic Ukraine, Gogol's Garden of Eden, on this side of the Ural mountains, has now been taken over by the Evil One, and Gogol and his characters go about desperately trying to figure out how to deal with him.

The final story of the Mirgorod perpetuates some of the concerns Gogol has dealt with in the previous stories, and also advances some new ideas which will resurface in his later fiction. If Taras Bul'ba and "Vii " reflect Gogol's journey to a legendary period in Ukrainian history, the first and final tales, "The Old World Landowners " and the "Tale of How Ivan Ivanovic Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovic " deal directly with the village of Mirgorod and therefore explain the collection title..

Mirgorod stands not just for a particular place, but also for Gogol's transformation of this geography into a nostalgic picture of the destruction and moral deterioration of his Ukrainian Paradise, the harmonious "svoe mesto " , which had previously been witnessed by the Narrator.

This story is realistic in tone, a matter-of-fact description of the changes witnessed by the Narrator during some dozen years which can be seen as equal to Gogol's absence from his native Ukraine and his move to St. Petersburg. As the title indicates, in the village of Mirgorod live two respected Cossacks, Ivan Ivanovic and Ivan Nikiforovic, who are next-door neighbors. Both are middle-aged, single men, and Gogol takes great pains to describe the details of their having arrived at their present state. Ivan Ivanovic has been a widower for the past ten years while Ivan Nikiforovic claims never to have married. Closer scrutiny reveals that the two bachelors do not lack female companions; Ivan Ivanovic has a sturdy young peasant girl named Gapka living in his house and running the household; hints as to their relationship indicate that "Ivan Iavnovic did not have any children, but Gapka did ",while the children running around the house call Ivan Ivanovic "daddy". As to Ivan Nikiforovic, the situation is less cozy: he is visited from time to time by the energetic Agafya Fedoseevna who not only keeps matters under control while she is there, but actually serves as the catalyst for the ghastly developments to follow.

The story is actually a mock heroic epic, written in the form of a heroic medieval hero tale, and piles marvelously funny nonsense upon nonsense as if the banality (poshlost') of the neighbors; everyday life reflected the harmony of life in the bygone years of the Ukrainian Eden. All is cozy, warm and satisfied in this world, or, as Ivan Ivanovic wonders in one of the internal monologues as he surveys his blessed life."What is it that I don't have?" (Chego u menya net?)

It turns out that he has everything he needs, except that one day he witnesses a change in the routine of household chores in his neighbor's house. His neighbor's old military uniform and some other clothes -- not to mention a beautiful gun which he has never seen before -- are being aired by one of the servants. His query as to what it is that he does not have has been answered, possible by the Evil One, in that display of military paraphernalia: He doesn't have a gun! And the desire to have it becomes a passion overpowering every other desire, it will prove to be the stumbling block in their friendship and the seed of Eden's destruction. Are we again, perhaps, in the presence of a Ukrainian version of the story of Cain and Abel?

Gogol wonderfully mimics the opening negotiations between the two friends and neighbors over the gun. The coveting of his neighbor's "gun", which, as we know is the classic symbol of power, gets between the friends, who lose control of their words and deeds. The conversation is typical of others in Gogol's oeuvre, as we shall see, especially in "The Inspector General"and other later works, especially Dead Souls. When people possessed by the Evil One lose control over their words, and language takes over, it leads into the unpredictable. The two friends insult each other, cursing and rekindling old grievances. But the fatal word is one that sounds harmless enough: gander (gusak ). Why this particular word should be taken as a mortal insult by Ivan Ivanovic is a riddle, though certain critics, like Simon Karlinsky have constructed around it a homosexual import.We believe, instead, that the insult is quite in line with the general tone of the narration, of mock heroic, nonsensical fun, in which words do not really describe actual things or situations, but rather describe the atmosphere of the banality of everyday life, in other words, poshlost'. Reason and human intellect, or for that matter, good taste have been replaced by self-complacent empty forms. The fatal word gander is further driven home by Ivan Ivanovic's neighbor's constructing a goose pan on their boundary line, actually somewhat over the boundary line that separates their properties. The fight enters a new stage. Hatred and insults are further hardened by the appearance of Ivan Nikiforovic's visitor, Agafya Fedorovna. She is the serpent who will finish off the friendship and will cause the actual physical destruction of the friend's goods and even their health. Both neighbors run to the courts, lawsuits follow lawsuits, with all sorts of topsy turvy turns: Ivan Ivanovic's gray sow runs one day into the courthouse and chews up Ivan Nikifirivic's latest petition -- the insult is again mortal. The final result is predictable. They have spent all their lives and their money on fighting lawsuit after lawsuit, and ruining each other in the process.

In the courts, the judge, and the various court officials, we recognize prototypes for later characters. They are the same who run the town in "The Inspector General": corrupt, incompetent, greedy, pushy and blissfully ignorant of any wrongdoing. They also appear in Dead Souls, even though by then, Gogol's pen will have matured and added richly to the youthful sketches of their characters.The same provincial darkness of mind and of the streets, a literal and metaphoric wallowing in mud and in fat, and their crazy prejudices are the very essence of this riotously funny, profoundly sad story in which lies shattered the Garden of Eden of Ukraine's Golden Age.

It is destroyed "for no reason at all" (pochemu to ) . The destruction begins with an object of desire and moves to verbal demolition through such nonsensical insults as" gander", and then with the help of the conniving Agafya Fedorovna, to mutual destruction. It is yet another parable, this time of the ruinous consequences of coveting one's neighbor's goods, in a warning of the Ten Commandments.The narrator,sighing, ends the tale with the famous words: "It's a dreary world, Gentleman ! " (Skuchno na svete, gospoda ! ) 19

But who is this Narrator? He refers to himself in the first person singular, as opposed to all the fanciful, fictitious narrators in the Dikanka cycle -- we can be certain that he is none other that Gogol himself, Just as Khoma Brut recognizes the witch as soon as he sees the beautiful "pannochka " even though she was dead, we realize it is Gogol hiding in that carriage. And driving with him through rain, slush and fog, over the ruined Ukrainian landscape, we see the former Garden of Eden, the Paradise of male friendship: "The lean steeds known in Mirgorod as post express horses, set off, making an unpleasant sound as their hoofs sank into the gray mass of mud. The rain poured in streams onto the Jew who sat on the box covered with a sack. The damp pierced me through and through. The gloomy gate with its sentry box, at which a veteran was cleaning his gray equipment, passed slowly by. Again the same fields, in places black and furrowed and in places covered with green, the drenched cows and crows, the monotonous rain, the tearful sky with a single gleam of light -- it is a dreary world, Gentlemen!" 20

The new glimpse is remarkable: we see the weary traveler, visiting the ruined Ukrainian landscape, and the realistic gloom which accompanies the vicissitudes of travel. Gogol was later in his life to travel a great deal. This road, with its traveling observer, imbued with the sadness of a realization that nothing remains the same (tempora mutantur et nos mutamur ) permeates the story's finale. It is a far cry from the ending which also includes a well-known traveler and his observations, the ecstatic and visionary ending of the first volume of the Dead Souls foreshadowed in Gogol's early work. We remember the poem about Italy which ended with the glorification of country. Yet this ending is the opposite of ecstatic: it is downcast, gloomy and closes on a note of despair over the destruction of earthly Paradise. But the two visions, of Paradise destroyed and Paradise foretold, are organically interconnected. The downfall of the Ukrainian Paradise will necessitate the projection of a new Paradise, the building of the New Jerusalem that William Blake had foreseen in his lovely poem a few years earlier. Hence Gogol's later interest in preaching concrete steps toward social improvements in his homeland. Hence also the political and religious advice and prophecies so controversial in the eyes of many of Gogol's critics.

Footnotes for Chapter Four:

1. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2, str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.

2. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch (Arabeski) t. 2 str. 11-219; in English: K.Proffer: Arabesques.op.cit.

3. Starosvetskiye Pomeshchiki.

4. Kak possorilis' Ivan Ivanovich s Ivanom Nikiforovichem?

5. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.3.

6. S.Karlinsky:Gogol's Sexual Labyrinth, op.cit. p.78

7. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.61

8. ibid.p.63.

9. ibid.p.65.

10. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.66.

11. Boris Pasternak : Doktor Zhivago. Pantheon, 1958.p. 527

12. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.76.

13. 5. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.77.

14. ibid.p.108

15. (nachal'nik gnomov ! ) how strange to call a gnome thus as if he were something of a cinovnik L.T.

16. Kent. op. cit. p. 132

17. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.154.

18. ibid.p.156

19. ibid.p.168

20. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (Mirgorod) t. 2. str. 11-219; in English: Kent: op.cit.v.II.p.168.



Chapter Five -- The Arabesques : A Search for a New Beginning

Almost simultaneously with the Mirgorod, Gogol prepared and published another volume, oddly entitled Arabesques.
Its publishing history 1 tells us that it was singularly unsuccessful and attracted no attention aside from a curt and barely polite note from Pushkin. Despite all Gogol's efforts, the volume was ignored by both critics and readers. From an Introduction to the first English translation some 150 years later (1985) by Karl Proffer, we learn that the work was completely ignored in the English-speaking world as well. As Proffer puts it: "There are two works of Gogol which nobody reads: The Arabesques is one and Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends the other." 2 In these two volumes Gogol moved outside the world of fiction and tried to appear as a theoretician of art, or an historian and, in the Selected Passages, as a social and religious commentator. Not only have modern critics ignored or even ridiculed Gogol for these, but they have regarded them as an embarrassment, an anomaly best excluded from the canon.

Looking, nevertheless, at the Arabesques, the unbiased reader will find that Gogol is the same man here as in his fiction: there is no difference in the ideas of the writer of the generally recognized fictional works and of Gogol the theoretician.

Like his previous collections, the Arabesques are organized into two parts.This apparently unimportant fact becomes an organizational principle in Gogol's works which is to mark his later Dead Souls. In each there are nine sections: in Volume One these are preceded by a Foreword which is followed by seven essays and two stories, "The Portrait" and the fragment, "A Chapter from an Historical Novel"; Volume Two includes six essays and three fictions, "The Nevsky Prospect ", a fragment from "An historical novel ", "The Prisoner ", and finally, "Notes of a Madman " . As any reader of Gogol realizes even on first glance, three fictional pieces ("The Portrait", "The Nevsky Prospect" and "Notes of a Madman" ) deserve their fame. The remaining essays have been swallowed up by oblivion.

A discussion of Gogol's complete works must necessarily deal with both the fictional and the non-fictional pieces in the Arabesques, and it is especially useful to take a fresh look at the non-fiction in order to gain a better understanding of some of Gogol's later enigmatic pronouncements.

In the Introduction, Gogol explains that he wrote the pieces at different times, without any particular publication in mind, and that "They were suggested by my soul, and I chose as their subject-matter only those things which had strongly interested me." 3 Just as in the introductory notes to "Hanz Kuekhelgarten ", Gogol is apologetic; he pretends to have published this volume with the educational purpose of enlightening "young readers" this, coming from a man himself only 25 to 26 years old! On the other hand, he hopes to offer "two, three untold truths" which will justify their publication. Finally, the Introduction closes with yet another excuse: Gogol realizes the unevenness of the writing, but he has had no time to make improvements or corrections, and therefore asks the reader's indulgence. Here we see the familiar technique of playing hide-and-seek: a mixture of half-truths, pretensions and an expectation that the perfection of the two or three untold truths will overshadow and excuse the imperfections of the rest of the volume.

The first essay, dealing with a general consideration of the meaning, aesthetic merits and historical place of different art forms, advances the idea that sculpture, painting and music exist, not side by side, but in historical sequence. In the same exalted, overblown language of Romanticism of such uncollected early writings as "The Woman ", Gogol promotes the idea that historically, sculpture was the first art form to have been developed by mankind, especially by the Greeks. Greek sculptures have created not only an ideal of beauty, but also a world in which ".the entire religion consisted of beauty, the beauty of the human form in the god-like beauty of woman."4 Sculpture and the Pagan world were born together, and they have died together. Christian culture could not domesticate this art form: "It was in vain, he says "that one tried to express through sculpture the high ideals of Christianity: it removed itself from the world in the same way as did pagan religion."5

Therefore, according to Gogol, Christianity created a new art form for itself in painting. A distinguishing characteristic of painting is that the onlooker is overcome with a "feeling of enjoyment not of this world."6 Further, painting is not "the achievement of some nation or other -- No! you, painting, are something higher: You express all that is contained in the mysterious, elevated spirit of Christianity."7 In further comparisons between sculpture and painting, Gogol proclaims that sculpture expresses the pagan world's feeling of self-reliance which leads to enjoyment of the part of the onlooker, while painting opens the way to suffering: "Suffering is expressed with greater force and it leads to compassion and all it brings about is pity and not enjoyment."

Music has an even greater spiritual content: it produces neither enjoyment nor compassion, but such a high degree of understanding of suffering that the listener himself becomes a part of the suffering. In so doing, it tears Man away from the earth and transports him to a different world. Thus the three sisters "are different chronologically and also in their effect upon Man." Sculpture, sensuous, captivating, leads to enjoyment; painting creates a quiet excitement and lifts the soul into a dream-like state; while music is pure passion and agitation of the soul. And Gogol exclaims, "Music is ours! Music belongs to our world!" "When all art has disappeared, music will yet remain ! " and Gogol prays, "O music! Be our guardian angel and our Savior! Do not leave us!"

Next, he formulates an ars poetica, familiar to us from his earlier writings, which will remain a permanent feature of his later works, his vision of the utilitarian importance of art. Art has the function of improving Man. Under the impact of art, especially of music, the thief will be tormented by his conscience, the speculator will be reminded of the shame of his greed, and the ordinary man will be made aware of his divine origin. Some of these ideas will figure in the Selected Passages as well.

Last, Gogol speaks of architecture, which he considers also to be of divine origin, since Man transforms lifeless material in the same way that God created the universe. But the most elevated art form for the 19th Century remains music, which is God's self-revelation to Man. Yet Gogol ends on a questioning, somewhat pessimistic note: "But what if music were also to leave us, what will then happen to world?"8

Gogol's theories on art are remarkable for his time: the thesis that different historical ages have created different art forms may be open to question, but nonetheless it has an internal logic. The presentation of the Three Ages of Mankind as corresponding to three different forms of art is interesting as a Romantic idea. But following this logic, Gogol still remains unclear as to the fate of the Christian age. If the pagan age developed sculpture, and with its disappearance sculpture also disappeared, then the fact that painting developed with the rise of the Christian world and has now disappeared seems to imply that Christianity as a religion, like the pagan religions before it, has also reached its end. And does music have to do with a new paganism or with the birth of a post-Christian ideology? Must music also abandon Man as an expression of another change in world history? These speculations are raised, implicitly, but remain unanswered in Gogol's essay. But as later works indicate, Gogol seriously questioned the validity of the Christian underpinnings of the existing world. His theorizing led him both to despair and to a search for a new religious foundation, and also to his "spiritual crisis".9

Surprisingly, literature is not mentioned in this survey of the different art forms in mankind's history. Was Gogol merely forgetful, or was he having doubts as to the validity of writing as an art? We do not know. But the fact that literature is not mentioned at all may indicate that Gogol was not yet completely committed to his chosen path, that his "own place " was not yet clearly established.

Another essay from the Arabesques following immediately on "Sculpture, Painting and Music " introduces Gogol not as a writer of fiction or a critic, but as an historian. For a single semester, he had in 1834-35 tried his hand at teaching Medieval history at the University of St. Petersburg, a position to which he had been appointed through Pletnyov's friendly intercession. The inaugural lecture is an essay "On the Middle Ages ", delivered in the presence of friends and admirers, Pushkin and Zhukovsky among them. The lecture was a moderate success. His audience found it a somewhat strange performance for an academic: it was long on nebulous Romantic ideas about history, but short on facts, and indeed, Gogol was not able to sustain the interest of his listeners -- nor even his own, during the balance of the semester, and after a year of painful pretensions, he left the University without regret. His reasons for leaving are best summed up by Gogol himself: "The University and I spat at each other and I am again a free Cossack."10The lecture is nevertheless interesting for our purpose, since if formulates some of his pet theories of history. The central thesis that the Middle Ages represent a Golden Age is familiar from our readings of the "historical" tales of medieval Ukraine. Now he expands the same view for his audience. He considers the Middle Ages as having replaced the classical world with a new era, followed by still another age whose art is less admirable than the tremendous values engendered by the Middle Ages. Alas, the golden Age has been supplanted by the cheerless Iron Age -- as we saw in the Mirgorod.

The organization of the lecture is logical and consistent, by no means rambling or without structure. First he states his central thesis: "In the Middle Ages the great transformation of the world took place: they are the connecting link between the old world and the new one; in the history of mankind they can occupy the same place as the heart occupies in the human body, from where all veins are distributed, and to which all blood returns." 11 Dealing with the various characteristic features of the age, Gogol spends considerable time on the history of the Papacy, which he considers as the unifying force of the Christian world. (This preoccupation with the Papacy will gain in importance in his later fiction, especially in "The Overcoat", as we shall see.) He even maintains that "the history of the Papacy is the history of the Middle Ages." 12 It was the centralized force of Papal power which allowed for the growth of a united Christian Europe without which the individual states would probably have been overrun by their eastern enemies, especially the Moslems. Gogol's ideas about the Moslem world are worth mentioning, as they will resurface, especially in the "Diary of a Madman ". Later in the lecture, he speaks of the Crusades as reflecting the age of youthful enthusiasm and the burgeoning new faith. Just as a young man rushes into adventure and hardship for the sake of an idea, so youthful Christianity rushed into the excitement of the Crusades.

After discussing these general tendencies in the development of the Middle Ages, Gogol takes a look at individual factors in such different geographical areas as Asia, Scandinavia and Venice. This section is perhaps the least interesting and least "scientific", indicating the shaky ground and shallowness of Gogol's information. Nevertheless, he makes some interesting points which indicate his understanding of the vast differences between Europe and Russia. He dwells extensively on the idea of chivalry. Taras Bul'ba will have suggested a Ukrainian perception of the subject, but there is an equivalent Russian concept. He also considers the position of women in the chivalric world. "The Woman of the Middle Ages," he pronounces, "is a godlike creature..." for he deduces the refinement of European culture from this guiding principle of chivalry: "The entire nobility of the European character is the result of chivalry" 13 he insists. As to the Inquisition, he does not condone it, but considers it a dreadful aberration, though he assures his audience that the resistance of the soul is stronger than the fear of physical suffering: "It has proven the great truth that even if the physical nature of man can be broken by tortures and may bring about the silencing of the voice of his soul, still in general in the majority of mankind the soul is always victorious over the body." 14 Finally, he turns his attention to the waning of the Middle Ages, a product of the declining power of the Papacy, the discovery of America, the technical revolution of book-publishing and the discovery of a new military technology in the manufacture of canons and of gun-powder which undermined the fabric of the Middle Ages despite its cultural and spiritual achievements.

Another article dealing with history, "About the Teaching of World History " is a curious exposeŽ , a course syllabus and a working hypothesis for Gogol the Professor of History. In ten well-organized chapters, he presents a plan for a course in World History, for its methodology and for the results that should be expected. Even though many of the ideas are commonplace or naive, since he was a novice in a field where he did not feel very secure, still they are his own. In many cases, Gogol the writer of fiction whom we know, comes through or, conversely, develops certain stylistic mannerisms, here devoted to ideology, which translate into his fiction.

In searching to define the subject matter appropriate to such a course in world history, Gogol proposes that it be no less than the development of mankind, completely different from a mere historical and geographical catalog. The aim of the historian must be "to create one glorious and complete poem.ÊIn other words, he claims that there has never been a difference between artistic and historical depiction of reality. The logical result of an historian's investigation is inevitably a poem.

From here it follows that the delivery has to be entertaining so that the reader or the listener cannot tear himself away. But to achieve this end, the historian has to dig through mountains of "boring books and documents". In so doing, he is performing a useful task , sparing his readers and listeners the boredom of such investigations. This "useful" pragmatism recurs repeatedly in Gogol's work and is the source of later disagreements with his fellow-countrymen. Do his claims result from naiveteŽ,or from the bad conscience of a pretender, a fictionalizer, or both ? The answer does not come easily and certainly divides students of his work into different camps.

Next, Gogol turns to another pet idea: an historian should know geography. Even though most people would not quarrel with the argument, Gogol's reasoning is startling. He proposes that geography affects a people's history, and even their form of government: "...it( geography ) - affected the mores, customs, political leadership and the laws. Here they [the listeners] should also see how governments are formed, that they are not formed by people at all, but in an unobtrusive way the very situation of the geography of earth sets them up and develops them, for which reason these forms are holy and changing them would inadvertently bring about the unhappiness of the people." 15 The logic is as strange as the conservatism of the idea.

Further on, Gogol insists that the professor of history should focus upon "great events",since they are "the lighthouses of general histor " whose entire structure they support as "the skeleton supports an animal's body." He then spends a chapter on the personal methodology of a successful professor, reiterating that lectures should be interesting. 16 This formulation not only is indicative of Gogol's thinking at the time of his professional activity, but is one that will return -- as a parody, for instance, in " The Inspector General " wherein the professor of history will be mocked as a fiery, irrational monkey who leaps about during his lectures, breaking chairs, and for whom the much-quoted sentence about Alexander the Great, " who was of course great but why should one break the chairs to prove it ? " became something of a proverb. 17

He is also mortally afraid of digressions, since if the professor loses the interest of his audience, terrible consequences may follow: "What, then...if the young, developing mind of his audience begins to understand more than he does, and they learn to despise him?...loyalty to Religion, attachment to the Fatherland and to the Sovereign become for them meaningless concepts." 18 One does not know what is more surprising, the nonsequiturs of a logical salto mortale, as it were, or the statement's extraordinary conservativism. If on the other hand, the professor follows his suggestions, Gogol assures him that he will be able to turn the enthusiasm of his listeners in a positive pedagogical direction: he will teach them all that is "sublime and beautiful" ,in key words from the aesthetic tenets of romanticism. Gogol's recommendation is that every lecture should have a complete unity and should remain in the memory of the listeners as "a well turned poem" .

Finally, after these methodological considerations, Gogol embarks on his outline of world history. This begins with the East, where patriarchal habits dominated society; moves over to ancient Greece, with an emphasis especially on the time of Alexander the Great and the development of an ancient civilization in Alexandria; and on to the Roman Empire and the expansion of its borders all the way to England -- as Gogol visualizes, "Roman eagles on the rocks of Albion." In so doing, he achieves a fairly good survey of the main trends and events of ancient history. Sometimes he arrives at original formulations, for example, when he notes that the Roman Empire swallowed up so many peoples and nations that finally ... "everybody was a Roman, but there were few true Romans." Moving to the Middle Ages, Gogol pays particular attention to the development of Papal power and the way the religious institution turned into a political one. He describes how it fought against the Moslems, among them the Algerian pirates. These ideas will be important in Gogol's later fiction, especially in "Diary of a Madman " and in "The Overcoat". The interconnection between Christianity and statehood is another issue to which he turns considerable attention as he presents generally familiar out-line of the history of medieval Europe. The discovery of America is also treated as vital, changing and reducing, as it did, the significance of many European-centered events, especially the role of the Mediterranean states. He reviews the onset of the Reformation, the resulting struggle for orthodoxy within the Church, the establishment of the Inquisition (a salient question in the "Diary of a Madman "). Gogol also has an interest in noticing how such technological innovations as the printing press and the manufacture of gun-powder, and the resulting large-scale application of artillery changed the old hierarchies. He follows the history of the 19th Century all the way to the Napoleonic wars, pays his dues to Russia's victory over Napoleon, and ends the chapter with a glorification of Christianity which has spread over the entire globe. Finally, he repeats his conviction that the teaching of history should cultivate the minds of young people so that they will become better subjects of "the Great Sovereign" .

The first of the fictions in the Arabesques is a fragment, "A Chapter from the Historical Novel, Hetman ".Gogol's footnote is interesting: "This is from the novel called The Hetman. Its first part was written and then burned because the author did not like it. Two chapters which first appeared in magazines are here published in this volume." 19 In other words, burning his manuscripts was not confined to the beginning and end of his career as a writer, but was a regular practice. Nevertheless, one might be permitted to suspect that such footnotes are a literary device, for Gogol alone knows what purpose.

The fragment concerns a Cossack messenger sent by the Polish king Kasimir to the Cossack Hetman Glecik, during the "times of the troubles". We do not know why, but we find the messenger on horseback, making his way through a forest in the middle of the night in a fairly dangerous region: nobody knows who is an enemy and who is not, and it is inadvisable to strike up a conversation with strangers under these circumstances. But a conversation is inevitable: the rider chances upon a group of old men, Cossacks, Malororssijan, that is, Ukrainian, who are leading some ox carts. Their talk is a little gem, circling round and round the actual topic of interest and saying nothing in a great many words. The rider does not want to tell his chance companions where he is going, while the leader of the group does not want to give the directions he desires. We find similar conversations in other works. He must have been very fond of these examples of pleasant slyness, as he reports many, like the opening conversation in Dead Souls between the two peasants leaning against a gate post and talking about Chichikov's carriage, or the nonsensical directions given in "Ivan Sponka " as to how to find one's way around the Ukrainian countryside. This peasant slyness is a well-thumbed item in Gogol's repertoire of the grotesque. Here the conversation continues for ten pages; only after the rider accepts the old man's offer of hospitality for the night does he discover that this peasant is actually the very man he has been seeking. His astonishment is expressed in the same kind of silent scene which figures at the end of the play," The Inspector General", where the announcement of the appearance of the "real " Inspector freezes the entire company. The story's main line had been apparently moving in a different direction, narrating a magical event that had occurred long before and which was now bit by bit being retold by the old man as they were moving through the forest, interlacing the tale with carefully devised disinformation as to his own identity -- Does not this device remind us of Gogol's traveling incognito, with collar turned up, devising fictitious names for himself like Mogel or Gogel when asked his name?

The magical features of the story could almost have been taken from "Vii ". It concerns a cruel Polish pan, or noble, who once upon a time had been the ruler of this area until one day he overplayed his hand and had a Cossack priest arrested, mocked and tortured in his mansion, which formerly happened to lie in the very area through which the travelers were now making their way. Now, of course, the mansion is gone; only a single fir tree indicates the place where the tragedy occurred. It stands, charred and frightening, in the middle of a swamp, though at the time of the Polish pan 's atrocities, the tree stood on the other side. The Cossack priest was hanged on that tree, but during the night the tree's branches, dripping blood, forced their way into the mansion, terrifying the Polish pan almost to death and destroying his house. Axes could not chop the tree down, and no matter how many times the Poles tried to get away from it by moving it to a different location, the tree always found them and wrecked havoc on them. Finally, the pan became a monk and said fifty-two funeral prayers for the priest he had tortured. Thereupon, he simply disappeared and nobody knows what happened to him. But ever since, the fir tree drips blood three days before Ivan Kupala (the St. John's Eve on June 14 of the Dikanka cycle) and old women can see the Devil himself in the forest, wearing a red jacket.

What happened to the messenger, once he reached the Hetman's house, we do not know, as the fragment ends here. It is clear, however, that this is a piece left over from the Dikanka cycle which Gogol had not included for reasons of his own. Also noteworthy, to use a musical analogy, is a kind of practicing of scales in a development of the patterns of conversation and a working out of various devices which will reemerge in Gogol's later fiction in a more refined form.

Of particular importance in the first volume is "The Portrait".The story falls into two chronologically divers parts, a device which is becoming a basic structural principle. The first is narrated in the "present" while the second takes place fifty years earlier and serves as an explanation of the mysterious events narrated in the first section. Here a poor art student, a painter named Chertkov lives in the poor section of St. Petersburg, not unlike his famous literary relative, Rodion Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky' Crime and Punishment. His name has a fateful etymology as it comes from the Russian name for the Devil (chort ). Indeed, we discover in the second part that he is the son of a man who once had dealings with the Devil. This is Gogol's earliest story about artists, the topic so much beloved by German Romantics, and represents a new direction: Gogol is no longer writing of Cossacks nor of the Ukrainian countryside, but of the city of St. Petersburg with all its attendant enchantments and blandishments. Chertkov is the standard bohemian, hungering for art's sake and hoping to become both successful financially and recognized artistically. But the two aims prove mutually contradictory, and while Chertkov is drawing his classical Greek models, his economic situation is worse than precarious. Gogol gives a realistic picture of the poor sections of the city and of the life of the lower classes which include the poor. resentful intellectuals and artists living there.

A sudden change in this hopeless life is effected by a miraculous incident. Going through discarded pictures at a junk dealer's shop, Chertkov is struck by a picture that strangely draws his attention. It is the portrait of an old man, with a "southern" facial expression, who looks oriental. The portrait's eyes, especially, were arresting. From then on everything becomes mysterious and foreboding, just as in the other miracle-laden stories, especially in "Vii" . Chertkov wants to offer ten rubles for the picture, but hears himself offering eleven, just to be on the safe side. He is about to take it home, when a mysterious person appears and offers more. Almost as if in a dream, Chertkov keeps upping the bid higher and higher until he finally reaches fifty rubles, all the money he has in the world. He is so upset by the picture's impression on him that he leaves the store without taking it with him. To his astonishment, when he gets home, the picture has receded him. The eyes of the portrait continue to haunt him: "They were not painted, they were living human eyes." 20 Fruitlessly, Chertkov tries to hide the picture, yet the eyes follow him everywhere. At night Chertkov undergoes an experience very similar to Khoma Brut's when he watches over the lifeless body of the Polish pannochka. Indeed, a parallel can easily be drawn: in the case of the pannochka, Khoma Brut was enticed into looking up and facing the enchantress, thus ultimately bringing about his ruin. Here, in "The Portrait ", the road is somewhat longer, but again, the eyes lead to Chertkov's ruin. Now better developed, the process still relies on the Romantic fascination with the Faustian motif, and the means by which the Devil entices an artist to give up his sacred profession and serve him. The Devil promises success and the temptation of material opulence to an artist who is starving: but ultimately, of course, he will exact his price. He will ruin the artist both spiritually and physically, will destroy his ability to be truthful, faithful to the sacred principles of high art.

The scheme itself is not new. We have seen its origins in the Dikanka stories, where the Devil tried unsuccessfully to destroy an artist, as in the case of Vakula. Gogol will return to it repeatedly in different versions throughout his life as a writer. Here we see the first full-blown depiction of the inevitable path -- the artist's temptation, success, and final perdition as a result of the machinations of the Devil.

At the end of a nightmarish night, the old man's picture comes alive (very much as in "Vii "). He comes to the bed where Chertkov lies sleeping and explains that he must change his artistic style. It is not art that is important, but money: "Throw away your silly ideas! Everything on earth is done for profit. Quick, take your brush and paint portraits from the entire city!" 21 The old man promises immediate success: "I love you, and this is why I'm giving you this advice. I'll also give you money, you have only to follow me." Indeed, matters change in no time. After painting the portrait of a fashionable society lady, Chertkov become famous and prospers as a sought-after portrait painter.

His first portrait is of a young woman of eighteen -- she is a variant of the pannochka, of course. In order to paint her picture, Chertkov reworks an unfinished painting of Psyche, the Greek goddess of love of the soul ,thus profaning his search for ideal beauty and non-earthly love for the sake of his first financial success.

His subject matter is now the fashionable world of St. Petersburg. As we shall learn, Gogol considers painting a sacred profession, as it once was in the Middle Ages. Painting portraits of the "World" is thus a profanation of that profession, and as such can only be condemned by the divine Spirit -- or by true artists, who listen to divine inspiration rather than the call of lucre. Chertkov's fame has been bought at the terrible price of his own dissatisfaction with his work. His downfall is realistically portrayed: He begins to exploit manneristic short-cuts in order to speed up production. Next, he realizes that by repeating the same formulae, he has robbed himself of inspiration as well as of technical development. He is then invited to judge some paintings recently received by the Academy of Art from Italy. These are by a Russian who has been ekeing out a penniless existence and working hard on his art. Chertkov immediately recognizes its quality, and confronted with divinely inspired art, the falsehood of his own activity turns against him, and becomes a huge accusation. As a result, Chertkov undergoes a process of gradual disintegration: First he tries to paint "real" pictures -- curiously he wants to paint a fallen Angel, since the topic is closest to his spiritual condition,22 but to his horror, he is unable to recover his lost creativity. Then, in order to prevent comparisons with his own work, he starts to buy up and destroy every painting he can lay his hands on . Finally, exhausted, he lies down, mortally ill, and in his final delirium takes everyone he sees for the original portrait which started him on his path to damnation.

The story leaves us with many unanswered questions which are "solved" in the second part, as they were in "The Terrible Vengeance ". This takes place chronologically fifty years before the tale of Chertkov's downfall. (Interestingly, the number fifty also appeared in the first part as the sum Chertkov paid for the picture which haunted him.) The new narrator, whose name is never revealed, is a middle-aged man who is present at the auction of Chertkov's property. Recognizing the fateful portrait: "Oh, it is he ! "he exclaimed, greatly agitated, fixing his eyes on the portrait." Much as in the first section, the story focuses on a description of the Kolumna, a poor section of St. Petersburg where the heroes of the new story live: an "oriental"-looking man, "maybe a Greek, maybe an Armenian, maybe a Moldovian", a pawn-broker who became the most famous and feared in the area. The etymology of his name, Petromikhali, is a compound of the two names, Peter, probably in a reference to the Apostle Peter, the first Pope and representative of Christ on earth, and Mixail, from the Greek, or rather, the old Hebrew Mikhael, "God-like" (in Russian Orthodox terms :Khristopodobnyj .) For this reason, the early Church Patriarchs took the name: the first Russian Patriarch (died 998) who baptized the Kievan Prince Vladimir was called Mikhail. Gogol never explains the etymology, but the very fact that he exploits it in later works -- as in "The Overcoat", where a tailor's name is Grigory Petrovic, that is, Grigory, son of Peter, indicates that the underlying religious idea is as important for Gogol as the Romantic narrative. A consideration of the names's implications makes clear that both parts refer to tow of the first holy names in Christianity, Peter as the Rock on which the Church was founded, and Mikhail in reference to Christianity's Russian branch. The fact that these holy names are now being usurped by an unholy man who is pursuing a most un-Christian profession points to a permanent feature of Gogol's religious concerns, the working of the Anti-Christ in this world. The Anti-Christ, in the person of the Devil, pretends to be the "real" Christ, the Savior, though on a lower, non-spiritual plane. In providing money for the needy -- for a certain percentage of interest, of course, --Petromikhali "saves" them temporarily, but at great peril to those who have turned to him in their despair. His role here as the destroyer of art is of paramount concern.

In the detailed description of this strange man, of his living in secrecy and apparent poverty amid an accumulation of junk accepted as pledges from the local inhabitants, Gogol creates the prototype for Plyuskin the more famous character in Dead Souls. He shares common features with yet another, more infernal, character, the tailor Grigori Petrovic in "The Overcoat":"This strange creature sat there with legs tucked under, on a blackened sofa, receiving the visitors immovably..." 23 Petromikhali charges the usual percentages for his pawnbrokering, but sometimes he gives money away, though he asks a different price: "There were some rumors around that sometimes he was loaning money free, not asking for a return; however, he suggested such conditions that all of the creditors ran from him in terror. And those who were bold enough to accept the gift of money started to fade, got sick and finally died, without daring to expose the secret."24

This is the man whose fate has crossed the hero's. He turns out to be the narrator's father, a painter. Not just any sort of painter, but a painter of religious icons. "His life was most turbulent. He was a modest religious painter, the sort that had lived during the religious times of the Middle Ages." 25 He was decorating Churches with all kinds of religious paintings and not making a great deal of money. In desperation he was ready to visit the Greek money-lender when a strange call came, inviting him to go there. Petromikhali has sent for him to paint his portrait. The situation is not unlike Khoma Brut's being asked to come and pray for the sick pannocka. In other words, the painter has been chosen. This "calling" is an important element in Gogol's work: the artist, or the protagonist, is approached by the Evil Spirit himself (or herself, as the case may be), in a parody of Christ's calling his disciples.

Gogol portrays the hero's feelings on entering the house of the money-lender as if he were descending into Hell. Petromikhali then makes a strange request of him, namely that he paint the portrait of a man who is visibly sick and dying. The artist wants to refuse, thinking that a dying man should think about his soul, not sit for a portrait. Thus the religious view that a man's body is transitory and therefore should not be preserved in paint or stone for eternity, is posed against a second, that as there is nothing to a man but his body, it should be immortalized. When the painter finally gives in to Petromikhali's insistence and begins to paint, he thinks: "The idea that later on he could use this face in a picture in which he wanted to show a man possessed by Demons who are expelled by the mighty Word of the Savior, this was the idea that made him redouble his efforts." At first, Petromikhali's eyes seemed wonderfully lifelike, but on examining them, the painter was unable to continue, even when enticed by a whole heap of gold. There follows another bribe: Petromikhali confides a secret: if the portrait is not finished before he dies, he will have to go "somewhere where I do not want to go" -- that is, of course, to Hell. On the hand, if the portrait is completed, "I can still for a long time avoid going there to Him, as long as our earth is still alive, provided you finish my portrait." 26 He offers a reason for the portrait's importance: "I have found out that half of my life will be continued in my portrait, provided it is done by a good artist. As you see, part of my life is in the eyes already there. It will be so in all my other features if you just finish the picture. And even if my body is to perish, half of my life will remain here on earth, and I will be able to avoid suffering for a long while. Finish it, finish it, finish it!" When the revelation of this secret proves ineffective, Petromikhali makes a third and final offer: "So, take my portrait yourself. I'm giving it to you as a gift." Whereupon, the money-lender dies and the painter is left in great confusion of mind. Next, another parallel situation develops: The portrait miraculously appears at the painter's apartment. Not only does it appear, but the painter cannot get rid of it though he burns it so that "finally only a heap of ashes remained from its existence." 27 The painter's first attempt has been to get rid of the picture and it is clear that he will be as unsuccessful as his counterpart in the first section. Indeed, the portrait brings on one fatality after another: The painter's wife dies in agony after accidentally swallowing a bunch of needles. Their child falls out of a window, again accidentally, and dies; finally, in desperation, the beleaguered painter leaves St.Petersburg and becomes a monk. As a monk, bearing the new monastic name of Grigori, he is still persecuted by the eyes, but his healing comes about on his returning to religious art at the urging of the elder in the Monastery. He is transformed again into the very image of the religious artist: "One should have seen his profound religious humility as he was working, in strict observance of fasting, in profound contemplation and withdrawal of his soul and in preparing himself for his great victory." (podvig.)

This last sentence could have been spoken of Gogol's own last years which brought him to his final "victory" and suicide by starvation.

In presenting the individual details of the paintings, Gogol shows a great understanding and admiration for the principles of sacred art, important to our understanding of his later so-called religious crisis. As the story develops, Father Grigori has spent the rest of his life in the monastery. He has been visited by his adult son, the present narrator. At this meeting, father Grigori tells his son the secret of the money-lender. He says that Petromikhali is the Devil, the Anti-Christ, and that his Second Coming is to be expected unless someone can stop him by revealing to all his true identity. Gogol's world-view is now crystal clear. He is certain of the coming of the Anti-Christ. Hence the tremendous and immediate urgency of his unmasking: "soon, very soon, the time will come when the Tempter of the human race will be born into this world. That time will be terrible; it will come before the end of the world. He will ride on a gigantic horse, and those who remain faithful to Christ will suffer greatly." 28 The expectation of the Second Coming of Satan is bad enough --as K. Mochulski pointed out in his book on Gogol: "Gogol's world view is medieval" when it comes to questions of Heaven and Hell. Further details as to this Second Coming indicate that Gogol's view on the cosmic battle between Good and Evil is consistent and leads him to serious doubts about the basic tenets of Christianity. Here we may have put our finger on the sources of his upcoming crisis of religious belief.

The painter, now a monk, tells his son about the appearance of Satan; "Listen, my son, [he says] the Antichrist has been wanting to be born for a long time, but he cannot because he has to be born unnaturally; in our world everything is prepared by the Almighty in such a fashion that everything is accomplished only in a natural way. Therefore, my son there is no force that can help Him to burst into the world. On the other hand, our earth is dust in the eyes of our Creator. According to the Creator's laws, it has come to its final destruction and with each day the laws of Nature grow weaker and the borders keeping out the supernatural more penetrable." 29

This interesting theological argument will have important ramifications in Gogol's own approach to Christianity, or rather, in his later spiritual crisis. If Satan, by whatever name he appears as the representation of Evil in Gogol's works, cannot break into this world, which is based on natural laws, it follows that he must avail himself of unnatural ways. The idea can be applied to another unnatural phenomenon, the unnatural or "immaculate" birth of Christ.In a few years down the road, Gogol will publish his famous "The Overcoat" and "The Nose " which will tackle this supremely heretical idea.

Evil in this world does appear, therefore, as the result of the unnatural ways which accomplish the weakening of the fiber of the natural universe. The Devil can appear only through the recruitment of disciples, "from whom, from the very moment of their birth, the Angel was frightened away, and they are tainted by a horrible hatred of people and of everything else which is God's creation." The money lender was one of these. "It was he, my son, the Antichrist himself!" 30 cries Father Grigori. He tells his son that he was vouchsafed a vision of the Virgin Mary in reward for his return to religious art. In this vision the Virgin told him that the evil which was eternalized by his painting could be undone if fifty years later someone were to unmask it by a public confession. The time has now arrived and with it the opportunity to announce the history of the money-lender's portrait to the public. At that very moment, the portrait disappears and in its place there hangs a harmless landscape.

This version of the story was written in 1834 and published as part of the Arabesques. Almost ten years later, Gogol reworked it in Rome. The revised version came to be known as "The Portrait ". A comparison of the two versions makes clear that Gogol left the basic story of the appearance and effect of the picture unchanged. Changes appear mainly in the second part in an extension of the prehistory of the painting's development. Here Gogol dropped many of the explicitly demonic references which perhaps reflect the influence of the German, Hoffman. So, for example the explanation of the portrait's appearance in the painter's house is that it was sent by the pawn-broker's servant, or of the way the portrait was making a greater round among people, is that it was like the red jacket in "The Fair at Sorocincts ". The new version gives vent to a more elaborate and more numerous spate of discourses on the meaning of art, especially religious art, thus making clear that in talking about the portrait, Gogol really wanted to use the different term, icon. Yet Gogol is here indulging in his favorite method of hiding ideas too precious or too controversial to him behind synonyms and other metaphors. The word icon, of course, connotes a pictorial representation of transcendental phenomena which Gogol has hidden behind the synonym of the word, portrait. He was painfully aware that societal pieties manifest in the rules and regulations of the worldly and in religious censorship would be outraged by even a hint of the heretical thought that a painting of the Devil could be conceived as an icon.

In the new version, probably for the same reason, he drops the name of the pawn-broker with all its heretical and parodist implications, and changes the name of the protagonist from the too-obvious Chertkov to Chartkov, in a more veiled reference to its etymology in the word for Devil. But ultimately the story is still about the same issues: the temptation of the artist by the Devil to give up the sacred profession of serving God for service in the name of the Devil instead. This second version includes further references to the world's great artists who probably had become more familiar to Gogol during the seven or eight years after the publication of the first -- Correggio, Raphael, Homer, Leonardo da Vinci, Vasari, Moliere and Dante , all are called upon in support of Gogol's theory of art.

Further exercises in history follow after the fiction in "An Overview of the Development of Little Russia ". These are exactly what the title announces, a general introduction into the historical development of the Ukraine, known as Little Russia within greater Russia. The title thus indicates that Gogol is talking from the point of view of a Russian, and not of a Ukrainian, though the two increasingly merge into one in his mind. In nine brief chapters (the attention he pays to structural considerations is really remarkable!) he portrays the history of the Ukraine from the 13th to the 19th Century. The survey is not very detailed; rather, it is a Romantic picture, as is usual in Gogol's fiction as well. It was intended as a general pedagogical article, even though Gogol remarks that it was designed as Chapter 1 Volume 1 for a History of the Ukraine which, however, he never wrote. Gogol may have imagined that this promise should arouse the reader's interest in its vivid depiction of living history. Setting off with the 13th Century, he emphasizes the absence of statehood among the different Slavic tribes and the way this lack led to constant fratricidal struggle. He compares the chaos among these tribes to the centrally organized statehood in Western European countries, where Papal power created a unity among them. The Mongol invasion changed this situation when the warring tribes all came under Tartar-Mongol rule: the result was a two-century long exclusion of Russia from the Western world. Since the situation was different with the Slavic tribes to the South, where the Mongol occupation was not so total as in the North, the Ukraine began to take shape. Christian faith easily merged with pagan values, while the weaker Mongolian influence was balanced by another foreign influence: The Pagan Lithuanians occupied Kiev and a greater part of the Southern lands. Gogol provides colorful descriptions of the pagan Lithuanians and of their leader, a certain Gedimin; he tells how Gedimin and all his servants and animals, like Attila the Hun, were burried by fire. The two foreign influences created different customs, laws and attitudes, reinforced also by the different geography of the area. Here again Gogol emphasizes the role of geography on historical events. The geography of the Ukraine is given in great detail, with its rivers -- especially the Don -- its steppes, and its other salient features, thus reinforcing Gogol's view that such historical circumstances as the Tartar and Lithuanian occupation as well as geographical differences created a vastly different mentality in the inhabitants, even though Ukrainians and the Russians still both speak a Slavic tongue. Gogol is especially interested in the development of the Ukrainian Cossacks as a separate tribe. As he saw it, the Cossacks came from the indigenous population in the area and intermingled with the refugees from either Tartar, Lithuanian or even native oppressors. In the Cossacks, Gogol portrays a free and proud tribe, united by the single common desire to be free of domination.

As such, they would follow anyone willing to accept their minimum ideological requirement, the religion of Greek Orthodoxy. Gogol closes the article with the following words: "And thus a nation evolved which, according to its geographical location and its religion, belonged to Europe, but simultaneously, according to its way of life, its customs, and dress was completely Asian, a nation in which two contradictory parts of the world were colliding so strangely. European cautiousness and Asian carelessness, good-natured simplicity and duplicity, a strong urge for activity and the greatest laziness and passivity,a striving for development and perfection, and at the same time a desire to appear contemptuous of every perfection." These words contribute to our understanding of the fictional portrayal of such Cossacks as Taras Bul'ba and his Zaporozh'e Cossacks. It is also clear that Gogol well understood that the Cossacks' Orthodox faith was far from being an expression of piety but that it is an aspect of a national ideology which cemented relations between otherwise disparate tribes.

Another article, also written around 1832 but prepared for publication only in 1834, "A Few Words about Pushkin ", purports to be a review of Pushkin but turns out to be in actuality a paean in praise of the master of Russian letters who was Gogol's mentor at the time. Like the historical survey for the Ukraine, the article lacks concrete details and presents a highly impressionistic view of Pushkin's art. Gogol's only concreted statement is that Pushkin is a national poet, and that the very spirit of the Russian people finds its expression in his work. The fact that Gogol applies this Romantic concept of the poet as a folkspoet is noteworthy, since Pushkin,the aristocrat,was hardly of the "folk" in 19th Century terms. Gogol praises Pushkin's language for its "richness,forcefulness and flexibility" . He also advances the idea that the period of his Caucasion exile liberated Pushkin from the limitations of being a poet of St. Petersburg only and turned him into a full-blown national spokesman. His descriptions of the Caucasian scenes made him into an exciting poet, with a magical narrative power; Pushkin is"grandeur, simplicity and forcefulness".Gogol realizes that his ars poetica may not be to everyone's taste, but he feels that his own poetics come close to Pushkin's. He sees that Pushkin distinguishes between the fashionable artists who follow the dictates of general opinion ( chern' in Pushkin's term) and the real artists who follow only the dictates of art, no matter how isolated and unappreciated their integrity makes them. Yet as an example of popular opinion and its worth, Gogol quotes a youthful experience which in view of his interest in painting constitutes a confessional statement: "I have always had a weakness for painting. [Once] I was greatly occupied by one of my landscapes which in the foreground depicted a dead tree. At that time I lived in the village, and my critics and judges were my neighbors from the area. One of them, looking at the picture, shook his head and said, 'A good painter would have picked a different tree, a well-grown one, on which the leaves would have been fresh, nicely grown, not dry.'"31 The comment illustrates Gogol's scorn for such criticism. A real artist, and Gogol counts Pushkin among them, obviously is not going to take opinions of that nature seriously.

Another article, this time on architecture, adds to our understanding of Gogol's preoccupation with various aspects of art. The essay is dated 1831, when Gogol was 22, but in a footnote Gogol adds that ".the essay had been written long ago." Perhaps this is another example of Gogol's penchant for obfuscation, though some of his statements later turned out to contain more truth than critics have been willing to concede.

"On Contemporary Architecture "is a fairly lengthy discourse on the history of architecture and on some practical recommendations from improving contemporary Russian architecture. The general survey begins with the statement that most of the architecture of modern Russian cities is boring: "The [architects] were trying to give to all the buildings in the towns an absolutely simple and flat appearance. The houses were made to be as much like each other as possible, but they more resemble shacks and barracks than the happy domiciles of people ... we were boasting not long ago of that sort of architecture as the perfection of taste, and we built whole towns in this fashion." 32 Gogol's words could almost have been taken straight out of 20th-Century periodicals complaining abut the devastating effect of the prefabricated concrete boxes of the Soviet period.

Next, Gogol contrasts this ugliness with European architecture (as in Medieval German towns ),which surprise the visitor with their variety and the loveliness of their buildings. He also emphasizes the beauty of such religious architecture, pointing out, however, that with the passing of the Middle ages, the religious content of architecture has waned: the Cologne cathedral cannot be built again. He then surveys the architecture of other cultures, Byzantine, Oriental, Mohammedan. Much of what he say is startling for his time and harmonizes with his views on other aspects of art. Thus he complains tat the contemporary city planners aim for a uniform appearance of buildings on the city landscape. This sameness he finds wrong: "It is as if a genius were to restrain himself from [expressing] the original and the unusual, so that ordinary people will not appear to be too small and unimportant." 33 Gogol suggests instead very definite innovations, especially the introduction of high towers as well as borrowing from different cultures and periods in an effort at variety. These suggestions are very revealing of Gogol's own mentality. Some of these features we have already observed in earlier works , as, for example, in his desire to be useful and to give practical advice. The tall buildings, he says, could serve not only as an aesthetic improvement of the general appearance of the city, but also as guides for strangers who could orient themselves on them. Also, building entire cities in a variety of architectural styles would be useful in presenting a "living history" of architecture, so that people "would not have to resort to reading heavy books." These and similar statements remind one of Manilov in Dead Souls, who will send endless hours in devising ideal model buildings and other architectural improvements.

Another observation can be made concerning Gogol's interest in Eastern architecture and in the details of Arab culture which the title Arabesques underlines. This may be taken as an underlying insistence of the sacred nature of art there repeatedly discussed. The collection's title thus indicates not so much "meaningless decoration" (which is one of the readings of the word), as the devout tradition wherein Arabic writers hide the name of God in the decorative hieroglyph of their script. What appears to be mere embellishment to the uninitiated the initiated understands as a sacred expression of prayer. The question will resurface in another section, "Al-Mamun ", as well as in the second volume in the" Diary of a Madman ". Further, Gogol observes that though Oriental houses intended for human habitation are usually very poor, the architectural monuments dedicated to religion are magnificent: "This is an oriental architecture," he says, "an architecture which has been created by an oriental, a burning, a magical imagination dressed in hyperboles and allegories, which surpassed life and its prosaic needs ... everywhere, where this massive and potent luxury penetrated [life], or the wild enthusiasm of their ancient religion, everywhere monuments appeared ..."34 The observations are similar to his comments on the religious architecture, painting and literature of the Christian Middle Ages.

If matters were indeed as unsatisfactory as Gogol portrays them, is there a hope that they will get better in the future? He answers in the affirmative: He foresees a new architecture to be produced by new architects who will understand that everything is art around us, even utilitarian buildings. Insisting on the need for a new ars poetica in architecture, he concludes: "An architect is a creator and a poet." 35 This final remark, together with a footnote, reveals the occasion for which the essay was written; it is a review of the work of the architect Bryullov "whose buildings are constructed with taste and original ideas ." 36 This is the same Bryullov whose painting of "The Last Days of Pompeii "Gogol reviewed in the second volume of this collection.

The final essay in Volume One is a lecture on history which he delivered at the University and to which he invited Pushkin and Zukovsky. Another Arabic piece, it is entitled : "Al-Mamun, an Historical Overview " .It relates the change of fortune in the history of the Arab empire led by Abdulah-al-Mamun, Caliph of Baghdad, (786-833), successor to Harun al Rashid (788-809), the empire-builder and prototype of the fabulous fictional character in the Thousand and One Nights. Essentially, Gogol's argument is that Al-Mamun, following on the heels of a great military leader, became an enlightened despot who greatly contributed to the flowering of Arab culture at a time when Europe was in the Dark Ages. Whatever his sources of information (there are no indications of sources, no references to other research), Gogol was able to give an impressive description of the times and the personality of the ruler. Al-Mamun, he says, was a progressive ruler, educated in the spirit of neo-Platonism, who had the best interests of his people in mind. But he made the fatal mistake of going too fast and too far. In trying to emulate the best from other cultures, he insulted the primitive religious zealotry of his people and ended his rule in complete failure. In introducing poets and philosophers into his government, he misjudged their capabilities and the possibilities inherent in these branches of human activity with tragic results. Poets and philosophers are not good as practical politicians because they are prophets and priests, but not pragmatic statesmen. Finally he died, "not understanding his nation, and misunderstood by his nation." 37

Gogol's appraisal of the failure of an enlightened oriental despot rings true even today, some hundred and fifty years later, in the age of the Ayatollah Khomeni. But these considerations aside, the essay breathes the fascination Arabic culture held out for him. Again, the implications of the title, Arabesques points still more clearly to Gogol's view of these Arab studies as not merely decorative exercises, but as deeply serious investigations. It also makes clear his profound skepticism and his understanding of the tragi-comedy that results when well-intentioned reforms turn terrible dictators though they face ultimate defeat in their struggle against the despotism of national habits and the fanaticism of traditional customs. The "inconsistency of the human condition -"die unzulaenglichkeit menschlicher Verhaeltnisse " - to quote Berthold Brecht again .This insight is basic to Gogol's vision of the history of human behavior which was already apparent in Taras Bul'ba . Poets and philosophers understand this, but they are powerless in the political struggles of their nations. They have a different job to do. Gogol,in his later work,the Selected Passages... will turn away from this fatalistic understanding of the dilemma of" poets and philosophers" .

Volume Two of the Arabesques opens with an historical sketch called "Life" , a description of the five stages of human history in the ancient Mediterranean, Egypt, Greece, "iron" Rome, and of early Christianity. Its highly lyrical prose could almost be taken for a prose poem, which returns to the Romantic view that Gogol expounded in the youthful poem , the " Hanz Kukhelgarten ": "The poor son of the desert had a dream: The great Mediterranean Sea lay sprawling, surveyed on three sides by the burning shores of Africa, with her slender palms, the bare deserts of Syria and the densely populated shores of Europe, eroded by the sea." 38 Thus the text is not an accurate historical account, but reads like a medieval Russian text, that is, like the rhythmic "isocolic" prose of Russian religious ceremonies.

Gogol explains that each of the historical cultures created certain characteristic features: Egypt was the period of immobility, symbolized by the pyramids; Greece was its opposite, the joyous celebration of movement; while Rome was the age of imperialist expansion. But all these cultures came to an end and were replaced by the new age of Christianity: "The earth is as stone: the nation is despised, the underpopulated village has turned toward the bare hills which are occasionally and unevenly shaded by the withered fig tree. Behind the low, tumble-down wall stands a she-ass. In the wooden cradle lies the Child; over him stoops his virginal mother, gazing at him with tear-filled eyes. High above him in the sky, a star hovers and the world is bathed in wondrous light."

The final paragraph -- or stanza -- refers again to the entire ancient world as it watches the birth of the new age. Not until the onset of symbolist poetry shall we see any similar allegory and not until Pasternak's Doctor Zivago shall we be offered such a panorama of world history in which the birth of Christ is presented as the beginning of a new age, the advent of the history of the individual as opposed to the primacy of nations and their rulers.

A more prosaic essay reviews three historians, Schloezer, Mueller and Herder. They are arranged in an order which repeats Gogol's views on the importance of studying history. Schloezer, he says was not really an historian, he was rather more like a botanist: "He analyzed both the extinct and the extant nations of the world, but did not describe them; he dissected the whole world with a scalpel, he cut it up and divided it into huge chunks, arranged and separated nations in the same manner as botanists arranged plants according to their known characteristics."1 Mueller is a "completely different sort": his keen insight into world history is "that people will achieve happiness only when they religiously preserve the customs of their country, their own manners and independence." Herder commands Gogol's complete admiration: "He is a sage in terms of his knowledge of the ideal man and of mankind, but a mere youth in his knowledge of men, in keeping with the natural course of things, just as a sage is always great in the realm of ideas but totally ignorant of the minutiae of life. As a poet he is superior to Schloezer and Mueller." This conclusion is surprising: the historian has been praised as a poet. Indeed, Gogol goes even further and explains how a poet deals with facts, or rather how the work of an historian and a poet can be parallel: "Like a poet he creates everything, then digests it, isolated in his study, brimming over with his important discovery, choosing only the beautiful and lofty, as these are already appurtenances of his pure, lofty soul. But the lofty and the beautiful often erupt out of low and despised life..." 39 The "lofty and the beautiful" these key words of the Romantic age still sound a meaningful note and the times when Dostoyevsky will ridicule them are still some thirty years ahead down history's road. But quite apart from them, in Gogol's concept of history, neither the study of sources nor the research necessary to arrive at new and independent conclusions seems important.

The first of the two fictional pieces in Volume Two is "The Nevsky Prospect " .In many ways a great masterpiece, it marks a new direction in Gogol's Romantic portrayal of the St. Petersburg which has become his new reality. The story is well structured: it begins with a description of the main showpiece of the inner city of St. Petersburg, The Nevsky Prospect (or Avenue). An exciting place for young men and women, it is a showcase for a Russian Vanity Fair. At different times of the day it appears differently: until noon, it is a utilitarian thoroughfare for people of the lower classes as they run about their business. After noon, it becomes the place where foreign tutors take their pupils for a walk, a model of pursuit of education. We are reminded of Pushkin's lines about Onegin's being taken by his tutor to the Letni Sad , the Summer Garden, in what is clearly the same kind of educational experience. At two in the afternoon, the pupils' parents appear with a number of higher ranking civil servants, among them the pompous Foreign Office clerks. At this juncture, Gogol interrupts the strict accounting of schedules in order to introduce the clothing people wear: the individual sartorial items will impersonate the people in waistlines, lady's sleeves, and so forth. At three, the lower rank of Civil Servants show up after leaving their offices. After four, the street becomes deserted except for some chance passersby hurrying to their various destinations. But then comes the main attraction, and the real significance of the street, life at dusk, a mysterious time when people seem to be intent on purposely running back and forth, when some "notes appear in the lower parts of shop windows" which during the daylight could not be displayed -- Obviously, prostitution is an important motif in the city landscape -- Less than twenty years later, Dostoyevsky's prostitutes will have had not only their real life counterparts, but also their literary predecessors.

After an introduction to the city, the two protagonists are introduced: Army Lieutenant Pirogov and his companion Piskarev, a painter. Not unlike Chertkov, Pirogov appears to be one of Piskarov's customers and is sitting to him for his portrait. The etymology of the names is again interesting: Pirogov comes from the Russian word for meatpie ( pirog ) while Piskarev can be related to "sqeak ", "scribble " (piskat' ). Thus Gogol who in "The Portrait " had already returned repeatedly to the subject of painters, may be presenting himself in the guise of a scribbler, an artist like Piskarev. The main body of the narration is a wonderful comedy of errors despite the tragedy of Piskarev's fate; it would have made a perfect plot for the puppet theater of the day. Pirogov and Piskarev follow two women on Nevsky Avenue; one is a dark-haired beauty whose connections with art, especially with painting, are immediately made clear when she is referred to as the ideal image of a Bianca by Perugino; the other is a blond who seems to be the very image of the "light" woman, or prostitute. Yet the roles will characteristically be reversed: The dark-hired angelic beauty is the prostitute, while the blonde is merely a brave German housewife out on some errands for her German craftsman husband.

Piragov, the idealist, pays court to the dark-haired beauty. We have seen her before in the person of the Governor's daughter, the pannocka in a new guise. And Piskarev is another Khoma Brut, or Andrei Bul'ba, drawn to this mysterious beauty and ultimately to his own destruction though the destruction is here less demonic than in the other tales. It happens quite simply, indeed, as a suicide out of disappointment and despair over the difference between illusion and reality. Reality soon strikes Piskarev as he follows after the dark-haired beauty. He comes to a place which he recognizes as a brothel, a "den of iniquity". Brothels exist, according to Gogol, for three reasons: the existence of pitiful vice, its engendering by a "tawdry education", and last, the terrible overcrowding in the city. Gogol presents a realistic picture of the brothel's interior. One wonders where the suspected homosexual would have access to such intimate details -- and then works out the contrast between the idealistic, virginal artist and the cynical, street-wise prostitute. It is important to the Romantic portrayal of the situation that the male character be the dreamer, the alienated idealist who does not behave like everybody else, while the prostitute is the jaded, matter-of-fact practitioner of her "art". Unable to accept the fact that she is a prostitute, Piskarev runs away, finding himself at home close to midnight.

Readers of Russian literature will recognize the resurfacing of this duo later in Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground. Undoubtedly, Gogol was the founding father of this Romantic tradition in the literary canon of St. Petersburg.

Piskarev's inability to come to grips with reality turns him into another Romantic character typical of the St. Petersburg tradition. He lives in dreams -- first merely under the impact of the experience, but later, he becomes Russian literature's first drug-addict,addicted to opium, which he has secured (in another Oriental touch) from a Persian cloth merchant living in the neighborhood. The price of the opium is Piskarev's promise to paint for him the portrait of a beautiful woman as a houri, an angel in Mohammedan tradition, and, lying next to her, the Persian cloth merchant himself, smoking a pipe. The Madonna is corrupted in this icon of beauty -- the temptation is like Chertkov's when he used his portrait of Psyche for the picture of the society lady's daughter.

Piskarev never gets to the painting for he is progressively hooked on his opium-induced dreams until he loses his hold on reality altogether. Surprisingly, it suddenly occurs to him that he should go and rescue the dark-eyed beauty from prostitution. In his resolve we see another favorite topic of the Romantics and the later revolutionaries: the rescue by a noble male of a prostitute who is a victim of society. In Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Nikolai Levin does just that; or again, in Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, the narrator is almost redeemed by the prostitute Liza after he promises to save her. Gogol was the first to set up the parameters of the theme in Piskarev's naive enthusiasm, his offer to marry the prostitute, and her answer, "I'm nobody's washerwoman or seamstress to be made to work!" Chernyshevskiy's utopia is similarly fractured in What's to Be Done? as it is in Nekrasov's Petersburg Tales about reformed prostitutes,despite his hero's offer to resolve the inequities of society.

But what is Piskarev to do? If he cannot accept the corruption inherent in reality, no more can he change it. His suicide is the next inevitable step. We recall Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov, who says that he cannot accept the imperfection of God's world, and is therefore ready to "respectfully return his ticket." Thus Russian literature's Romantic suicides have their origin in their artist brother, Piskarev. Of course, there are other solutions besides suicide to the problem of "overstepping the limits" ( prestuplenie ), in Dostoyevsky's formulation of the dilemma . Going mad is one, as will be demonstrated in the "Diary of a Madman " which follows. Becoming a self-denying saint, with its attendant problems, is another,or as in the case of Dostoyevsky's later heroes, turning on society and becoming destructive revolutionaries.

But with Piskarev's death Gogol could fix his attention on his Romantic double, Pirogov ("the son of a Meatpie"). Where Piskarev's experience is tragic, Pirogov's is a hilarious comic counterpart. The brave, blonde German Hausfrau leads Pirogov to her house, a shopkeeper's place, where he not only has no chance for the success of his amorous designs, but where in the end he gets a good beating at the hands of the brave German husband and his friends. Humorous or no, the scene provides a profound psychological insight into the national characteristics of the two nations which were living in uneasy cooperation: to Russians, the Germans were despicably meticulous, serving their Russian hosts with barely disguised contempt whom they considered lazy, stupid and extremely unreliable. There is no other description in Russian literature as comical, or as "real" as in this tale, of the unbridgeable differences in the national psychology of the two nations.

Yet it is these Germans who were the teachers for the Russians not just of technology, but also of literature. Gogol has tremendous fun in displaying his understanding that the Germans are always Germans be it in trade or in literature. The story is tantamount to a declaration of independence from the German Romantics at the same time that Piskarev is directly descended from them.

On entering the German's shop, Pirogov sees " in front of him... Schiller, not the Schiller who wrote William Tell , and A History of the Thirty Years War, but the famous Schiller, the master tinsmith of Mescanskaya Street. Near Schiller stood Hoffmann -- not the writer Hoffmann, but the better-than-average cobbler from Officerskaya Street, Schiller's staunch friend." Willy nilly, the reader sees in the "famous" German tradesmen not just the odd correspondence of their names with the names of the greatest representatives of the German Romantic movement in literature, but also Gogol's unspoken thought: Schiller the tinsmith shares the psychology of Schiller the poet. And Hoffmann, the better-than-average cobbler, has much in common with his famous namesake.

And what is it that they are doing? They are in the process of cutting off Schiller's nose because it costs Schiller too much money to keep it supplied with snuff. Hoffman, the cobbler, has his knife in position as Pirogov enters. We are witness to the victory of rationalism over reason or, for that matter, over human nature. The nose, the costliness of tobacco and other such details are, as we have seen, basic symbols in Gogol's fiction, where tobacco is equated with manliness, while the nose is, of course, a thinly disguised sexual stand-in for a more obvious manly attribute. Nothing could be clearer than that Gogol viewed the Germans as a people whose rationalism is both inhuman and irrational.

The same can be said of their drinking habits: Sober-minded on workdays, propriety dictates that they get drunk on weekends: "Schiller was a typical German in the fullest sense of the word. From the age of twenty, from that happy time when Russians lived in a happy-go-lucky manner, Schiller had already planned out his life and he made no changes whatever in those plans. He made it a rule to get up at seven o'clock, to dine at two, to be exacting in everything and to get drunk on Sundays." 40His wife's friend Pirogov's fate is not very interesting, for he tries to push his luck with the blond Hausfrau only to earn a good beating from Schiller, Hoffmann and their friend Kuntz (whose name is similar to the German word for art!). Ready to turn the world upside down after this insult, Pirogov nevertheless quiets down quickly after he has had some pirogi in a pastry shop and spent a nice evening in the society of other Petersburg officers and their ladies. No tragedy here: tragedy is traditionally for outsiders, for those who despair over the "inconsistency of the human condition". Your average poslyak ,the vulgarian, the self-satisfied mediocrity (according to Nabokov's translation of the word), is not the right stuff of tragedy. Consoled easily, the average man does not despair over the imperfection of God's world, over the suffering of the innocents or other perplexing philosophical problems and he lives happily ever after.

But not their author! The story closes with asides in the form of philosophical musings about the strangeness of this world, and of the world of his own creation: "How amazingly our world is arranged," I thought, walking along the Nevsky Prospect the day before yesterday and recalling these two events. "How strangely, how inscrutably Fate plays with us! 41 Do we ever get what we desire? Do we achieve what our abilities seem especially suited for? Everything turns out contrary to expectations. Those who have been given fine horses by Fate ride about on them unaware of their beauty, while another, whose heart burns with a passion for horses, goes about on foot, and has to be content with merely clicking his tongue when a fine trotter is led past him. One has a marvelous cook, but unfortunately, has such a small mouth that he cannot eat more than two morsels; another has a mouth the size of the Headquarters' arch, but alas! He must be content with some German dinner made from potatoes. How strangely our Fate plays with us." Such melancholic asides are to become the backbone of Gogol's fictional world, and their bitter-sweet melancholy the very essence of Gogol's insight into the strangeness of the human condition.

The story's cadenza returns to the opening theme: the strangeness of the Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg. Gogol cannot help but close with a Romantic exclamation: "Oh, never believe the Nevsky Prospect! ... It's all an illusion, it's all a dream, nothing is what is seems." He asks, is there a way to defend oneself against this new game of the Devil? Yes -- one must stay away. As the narrator says, "I always wrap my cloak around me more tightly when walking along it, and I try not to look at the things I see there." One has to be especially careful with the ladies: "God preserve you from peeking under ladies' hats. However much a beautiful lady's cape may flutter in the distance, nothing would induce me to take a peek out of curiosity." 42

A further essay in this volume is "The Songs of the Ukraine ", again purporting to be a review. His school-friend Maximovic had recently published a collection of these songs; as Gogol explains in a footnote, "Lovers of music and poetry can take some comfort: recently a beautiful collection has been published by Maximovic, together with words by Alyabev." The review turns into an enthusiastic homage to Ukrainian folksongs, ever a topic Gogol loved. Contemporaries have reminisced about Gogol's passionate interest in these songs and about how he loved to foregather with his former school fellows and sing Ukrainian folksongs for hours on end.

In confessing his love of the songs, Gogol remarks that they are not everybody's favorites, especially in the circles of high society where they have remained relatively unknown: "Until recently," he says, "only their enchanting music was carried over occasionally into the higher circles; the words remained unnoticed and awakened curiosity in hardly anybody." Gogol nevertheless stresses their real significance: "They are the vibrant, clear, colorful, truthful history of a nation, revealing the whole life of the people." 43 In portraying the variety of their subject-matter, Gogol speaks of their presentation of the nation's history as all-important. He summarizes their histories: they are remarkably similar in content to his Cossack stories, like Taras Bul'ba and " The Hetman ", as well as some of the other fragments. Clearly he sees them as the life-blood of Ukrainian life, especially of its history. Indeed, in order to impress the Russian reader, he quotes some of the songs in Ukrainian, and provides a Russian translation of a longer historical ballad.

He also expands on songs about life in general, especially on their religious references: "When the thoughts expressed in them touch on religion, they become extraordinarily poetic. They are not amazed by the colossal creation of the Eternal Creator: this astonishment belongs to someone who has already climbed to a higher rung of self-awareness; but their faith is just as innocentThey address God as children address their father; they often introduce Him into their every-day life with such pure innocence that their artless image of Him becomes majestic in its very innocence. Thus, the most ordinary objects in their songs assume the form of ineffable poetry, and are the remnants of the rites of ancient Slavic mythology which they have made subordinate to Christianity."44 These words are not only highly accurate descriptions of this aspect of folksongs, but they also explain the genesis of Gogol's own art. So, for example, his distinction between naive folk belief and a more intellectual contemplative attitude toward religion indicates his awareness of the intellectual problems inherent in embracing a set of religious principles and sheds light on the nature of his up-coming spiritual crisis. His later remarks as to the intermingling of Christian ideas practices and pagan Slavic concepts and rites in the religious beliefs of the Ukrainian people, on their double allegiance ( dvoeverie ), for example, make clear already in the early 1830's when the Dikanka stories and this article were written, that Gogol was consciously applying his insight to his own creation.

Gogol also has a keen eye for observing technical details as to the way in which folksongs function. So, he tells us, "It is impossible to find anywhere ... the repeated sentence: "It was evening", but instead of repeating this, they [the folksongs] describe what happens in the evening:

The cows were coming home from the leafy glades

and the lambs from the fields.

The brown eyes began to weep,

standing next to her beloved."

He adds, "Because of this, many people mistakenly consider such turns of speech senseless." 45 Obviously, Gogol is not one of these.

Further on, he also observes that in the creation of the folksongs, emotions, subconscious notices and artistic inspiration play a far more important role than in the conscious creation of "artificial" songs. "A song is not composed with a pen in one's hand, or on paper, or by strict calculations, but in a whirlwind, in oblivion, when the soul rings out and every part of the body, breaking its normal, indifferent attitude, becomes freer; the hands freely flay the air, and wild waves of enjoyment transport one away from everything worldly." 46 That such a poetic inspiration is a precondition to creativity, Gogol has no doubt: "This can be noted even in the most doleful songs whose heartrending sounds bring sadness to one's heart. they could never flow from a man's soul under normal conditions, when he is observing an object."

This analysis of the creative process reveals Gogol's own ars poetica, wherein not everything can be analyzed from a rational, or normal, logical point of view because,as he says in closing, "The poetry of ideas is more comprehensible to anyone than the poetry of sounds, or rather, the poetry of poetry."

Finally, Gogol also remarks on the meters and rhymes, revealing his precise technical understanding of these matters and his ability to analyze poetry from a technical point of view. Also, he gives a fairly detailed description of the various tunes to which the songs are sung. For instance, about a certain type of dance music he comments: "The dancer feels like a giant: his soul and all his being expand, only to strike it with his gleaming toe-caps, then to rise once more into the air." He concludes, "Nothing can be stronger than national music. "

Next comes " Thoughts on Geography ", a youthful exercise, written in 1829 and published in 1831 for the first time as an article in The Literary Gazette under the original family name of G. Yanov. It also has a subtitle, " For Children ", which seems to indicate Gogol's desire not to enter the field of the professional geographers, but rather to be allowed to participate in these ideas as an outsider in search of "one's own place".

Gogol recommends the study of Geography because he feels it is a subject which ".is a great and amazing [one]Where can one find objects which appeal more to the youthful imagination? What other science could be more beautiful for children or quicker to arouse the poetry of their young souls?" 47 His understanding goes beyond utilitarian considerations". He wants to appeal to the excitement of discovery: "Surely," he exclaims, "the great Humboldt and those brave explorers who brought so much knowledge to the realm of science and who deciphered the wonderful hieroglyph which can be seen all over the world cannot be comprehensible to only a small number of scientists!" 48

But Gogol cannot help but offer some practical advice as to how geography lessons should be structured or how maps should be colored, just as he did for architecture. Further, geography appears to him in much the same way as anthropology, or cultural history does to us in the 20th Century. He suggests, for example, that geography should be studied from the point of view of evolution: "to follow the gradual development of Man, together, of course, with the gradual discovery of the world." 49 The discovery of the world, on the other hand, evokes vivid pictures in his mind: ".The Bedouin dashes over the desert like a whirlwind, where faith develops into fanaticism and the whole country is a country of creeds which have spread out from here over the whole world." Gogol also suggests that Geography include the description of such major natural wonders as earthquakes, as well as man-made wonders, great cities -- here he provides a memorable picture of Rome -- the final result of such teaching would be an awakening of the enthusiasm of one's pupils. Gogol's ideas on pedagogy sound quite modern, and extraordinarily perceptive for a young man of twenty. If students are not motivated to study, the responsibility lies with the teacher: "Laziness and obtuseness in a pupil," he insists, "are the fault of the teacher and are nothing more than the signs of his own negligence. He must have been neither capable nor desirous of holding the attention of his young audience; he must have forced them to take his revolting, bitter pill." 50 He cites as an example the way children "thought of being incapable of anything" listen to horror stories. "Surely," he adds, "it would not be impossible to coax such an imagination to be of use to science." Interestingly, his representation of school life, as in " Ivan Spon'ka " or " The Inspector General " is always of a dreadful, useless waste of time, and he blames the teachers for the students' behavior.

Karl Pavlovic Bryullov (1799-1852), whose architecture inspired Gogol to an enthusiastic review, now merits a second, this time not from an architectural point of view, but from a painter's. For the first time we see Gogol functioning as truly an art critic, presenting his views about painting and the work of a painter in a full-blown article. The occasion for the article, written in 1834, was an exhibit of Bryullov's pictures in the Hermitage in August of that year. Beginning with an overview of certain trends in 18th Century art, Gogol notes that a fragmentation of artistic dogmas has taken place towards the end of the century, while " the beginning of the 19th Century has produced nothing complete or colossal in art...it broke up into numerous atoms and parts." As usual, aside from artistic and philosophical trends, he focuses on technical details. He thinks that the new age has produced better techniques, especially in the field of shadings, contours, and motive considerations: "And side by side with all this sharpness what luxurious tenderness there is, and what mysterious music is noted in ordinary, insensitive objects." 51 He concludes: "One may say that the 19th Century is the century of effects." Gogol then turns to Bryullov's pictures, which to him precisely represent new trends in painting: "Within its limits it captures diversity to an extent which nobody previously had managed to capture. The underlying thought corresponds exactly to the style of our century, which, generally speaking, seems aware of its own terrible process of disintegration and is striving to unite all genres into general groups and selects the violent crises experienced by the vast masses of the population" 52 for its subject matter.

A discussion of several pictures dealing with the tragic events of classical antiquity, "The Destruction of Ninevah ", and "Belshazzar's Vision ", serves as a preliminary for his comments on the main picture of the exhibit, "The Last Days of Pompeii". Everywhere Gogol emphasizes the unity of the painter's artistic vision, which focuses not so much on the disasters themselves as on Man--though not exactly Man himself. As he puts it, "Man does not appear in his works, only his passions. Man appears in Bryullov's work, however, in order to display his beauty and the extreme elegance of his nature ." 53 In the very midst of destruction, Gogol maintains, Bryullov was able to present "Man at his most beautiful, his woman breathes with all that is best in the world. Her eyes are as bright as stars, her naked breasts, which heave voluptuously and powerfully, promise the luxury of ecstasy. And this beautiful woman, this crown of creation, this ideal of the earth, must perish in the universal destruction along with the last contemptible creation. Tears, fear, sobbing -- they all seem beautiful to her."

Gogol's conclusion is also interesting as it indicates his striving for "universality": He proposes that "The Last Days of Pompeii", for its extraordinary scope and its gathering of all that is beautiful, may be compared with an opera -- since opera, indeed, unifies the triple world of art: painting, poetry and music." The tone of the article, as in other sections of the Arabesques, its references to other artists like Raphael and Michelangelo, confirm that Gogol was seriously interested in the art of painting, as, for instance, in "The Portrait." Thus, when Gogol left for Rome two years later, and moved in with a Russian who painted religious subjects, a certain Ivanov, the move appears logical as a manifestation of his passionate involvement, rather than as a search for a homosexual lover as Karlinsky suggests. Indeed, the rhapsody over the beauty of the figure of the woman in Bryullov's picture renders the theory of Gogol's so-called homosexuality both thin and far-fetched.

Concluding the second volume are a lecture on history and the well-known story, " Diary of a Madman ". " On the Movement of Nations at the End of the Fifth Century " is an extended essay on history, parts of which Gogol had read as his second lecture at the University of St. Petersburg in September of 1834. This is a fairly lengthy survey of the great migration that occurred in Asia and Europe at the end of the Fifth Century as a result of the fall of Rome: Gogol quotes Schlegel and Miller in support of his theses about the migration of the Germanic tribes from Asia. He presents the German pagan traditions with their customary picturesque details and we are not mistaken in seeing in them a variant of his Cossacks, though they speak in a different tongue. In contrast to the southern Romans, he sees that the Germans personified the new breed which became the hallmark of the new world. Their religion, their style of living, their temperament, the prototypical elements of their character, distinguished them entirely from the enlightened nations of the day." 54 Gogol's view of these migrations is typically Romantic and consistent with his earlier notions about the importance of geography to the development of national character. ".The whole of Asia," he says, "was always ruled by the worship of the sun and the heavenly bodies. As they moved into Europe, the nations seldom saw the sun. The dense, majestic darkness of the European forests struck their primitive imagination with great force." Following Tacitus (whom, by the way, he never mentions), he supplies a wealth of details from the Germans' every day life, religion, and military habits. He has an eye for the place of women in this society: "The women, then and there, in the midst of battle, sucked their husbands' wounds, treated them and even carried them on their shoulders." He is as attentive to the life of other peoples in the general migration which contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire. Attila the Hun appears in colorful detail: his sack of Acquilea, his arrival at the walls of Rome, and the manner of his death and burial are all vividly described.

The wealth of details, the footnotes (which until now have not figured in Gogol's essays on history), the references to the work of other scholars and publications tell us that Gogol must have leaned heavily on readily available contemporary source material for his abridgments of general history. The vivid details are the hallmark of his insistence that history is less a science than it is a living picture of human life.

The Arabesques conclude with the celebrated "Diary of a Madman "(or,to be more precise,"Notes of a Madman "; since the "Diary of a Madman " is the accepted title in English, we retain it here.)

Not only does the story mark a departure from the tales of artistes that comprised "The Portrait " and "The Nevsky Prospect ", but the newly acquired theme of St. Petersburg is further developed. The hero winds up in "Spain" -- actually the place he imagines in his madness.This "Spain" is unique in Gogol's fiction, never to reappear. An investigation as to its genesis may prove illuminating.

The story concerns a middle-aged civil servant (chinovnik ) who, at the age of forty two , has barely reached the bottom rung of the Russian bureaucracy. Poor and maladjusted, he is a new kind of hero in Gogol's fiction, and will create a trend in Russian literature which will focus on the "little man" whose sad fate, according to Belinskii, became the predominant concern of the naturalist school's interest in philanthropy. Endless dissertations have been written on the sympathy that this genre is supposed to have created for "the insulted and the injured", to use Dostoyevsky's much-quoted phrase and for the "downtrodden" -- even Pushkin's poem, "Monument " , was to celebrate this trend. We do not deny the effect of the genre on the development of Russian social consciousness, or, for that matter, on literature in general indeed, in Dostoyevsky's work it is to play a crucial role; but our concern is with Gogol's own search for what he called "a new beginning" and his discovery of " Spain " as a suitable springboard.

The hero's name, Popryshchin can be derived from the etymology of the Russian word for " one's field or occupation," (poprishche ). Popryscin is the " professional " ( cinovnik ), a petty civil servant in the great bureaucracy of St. Petersburg. We first see him sulking in the Director's office, where he is sharpening quills. This is indeed a nonsensical occupation for a man of his age and pretensions. Pretensions, or rather ambitions, he has more than he needs: He imagines himself as better than anyone else who occupies a similar office; he is also convinced that he is still at the threshold of a splendid career, and that the future is still wide open for him.

At this juncture, the unexpected happens: he falls in love with the Director's daughter. She is, unsurprisingly, a new version of the pannocka, the " Polish governor's daughter" , the unattainable ideal as well as the source of his downfall. Splendid passages belabor her ethereal quality and her barely earthly appearance.

The story is written in the form of a diary (hence the title) whose entries are divided into three separate parts. The first, from October 3 to December 8, follows the accepted calendar. The second begins on April 43 in the year 2,000 and moves on in four entries to a date called "I don't remember". The third section is dated "the First" and ends four entries later on the 349th of February. 55

The structure of the diary entries clearly indicates that something has happened to Popryscin between October 3 and December 8, after which he leaps into the year 2,000, which may be the new millennium. From here a completely different and unfamiliar calendrical system takes over. The diary falls thus into three distinct parts: the time when Popryscin is still inhabiting the old existing reality, though he is in the process of leaving it; the transition; and the "New Reality".

The old reality was characterized by the developing split in Popryscin's consciousness generated by his realization of the painful incongruity of his social situation. He is a tenth-grade official, forty-two years old, penniless, balding. He is divided by an ocean of social and generational differences from the Director's daughter with whom he is falling in love. His social aspirations seem hopeless.

Popryscin's dissatisfaction with existing reality becomes intolerable and he is on the lookout to change everything that blocks his advance. A highly unusual event in Gogol's fiction occurs: On the street he overhears two dogs talking. They are discussing him and his predicament over the Director's daughter. Driven by curiosity, Popryscin goes to visit the dogs, but his efforts to talk with them are unavailing. Instead he finds the dogs' correspondence and reads it, quoting. He learns the devastating news that Sophie, for that is the young lady's name, is betrothed, that a wedding has been planned by her parents, and that his chances of winning her hand are therefore nil.

At this point, a much-quoted, bitter monologue formulates his realization of his inadequacy, or, indeed, of the inconsistency of the human condition: "Why am I a titular councillor," he asks, "and for what reason am I a titular councillor? Perhaps I don't know what I am. " ( As Juliet insisted as she pondered Romeo's identity as her enemy, "A rose by any other name would be as sweet." ) In Gogol's formulation, the very foundations of one's existence are in question since there is no basis for differences in social status; once these differences become the source of despair,the very order of the world upon which they are based seems unjust and intolerable.

Now Popryscin does what Romantic heroes do when they discover the stifling determinism of reality: if they cannot change reality, they must change it in their mind and create a New Reality. Indeed, once he has understood that he is not necessarily a 10th-grade, middle-aged, balding civil servant, but perhaps a general in disguise, who can say that he is not what he has imagined himself to be?

The second and third parts of the diary demonstrate the way this New Reality functions and what happens to the hero once he steps out of the old. Predictably, nothing good. The first step is to discover who he now really is. Popryscin makes this discovery by chance when he reads the newspaper accounts of political events, especially the information that the Spanish throne is vacant. (There was, in fact, a crisis in the Spanish succession at the time Gogol wrote this story.) After some deliberation, it dawns on him that he, Popryscin, and everybody else, has been blinded by a misconception that he is a low-grade civil servant instead of recognizing the "truth", that he is the missing heir to the throne of Spain.

The second part of the diary deals with the effect of this discovery on his personality. He makes himself a royal mantle out of his overcoat; next, he refuses to go to the office and work there in his old capacity. The third part shows society's reaction to this discovery, for they declare him mad, take him to an insane asylum and there try to beat some sense into his head and persuade him that he is not the King of Spain. Popryscin cannot accept their well-intentioned version of the facts, since doing so would mean an admission of the failure of his new reality. Thus, being denied, Popryscin's madness intensifies and leads at last to acute physical and mental agony.

It is generally assumed that this plot, unusual in Gogol's oeuvre, had its genesis in his readings about the crisis of succession to the Spanish throne in Russian newspapers of the day. Though this explanation seems to be widely accepted and plausible, especially in criticism emanating from the Soviet Academy's edition (1938) of Gogol's Collected Works, 56 it leaves the critical reader with a number of unanswered questions which demand a further inquiry into the origins of the Spanish elements in the tale. A fresh look at the title of the collection, Arabesques which is neither a Russian nor a Ukrainian word, never again to appear in Gogol's work, arouses speculation. In Russian, it is a loan-word which entered the language in the 18th Century in the poems of Derzavin. 57 In Italian, German and Spanish, the adaptation occurred sooner, some time in the 18th Century, as a result of the growing Turkish influence in European political affairs, and especially of the extensive influence of things Moorish in Spanish culture. 58

The most common definition of the word "arabesque" as it is applied to architecture, music, dance, and literature, denotes a type of decoration relying on pseudo-Arabic hieroglyphs, a repetitiveness of geometrical patterns and stylized ornamental design. The word also means trifles, or small, decorative notes , or also delicate elaborations on a Romantic theme. In what sense was Gogol using the word? In the introduction to Volume One he seems to indicate that he means merely a "trifle" but we are familiar enough now with his deviousness and delight in playing hide-and-seek and suspect that we might do well not to accept this definition at face value.

A search of Gogoliana has produced slim results and reveals only one contemporary instance of the use of the word: when Gogol's sister mentions in her memoirs a visit Gogol made to the family estate in June of 1832 around the time of the Arabesques' publication, she tells us that her brother actively participated in redecorating the house. He even painted a room and decorated the ceiling with "arabeski ", 59 that is, with arabesques. So the word may, in Gogol's mind, have connoted a specific type of decoration rather than mere trifles or doodlings.

An incident from much later in Gogol's life may also be pertinent here: After the furor over the publication of the Selected Passages from the Correspondence with Friends, Gogol, defending himself against accusations hat they represented a harmful departure from his traditional concerns, picked up a copy of the Arabesques and held it up to Ivan Turgenev as proof that he had already been saying many of the same things in the Arabesques. The episode indicates that -- whether at the time of publication, or only later in retrospect, he regarded the Arabesques as more significant than mere doodling.

The number of Arabic motifs in the Arabesques suggests that the Spanish theme is closely linked to two important features of Cufic (Arabic) script: First, despite the common perception of its qualities as being merely decorative, at least in the mind of non-Arabic critics, Cufic is deeply ingrained with the concept of the holiness of every art form, including writing, which obliges the artist to exercise his profession for the sole purpose of praising the Holy Name. Further, Islam prohibits any pictorial representation of God. Frequently, therefore, "arabesques" are not so much meaningless decorative elements but, instead, hieroglyphs for the most Holy Name whose intent is to induce worshipful devotion, as is the case with more representational Christian icons. 60

Gogol's ars poetica in the Arabesques comes very close to these religious principles. "The Nevsky Prospect " and "The Portrait " certainly testify to his seriousness. It seems clear that Gogol has adopted the term "arabesques " to suggest the "chosen" nature of the artist, the sacredness of his profession, which nevertheless should be kept secret from the uninitiated in its resultant disguise in the garb of trifles.

Another aspect of the Spanish motif in the "Diary " can be traced back to Pushkin and Zhukovsky, with whom the beginning writer Gogol had developed a fruitful literary relationship. 61 Important in this regard is Pushkin's knowledge of Spanish literature and his influence on Gogol. Pushkin knew several foreign languages and was well versed in Western literature, though he was a late-comer to Spanish. His discovery of Don Quixote had a great impact on him as did Cervantes' short stories, the Novellas Exemplares. By the time of Pushkin's death, there were two Russian translations of the Novellas available, both of which were in Pushkin's library. We also know that Pushkin, desiring to read Cervantes in the original, set out to learn Spanish in the 1830's, and that one of Cervantes' novellas, "The Gypsy Girl", served him as a teaching text.62 He made a translation of it and it may have served him as an inspiration for his poem, "The Gypsies ". We also know from Gogol himself in his "Confession of an Author" 63, that Pushkin had suggested that he read Cervantes, indeed, that he should emulate the Spanish master. According to Gogol, Pushkin talked of the Novellas Exemplares in glowing terms and extolled them as great literature, though he suggested that they would not have been enough to establish Cervantes' fame had he not written Don Quixote as well. Gogol said that this advice marked the beginning of his interest in writing a similar novel, the novel which was to be Dead Souls.

This being the case, it can safely be assumed that Pushkin and Gogol had discussed Cervantes and perhaps Spanish literature in general, and that Pushkin's advice to Gogol may have resulted in the Spanish motif in "Diary of a Madman ".

Zhukovsky's name may also be significant in this regard, since Zhukovsky was the Russian translator of Don Quixote, the first edition of which appeared in Russian in 1815. There, is, nevertheless no evidence in literary history of his influence upon Gogol aside from Gogol's enthusiastic review in the Selected Passages of Zhukovsky's translation of the Iliad.

Contemporary interest in things Spanish, on the other hand, was not limited to Zhukovsky's translation of Don Quixote. Pushkin, or Gogol, at the time participated in a veritable discovery of the golden age of Spanish literature. Lope de Vega, Calderon and Cervantes especially, were exalted by Romantic writers all over Europe as their historical progenitors. The Russian Romantics shared the enthusiasm having borrowed it from the Germans. In this respect, the critic Edward Glaser has observed : "such is the indebtedness of German Romantics to Miguel Cervantes Saavedra that he can rightly be termed the master from whom they received their literary education. .. While formerly the emphasis had been placed either on Don Quixote's being a satire of an outmoded literary fashion or an unwarranted attack against the ideals of Knight errantly, the German Romantics held that a deeper significance lay in the divergence between Don Quixote's world and that of his squire. When they discovered that it mirrored the conflict between ideal and reality, they radically changed European thinking with regard to Spain's greatest novel, and initiated a new era in Cervantes studies." 64

It does seem likely that the Spanish elements in the "Diary of a Madman " may have resulted more from this literary influence than from Gogol's reading of newspaper accounts of contemporary Spanish political events.

The present title of the story in Russian, "Notes of a Madman ", was not the original one. The available MS indicates the Gogol first tried two variants: "The Notes of a Mad Musician "and later, "Fragments (Shreds) from the Notes of a Madman ". It seems significant that the evolution of the title points to an impetus which gave birth to the story and also solves a mystery which has been the source of some guesswork among critics. The issue here is the identity of the "musician", or of the "madman " himself.

Conventional explanation relies on an interest on the part of Russian Romantics in the " Kuenstlerroman ", or novel about artists and musicians who, as slightly or completely mad, became favorite heroes in all kinds of literary exercises. Gogol probably intended to make his hero a musician, but later changed his mind so that the protagonist became a typical Russian bureaucrat or "small man". This change of title is significant, as it reflects Gogol's indebtedness to the great Romantic writer, E. T. A. Hoffmann. Hoffmann had at the time an enormous impact on Russian literature; the "Russian Hoffmannists" wrote under the spell both of his works and, perhaps more important, of his colorful personality as well.

Two points suggest themselves in deciphering the puzzle of the title's genesis. First, the "mad musician" of the original title probably refers not to the hero of the final version, Popryscin, as is usually assumed, but rather to Hoffmann himself, whose biography as well as some of whose fictional characters coincide remarkably with the main outline of the first part of Gogol's story, that is, with Popryscin's unhappy love-affair up to the emergence of its Spanish elements. In 1809, Hoffmann had an unhappy love affair which become for him a source of fictional inspiration for many years to come. Hoffmann was thirty-two at the time, and eked out a living as a starving music teacher. He fell in love with one of his pupils, the fifteen year-old Julia Marc who was the daughter of a highly respected, aristocratic family in the city of Bramberg. Age and social differences separated the aspiring lovers. Hoffmann recorded the sad details in his diaries, whose intensity and despair come very close to the high-pitched emotions that characterize Popryscin's"diary". Hoffmann's life story had been published in Gogol's day and, aside from these biographies, Hoffmann himself had popularized many colorful details in his own fiction, notably in the short story with the remarkable title,"Report on the Latest Fortunes of the Dog Berganza " 65

One of Hoffmann's American biographers, Hewett-Thayer, writes that "the experience never entirely faded (from Hoffmann's consciousness) but took on a new meaning. In almost immediate reminiscence, conceived as a kind of poetic farewell, he wrote the little sketch "Sombra Adorata ", one of the Kreisleriana..." Ombra Adorata" are the first words of an aria in a forgotten opera on the theme of Romeo and Juliet. The symbolism of the title is obvious. Soon Hoffmann presented the experience more at length and in a radically different mood in "Nachricht von den neuesten Schicksalen des Hundes Berganza. " Hoffmann linked his narrative to one of Cervantes' Novellas Exemplars, the " El Casement anginas " (The Deceitful Marriage ) ,to which there is attached a long conversation between two dogs, Scape and Berganza. In later tales this devotion, at the time seemingly unrewarded, reappears with ever changing gusto and receives its final form and culmination, in the unfinished novel Kater Murr. The poet's dream, the artist's ideal, is incorporated in the person of his loved one, but the object: an endless quest, for the goal of longing must never be attained, since the vision would fade away into the light of the common day." 66 It seems clear therefore that Gogol's original intention with regard to a mad musician affected by an unhappy love affair can be understood as his transformation of the details of Hoffmann's sad biography.

It also seems clear that Hoffmann's interest in Cervantes corroborated Pushkin's advice to emulate the tales of the Spanish master. Certainly, Gogol's talking dogs can be traced first to Hoffmann and from there to Cervantes, from whose work Hoffmann himself had borrowed. Indeed, Cervantes' talking dogs seem to have been popular among the romantics. Thus, for example, the Austrian writer Christof Kuffner, himself a great admirer of Hoffmann, published a short story in 1821 with the interesting, if cumbersome, title, "A Historic-Aesthetic Talk of a Learned Grandson of the Dog Berganza Dealing with the Great Characteristics and Artistic Talent of the Nation of Dogs". 67

Gogol's story reworks both Cervantes' and Hoffmann's plots. His portrayal of the unhappy love affair of a middle-aged man carefully observes his pining away over the socially unattainable maiden in such details as his age, the unhappy consequences of this affliction, his madness and the delusion that he is the King of Spain. It might also be useful as further substantiation to take a look at both Cervantes' and Hoffmann's stories. Cervantes deals with the tale of Alfarez Campuzano, a brave soldier, Ensign in the Spanish forces, who was bitterly deceived by a certain Don~a Estefania de Caycedo. The mysterious Estefania turns out to be a shrewd, highly sophisticated prostitute, who "marries" the amorous officer just to fleece him of all of his possessions -- within one short week and then disappears as if she had never existed. What is left behind besides bitter memories, is a highly virulent case of venereal disease Campuzano has contracted as a result of the affair.

The story of his deception is told by him after a long time spent in the municipal hospital in Valladolid where he barely survived. In the hospital, the incredible happened: he overheard two dogs talking. About this experience he later says to a companion, "Many times, indeed, since I heard them, I have been disposed not to believe myself, but to regard [it] as a dream .The matters, they [the dogs] talked of were various and weighty, such as might rather have been discussed by learned men than by the mouths of dogs; so that, since I could not have invented them out of my own head, I have come, in spite of myself, to believe that I did not dream, and that the dogs did talk."

In Hoffmann's story, the narrator on his way home one night from a party chances upon a large black dog which is hiding in the bushes in the town park. This black dog turns out to be the reincarnation of Cervantes' dog Berganza. Only one dog figures in Hoffmann's tale since his companion has not been "resurrected", so that Berganza converses with the narrator himself rather than with a fellow canine. The story the dog narrates is familiar to the narrator, since it is about him, the musician Johannes Keppler.It is, of course, the story of the unhappy love affair between Keppler and the young lady Cecilia, in whose house the dog Berganza used to live before he was chased out in the same manner as the unhappy musician. Hoffmann's reincarnation of the original Berganza turns out to be a learned character who delivers authoritative judgments about the affairs of society, art, literature, especially the theories on art of the Romantics.

For our purposes, the most relevant parts of the story concern the appearance of a rival, a dashing, socially acceptable young officer who wins the competition with Keppler for Cecilia's hand. The dog Berganza witnesses Keppler's downfall, his humiliation by his rival, and the consummation of the marriage in the bedroom on the wedding night. (The dog's letters in Gogol's story by the way, daringly include sexually insinuating comments about Popryscin's beloved and her officer lover.)

It seems more than plausible, therefore, that Gogol was familiar with Hoffmann's adaptation of Cervantes' story and that together they inspired him to rework the topic with an additional twist or two of his own. The first part of his narrative relies on Hoffmann's version and deals with Popryscin's dissatisfaction with his social position and his unrequited love for the Director's daughter. Gogol also retains Cervantes' version of the conversation as between two dogs, not between one dog and the narrator. He also keeps the epistolary form, perhaps emulating the diary form of Hoffmann's biography. 68 The conversation of the dogs, on the other hand, loses much of its sophisticated, philosophical content and changes to a typically Gogolian poslost' about food, and their dog-like preferences for other dogs. From the tale of unrequited love Gogol retains the basic motivation of both versions in an inferior social status and the protagonist's position as imposter: Cervantes' Campuzeno pretends to wealth and a higher social standing than he actually has, while Hoffmann's Keppler, the poor music teacher, also assumes that high society will accept him once they have employed him as a teacher of a young woman of rank. The difference in age also plays a significant role in both prototypes, as it does in Gogol's tale. Having exhausted the similarities of the "Diary of a Madman " with Cervantes' and Hoffmann's fictions, it maybe well to have a look at Gogol's exploitation of the Spanish motif in Popryscin's discovering his "real" identity as the King of Spain. Cervantes seems to provide the key to our inquiry: in the "Exemplary Tales "there is a story of a "Ricentiate Vidriera, or Doctor Glass Case",who may have served as the prototype of Popryscin's remarkable metamorphosis into a Spanish king. It concerns a certain vagabond, a young man who calls himself Tomas Rodaja, though his real identity is as unknown to him as it is to the reader. "Tomas" becomes the servant of a student much like Cervantes himself, and as such is able to receive a University education, thus rising in social degree. His new position becomes ambiguous when his master graduates, and leaves behind not just the University, but also Tomas, as an unemployed, overeducated vagabond.The situation is typical for Cervantes' fiction: the uneasy of a person who finds himself in a social milieu to which he aspires but which will not admit him on a permanent basis.Gogol's pretenders suffer acutely from the same foredoomed pretensions.

Tomas' further adventures roughly repeat Cervantes' own life: he becomes a soldier of fortune, participates in campaigns in Italy, and after many tribulations returns to Spain, where misfortune reaches out again to make his life miserable. A fashionable young lady falls in love with him, and when he spurns her advances, she makes him drink a "magic" potion. The result is not as anticipated; instead of falling in love with the young lady, he falls ill just like Sancho Panza, who fell ill from Don Quixote's wonder-working potion. Barely recovering from this illness, Tomas finds that his body may have recovered, but his mind has been transformed. He imagines himself as being made of glass, highly fragile on contact with anything terrestrial. Simultaneously, he discovers that his new condition enables him to see the "real" meaning of the world in much the same way that Gogol's Popryscin discovers himself to be the Spanish king. 69

Gogol's borrowings from Cervantes are now clear. Popryscin becomes the King of Spain in tribute to the Spanish King of Literature, Cervantes. Just as the first part of the story constituted a tribute to Hoffmann, the second, Spanish, part marks an integration of Cervantes' life and his fiction into Gogol's own fictional world. As for newspaper reports about the question of the Spanish succession, the abdication of Ferdinand II, the nomination of Isabella in his place and the resulting chaos in Spanish political affairs, they have merely added another dimension to Gogol's exploitation of the Spanish motif.Indeed, we can discover still further echoes of Cervantes' 16th Century Spain, with its kings, its Inquisition, and especially, with its Grand Inquisitor 70 , as well as more direct borrowings from the political troubles of Gogol's own time.

References to16th Century Spain reveal not only the confusion in Popryscin's mind as conventional interpreters would have it, but also the revelation that Gogol, as narrator of things Spanish, stands in the same relation as Hoffmann's to the Spanish genius, just as Hoffmann was an imitator and descendant as well as literary equal to the great creator of madmen, and heralds a new force in Russian literature.

Cervantes' life story was available to Gogol's contemporaries in Russian translation. 71 Gogol must have known its details. Such knowledge would certainly explain Popryscin's choice of Spain as his refuge in an invented reality: From the dismal facts of his life as a Russian scribe he has been delivered to the haven of an insane asylum in the guise of the King of Spain. But this was not the final station in his flight. Unable to flee asylum physically, he makes his escape through a mental leap, landing on an imaginary troika on its way to Italy, where Gogol was himself to land shortly after the story's publication -- to the sea which ' lies close to Russia', and the ultimate reverse flight of all misunderstood souls, back to his mother and the womb. We arrive at last to one of the most bewildering moments in the final sentence which closes the narration: "And do you know that the Dey of Algiers has a boil just under his nose?" 72

A reconstruction of the successive stages of Popryscin's flight from reality offers the following picture: His initial escape leads him to a fictive Spain, prompted by newspaper reports about actual political events of the 19th Century, though it carries him still further back in time to the 16th Century of Philip II and to the Inquisition. The Grand Inquisitor's tortures force the hero to fall farther, first away from Russia to Italy, and from there to an imaginary Russia, where the "Mother" lives. And then comes the sentence about the Dey of Algiers. What until now was a logical progression dissolves in the final words about the Algerian Dey which seem to make no sense. An attempt at unraveling the genesis of this mysterious remark must first consider the ambiguous position of the sentence in Gogol's MS. Studying the history of the censorship of this story, researchers have uncovered the fact that this particular sentence was tampered with by the censors. According to these studies, Gogol's original sentence was not about the Dey of Algiers, but about the French King. But the logic still eludes us -- why this substitution? There seems today to be little enough difference between the two, if we assume that the genesis of the story lies only in contemporary newspaper reports about the political turmoil in Spain, and that the Spanish motif is only intended to illuminate the growing derangement of Popryscin's mind. Certainly, there is no apparent difference in quality between the Dey of Algiers and the French King as far as Popryscin's delusions go, since the sentence makes no sense either way and apparently is indicative only of the instability of Popryscin's mind, which in his grief cannot fix on a single subject for any appreciable length of time.

On the other hand, since it is clear that the Spanish borrowings constitute Gogol's tribute to Cervantes, the mystery can be cleared. Had Gogol indeed used the expression,"the French King", in his original version, then it would have indicated the actual political references in the story to newspaper reports of events of the period, however irrelevant. The King of France was not to be ridiculed in any Russian literary journal of the day , since Russia, as an ally of the France, could not allow disrespectful references. For this reason, it is argued, the censors provided the substitution of the Algerian Dey (or Bey, in other version). It is, of course, entirely possible that censorship, which Gogolhimself curses in a letter to Pushkin 73, is responsible for the manipulation of the final sentence and of other parts of the story as well. On the other hand, there are a number of indications that the " Algerian Dey" must have been in Gogol's original reading. For one thing , it was with this phrase that the story was published in all three editions of Gogol's works during his lifetime. 74 By 1848, and especially by 1851, the actual political sensibilities of official Russia would not have prohibited Gogol from changing the text back to its presume original "French King", relying on the Aksaakov copy book, the earliest extant MS version of the story. 75 (It should be noted that the actual, original MS is not extant, as the version is from a copy made by Akasakov, but the first published version presents the Algerian Dey variant.)

If our interpretation of Gogol's interest in the Spanish motif is correct, then it really begins with the title, Arabesques, and ends in a straightforward,logical manner with the final sentence, that is, with the reference to the Algerian Dey.

The "French King" version strips the narration of its internal logic and relegates the Spanish theme to the superficial level of actual political reference. The "Algerian Dey", on the other hand, points to the hidden idea central to the story and to the entire collection as well, to Gogol's literary agenda and to his later Confessions. 76 At any rate, this sentence indicates Gogol's familiarity with certain details of Cervantes' life, since the latter spent some five years as a captive of the pirates of Algiers.

After the Battle of Lepanto in 1575, where Cervantes lost his left hand, the ship taking him back from Italy to Spain was intercepted by pirates of the Algerian Dey, and Cervantes, whom the pirates of the Dey considered to be some important person , a shishka , in colloquial Russian, was kept prisoner for five long years in Algiers. Cervantes tried to escape at least five times, but was captured each time, until he was finally ransomed by the Brothers of the Trinitarian Order. This bitter experience of captivity, his losing hope of ever being able to escape, and of ever being able to return to Spain, provided the subject matter for a number of his plays,poetry, and especially the long narrative poem," The Captive" . Does it not, therefore make logical sense to assume that Gogol remained consistent in his story to the very end, and that Popryscin's final sentence refers hermetically back to the progenitor of the Spanish motif, to the great predecessor whose life and fiction dealt with the same concerns as Gogol's, with the themes of madness and captivity and of ultimate deliverance? Would it not make eminent sense to see in Popryscin a continuation of the literary and biographical prototype created by Cervantes, now in Russian garb: a new Spanish King, persecuted by the Inquisition of Philip II, who makes a desperate attempt to flee to Italy, at least within the prison of his mind, and then reverts back to his Mother, though he ultimately lands as captive of the Algerian Dey?

But what about the nose of the Algerian Dey, irritated by that bump (shishka )?In discussing this last sentence, English-speaking critics who must read the story in translation, are considerably misled by the resulting loss of an ambiguity conveyed by the Russian original. The word shishka is usually translated as a boil, a bump, or an irritation; it can also be taken for a slang expression for "an important person" or a bigwig (the Italian pezzo grosso ). The original Russian sentence thus may suggest the ambiguity of a double-entendre unsustainable in translation. Hence the "boil" under the nose of the Algerian Dey of English translations, while the Russian sentence also means, there is a bigwig, an important person, under the very nose of the Algerian. Were a double translation possible, it would certainly support the understanding that Gogol had not just a "boil" in mind, but that it was Cervantes, there under the nose of the Algerian Dey, and, that it would convey the notion that his presence was the source of irritation to the very nose of the Algerian Dey.77

Finally, this interpretation allows us to see a parallel in the story to Gogol's own predicament: His attempt to escape Russian -- and by extension, Ukrainian reality by becoming first a Hoffmann, and then a Cervantes, inevitably leads his hero to confinement in an insane asylum as a captive, like Cervantes, of the barbarians, or,to use his own term,of the "traitors of Christ",khristoprodavtsy . It was important to him that the story remain open-ended, rather than closing on a bitter, insane note or a prophecy of permanent captivity. Instead, Gogol achieved a note of hope for escape and spiritual liberation in remembrance of his great predessor, whose eventual escape from his Algerian captors is happily a matter of record.

The Spanish borrowings thus emerge as a crucial signpost in the development of Gogol's ars poetica. 78 In search of models to emulate, he found Hoffmann and Cervantes, and as he followed in their footsteps, especially those of Cervantes, he added the dimension to things Spanish of the Moorish concept of arabesques , wherein he both revealed and concealed himself to the world at large. But with his identification came also his realization that neither the 16th nor the 19th Century world had much use for madmen or their creators. No wonder that less than a year after the publication of the Arabesques and the tremendous success of his play," The Inspector General" , Gogol escaped Russia to follow his idol and literary progenitor, Cervantes.

Footnotes to Chapter Five

1. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) St. Ptbg. t. 1. str. 118-377. . .All references to the Russian text in this chapter refer to this edition. Here quoted as N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. ( 1898 ).The complete English translation is available in N.Gogol:Arabesques. Tr.A.Tulloch, Intr.C.Proffer. Ardis, 1982. Here quoted as Arabesques.

2. Arabesques.p.3

3. Arabesques, p.5.

4. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) t. 1. str. 119. My translation.L.T.

5. ibid.p.120.

6. ibid.p.121.

7. ibid.p.121.

8. ibid p.123.

9. The "spiritual crisis" - as is frequently mentioned in criticism - refers to Gogol's guilt feelings about his doublts concerning the basic validity of religion.

10. V.V. Veresayev: Gogol' v zhizni, op. cit. p. 168.

11. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 124.

12. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 127.

13. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 127.

14. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 132.

15. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 135

16. ibid.

17. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 152.

18. ibid.

19. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 153.

20. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 154; also in Ehre: op. cit. p. 59

21. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 154; also in Ehre: op. cit. p. 59

22. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 185.

23. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 186.

24. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 186.

25. ibid. p. 189

26. ibid.

27. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 189.

28. ibid. p. 200

29. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 200.

30. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 202.

31. ibid. p. 203

32. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 204.

33. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 307.

34. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 229.

35. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 238.

36. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 245.

37.N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 254.

38. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 254.

39. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 261.

40. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 265.

41. N.V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. (1898) str. 266; Arabesques, Ardis, p. 145.

42. ibid.

43. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 149.

44. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 176.

45. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 181.

46. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 184.

47. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 185.

48. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 186.

49. Ibid.

50. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 190.

51. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 191.

52. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 191.

53. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 192.

54. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 194.

55. ibid

56. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 197

57. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 200

58. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 203

59. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 204

60. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 205

61. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 207

62. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 210

63. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 214

64. Arabesques, Ardis, p. 217

65. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) t. 3. str. 65. English: Gogol: The Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. tr. and intr. by Ronald Wilks, Penguin Books, 1972. p. 42. In some cases I preferred Wilks' translation to L. Kent's. The references to the Wilks' translation are given as: Wilks tr. op. cit. My own translation are indicated by my initials (L.T.)

66. My own translation (L.T.)

67. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) Isd. A.N. SSSR. t. 1

68. Slovar' russkogo yazyka, Imp. A.N. St. Ptbg. 1895. t. 1. str. 59. also: M. Vassmer: Russisches Etymologisches Woerterbuch, Hedileberg, 1953. p. 75.

69. Dictionaire Etymologique (Larousse), p. 58. See also: Joan Coromonas: Dictionarie Etimologica, Madrid, p. 87 (Arabesco: 1567. Del. it. arbesco, id. deriv. de arabo por ser este adorno caracteristico de arte del mululman, que no admite representacion de imageries.)

70. V.V. Verasayev: Gogol' v zhizni. op. cit. str. 436

71. S.A.A. Maududi: Fundametnals of Islam. Islamic Publications, Lahore (Pakistan), 1976. p. 62. Interesting to note, that one of the pieces of the Arabesques: Life, served as a "calligraphy exercise for Gogol". Arabesques, Ardis, p. 26. Note also, that Akakii Akakievich in the Overcoat was also fond of calligraphy. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) Isd. A.N. SSSR. t. 1 str. 145-46.

72. G.P. Makogonenko: Gogol' i Pushkin. Sov. Pisatel', L. 1985.

73. L. B. Turkevic: Cervantes in Russia. Princeton. Princeton University Press. 1950. p. 47-50. also: L.B. Turkevic: Spanish Literature in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1735-1964. Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, NJ, 1967. p. 36-37. Also Ocherki istorii ispano-russkikh literaturnykh otnosheniy XVI-XIX vv. Isd. Leningradskogo Universiteta, 1964. str. 159. Servantes i vsemirnaya literatura. pod. red. I.Sh. Balashova, A.D. Mikhaylova, I.A. Teteryan, Isd. Hauka, M.-L. 1969. str. 184-195.

74. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938). t. VII, Avtoskaya Ispoved', str. 439-440

75. Edward Glaser: An Austrian Romatic's View of Cervantes' Captivity in Algiers. in Alanes Cervantinos, tomo IV p. 101-102. Institute Miguel de Cervantes.

76. Norman W. Ingham: E.T.A. Hoffmann's REception in Russia. Jal Verlag. Wuerzburg, 1974

77. Biographies of Hoffman were published in Russia as early as 1830. See: Ingham. op. cit. p. 281. also: Posledniye dni zhizni i smerti Gofmana, Syn Otechestva i Severnyy Arkhiv. 1831, No. 4. str. 217-236; Kratkoye Zhizneopisaniye Zhizni Gofmana, Raduga. 1832. kn. 3 str. 214-215

78. E.T.A. Hoffman: Dictungen und Schriften. Gesammtausgabe in 14 Bd. Weimar, 1924. Bd. XIII. Die Vier Grossen Gespraeche..." Nachricht von den neuesten Schicksalen des Hundes Berganza"

79. Harvey W. Hewett: Hoffmann: Author of Tales, Princeton University Press, Princeton, JH 1948.

80. "Historisch aesthetische Rede eines gelehrten Urenkels des Hundres Berganza ueber die grossen Eigenschaften un Kusnttalente des Hundegeschlectes:. Hewett-Thayer: op. cit. p. 40-41.

81. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: Three Exemplary Novels, tr. S. Putnam. Cassel & Col, Ltd. London, 1952. p. 25.

82. Hoffman, op. cit. p. 6.

83. For an interconnection between Hoffmann's diaries and his fiction, especially his use of the Berganza story see: Hewett-Thayer op. cit. p. 15

84. The Portable Cervantes, tr. and ed. by S. Putnam. The Viking Portale Library, p. 114.

85. N.V. Gogol; op. cit., str. 208.' "Teper' peredo mnoy vse otkryto, teper' ya vizhu vse kak no padone". ("Everything ahs become clear now before me. I see Everything as if on the palm of my hand." My translation L.T.)

86. The Arabesques has different places, where many of these issues are dealt with, so i.e. the Inquisition is dealt with briefly in the essays: On the Middle Ages p. 39-40, Ardis The Arbavic cultural influences in the Mediterranean area in Al Marmun p. 134-145 ibid. also in The Movements of Nations after the End of the 15-th c. p. 211, passim, ibid. The schoolmasterly interpretations of history remind one of Poprishchin's ravings about the nature of history, the moon, etc. He is, in a way, a caricature of the "scholarly" Gogol.

87. Bibliographiya russkikh perevodov i kriticheskoy literatury na russkom yazykye, 1763-1957. Isd. Vcesoyuznoy knizhnoy palaty. M. 1959. str. 12-13. (zh. I. Pavlovskiy).

88. N.V. Gogol': op. cit.str. 260.

89. Laurie Ash: Censorship in N. Gogol's Diary of Mandman. RLT No. 14 (Winter). 1976. Ash presents a good account of the history of censorship pertaining to Gogol's story, especially to this final sentence. See also: N.V. Gogol': op. cit. p. 698, 704. also, vol. VI, p. 533, where the earliest version of the MS is described onlya s "MS extant" (doshedshaya do nas pukopis'), and is dated as Sept.-Oct. 1834

90. N.V. Gogol': op. cit. p. 697.

91. ibid. passim

92. see biographical notes by B. I. Shenrok in Soch. N.V. Gogolya, izd. 15-oye. red. N.S. Tikhonravova. t. 1. 1898, str. V-VI

93. N.V. Gogol': op. cit. p. 700.

94. William Byron: Cervantes: A Biography. Doubleday, 1978. -. 200 passim.

95. N.V. Gogol': op. cit.: "A znaete li, chto u alzhirskogo deya pod samym nosom shishka." p. 57

96. D. Fanger: op. cit. p. 260 ("Almost all of Gogol's writing is in some important sense about literature.")
 


Chapter Six-- The Petersburg Stories

Almost simultaneously with the Arabesques, Gogol published three additional tales which he later, in 1842, grouped with "The Nevsky Prospect ", "The Portrait ", and the "Diary of a Madman " as The Petersburg Stories, although it was not Gogol who gave them this name. The Petersburg Stories constitute his finest work, on which his fame is justly based. Also included are "The Nose ", "The Overcoat", "The Carriage ", and the fragment, "Rome ".

Among these new tales, Gogol began "The Nose" in 1832; early in 1835, in March, the first version was ready, but was rejected by the Moscow Observer as "filthy". It was finally published, not without further trouble with the censors, in Pushkin's journal,The Contemporary

The story again marks a departure from Cossack topics, as it takes place in St. Petersburg. The site is no longer the Ukraine, but a place in St. Petersburg. The hero is no longer a Cossack, but a particular St. Petersburg figure, a certain "Major" Kovalev. Kovalev is not really a major,1 but since the ranks of Russian civil servants had their military equivalents, he prefers, for the sake of greater prestige, to be called by that title. A bachelor in his late thirties, he has come to the city from the provinces in order to find fame and fortune. In other words, he is a fortune hunter, an opportunist, a womanizer, and a pretender, a hero typical of Gogol's Petersburg phase. This " Major Kovalev" , who is always on the lookout for his best advantage, one day experiences a miraculous transformation: his nose disappears; We remember that in "The Nevsky Prospect ", Schiller's good friend Hoffmann was threatening to cut off his nose. Here the subject of a cut-off nose is elaborated. And if, like most critics, we see in the nose a phallic symbol, this threat of emasculation is a particularly serious matter for the sort of fellow Kovalev is described as being.

The farcical situation is developed into a delightful story: we follow Kovalev's attempts to retrieve his nose; we see how his nose turns up on the street as a vocal individual: "I'm on my own," said the nose . Indeed, its rank and social prestige are higher than Kovalev's own. At last, and as miraculously as it had disappeared in the first place, Kovalev's nose returns to its rightful owner. In the earlier versions there were indications that the events belong merely to a nightmare dreamed by Kovalev. In later versions, Gogol removed the references to the dream origin so that events move in a mysterious world, where the reader is never sure as to the borderline between dream and reality, between fiction and fact.

The device is familiar -- Hoffmann had already exploited it with great success: Gogol's borrowing seems clear. Certainly it was Gogol's intention to mystify and in removing his initial reliance on dreams, he successfully achieved his goal, though there is still enough evidence to reconstruct his earlier intention. Suffice it to say that the story's title, "The Nose " (" Nos " in Russian), is an inverted form of the word son which means "dream". A further clue is the date on which the narrations begins: "On the 25th of March, a strange and unusual thing happened in Petersburg" 2 The date is repeated confusingly in the third and final part of the story (the story is again divided into three parts). The first part explains how the severed nose was found in a loaf of freshly baked bread on the 25th of March, while the reappearance of the nose, in the third part of the story, is dated the 7th of April. If one takes the thirteen-day difference between the two dates as the difference between the new and old calendrical system; in Russia, then March 25 and the 7th of April are identical 3 so that the extraordinary disappearance and reappearance of the nose actually occurs on the same date, that is, while Kovalev lies sleeping -- and, of course, dreaming.

This jockeying with the calendar will later have further implications, but for the time being, we should consider the story's structure. Its three parts deal with a person who may be Ivan Yakovlev, Kovalyov's barber, though as the logic of the story reveals, he could not really have had anything to do with the unfolding of the mystery. Ivan Yakovlev shaves Kovalyov three times a week. The last time was on Thursday, and, as he tries to remember whether at that time Kovalyov still had his nose, his recollection of the "date" of the events adds to the bafflement. The discerning reader who is onto Gogol's delight in sleight-of-hand understands, at last, the Kovalyov's "dream" must have occurred on the night between Thursday and Friday. The dates are thus important, if tricky, to unraveling the "truth" behind the muddling fiction.

At the outset, Ivan Yakovlev awakes, happy in the realization that his wife has baked fresh bread; she has also made coffee, which he would like to have as well, but since he realizes that he cannot have both, he settles for the bread. In this freshly baked bread he is astonished to find a strange object which turns out to be a severed nose. Immediately, he recognizes it as belonging to his customer, Major Kovalev.

Even the most astute of readers must be baffled by this discovery -- provided that the barber has, indeed, cut off Kovalev's nose, how did it find its way into the freshly baked bread? Further, why would Ivan Yakoviev not have any recollection of this extraordinary incident unless, as logic suggests, he was so drunk that he could remember nothing about his client's misadventure?

Here again is Gogol's favorite Romantic device, the unreliable narrator. That Yakovlev's recollection must have been impaired by intoxication brings another rabbit out of the conjuror's hat, so that one is unable to determine whether sleep or some other natural cause is responsible for this most unnatural event, to say whether it is the product of dream or of mundane reality. Whatever the case, Ivan Yakovlev's initial reaction is that he must get rid of the nose, but as frequently happens in dreams, he is unable to drop it anywhere without being noticed. At last, a policeman stops him for suspicious behavior, and here the story ends.

In Part Two, Kovalev wakes up -- just as the barber awoke in the first part -- and on looking into the mirror, finds that his nose is gone. Not only does he have no recollection as to how he lost his nose, but he cannot remember any pain. The next "logical" step is to verify the event; first by checking his mirror and then by dropping in at a pastry shop -- and here the most incredible scene of the story develops: Kovalev faces his own nose, now transformed into an individual (who proudly declares : "I'm on my own" ), and, worse, into his own rival.

Surely, this is a variant on the Romantic concept of the Doppelgaengeras, for instance, in Hoffmann's "The Man Who Lost His Shadow ", 4 and Gogol is having tremendous fun in developing it to the fullest extent: the absurd, frantic efforts to catch up with this surprising alter-ego turn into a classic chase: the man-nose escapes in a carriage -- They stop at the Kazan Cathedral (In the first, censored version, the Cathedral had to be replaced by the Stock Exchange 5 in order to avoid sacrilege 6 ). Here Kovalev finally corners his nose, now dressed in a much finer and more impressive uniform indicating a higher rank than Kovalev's own, thus of course, revealing Kovalev's inflated image of himself as the conversation comes to a close:

"Sir ! I mean, you are my own nose, Sir."

"The Nose looked at the Major and frowned slightly: 'You are mistaken, Sir.I am myself.There can be no question of any intimate relationship between us.'" 7

This carriage chase, so amusingly drawn by Gogol, will resurface in Dostoyevsky's The Double , as a move from one reality to another, where Golyadkin Sr.,will chase his double in the same manner as Kovalev here chases his personified nose.

The next stop is the newspaper office, where Kovalev tries to place an advertisement in the paper about his missing nose. After many high jinx of hilarious slapstick, Kovalev is told that no ad can be placed in the paper because "a respectable man would never have his nose pulled off." Realizing that there is "nowhere to go " ( again, as Dostoyevsky reformulate the existential dilemma this nonsense represents), Kovalev goes home, and there pronounces the well-known sentence, "Lord, oh Lord, why should I have such bad Luck? If I had lost an arm or a leg, it would not be so bad; if I had lost my ears, it would be bad enough, but still bearable; but without a nose, a man is goodness knows what, neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring -- he isn't a respectable citizen at all." 8 As a final recourse, he tries his luck by writing his lady friend who has tried to catch him for her daughter, Mrs. Podtocina. 9 Herein lies Kovalev's final hope, since "surely" Mrs.Podtocina's witchcraft must be linked to the loss of his nose.

At this desperate point, the policeman who figured in the first part of the story as the official who confiscated the nose, appears to return the nose to the hapless Kovalev. Gogol's handling is that of a master. Kovalev's joy is understandable: "Yes, it is my nose all right....There's the pimple on the left side which I got only the other day. The Major almost laughed with joy." 10 But Gogol adds, immediately, in a memorable sentence, "Nothing lasts very long in the world, and that is why even joy is not so poignant after the first moment. A moment later, it grows weaker and, at last, it merges imperceptibly into one's ordinary mood, just as a circle made in the water by a pebble at last merges into its smooth surface." 11 For Kovalev's joy is dashed at once by a new calamity: the nose will not stick. Not even a doctor who has been summoned, can make it do so. The doctor tries to console the unfortunate victim with a fatuously rationalist argument:"I assure you that without a nose you will be as healthy as with one ! " Dostoyevsky will repeat this argument in The Brothers Karamazov, where the Devil mentions an anecdote about the a nobleman's lost nose.

Meanwhile, the runaway nose has become the talk of the town. Gogol has fun with the grotesque products of the rumor mill; the same sort of rumor mill that will divine Xlestakov as the Inspector General in his later play.

The third part begins oracularly: "The world," Gogol assures his readers, "is full of absurdities." 12 But he casually proceeds to Kovalev's second awakening which, he informs us, "happened on the seventh of April: Waking up and looking quite accidentally into the mirror, he saw -- his nose!" 13

The nose has returned just as miraculously as it disappeared, and Kovalev has been released from his dream. He gets a shave from Ivan Yakovlev (who, we remember, "cut off "the nose " in the first place), gads about town in his new-found happiness, namely, in the knowledge that his nose is in place -- and Gogol finishes the story with an authorial comment, celebrated in Russian literature as an insight into the meaning of literature and the incongruity of reality. The author's task is to lay bare the nature of the incongruities in his writing ; the addendum is wonderfully funny, a monologue delivered by an indignant citizen in much the same manner as the later explanations to The Inspector General will pile nonsense upon nonsense on behalf of indignant theater-goers: "No, I can't understand,I simply can't understand it. But what is even strange and more incomprehensible than anything is that authors should choose such subjects. And yet, in spite of it all, though, of course, we may take for granted this and that and the other may even -- But then, where do you not find all sorts of absurdities? All the same, on second thought, there really is something in it. Say what you like, but such things do happen --not often, but they do happen." 14

The story became one of Gogol's most influential works, as well as the most frequently interpreted by critics of all persuasions. Subsequent variants of commentary would fill volumes. For Gogol's contemporaries, specifically, it mirrored, according to Vinogradov, a general branch of "nosological" literature which included a number of similar tales by different authors, among which Gogol's was only one.

The censors' original objections that the story was "filthy" makes clear that they understood the sexual implications of the dream which actually pictures the loss of a vain bachelor's sexual potency. Dostoyevsky saw in it the prototypical Russian version of the Doppelgaenger. Many of his own situations are borrowed almost literally from Gogol. Indeed, some critics have accused him of having shamelessly stolen Gogol's ideas even while Gogol was still alive (1846). Symbolists, and later, Freudians underscored the dominant role of the subconscious in the tale, especially in the fear of loss of sexual potency which can be especially acute during the onset of middle age, or what is now popularly termed the midlife crisis; but more interestingly, the story also lends itself to religious interpretation with uncanny resonances in another story, The Overcoat, from the same period which Gogol later reworded. These we will subsequently discuss, but we need here to consider the dates Gogol has provided for The Nose . As the discrepancy in calendrical dates reveals, March 15 and April 7 are actually one and the same. No other dates are mentioned elsewhere in the story. These dates may at first seem to have no particular significance , but a look at the Russian Orthodox Calendar, or, for the matter, at any other Christian calendar, indicates that March 25 marks the Orthodox celebration of the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, nine months before Christmas. This is also the beginning of the Easter holidays and the Friday is Good Friday, the night that heralds the Resurrection. Thus, Gogol's date refers obliquely to the mystery of Christ's birth, a birth resulting from an unnatural, immaculate conception and a unnatural resurrection which is the product of an unnatural rebirth -- and thus, on this date, the extraordinary occurs in St. Petersburg, namely, the sexless birth of a person who is "all on his own" .

The first steps of this person "on his own" lead directly to the Kazan Cathedral ( The Temple ) , where Kovalev the "father " catches up with the unrecognized " offspring ",the Nose , and is rejected by him, in something of the same manner that the child Jesus rejects his parents in the Temple .The nose is seen all over town, creates all kinds of confusion, and then disappears into thin air -- or rather, he returns to his "place of origin", that is, to his own "Father". And Kovalev, who is at the same time a father and not a father, who is abhorred, confused and astonished to have been singled out by events normally beyond logic, is the " strange subject ","some writers find it necessary to write about."

Finally, though not last, an existential sadness runs beneath the boisterous fun, a sadness that lies in the realization of the incongruity of the human condition. Of these incongruities Gogol is an acknowledged master, pushing them to painful and dangerous lengths when he reaches even into the basic essentials of Orthodox faith: Christ's birth and resurrection. Though we have no direct evidence of these heretical implications,we can understand"The Nose"and,later," The Overcoat" as links in Gogol's working out of some of his religious doubts -- hiding them, perhaps, even from himself, and certainly from the authorities of the Church. We can also detect the onset here of that spiritual crisis which was to become such a powerful force in Gogol's later life and work.

Indeed " The Overcoat" , which we shall examine next, is justly celebrated and for our purposes an important milestone in his spiritual progress and in his quest for his "own place".

With the possible exception of " The Nose" . "The Overcoat" 15 responds most tantalizingly to critical evaluation.The subject of many interpretations by as many critics, it still stands as a monument to Gogol's enigmatic vision of the complexity of the "Truth". Observing the common elements in the variety of interpretations of this tale, Donald Fanger rightly remarked that nowadays one can distinguish four major schools of thought regarding it: the social, the ethical, the aesthetic and the religious.  16 These broad categories also must accommodate many other groupings and readings -- the psychological, the sexual, the symbolic, among many. 17 Our focus here is on the story's religious undertones. In this respect we are following in the footsteps of such previous critics as Mochulsky, Chizhevsky, Driessen, Schillinger, Hippisley, and, most recently, Schreier. 18

Two assumptions must be basic to our analysis: Gogol's preoccupation with religious matters as evidenced in his letters of the period (1839-42), and certain observations concerning the story's genesis. Gogol's preoccupation with religious matters is complicated and has many sources, the most crucial of which stems from his attempts to establish a new reading of Christianity for himself. He was especially concerned with what it means to follow Christ's example, as, for instance, Thomas a' Kempis attempted in his Imitatio Christi. Patristic literature, both the Old and New Testaments, and the mystical writings of Thomas a' Kempis were much on his mind. In his letters to friends he comments repeatedly on different aspects of Thomas' book. He sends them copies as a gift, and, in general, he insists on giving them all kinds of religious advice. These concerns are reflected in the fictions of the period,among which The Overcoat figures prominently.

As to "The Overcoat"'s genesis, though it was first conceived as a sort of anecdote, it kept moving in a different direction as Gogol worked on it, away from grotesque commentary in the direction of a religious parable.It was Cizevsky who first remarked that the story reads like a parable. 19 The artistic portrayal of the most basic of the Christian parables, embodied in the exegesis of the life of Christ, is not new. It is enough to point to Dostoyevsky's The Idiot 20 which clearly demonstrates both the possibilities and the problems involved in such an undertaking. Dostoyevsky produced a great novel, but he failed to accomplish his religious intention, to prove the applicability of Christian principles in the context of our contemporary world. Hence the novel's title, The Idiot, which can be understood as a "worldly" translation of the concept of the Fool in Christ( yurodivy ) . The hero of the novel, Prince Myshkin, fails in the contest with Rogozhin over money, sex, and power; and in an admission of his failure, he returns to his Switzerland -- perhaps also in admission of the failure of his vision of a Second Coming.

Gogol's The Overcoat can be read along similar lines, and, indeed, to our surprise, follows minutely the stations of Jesus' life -- his appearance, the circumstances of his human birth, his occupation, his teaching, the temptations he faced in the desert, his betrayal and death; and, finally, his Resurrection. In order to investigate the elements which appear to be meaningful for such an interpretation, we should begin with a description of the place where the hero first appears, the "Department".

When Dostoyevsky sent Myshkin back to Russia from Switzerland on a train, he gave the reader a new "translation" of the Biblical journey, creating a new setting for the archetypal situation. Gogol, in presenting "The Department" at the beginning of the story, seems to be doing something similar; the historical connotations and the grotesque, socially critical comments about "The Department" merely provide a contemporary frame of reference for the appearance of the hero, who is clearly "different" from his fellow bureaucrats, who does not belong, and who is a new sort of creature within that context, just as Myshkin will be in the story's spiritual descendant. Here we are introduced to a humiliated, innocuous "barely human" character, as many critics like to point out, isolated from his peers in strange and quasi mythic ways.

After introducing the place in all its local color, Gogol steps back to describe in considerable detail the origin and birth of his hero.Coming from the modest lineage of a Shoemaker (Basmachkin ), this new protagonist thus follows in the footsteps of Jesus, the Carpenter's son. The date of his birth, the 23rd of March, appears to be precise, and, as we have noted in discussing "The Nose" , it is important in the calendar of Russian Orthodoxy, as the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 21 It may also mark the beginning of the celebrations of Easter week. As no other dates are specified, Gogol appears to be reminding his readers of the two most important Christian mysteries, Jesus' Nativity and his Resurrection. All the details surrounding the hero's birth seem to be important. In describing the family, Gogol mentions only the mother -- the father, like Joseph before him, seems barely to be present. This fact alone opens up an enigmatic question for both the story and for Gogol's religious beliefs in general, as to his understanding of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and its implications with regard to Jesus' human life on earth.

In "The Nose", the disappearance of the nose -- or the birth of an "independent" and personified nose -- also occurred on March 25. The nose was returned (or reborn) to Kovalev, its "father", on April 7, which, as we have seen, is the same day, owing to the difference between the Gregorian and the Julian calendars. The implications inherent in the "sexless", miraculous procreation become clear: the insistence on the identical date in both stories, coupled with the ambiguous inference as to an immaculate conception, 22 cannot be accidental, and must represent Gogol's agonizing doubt over man's ability to "imitate " Christ -- despite the example of the saints and the Patristic fathers.

The hero's mother is described as "lying on the bed, facing the door". This detail may not appear to be significant, unless we believe that Gogol was intent on the story's metaphorical coherence. That she is "facing the door" may recall the door (tsarskie vrata )leading to the sanctuary in the Russian Orthodox Churches, the Holy of Holies behind the iconostasis, where God is present and to which only His priest, 23 and not the congregation, has access. Thus the impression is created that we are in a church and participating in a religious ceremony. Those present are the Biblical "mighty of this world". Gogol elaborates on these mighty: Ivan Ivanovic Yeroshkin ( yer' is the name of the "soft sign" and yer is the name of the " hard sign ",letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, perhaps suggesting the sexual potency, or a lack thereof, of the worthy gentleman ) who was a chief clerk in the Senate; Arina Semyonova Belobryushkova ("White Bellied", or "Immaculate", perhaps) is the wife of the district police inspector, a woman of "rarest virtue". It takes little effort of the imagination to understand the scene as a borrowing from the baptism of Christ, just as in medieval paintings, where the homely details of the life and death of Jesus are presented as contemporary events in which the medieval imagination conjured up a mythical Palestine and a variety of mangers. We should also remember Gogol's interest in religious paintings in this regard, as well as his tendency to think in pictorial terms.

The most significant information in this context is in Gogol's description of the "name-giving ceremony ", the baptism: "His name was Akaki Akakievich. This may appear an odd name to our reader, and somewhat far-fetched, but we can assure him that no one went out of his way to find it and that, as matters turned out, he simply could not have been called anything else." 24 In the elaborate description of the baptism we can observe a carefully designed play on numbers, a number symbolism significant also in religious literature. 25 Thus, for example, the selection of the name is presented in the form of significant combinations of threes and twos. At the beginning, the mother is given three names among which to choose. All of these she rejects, as "such awful names". Three more are offered, which again displease her. Next, she considers two others as possible alternatives, but rejects them, also , as she does the next two. Finally she herself suggests "the father's name". Thus, ten choices 26 have been rejected until she proposes the "real" name which is to be given to the child. Each of the proffered names belongs to a wise and holy man whose life represented a wide range of Christian and pre-Christian virtues (i.e. Baruch), but each of which also carries with it an implication, or promise, of martyrdom. 27 The mother's fussiness can be interpreted as rising from her desire to avoid the fate implicit in each name -- nomen est omen -- her refusal to give her child a name with the dreadful implications of prophecy and its accompanying urge for supernatural justice and ultimate martyrdom. Her reluctance is understandable as a mother's instinct to protect her new-born child, but of course, like Mary, she must have already realized that her child is no ordinary infant and that inherent in the baptismal ceremony is a fateful sign. She says, "Well, it's plain enough, this is his fate. So we had better call him after his father. He was Akaki, so let's call his son Akakievic. And that's how he became Akakievic." Akaki's father's name, is, nevertheless, laden with serious implications. The word, of Greek origin, indicates "guileless", "innocuous", and "ascetic", the very Christian values so important to any attempt at anImitatio Christi. Should we press the implications, we find in the word "father" the concept of God Himself; thus Akaki Akakievic 28 can best be interpreted as "His Father's Son" and therefore, as a stand-in for Jesus, who referred mystically to his having been incarnated as his own Father's Son.

But does the choice of the name make his mother happy? Not really. Gogol describes her as one who "has accepted fate". Her son, too, reacts to her choice in a similar way: "The child was christened and during the ceremony he burst into tears and made such a face, it was plain that he knew there and then he was fated to be a titular counselor." Gogol adds the narrator's wry comment: "The reason for all this narrative is to enable our reader to judge for himself that the whole train of events was predetermined and that for Akaki to have had any other name was quite impossible." 29 Gogol thus makes his philosophical purpose clear: Subsequent events have been predetermined, "and nothing could be done to alter fate." The hero's dilemma echoes not only the knowledge with which Jesus lived and died, but also his mother Mary's foreknowledge of the predetermined fate of her newborn son.

Akaki Akakievic's life appears in this context to be not so grotesque nor so ridiculous as many critics have averred; instead, it is from the outset full of forebodings and tragic anguish. Cizevsky is correct in his assessment: "Gogol's plot can in no way be termed anecdotal, humorous nor sentimental," he remarks. "Gogol's basic idea here is serious and gloomy; the fate of his hero is terrible and not ridiculous." 30

The first sentence of "The Overcoat ", describing the life of the adult Akaki, presents him as already "a member of the Department". Nothing is said about his childhood -- any more than we know much about the childhood of the historical Jesus. We are told only that Akaki was, like any chair or other piece of furniture, or even any other person, a part of the Department, not an individual with feelings and emotions, nor one without ambitions for advancement in the social hierarchy. All true, were it not for the medieval tradition that the copying of sacred texts, or, to borrow A. Voznessensky's apt expression, "of the heavenly mansions", was considered in former times an activity pleasant in the eyes of the Lord ( bogougodny ) But,some critics object, Akaki Akakievic has not copied any sacred texts.True, but considering the "translation" of the tradition in to Gogol's world, the paradox does not seem insurmountable. In Gogol's view, the tragedy of the world in general, and of Akaki Akakievic in particular, consists exactly in the divorce of form and content. Akaki does what a holy man is supposed to do: he copies the logos , the Word. Not he, but the world which has separated the Word which was in the beginning from its written, now bureaucratic representation, has rendered Akaki's occupation grotesque and ridiculous. A comparison with Cervantes' Don Quixote de la Mancha, "the Knight of the Mournful Countenance", illuminates the point: the chivalrous ideal is upheld by Don Quixote in a world which has turned away from it and ridiculed it, makes Don Quixote grotesque and a figure of fun, but also transforms him into a tragic hero.Gogol develops the same archetypal situation: Akaki is able "only" to copy a given text, but not to change it "even in a insignificant way". In the same way, the monkish values of the Middle Ages prohibited any changing of the"original"(podlinnik ) or the infusion of any artistic or egotistic intention into the text. In other words, presenting Akaki Akakievic as merely a piece of furniture --"exactly when he entered the Department, and who was responsible for his appointment no one can say for sure"--makes of him a man true to his name, humble and innocuous to the point of invisibility, merely the son of his father, a gray personality, or, to use Dostoyevsky's term, a "Myshkin", a "mouse". That he is the butt of all the jokes, that he is not considered to be a normal human being by his fellow cinovniks,is a matter of record; there is no need to quote the details. Nevertheless, we reiterate the fact , that his situation comes close to that of the holy men from the Lives of Saints . His is the occupation of the "holy fool", the "fool in Christ", the yurodivy, as many of the early saints were characterized. Being ostracized and misunderstood in an alien world is the normal fate of the these holy seers. Gogol seems to be reinterpreting the concept of the yurodivy in the innocuous Akaki in much the same way that Tolstoy was to present his own version in Grisha, the chain-wearing imbecile ("Childhood"), or Pushkin in the enigma-chanting beggar, in Boris Godunov.

Much ink has been spilled in critical works over Akaki Akakievic's occupation, over his being a copy clerk whose job it was to reproduce official documents. It has been noted that he was barely alive -- a man like Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener (1853), or like a modern-day copying machine, nevertheless,a religious mind with all its medieval resonances, in an atheistic world which has abandoned those values as superfluous. 31

We now know "How Akaki Akakievic's overcoat was done" (Eixenbaum), we know "even" the meaning of "even" (Cizevsky); 32 and we have been told that the overcoat represents a "low passion" (Erlich), or even some kind of "sexual aberration" (Karlinsky). Given a religious context, on the other hand, the overcoat remains merely an overcoat, an aspect of the material world designed to function in a certain way, with all the attributes of materiality, meant to protect our body of this world or what St. Paul called "the body of this death". (Romans 7:24) -- no less and no more. If in copying the official Word, Akaki has fallen victim to history's contradictions because of a divorce of form from content, the overcoat presents a similar dilemma.

Before Jesus went out to teach, he was subjected to the temptations of the Devil in the Wilderness. (Mat. 4) The Evil One presented Him with three temptations: To turn the stones at his feet into bread; to cast Himself from the pinnacle of the Temple; and to assume the power over all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus, in rejecting these temptations, shamed the Devil and took up instead His position as the preacher of the Word to the world at large.

The logic of this parable and the dilemma posed by the things of this world to the mind intent on the things of the Spirit has disturbed thinkers and artists over the centuries,in Russia, notably, Dostoyevsky. The accusations later voiced by the Grand Inquisitor against Jesus in The Brothers Karamazov (1880) focus upon the difference between man and Jesus: what is, or was possible for Him, is not possible for the ordinary human being. For Dostoyevsky, the example therefore has no validity in a consideration of the common lot of humanity. "You have demanded too much of man," says the Grand Inquisitor. "...I ask you again, are there many like Thee? And couldst Thou believe for one moment that man, too, could face such temptation? Is the nature of men such that they can reject a miracle, and at the great moments of their lives, the moment of their deepest and most agonizing spiritual difficulties, cling only to the free verdict of their heart?" 33 Gogol anticipated this anguish over the insoluble: Throughout his work, the Devil's temptations prove to be more powerful than man's ability to resist them, as Merezkovsky and other critics have observed. The overcoat here represents the temptation to which poor Akaki Akakievic is subjected. but before taking up the issue of this temptation in greater detail, we must account for one more problem which lies in the nature of Jesus' teaching: In the Gospels, the temptations are only a preliminary to Christ's ministry: Having passed the test, He can go out into the world sorrowing but absolute in His integrity as well as in His compassion. Gogol, on the other hand, reverses the sequence of events and portrays Akaki Akakievic as first teaching, and only thereafter as subject to temptation.

Akaki Akakievic as teacher ? He barely ever says a word, the narrator records only his mumbling , his muttered "that is"(togo ) and his "even" (dazhe ) and other inarticulate babble , he can never finish a sentence. Only at one point is he quoted as having, if only in his mind, uttered a complete statement, the famous humanitarian question, "I am your brother, why are you tormenting me?" Does his teaching lie in these words? Yes, indeed, as their effect indicates. The young man offending Akaki Akakievic is transformed under their impact, even "if only for a while". The "humanintarian passage"( Cizevsky calls it the " purple patch ") , therefore, bears the full weight of Akaki's teaching, and the young man is none other than Akaki's first disciple -- or is about to become one, were Nature, in the form of the ill-omened Petersburg weather not to intervene. But it does, and effectively cuts short Akaki's "mission", forcing him to concentrate on such mundane matters as getting himself a new overcoat. The Devil's machinations thus are concretized in the guise of the coveted overcoat. The Devil, personified by the Petersburg winter, as an elemental but homely natural force, appears in the fullness of his power to remind mortals of the primacy of matter over spirit in the world, and of the transitory nature of man's brief sojourn on earth. Materiality, by which men are governed, in this case, the bitter weather of St. Petersburg, mocks their higher aspirations (Goethe's "hoechres Streben "). The awesome and destructive power of Nature will again be watched in horror by Dostoyevsky's Prince Myshkin in Rogozhin's house, as he gazes at the dead Christ in Holbein's painting.Gogol's Akaki Akakievic may be too weak to resist temptation, but there is more to the test than that. Only to abstract, moral reasoning does the dilemma appear so simplistic. In Gogol's complex, always realistic fiction, which deals always with man's real nature, the dilemma is recognized as having tantalizing dimensions, and as being existentially tragic. Living in this world, human beings are necessarily subject to the laws of this world, in much the same manner as any other material thing, even an overcoat, which, following the logic of this world's laws, simply disintegrates after a while, presenting the bearer, Akaki, not with a choice, but with a necessity to respond to the coercive power of Nature. According to Gogol, Akaki's situation is a foregone conclusion: caught between a rock and a hard place, as it were, he does not stand a chance. A "free choice" to forego the overcoat would expose him to the Petersburg weather and to the merciless logic of this world. He could freeze to death.But, ironically, accepting the temptation of the prospect of a new overcoat leads him down the selfsame path: he must leave his former, spiritual self, exposed as it is to the bitter winds of winter, and accept the logic of the world he inhabits. In so doing, however, he experiences a change in his entire outlook, his entire personality -- where the new overcoat may have given him a temporary feeling of happiness, warmth and security, the final outcome is as cruel as if he had frozen to death in his old overcoat in the first place.

The apparent miracle, the short-lived feeling of having gained power over Nature, makes him cross the line dividing individuals of the Spirit who "copy heavenly mansions" from persons who inhabit a normal existence within St. Paul's "body of this death", who dream of new overcoats and look under every pretty bonnet, instead of discovering their "own place" , their center of security. Akaki, like the rest of fallible humanity, must live with the cares, pleasures and dangers fated to be his during the time of his mortality.

The individual stations of this transformation need not be recounted here. But we must briefly turn our attention to the agent of the transformation, the Tailor. That the Tailor is the personification of the forces of evil and therefore of the Devil himself, seems on careful reading tobvious. The passages devoted to his personality, his dwelling place, name, habits and the objects which surround him, his relationship to Akaki Akakievic, appear to comprise a perfect vignette, or portrait, of the Devil --in other words, an icon (!) , as he is usually portrayed in medieval Christian art.

Akaki remembers the Tailor only when the Petersburg weather forces him to take a good look at his old overcoat and to realize painfully that it can no longer protect him from the cold: In "two or three places, to be exact, on the back and around the shoulders ,(it) had worn so thin that it was almost transparent and the lining had fallen to pieces." A visit to the Tailor is necessitated, the Tailor who makes a living mainly by repairing the clothing of poor folk when, we are reassured, he is sober and "not hatching some plot in that head of his."

Gogol provides three significant bits of information about the Tailor: his name, his drinking habits, and his relationship to his wife. As to his name and patronymic, Grigory Petrovic, Gogol informs us that he was commonly called only by his first name, as "when he had still been a serf belonging to some gentleman or other..." But later, "...after he received his freedom, people started calling him 'Petrovic'", and he was so affected that " he began to drink rather heavily on every church holiday, at first only on the most important feast days, but later, on every single holiday marked by a cross in the calendar." Though the information may mean little to the English speaking reader, to Gogol's Russian readers this means that while Grigory was the property of a Master, he was called only by his first name, but as soon as he was liberated, he turned haughty and called himself Grigory, son of Peter ( Petrovich ) , an honorific title by Russian standards.

The reference is to Grigory Petrovic's past: he was once the serf of "some Gentleman", or the Lord, in Gogolian terms, and, like Lucifer before his expulsion from heaven, was in the "presence of God" until he was given his freedom (otpusknuyu ). The effect of this liberation has been remarkable: Petrovic has developed a drinking habit, which can be translated as a form of blasphemy in seeking spiritual enjoyment. At first,he drank only on rare occasions, but later, his excesses progressively increased. His obstinate insistence on his rebellion against God thus repeats an "ancestral tradition" with its roots in the fall of Adam.

Further analysis points to the etymology of the Tailor's name, "Gregory" (Russian, Grigory ) is of Greek origin, derived from the word grex, or shepherd; another word from the same root,grego, describes a "sheepskin, a warm overcoat with a hood". The word's connotations caused it to be assumed by many saints and Popes in the Middle Ages who saw themselves as shepherds presiding over their Christian flocks. But that is not all: there is a similar Greek word, gregale, which sounds much the same though it does not stem from the same root. This is the Mediterranean wind, Graecus alis, and perhaps fortuitously reinforces the image of the "Petersburg winter" so important to this tale, since by now we are aware that such equations are not accidental in Gogol's vocabulary. At any rate, Gregory, the name of so many saints and Popes, yields some further interesting historical considerations, as it may refer to one of the Sixteen Popes and to one of the Anti-Popes, most probably Gregory the VII (Hildebrand) who was Pope between 1025 and 1073 and, according to hagiography, was accused of a desire to dominate not only the Church but the world as well. 35 The papal connection is supported by our Grigory's patronymic, Petrovic, or Peter's Son -- who is none other than St. Peter's successor to the throne of the Church. Thus Grigory Petrovic can be taken to mean, Grigroy, the Pope, son of Peter, and therefore successor to the original Pope on whose rock Jesus promised to build His church. If this assumption is correct, then Gogol may have had in mind the struggle between the German Emperor Henry and Pope Gregory VII over the question of papal investiture, that is, the struggle for supremacy in worldly affairs which was acted out symbolically in Henry's humiliation at Canossa. We remember, also, that "Investiture" is the handing down of the mantle (or overcoat) of authority from Pope to Emperor. It is our contention that a symbolic explanation for the "truth" behind this struggle supplies the background for the encounter of Gregory Petrovic and Akaki Akakievic in the matter of Gogol's "Overcoat".

History records that Pope Gregory VII humiliated the Emperor Henry VII by making him cross the Alps in the worst recorded winter in medieval history. When Henry finally reached the Pope's castle, Gregory hesitated to absolve, or even receive the Emperor, who humbled himself on three successive days by standing barefoot before the gate in the garb and attitude of a penitent. Echoes of this encounter are manifold in Gogol's story. Akaki, driven by the winter weather, comes to see Grigory Petrovic, stands before him meekly as a penitent, and begs him to patch his old overcoat and thereby to give his protective power over the elements. Three times Grigory Petrovic rejects Akaki's request, finally proposing a new relationship between tailor and customer by creating a completely new overcoat, and changing the balance of power between then.

Further references to Grigory Petrovic's biography also seem to indicate that in Gogol's opinion, Petrovic, Peter's son and by metaphoric extension, Christ's representative on earth, has strayed from the "right" path and has been corrupted by worldly power, just like his predecessor, Gregory VII among the power-hungry Popes of the Middle Ages.

As to the Tailor's relationship with his wife, Gogol remarks, "In this respect he was faithful to ancestral tradition, and when he had rows with his wife, he called her a worldly woman [a Fallen Angel?] and a German -- that is, also by extension, one who sided with Henry in his struggle with the Papacy.

That such a person must inhabit Hell is clear, and we see that Gogol has offered a translation of the ancient tradition into the vernacular of 19th Century Russia. Thus Petrovic is "living somewhere on the third floor, up some back stairs", and when Akaki Akakievic goes to see him, he finds a "hellish" scene: "These stairs were running with water and slops and were saturated with that strong smell of spirit which makes the eyes smart...The door had been left open as his wife had been frying some kind offish and caused so much smoke in the kitchen that not even the cockroaches were visible." [The italics is mine L.T.] Is it to mock the fish as the Christian symbol that we are given this detail? All else points to an archetypal picture of Hell where the Devil sits on his throne facing the condemned souls who cower at his feet. "Petrovic was squatting on a broad, bare wooden table, his feet crossed under him like a Turkish Pasha," Gogol tells us. As Akaki Akakievic confronts him, "...the first thing that struck him was his familiar big toe with its deformed nail thick and hard as tortoise shell." If a club foot were not enough to give away the fact that this is actually the Devil in disguise, further details corroborate the image: The devil/Tailor sits on his throne surrounded by the tools of his trade amidst general disorder, cursing the darkness. His wife calls him "a one-eyed devil" who, of course, can see only one side of reality. As to his conscious pricing policy, "the Devil only knows what kind of prices" he charges or how he sets them. The Devil's capriciousness and deceptiveness are proverbial in Russian and Ukrainian folklore and need no comment here, except to note that the " devil walks in slippery shoes" .

The conversation between Petrovic and Akaki Akakievic proceeds like the humiliating encounter between Henry and Gregory VII.Instead of answering Akaki's request to repair his overcoat, Petrovic looks him over carefully, sizing him up. He recognizes the coat immediately: "All of this was familiar territory," says Gogol, "as it was his own work." When Akaki repeats his request, Petrovic still does not answer, but instead, reaches for his snuffbox and stuffs his nostrils with tobacco. The snuffbox and the tobacco are by now familiar to us as staple Gogolian metaphors for flaunted masculinity. Akaki Akakievic, the simpleton, has, naturally, never used tobacco. Is Petrovic mocking Akaki Akakievic's a-sexuality, or is he taking an ironic delight in the humiliation of this scion of an "immaculate conception"?--in much the same manner as Dostoyevsky's Rogozhin will enjoy Prince Myshkin's embarrassment over the latter's own lack of sexuality?

The snuff box, round and "bearing the portrait of some general" -- exactly which one, it is hard to say, as"someone has poked his finger through the place where his face ( litso ) should have been ... and pasted it over with a square piece of paper." And, two sentences later, as if to rub the reader's nose in the insult, "Petrovic removed the snuff box lid with the pasted-over general, filled his nose with snuff ..." Oh -- those boxes in Gogol's works! The Mayor's box in "The Inspector General", that he puts on his head instead of his official hat; Korobocka, in Dead Souls, is a little box all by herself; and now, Petrovic's snuff box ! What do they contain? "The Devil only knows," we could exclaim in one of Gogol's favorite phrases, and we would probably not be very far from the truth. But whatever the snuff box contains, its lid, with the general's face pasted over it, is actually an icon representing the Devil, and it is just as well that his face(litso ) is covered. The Tailor does not want to frighten customers away, after all. The time will come when they will find out, as Akaki will all too soon when he faces The General. Meanwhile, a little trick, such as poking a finger through the box's lid and covering up the emptiness with a small square of paper will do.

Bearing in mind the shapes depicted -- the round surface, the General's face, and the four-cornered shape of the covering paper, we suspect that the shapes and their arrangements are intended to remind the reader of some of the most powerful of religious symbols: the resurrected Christ, surrounded by a circular mandala which represents the whole universe, where the faces and wings of the Archangels, framed in a four-cornered field, point to the four Beasts of the Apocalypse. Andrei Rublev of the 15th century painted the resurrected Christ in this manner in his famous icon, The Savior in All His Powers . 36

Back to the snuff box and the overcoat: Still stuffing his nose with tobacco, Petrovic finally pronounces the verdict: "No, I can't mend it. It's in terrible shape. " ( khudoj garderob ) Rejecting Akaki's request three times for a repair, the Tailor thrice repeats his offer to make a new one and names his price: "Three times fifty rubles" or 200 rubles (that is, four times fifty) with a fancy collar. Akaki is released from the audience in an absolute daze. He returns, nevertheless, twice more, on Sundays, but to no avail. The Tailor's verdict is final; Akaki Akakievic "realized that he would have to buy a new overcoat and his heart sank."

The Tailor's cooperation and eager assistance make it easier for Akaki Akakievic to master all hurdles, and the new overcoat is finally delivered by the Tailor himself, who fits it over Akaki's shoulders, thus investing him with the rank of those who possess new overcoats. The Devil has kept his word -- at least for the time being: he has given Akaki protection, that is power, or a semblance of power, over this world. But of course, living in this world, where a man is not his brother's keeper but rather his enemy (homo homini lupus est ) always vying for favor in the eyes of the Lord, he is subject to the laws of this world. New overcoats always attract other men who have no new overcoats ... small, insignificant men, wearing new overcoats and walking home from parties in the middle of the night from unfamiliar parts of the city, instead of remaining at home and copying their beloved documents, risk the danger of being robbed of their new overcoats -- and so it is with the hapless Akaki Akakievic. His leap from the other world into this one proves disastrous, as is frequently the case with Gogol's tragic heroes. We have only to think of "The Diary of a Madman " or of Andrei in "Taras Bul'ba ".

Akaki Akakievic's ensuing frantic attempts to retrieve his lost overcoat, the earthly justice he is blindly seeking, make matters worse. His audience with " The Important Person "( Znachitel'noe litso -- or, in its acronym: zlo ,that is, evil), "The General", completes his humiliation and ushers in his predestined death.

We would wager that the circle closes on Akaki and that "The Important Person", "The General", is none other than the "Tailor" himself, or, for that matter, his personification of the "Petersburg Weather" ; or he may stand in for two people at once, the two who have robbed Akaki of his new overcoat. These transformations are not new in Gogol's fiction. We are reminded of the changing image of the sorcerer in The Terrible Vengeance and are by now fully aware that such sleights of hand are mere trifles to the" Important Person" , the Devil himself. Seeking protection and justice, Akaki Akakievic receives them according to the laws and customs of this world, therefore inadequate, if not downright unjust -- as it was with that other Son of His Father before him.

But, of course, there is still the story's fantastic ending to consider: The ghost -- or ghosts -- which go around robbing overcoats. The problem lies not in seeing a parallel to the resurrection of Christ in the form of ghosts, but rather in accepting the grotesque and paltry nature of the supernatural justice the ghost administers. Limited both in time and scope, it has only a minor effect. But still, Gogol insists, it does have an effect ... despite the disappointments it entails. Instead of a total reorganization of this world or the fulfillment of Christian hopes for the Judgment Day and the coming of the Kingdom of God, the deŽnouement consists merely in a tiny correction to the laws and customs of this physical world.

Gogol coined a similar proposition earlier in " The Terrible Vengeance ". Now, to his despair, the logic of God's justice remains as remote and enigmatic as ever. Not having a convenient Switzerland to return to, like Myshkin, Akaki Akakievic, sans overcoat, merely fades away into the mist of the Petersburg winter "as if he had never existed."

Finally," The Carriage " is a minor production in comparison with " The Nose" and "The Overcoat", and seems more of a left-over from the provincial Ukrainian offerings than an integral part of the new Petersburg series. It has links to the representation of military life in " Ivan Sponka " as well, where Gogol was concerned with a hero whose military service is without distinction -- in contrast to that of the morons who are the very image of poslost', yet who are said to have served bravely.

" The Carriage " opens in the middle of a major event in the provincial town of B. This boring wasteland of provincial tepidity is electrified by the news that a cavalry regiment is to be stationed in the village. Here, indeed, is a new version of the Ukrainian Paradise Lost, rejuvenated by poslost' . Gogol is at his best in describing the excitement and bustle caused among the local dignitaries by the regiment's impending arrival -- the judge, the mayor, the members of the local nobility are all here, in short, the characters who will make their way presently into "The Inspector General" and "Dead Souls" . The center piece of this excitement is a dinner thrown by them for the military; most active in these preparations is a certain landowner:Pythagoras Pythagorasovic Certouckij The name is a strange hybrid: Pythagoras the son of Pythagoras, is evidently a strong proponent of classical Greek values (whatever these may be !), while his family name, Certouckij, may hint at a geographical locality, perhaps Hell. He must be, therefore, Hell's, or the Devil's own son. And indeed, he is a provincial dare-devil; a desperado intent on recognition, on making his mark, on letting the world notice he is there and has not fallen asleep along with the other provincial nobodies ( poslyaki) .His blend of a braggart and rabble-rouser foreshadows certain characters in "Dead Souls", Nozdryovand the sentimental dreamer Manilov. He also combines elements of the town gossips Bobcinskij and Dobcinskij in "The Inspector General".Here we find a whole panoply of arch-Gogolian characters. Certouckij himself, is a military officer, retired after a scandal because "either he was hit in the face by someone or he hit someone in the face." He is happily married to a typically mindless Gogolian beauty, a cardboard cross between the stereotypical dumb blonde and the Ukrainian theater's refined lady, utterly sweet and mindless. Her dowry has been promptly dissipated by her husband in the purchase of some "absolutely necessary" items in the Ukrainian provinces, which include six excellent horses, a tame monkey, a French house servant, and gold-plated door-handles. Since he likes to live in style, he has managed to finagle the necessary cash by mortgaging her property. Here are all the makings of quick financial ruin which were ubiquitous in Gogol's homeland. Gogol's observations also lie at the heart of the ethical and social suggestions conveyed in the "Selected Passages.." which were greeted with so much hostility by radical Russian activists on down the political road of the future.

This Certouckij is the tale's hero. To his great joy, he is invited to the dinner. As he mingles with the officers, the festivities are conducted with great propriety until afterwards when the General presents his new horse to his guests. The horse's name is a woman's honorific: Agraphena Ivanovna. Now Certouckij volunteers to show the General a carriage which he claims to have just acquired and which would be an appropriate match for the horse. "never mind that the horse is a riding horse," the General remarks. Certouckij has brought up the subject of the carriage for no logical reason, but merely in the interests of showing off. He begins a monologue, which strongly resembles the monologue of Khlestakov at the Mayor's dinner (in "The Inspector General" ) and with every sentence his carriage becomes more special.He even invites the General, no, all the officers, to come to dine at his house and then to take a look at the carriage. The anecdote's outcome is to be expected. Certouckij remains, even though he realizes he should go and prepare the dinner to which he has invited the assembled company; he gets home at three o'clock in the morning, dead drunk. The next day, his wife wakes him up to tell him that the general and a group of officers have arrived, expecting dinner. Of course, he has completely forgotten that he had invited them. Ordering his servants to tell the General that he is not at home, he runs into the carriage shed in order to hide from the visitors. Here he hides in the very carriage about which he was bragging at the officers' dinner. Surprised that Certouckij is not home, the General and the officers go to look at the carriage anyway, and there, on their opening the carriage's apron, the General finds Certouckij hiding in the corner. The General's reaction is completely unexpected: "Ah, there you are," he says anticlimactically; whereupon he departs with his officers.

The story proceeds anecdotally, like a scenario for a puppet theater -- "The Nobleman Who Hid in the Carriage ". It contains a single element of comic relief where the General finds Certouckij's hiding in the carriage unsurprising -- but perhaps he has been aware that Certouckij has been bluffing from the very beginning.

So what is the story about? In retrospect, it appears that Gogol has been experimenting with various aspects of poslost ' producing a sketch by a writer whose pen is now well-trained to present the wasteland of the Russian-Ukrainian countryside. His vision is no longer adolescent, but sure: and he sees that everything is hopelessly wrong here: painfully evident to him are the boredom of provincial life and the aesthetic morass of the hopelessly ugly and dilapidated town, the stupid mindlessness of the economic ruin caused by scatter-brained decisions of the gentry and their puppet wives in their frantic attempts to escape this hell-hole of boredom by any means whatsoever -- even by lying, which is presumably against their code of behavior. Gogol has discovered -- and Dostoyevsky will soon transform his discovery into a literary theory -- that telling lies is the result of a psychological need to escape the harsh realities of humdrum life. " The Carriage " thus introduces a veritable Pandora's box of pathological liars which are to figure in subsequent Russian literature. Certouckij is certainly one of the prototypes: his name, Pythagoras, suggests that his lies are as basic to the human need for escape as Pythagoras' axioms were to Geometry while the classical world waned and the structured formulations of the Greeks disintegrated.

The series closes with a long fragment which Gogol wrote in Rome and bears the city's name, "Rome". 37 A delightful story, unfortunately unfinished, it purports to tell of an intrigue between a Roman beauty, Annunziata, and an Italian prince named Minenti. But in the forty-five odd pages, Gogol barely gets down to an outline of the developing love story, since the text is really about Gogol's own experiences in Rome after he left Russia, and his observations of life in Italy, France, Paris, and, specifically, the Eternal City.

Gogol's contemporaries have described his life abroad late in 1836 (in Veresayev's collection ). 38 From their accounts, and from Gogol's own letters from the period, we know that he was enchanted with Rome and that, despite his periodic trips away from the city, he felt really at home only there. He was a proud and happy guide to visiting Russians who testified to his expertise on Roman life and history. "Rome ", however unfinished, is a tribute to this discovered Rome, presented in a thinly disguised fictional form. It includes topics and reminiscences form early work, especially theArabesques , and deals with the nature of artistic creation, architecture, painting, the history of the Middle Ages and of the Mediterranean world, as well as religious considerations.

Gogol compares the heroine, Annunziata, to antique statues in much the same tone as he did in the article on "Woman " in the Arabesques. But before we learn much of her, we are told of the Prince Minenti: how he grew -- in almost the same way as Pushkin's Onegin at the hands of " Monsieur I Abbe" in Petersburg; how he became restless and took his Wanderjahre in France; how he lived four years in Paris ... Gogol's descriptions are vividly reminiscent of his years in Paris -- and he takes the opportunity to provide many wonderful autobiographical vignettes of landscape and the towns through which the young prince travels, as well as an account of the enchanting life of Paris with its theaters, cafeŽs and restaurants. He speaks of lectures at the University; but his admiration turns to animosity as he discovers the capitalist mentality of the French. His responses are not unlike Dostoyevsky's later diatribes against the West in his "Winter Notes on Summer Impressions " 1864 , which will record his trip to Western Europe. At any rate, life in France becomes intolerable to Gogol's critical eye because the French character he once admired appears to him basically flawed, for the French seem to profess only "references to thoughts but not thoughts themselves" . It takes him two days to travel from Paris to Marseilles -- vividly we picture Gogol sitting in the carriage, in the manner so many of his letters to friends describe. In Marseilles, his hero boards ship soon to land in Genoa. From there Gogol provides a marvelous travelogue of his passage through Italy until, six days later, he finds himself back in his beloved Rome.

In Rome the prince discovers that everything has changed since he left as a young man, returning now at the advanced age of twenty-five! His father has died, leaving him a debt-ridden estate. Gogol's description of the father's mismanagement of the estate the prince has now inherited is remarkably similar to his earlier description of mismanagement in the Ukraine and in Russia. The prince's father has mindlessly spent all his property, has lost his servants and the hangers-on who remained with him out of laziness and habit. Gogol presents a perestroika as the young prince divests himself of horses and servants and disposes of all material luxuries, to set himself up frugally and to start a new life. One of his new objectives is to become acquainted with his native, eternal Rome -- Gogol's descriptions are probably those he has been supplying to his visiting Russian friends and provide the best guide to our understanding of his reasons for preferring to live outside Russia. Plainly, he enjoyed the city which embodied his youthful dreams of history, art, architecture, and, especially, painting -- about all of which he has continued to write since launching his vision in "Hanz Kuekhelgarten ". About architecture, he now says, "And the deeper he penetrated the little side streets, the more numerous were his discoveries of palazzi and the architectural creations of Bramante, Dellaporta, Vignioli,Bonnaporti. And finally, he understood that" here, and only here in Italy, can one understand architecture and its greatness as an art form"

About the beautiful paintings everywhere to be seen, he exclaims: "Art elevates the soul of man, giving it nobility and a wonderful flexibility to the movements of the soul." 39 Indeed, he observes, "living in such an atmosphere, the young are as if drunk on art and beauty to the exclusion of politics and social issues." 40 And there were " frequent conversations in which the human [soul] opened up in place of boring conversations about social issues and political considerations which have exiled the heartfelt expression from (people's) faces." Gogol adds that he is spending his life in the study of nature in the Roman countryside, as well as of the art and history of antiquity. He soon came to the conclusion that politicians and people in general were mistaken when they looked for History's moving forces in human intelligence instead of recognizing the great Pointing Finger of the Creator ", which dictates the course of historical events.

This insight is not new to him, but it is in keeping with the increasingly religious cast of his writings. His studies of the history of Italian art and its influence on artistic expression in the rest of the world led him to contemplate the very purpose of beauty as the source of art, and the precedence of art in all other forms of human expression. His prince speaks for him and arrives at a contemplation of the greatness of God: "In such festive moments he became reconciled to the destruction of his fatherland, and in everything he saw the seeds of eternal life, of a better future which is eternally prepared for the world by its eternal Creator." 41

An outline of the love intrigue then takes over, and the prince sets forth to find his Annunziata during Carnival, the local feast celebrating the end of Lent. His detailed observations of the Carnival are wonderfully vivid -- one can see how much Gogol must have enjoyed watching this boisterous Roman celebration. The prince is accompanied by a local courtier, a certain Peppe, who provides Gogol with the opportunity to describe with great gusto the life of the average Roman on the street. Peppe, by the way, is reminiscent of the servants in the plays of Goldoni, as well as being a meticulous observer of the contemporary scene. At the end of the fragment, both the Prince and Peppe look back at Rome from the top of a mountain to eulogize the city lovingly. The piece is unique in Gogol's oeuvre, set apart as it is from his usual preoccupations. Here, under the direct influence of the whole burden of Italian art, culture and the history about which he had theorized in the youthful exuberance, Gogol leaves the Ukraine far behind, though the bulk of his Petersburg stories was rewritten and brought to fruition during his stay in Rome. In this admirable piece, Gogol has tried his hand at something different, though his Italian fiction 42 does not really fit into his developing concerns, so that he will leave this marvelous piece unfinished in order to push on to his major work.


Footnotes to Chapter Six

1. Gogol calls him a "Caucasian major". i.e. the sort of fortune-hunter "hero", who joined the war "down south" in the Caucasus, for the sole purpose of securing advantags for himself back at home.

2. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) t. 3 str. 65. In English: N.V. Gogol: The Diary fo the Mardman and Other STories, tr. and intr. by Ronald Wilks, Penguin Books, 1972, p. 42. In some cases I preferred Wilks' translation to L. Kent's. The reference to Wilks' translation are given as : Wilks' op. cit. My own translations are indicated by my initials L.T.

3. "Until February 14, 1918, Russia adhered to the Julian, or Old Style calendar, although other European countries ... had long since adopted the Gregorian, or New Style calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, in 1852. The Julian itself superseded the old Muscovite Calendar in 1699.  It was ten days behind the Gregorian during the 18th century ... and by March 1, 1900, the difference had increased to thirteen..." McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union, ed. M. Forinsky, NY, 1961, p. 83.

4. E.T.A. Hofmann: The Tales of Hoffmann. tr. M. Bullock, Ungar, NY. 1963

5. Major architectural landmarks in St. Petersburg.

6. David Magarshack: Gogol: A Life. Grove Press.  NY. 1957. p. 125

7. N.V. Gogol': Noln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) t. 3. str. 65 L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1.

8. Kent. op. cit. v. 1. p. 221.

9. ibid. The name can be derived from the etymology fo the words: podtochit', podtachivat' -- meaning to "undermine one's strength, helath", or perhaps, from tekat', tech', "to flow, to have a discharge", and the prefix pod "under" ("to leak"), not a very complimentary association with the lady, indeed, it seems to be a direct reference to VD, as also is the case of the "noseless beggar women" begging in front of the Chatedral's entrance.

10. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1 p. 223

11. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1 p. 223

12. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1 p. 225

13. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1. p. 229

14. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 1 p. 229-230

15. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1838) t. 3: In English: Wilks, tr. op. cit. The Russian title "Shinel'", is translated differently as "Overcoat", "Greatcoat", etc. But it basically means either a uniform, an "overcoat", worn by the military or by civil servants in Russia or, what is more important for our interpretation, a "habit" as worn by monks.

16. D. Fanger: The Creation of... op. cit. p. 35

17. See also: E. Trahan: ed.: Gogol's Overcoat (An Anthology of Critical Works), Ardis. 1982. James B. Woodward: The Symbolic Art of Gogol (Essays on his Short Fiction), Slavica, 1981; Richard Peace: The Enigma of Gogol (An examination of N.V. Golgol and HIs Place in the HIstory of Russian Literary Tradition), Cambridge University Press, 1981; also the well known works of Setschkarev, Karlinsky and others.

18. K. Mochul'skiy: Dukhovnyy Put' Gogolya, YMCA Press. Paris, 1976; D. Cizevski: About Gogol's Overcoat, in R.A. Maguire: Gogol from the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 1974. p. 314-passim; F.C. Driessen: Gogol as a Short Story Writer (A Study of His Technique of Composition), Mouton Co., The Hague, 1965; John Schillinger: Gogol's Overcoat as a Travesty of Hagiogrpahy, SEEJ, v. 16. Spring, 1972, p. 36-41; Hidegun Schreier: Gogols religioseses Weltbild und sein literarisches Werk (Zur Antagonie zwischen Kunst und Tendenz), Otto Sagner, Muenchen, 1977; Antony Hippishley: Gogol's Overcoat: A Further Interpretation, SSJ, 1976. v. 2. p. 121-129.

19. Cizevsky: op. cit. p. 314; also in Mochulskiy: op. cit. p. 59. passim. See also: Marina Bogoyavlenskaya: Religioznyy Pik Gogolya v Novom osveshchenii, Mahopac, NY, no date. p. 103. also Schillinger, op. cit. p. 88-89.

20. See: Richard Peace: Dostoyevsky: An Examination of the Major Novels, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 91. passim.

21. Vladimirskiy Pravoslavnyy Russkiy Kalendar' no 1969 g. NY. 1968, -. 38. "The Feast of Annunciation is the remembrance of the mystical, but real historical event on EArth, nine months before Christ's birth" (my translation, L. T.) See also: Ernest Benz: The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life, Anchor Books. NY 1963. p. 60, passim (Chatp: The Dogmatic Position of Mother of God)

22. For an intereting discussion fo the problem of "immaculate birth" see" Robert Graves, Joshua Podro: The Nazarene Gospel Restored, Doubleday, 1954, p. 49, passim.  The authors point out that prechristian civilizations knew about "immaculate birth" by "mortal mothers and immortal fathers, but this concept... excited the horror of the Palestinian Jews and the ridicule of the Romans and Greeks, who naturally concluded thta Jesus was a bastard".  Also: "The Jews maintained that their God did not father sons on mortal maidens in the style of Zeus and if Mary had already been contracted in marriage to Joseph efore he found her pregnant, this would in Jewish law (Deuteronomy, XXII, 13-21) have bastardized her child even if the marriage had been consummated" p. 49. Pushkin treated the subject in his long narrative poem: Gavriliiiada" in a similar fashion.

23. E. Benz: op. cit. p. 27-28.

24. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1938) t. 3. str. 143, also: Wilks, tr. op. cit. p. 73. Further obvious referencs to the text will not be marked in these footnotes.

25. Number symbolism figures prominently in The Overcoat. So, i.e. Akaki Akakievich receives a bonus of 40 rubles, instead of the 60 rubles; his mind was preoccuped wit the new overcoat for 6 months, the tailor charged 12 rubles for his labor, etc. For the significance of number symbolism in art see: Heinz Meier: Die Zahlenallegorie im Mittelalter. Fink Verlag, Muenchen, 1975.

26. The nubmer 10 in number symbolism usually symbolizes God, The One. One multipled by ten indiates the begining and the end of the decimal system, the Alpha and the Omega, etc.

27. The names rejected by the mother are the following:

Mokki (probably from Mucius or Mocius): "Christian priest, died 304 A.D. suffered at Constantinople, during hte persectuoin of Diocletian... on the occasion of the feast of Bacchus he overthr3w the deity's altar, was arrested and burned alive... but hte flames would not harm him, therefore he was finally beheaded." (Butler's Lives of Saints, Thurston and Atwater, vol. II. p. 27.) Sossi: Martyr of the 4th c. A.D. "ws a diakon of the church". (Poln. Pravosl... op. cit. Izd. Sokina St. Petersburg, 1913, v. II. p. 2098. Khozdazat: Martyr, Gogol's remark int he text. Triphili (Triphilius) Bishop of Ledra (Leutron) in Cyprus, 4th c. A.D. "Lawyer... enjoyed great reputation for his rhetorical powers... on his conversion he gave up worldly advancement  and placed himself under the teachings of Spiridon, the shepherd bishop of Cyprus... wrote the "Life of His Master" (Smith: Dictionary of Christian Biography. AMS Press, NY 1967, vol. IV, p. 1054)

Dula (Probably from Dules) "... a prefect of Cilicia... deposed form office for his Chrisianity and most horribly tortured to death under the procurator Maximilius." (Smith, p. cit. vol. 1 p. 910)

Varakhasi (Probably from Barakhias = The Blessed by YHWA) "...hermit near Antiokh, 5th C. A.D. After many years of seclusion in a cell so small that he could neither stand nor lie in it, he was last induced by the bishop Theodotus of Antioch to come forth.  He appeared wrapped in skins from head to foot, with the exceptoin of his mouth an d nostrils. He was consulted by the Emperor Leo..." (Smith, op. cit. vol. 1, p. 243)

Pavsikhakhi;" A blind man, healed under the invocation of "St. Thecla." (Smith,  op. cit. vol. IV p. 280)

Varadat: "A holy Syrina hermit of the 5th C. A.D. St. Theodorit tells of his Life in his History of Godlloving People (Istoriya ogolyubtsev) Varadat lived in a wooden box, self-made, so mall that he could neither live down nor sit in it comfortably. The box was open, so that he was not protected from rain or sun... he was well known for his learning. (Poln. Pravosav. op. cit. vol. i. p. 440)

Varukh: (The Hebrew Baruch, the Blessed On) "... 6th c. scribe of Jeremia, a devote disciple of Jeremia who dictated to him a scroll containing his discourses." (J. Comay: Who is Who in the Old Testament, NY 1971,. p. 65). It should also be noted that Gogol appears to have worked hard on this list of names, and that they don't seem to be a random selection. In the first version extant (Isd. A.N. SSSR, op. cit. p. 446) the text of the baptism is completely missing. In the next version Gogol lists a selection of name which are only partially identical with the names appearing in the final version: Yevvul , Mokki, Tevlogy, Varakhasi, Trephili, Varadat, Pharmurphy, Pavsikhakhi, and Frumenty.

Eikhenbaum, commenting on the names sees in them only "a special phonic expressiveness", which according to him lead Gogol to change the final list of the names: The sound-semantic of the name: Akaki is prepared further by a whole seris of other nams, which also possess a special phonic expressiveness and which are obviously selected, "contrived" for just that purpose". (Trahan, ed. op. cit. p. 26). We, on the other hand, believe that the final list of the names emphasizes common features, since they all belong to a historical period -- form the rth to the 6th c. when Christianity was freshly established in the Roman Empire, and the still strong pagan environment looked at Christian values with bewilderment and suspicion. Very much as Akaki Akakievich's fellow "chinovniks" looked with ridicule and scorn at the strange creature who shared their office. Also, several of the names are associated with "copying the Word" (Logos), as a godpleasing activity. Baruch, Jeremiah's scribe, is one of the alternate neames the mother was briefly considering as acceptable. The other alternate, Varadat, is associated with ascetism.

28. The adjective akakos (from the noun akakios, means "guileless, simple, ascetic", but also a "simpleton" or a "slow-witted" person. Thus it comes close to the Russian word yurodivyy, frequently translated as "a holy", or "fool in Christ". (See i.e. Dostoyevsky's synonym as "the idiot") G.W. Lampe: A Patristic Lexicon, Oxford, 1961. p. 58. Lampe lists eight different holy men with the name Acacius. (Latin for the Greek Akakios), as saints of the early Christian church. Schillinger (op. cit.) mentions also several Acacius, but finally identifies Gogol's hero with St. Acacius of Sinai (6th c. A.D.), whose Life seems to show similarities to the life of Akaki Akakievich. It is, of course, a moot question to debate which Acacius Gogol could have in mind in fahsioining the features of his hero, but we believe that another Acacius may be more relevant to Gogol's story, namely a certain Acacius of Cesarea (Bishop of Cesarea in 340 A.D.). He played an important role in the doctrinal debates of the period concerning the issue of the Trinity. "He taught that the Father and Son were alike..." (Lampe, op.cit. p. 58). This argument seems to be close to the mother's argument, when she finally decided to baptize the child by the "father's name".

29. Akakij Akaievich's "title" as " Titular Councilor" may also refer to the "Father-Son" relationship from the Bible. The Father being, of course, the "real" Councilor!

30. Cizevski: (Trahan ed.) op. cit. p. 57.

31. A. Voznesensky: Antiworlds and the Fifth Ace. Baic Books, NY 1966. p. 113.

32. See R. Peace: op. cit. p. 69

33. K. Mochulsky emphasizes the "medieval" nature of Gogol's religious views: "...down the flames of Hell, aboave the Incorruptible Judge; everywhere the breath of death and ahead -- the Judgement DAy!  A picture reminiscent of a medieval mystery play. INdeed, it is not by chance: Gogo's outlook is medieval." (my translation L.T.) op. cit. p. 67

34. Trahan, e. op. cit. p. 52, passim

35. F. Dostoyevsky: The Brothers Karamazov, Norton, 1976. p. 237

36. It is interesting to note that during Gogol's stay in Rome the ruling Pope was Gregory XVI. Gogol in his letters from 1837 to 1846 makes a nubmer of comments on the Peope, mostly the nature of daily news, none of them are hostile or derogatory.

37. See: Eric John, ed.: The Popes, a Concise Biographical History, Hawthorne Books, NY 1864. p. 188.

38. Nik. Goleyzovskiy, Saveliy Yamschikov: Rublev i ego shkola. Isd. Izobr. Ussk. M. 1978. str. 20.

39. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. op cit. p. 240, passim, my translation (L.T.)

40. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 231.

41. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v. Zhizni. op. cit. p. 147.

42. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 164.

43. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 165.

44. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 167.

45. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 172.

46. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. p. 172.

47. The Hungarian scholar T. Baroti published an intriguing study in Studia Slavica Hungarica, XXIX, 1982. p. 172-183. Tradiciya Dante i povest' Gogolya "Rim", in which he proposes the thesis that Gogol's "Rome" is part of Gogol's preoccupation wit the Dantean theme of man's pilgrimage from darkness of sin to Paradise.


Chapter Seven -- Dramatic Works

While he was working on the tales of the Mirgorod and the Arabesques, Gogol was already drawn to the idea of writing plays. We know of conversations and letters between Pushkin and Gogol, especially that Gogol asked Pushkin for material for a comedy which, he promised, "should be funnier than hell." Pushkin obliged, and in 1835 provided him with an anecdote from which Gogol rapidly fashioned the all-time classic of the Russian stage, "The Inspector General" or, as it is sometimes known by its Russian title, " The Revizor". 1

Gogol was well prepared for writing plays. His father not only wrote plays himself, but performed them at neighboring festivities -- as did Gogol while he was in school. Further, the Ukrainian puppet theater ( vertep ) was alive and well in Gogol's days in St. Petersburg. He had tried his luck for a while as an actor, though without much success. Indeed, Gogol's short stories read much like ready-made scenarios for the theater. Thus, driven perhaps by financial needs, and having achieved the reputation as an entertainer and a wit, Gogol found it natural to turn his attention to the theater.

His first play was " The Order of St. Valadimir, Third Class" (1832) . 2 This was to remain a fragment, probably because of Gogol's inability to deal with the complicated plot, not to mention his desire to avoid trouble with the censors.

"The Marriage", begun in 1836, after some reworking was completed in 1842. This is a hilarious comedy in two acts about a matchmaking venture in which Agafya Tixonovna , the daughter of a merchant, is having the time of her life. Despite her advanced age -- she is twenty-seven, and thus, according to society, virtually beyond the possibility of marriage ! But she has now to decide among five different suitors, all of whom are congregating in her apartment at the same time, thanks to the bad -- or perhaps, too good -- offices of the matchmaker Fyokia Ivanovna . The audience sees the action not from the vantage point of the prospective bride, but through the eyes of one of her suitors, Podkolesin, Ivan Kuzmic and his friend Kockarev, Ilya Fomic . Kockarev is actually the catalyst for the action. He appears at his friend Podkolesin's apartment at the moment when Podkolesin is making a pronouncement to himself: "Yes," he intones, "When you are alone with nothing to do, you realize that marriage is the only answer." 3

Like Ivan Sponka before him, Podkolesin is both drawn to marriage and afraid of it. Somewhat along in years (like the bride), he has secretly engaged the services of a matchmaker, but he has been stalling over a visit to his prospective bride for the past three months. At this point, his friend turns up. It transpires that he, too, has had recourse to the matchmaker. Gleefully, he realizes that Podkolesin has been, like him, nibbling on the sly at the idea of marriage, though without asking his advice or help. Now Kockarev, jealous and hurt, especially since his own marriage has turned out to be less than blissful, takes over with a sort of dare-devil recklessness (like Nozdryov in Dead Souls ) and with considerable eŽlan impels his friend into action.

Apart from the resulting slapstick, the play is actually a study of characters and the motivation for their actions, though this is hidden behind a smokescreen of verbiage. Everyone in the play is a cheat and a deceiver. All the characters want to appear to be different from what they actually are: As we know, this contradiction between secret motivation and apparent innocence which permeates the play is the driving force of Gogol's oeuvre as a whole.

The five suitors rounded up by the matchmaker appear at the prospective bride's house at the same time and create a comic situation replete with uneasy pretension, and bombastic bragging. Underlying their foolishness, nevertheless, is a poignant sense of the sadness of the human lot where sexual relations and, by extension, marriage, are merely a farce, a barely camouflaged ritual of human baseness. Gogol has left behind his earlier vision of the happy marriages of attractive young people in "The Fair at Sorocinsk" . All the suitors here are really after the property and wealth promised as the bride's dowry. They also have the most ridiculous pretensions as to what is important in a bride, or what it is they expect from their future partner for life. Thus, for example, the question of the bride's knowledge of French comes up repeatedly, and even though none of the prospective husbands speaks a word of French, they expect that their wife should be proficient in that language. When the matchmaker wants to know what they would need her French for, one of the suitors --Anuckin --gets very upset and the following conversation ensues:

"Oh, no ! It seems that she can speak only Russian." To which Fyokla, the matchmaker returns, " What's the harm in that? Russian is easier to understand, so she speaks Russian. And if she should talk like some heathen, so much the worse for you. You wouldn't understand! I don't have to explain what Russian is --All the saints spoke Russian!" 4

Such non-sequiturs abound in the play, which virtually bounces from one to the next, from topsy-turvy folk logic to plain nonsense, from self-promoting boasting to the straightforward elbowing and tripping of the competitions that characterize the contemporary puppet theater. And all the time, a meanness, a self-serving, deceptive cunning overshadow the action, despite its comic effects.

The hilarity of the situation is enhanced by the names Gogol invented for his characters: Podkolesin may be derived from the word for wheel (koleso ) and the preposition pod , meaning under, thus suggesting "under the wheel" and indicating one who is being run over, that is, a man whose situation is continuously dangerous. His friend Kockarev's name can be linked to the word for ram, (kochkar' ) and may indicate that he is a bully, very much like Nozdrev later in Dead Souls. Not only is he a bully, but he is sneaky and revengeful, regrets his recent marriage, and now, instead of advising his friend against the disastrous state of wedlock, insists on propelling him into that state because he does not want to see him in a better position than his own. He is also a fanatic, not to mention a magician, when it comes to arranging other people's lives. He makes things happen, as Gogol would say, "the Devil only knows why " . His is a character basic to Gogol's oeuvre, the Russian happy-go-lucky bully, the liar who lies not from premeditation, but from quasi-poetic inspiration (see Khlestakov later): He sees reality and fantasy as absolutely interchangeable, especially since the exercise in prestidigitation costs him nothing.

Viewing such characters from the vantage-point of the twentieth century and comparing them to such well-known literary figures as Ilf and Petrov's 5 Ostap Bender in The Twelve Chairs or Koroviev in Bulgakov'sMaster and Margareta , it is clear that Gogol here created, or perhaps discovered is a better word, a national Russian type in the inspired liar. From Kockaryov to the blatnye of modern Soviet writing, we can see a direct line of development.

Agafya Tikhonovna's other suitors are not much of an improvement on the other two rogues, as their names indicate: There is Mr. Omlet ( Yaichnikov ), a name that offers many opportunities for puns; Anuckin, whose etymology goes back to onuchi , the Russian word for the footcloth which peasants and soldiers wore instead of socks -- sure enough, Anuckin is a retired infantry officer. He finds his counterpart in Zhevakin whose name comes from the Russian word zhevat' to chew, as he endlessly chews over the details of his life in the Navy, whether or not anyone wants to listen. And finally, there is the storekeeper, Starikov , whose name means "old man".

The quintet provide a regular freak show, supplemented by the figure of the prospective bride. Agafya Tixonovna, unsurprisingly, pretends to the old-fashioned religious values of Moscow, though, of course, she does not live up to them at all. Alas, she is Gogol's typical, empty-headed foolish hypocrite, whose counterpart will reappear in "The Inspector General" as the mayor's wife Anna Andreevna.

The tension in the play develops in watching Kockaryov, the Russian crook, in action: his managing by hood or crook, his lies and promises, as well as his every imaginable manipulation in the attempt to eliminate one suitor after another from the lists in order to arrange matters according to his own liking. Finally, he manages to get Podkolesin and Agafya Tixonovna together for a "confidential" talk, during which they give vent to the utmost nonsense, very much like "Ivan Sponka" when he was left alone with his prospective bride.

The plot rests upon speedy action: on minutes rather than hours, or days, and the audience watches Kockaryov's juggling with bated breath -- will he or will he not be able to pull this marriage off? And what if he does? What is his advantage? Actually, nothing. The insight is important to our understanding of the fact that Kockaryov's only motivation is the love of speed and his delight in being the center of the action. We remember that at the end of the first volume ofDead Souls, Gogol exclaims, "Cicikov was fond of fast driving ...and what Russian does not love fast driving?" 6 The characters drive on merely for the love of the opportunity to create a new world out of nothing, a new order of things, for no other reason at all.

The audience is convinced that Kochkaryov has succeeded in pulling off the marriage when the tables are turned in a final moment of surprise. Podkolesin, temporarily left to his own devices, wakes up as if from the fog of breathtaking action and does what his better judgement suggests: He jumps out the window and escapes. Not only does he avoid getting married, but the audience has a final laugh at the expense of the self-appointed matchmaker.

Besides being great fun, the play is revealing in our tracing of Gogol's search for his "own pace "which we have so often noticed -- both for himself and now for his characters. For one thing, marriage is clearly not in the cards for the Gogolian hero. Where "Ivan Sponka" left off, the nightmare vision of a wife's different disguises is continued in "The Marriage ". Though here in a more matter-of-fact, less fantastic fashion, as Podkolesin escapes through the open window.

The play itself illustrates Gogol's theoretical considerations in the mid-30's about the place of theater. In "The Petersburg Notes " (1836), he comments that "...comedy [is] the true record of society, rigorously planned and producing laughter through the depths of its irony; not the laughter born of frivolous impressions, superficial witticisms and puns; not the laughter of the coarse crowd which requires convulsions and the grimacing caricatures of nature; but electric, life-giving laughter, erupting spontaneously, freely and unexpectedly from a soul struck by the dazzling brilliance of true wit."

Gogol then reviews the situation in which the Russian theater of the day found itself, and maintains that poor German and French vaudeville has dominated the scene. The time has come, he insists, to create national, purely Russian comedies: "For heaven's sake," he exclaims, "give us Russian characters, give us ourselves, our scoundrels, our eccentrics! On to the stage with them! Let everybody laugh! Laughter is a great thing: it does not deprive us of life nor property, but in its presence the guilty individual is like a hare caught in a trap. We have become so accustomed to tame French plays that we are timid about seeing ourselves [face to face]...What a pity. Truly, it is high time we learned that only in a faithful rendering of characters -- not in general stereotyped features, but in national forms so striking in their vitality that we are compelled to exclaim: "Yes, that person seems familiar to me!" -- only in such rendering can [our plays] be of genuine service." 7

Finally, Gogol announces the need for a call to battle: A new theater must be created: "We have turned the theater into a plaything," he warn, "something like a rattle used to entice children, forgetting that it is a rostrum from which a living lesson is spoken to an entire multitude, a place where in the presence of festive, brilliant lighting, thundering music and general laughter, secret vice shows its face and elevated emotions, timidly hidden from view, make themselves known before the hushed murmuring of common sympathy." 8

The principles developed in Gogol's theoretical writings and his view of the requirements of contemporary Russian drama are further illustrated in his magnificent play, The Inspector General, which was destined to become the foundation of a new Russian comedy and guaranteed his fame as a playwright of genius.

The letter in which Gogol begged Pushkin to provide him with a topic for comedy says, among other things, "Do me a favor: Send me a subject, comical or not, but an authentically Russian anecdote. My hand is itching to write a comedy... Give me a subject and I'll knock off a comedy in five acts -- I promise, funnier than hell. For God's sake, do it! My mind and stomach are both famished." 9

Gogol's letter to Pushkin is dated October 7, 1835. By May of 1836, the play had already been performed. Gogol must indeed have worked fast and hard in order to get the play written and prepared for the boards by that date. There is no need to repeat the play's conception, nor the circumstances under which it was written, nor how it passed the censors, since all these details are a matter of record in the voluminous criticism surrounding the play. Suffice it to say that the censors passed the play only because Gogol and his friends managed to attract the attention of the Tsar himself, who thought it hilariously funny and gave his permission for its performance, almost in an imitation of Gogol's penchant for presenting art as imitating life. 10

Despite all its innovations, "The Inspector General"does not deal with a new topic in the corpus of Gogol's fiction. It is actually merely an extension of elements now familiar -- the basic plot of the deceiver deceived of the early Cossack stories. Beyond this general principle which was to take on new subtleties in the course of Gogol's developing spiritual crisis, the play again portrays Russian provincial life with all its depressing banalities ( poslost' ) where events are different from what the characters pretend, and from what their position in life requires them to be. We find here an undermining of the concept of one's own place previously formulated in the dilemma proposed in the Selected Passages, where the powers that be in this imaginary town -- or in human society in general -- feeling themselves safe in their backwater anonymity, turn into bullies, bribe-takers, scandal mongers, liars -- all well organized into a hierarchy based on the rule that everyone can be corrupt, within limits, within the structure of that society in which one must, nevertheless, establish one's own place. Important in this regard is the mayor's scolding of one of the policemen who was found to have extorted bribes: "You take more than your rank permits," he roars, meaning, apparently, that there is a certain justice in the world's order, wherein each soul has its own place and its own necessities, however corrupt the system from the point of view of an imagined, ideal justice.

Surely, all the characters are aware of the nature of their misdeeds. They know that they are not doing the right thing --the mayor calls this having one's little sins ( greshki ). But they have been behaving in this manner for so long that they have only a vague recollection of what constitutes real justice, or the right way of doing things. But their vague recollection is enough to remind them that somewhere out there is justice, that there are different norms of human behavior which can be enforced by the Government. Now, of necessity, different interpretations are brought forward as to what kind of government Gogol had in mind: the government of Nicholas I, or the equally absolute concept of the Corrupt Town Government whose deviation from the moral norms of some higher powers (perhaps those of God himself) may not be present on an every-day level of experience, though it persists and one day will present a bill for all the wrong-doing of the denizens of earth.

Thus far, we have merely presented the perimeters of the play, without going into the different possibilities it offers to interpretation. Actually, the play is so straight-forward that it can be taken on one level merely as a statement of Gogol's criticism of 19th-Century social realities. On the other hand, it is broad enough to allow for a metaphysical interpretation. The gap between the two extremes of interpretation is wide enough to allow one to see Gogol as a social critic who later was to desert his "high calling", or to detect here the onset of the spiritual crisis which will dominate his later thinking. Apparently, Gogol was at first interested merely in creating a comedy as proof of his craft -- or even as a pot-boiler designed to make ends meet: But later critics have observed that Gogol can here be seen as hesitating between the two poles of social commentary and a catering to public opinion. His various explanations of the play's meaning, or its "key". changed several times between 1836 and 1848, during which period he repeatedly reworked parts and supplied lengthy interpretations of its content.

The play, as it now stands, is bout some twenty people, headed by the mayor of a small town, and a stranger who has happened on the scene and is stranded there without the funds to continue on his journey, since he has gambled away all his money on his trip from St. Petersburg to his own village, which is located somewhere in the provinces. Though these two groups of people have little to do with each other, chance has brought them together -- and as happens in the comedies of Aristophanes -- with results disastrous to the townspeople, and a subsequent comedy of errors of magnificent proportions.

The play begins with the mayor's informing his colleagues that according to some vague information which has come to his attention, the town may soon be visited by an Inspector General who is said to be traveling incognito. Vague though the information is, and though an Inspector's reasons for coming to this particular area are unclear, the news creates a general trembling and the town officials foresee chaos...for obvious reasons, since each is aware of his own little sins of corruption . Suddenly, their feeling of security has been blown away by an inexplicable, and, to their way of thinking, unjust intrusion of a mysterious external power into their affairs. Hastily, they do what they have always done: they devise plans for deception. The audience watches with growing amusement as the play unfolds, revealing the speedily improvised deceptions of the local dignitaries which are intended to fool, or at least to confuse the "Inspector General" when he appears. The deceptions are childish -- putting new bedsheets on hospital beds, taking the hunting whip off the wall in the judge's office -- was it there as a symbol of Justice ? -- or telling the police to start sweeping the streets in order to create the impression that theirs is a clean and well-organized little town. The individual steps undertaken or merely discussed are funny enough, while the ceaseless, constant piling of detail on detail creates a breathless expectation of calamities that will occur when the "Inspector General" appears.

In such an atmosphere, any spark can explode the situation --and, indeed, the spark comes from an unexpected incident: Two busy-body landowners, Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, "Two little pot-bellied dumplings" or homunculi, as Nabokov describes them -- whose only function in town and in the play is to spread gossip, breathlessly report on the presence of a mysterious stranger in the town's inn. He must be the expected Inspector General, since he has not paid his bills for a week. This is a sure sign that he must be a high official. Also, he has been behaving suspiciously:

Bobchinsky: Yes, Sir, that's him. That's the Official!

Mayor: What official?

Bobchinsky: The Official! The one you received a warning about: The government inspector.

Mayor (in terror): My God! What are you saying? It can't be he.

Dobchinsky: It is he! He doesn't pay his bills and he doesn't go on his way. Who else could it be?

Bobchinsky: It is he, it is he, it must be he! He's very sharp. I was scared stiff.

Mayor : God save us. What room is he in? 11

The possibilities of a mistaken identity are played out to their utmost limits: All is in uproar. The mayor puts his hat-box on his head instead of his hat amid the general confusion.

Corrupt they may be, but these officials cannot be said to be lazy. They know by experience that their only rescue lies in speedy action and in trying to gull the official investigating them to their side. And their instinct proves right. The Official, they reason, must be the same sort of person as themselves. He must, therefore, have his own agenda , that is, his own weak point. Going by the scant information or rather, the hair-brained rumors provided by Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky, the mayor decides to visit the inn in order to figure out what kind of bird the visitor may be. A funny situation develops: the mayor accosts the stranger; both are trembling (the mayor because of his assumption of the identity of the stranger and the stranger because he assumes that the mayor has come to arrest him for not paying his bills. Each tries to figure out the other's identity and intentions. But the mayor, who is a sly old fox, soon realizes that he merely has a young fop before him who can be bribed. Thenceforth he believes he has the game in his hands and "invites" the stranger, a young man called Ivan Alexandrovic, on a tour of the town and to his own house in order to dine, wine and bribe him.

For a while, the plan seems to be working -- as a matter of fact, too well and too fast. Here again is a hallmark of the Gogolian scene, the breathtakingly fast development of action, wherein neither the characters nor the audience are given any time to pause to consider what is going on. Like lightning or a thunderclap, the flash and the sound of the action leave no room for second thought.

The stranger's name is Khlestakov -- its etymology has something to do with a whip ( khlest ), but as we pointed out earlier, it may also be related to khlyst , in this case, a whip with a religious, sacred connotation. 12 He is certainly whipping these garrulous town officials into a trembling state of fright, and later into unbounded hope and expectations. Much has been written about Khlestakov, who is the play's most important figure. He has been invested with many metaphysical qualities, and has been interpreted as the Devil's "traveling salesman" 13, or as Christ's substitute, or even as the Anti-Christ himself. And certainly, there is much to be said for these interpretations, though for the time being we can state only that in him we have a recognizable Gogolian type, the braggart, the liar, the light-headed windbag, the fop and the scatter-brained good-for-nothing young provincial who has made a career as a pusher of pens in some office in St. Petersburg. In the literary tradition of Russia, the name itself has become synonymous with the highflying liar who, in his mindless and brainless braggadocio, takes in even solid scam artists: they cannot be shaken out of their routine by an earthquake, nevertheless, they are taken in by this weightless nobody, this zero, for reasons of Gogol's own.

For this is the very character needed to show up the rottenness of the moral foundations upon which the town's government rests. 14 Gogol himself hinted at the possibility that it is the Devil who has descended on the town in order to teach them the fear of God. In the twentieth Century, another Russian writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, will avail himself of the tradition and exploit the same basic insight in The Master and Margarita, where the Devil descends upon the sinful town of Moscow with a similar purpose in mind.

The situation develops quickly and naturally. The mayor picks up Khlestakov at the hotel under the pretext that it is his duty as mayor to see to the well-being of travellers. Khlestakov is wined and dined, and given every opportunity to behave as a corrupt Inspector General. He accepts bribes, he tells tall stories, he tries to seduce the mayor's wife, Anna Andreevna, the provincial coquette who reminds us of other such women in Gogol's arsenal. Then he switches his attention to the mayor's young daughter (the"Governor's daughter" in a new disguise) and ... and... nothing else really happens, except that the limits of disbelief are pushed almost into infinity. Thus we find ourselves dealing not with a town official's being reprimanded by an important functionary, but rather the Important Official's becoming one of the provincial dignitaries by marrying the mayor's daughter. Instead of being subjected to infamy, the town and its corrupt officials are going to be glorified by the presence of such an illustrious, such an Important Person ( znachitel'noe litso ) (q.v. the General in "The Overcoat "). The wedding day with the mayor's daughter is already fixed when Khlestakov suddenly makes another about-face: he decides, on the suggestion of his servant, that enough is enough, and the time has come to stop the game while the going is good. He skips town with both the blessing and money of the townsfolk.

The last thing we see is the mayor's celebration party: the mayor is accepting congratulations from the town officials for his daughter's betrothal as well as for his impending promotion to General, or some such, as soon as Khlestakov returns from his trip which is ostensibly to notify his uncle of the proposed marriage. But instead of their basking in the reflected glory of an imagined luxury in St. Petersburg, the horrible news is broken to the gathering: The Post-master, who has intercepted a letter written by Khlestakov to a crony in St. Petersburg, reports that Khlestakov is an imposter and that the entire visit of the "Inspector General" has been a mirage, a figment of their own frightened imagination. And now, in an almost impossible speeding up of the action, a messenger arrives with the news that the real Inspector General has arrived and is requesting the immediate presence of the town officials now fortunately gathered --for the wrong reasons, of course.

Gogol's meticulous stage instructions stipulate that the play end with a frozen, "silent scene" to express the utter disbelief of the town in the face of the horrendous deception to which they have been subjected. The final words spoken, before everything and everyone freezes on the stage, are the mayor's proverbial words when he turns to the laughing audience: "What are you laughing at?" he asks, "You are laughing at yourself." The turn, logical though unexpected, gives Gogol, the playwright, the last word.

Thus the town officials who were originally the victimizers of all their fellow-citizens, have in turn become Khlestakov's victims. But the flip-flop of positions does not stop here. In a split second, the mayor's outburst changes everything. His indignation and his sense of outrage at having been victimized expresses itself through the pitiable and all-too human plea: Don't laugh at me, because you -- the audience, everybody -- are in the same boat. His cry raises the final moral from the level of voyeuristic vaudeville to the classic heights of a morality play: Everyone is guilty, everyone has been taken in by the phoney Inspector General, and everyone is at the mercy of the new, the real Inspector General.

Given the broad range of its possible interpretations, the play has earned a permanent place in the lexicon of both the Russian and the international stage. Many of its statements, sentences and situations have entered the vernacular: To list a single example, the mayor, at the beginning, checking off the various sins that the Inspector General might notice in the various departments of the town government, mentions among others, responsible, the school inspector, who should warn the history teacher in the local school not to behave so strangely, so violently in his presentation of history, not to destroy chairs and other furniture during his lecture, just to show his devotion to the great passions of history ( "Of course, Alexander the Great was a hero, but why break chairs? " )

In this wonderfully logical non-sequitur, the proverb is used precisely to point out that two things which one tries to connect may have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. It also highlights the author's wonderfully ironic sense of self: At the time when he wrote it, Gogol was still a teacher of history; in his essays on history in the Arabesques he frequently recommended personal involvement and passion as prerequisites for successful teaching. These moments of self parody are numerous as in Khlestakov's braggadocio, when he begins by telling that he works in an office as a clerk (as Gogol, also, did) and ends by hinting that he is on intimate terms with everybody famous and important even Pushkin (as Gogol himself was), or the Tsar himself. Gogol had been given his teaching job on Zhukovsky's recommendation to the Tsar's family . Further, Khlestakov boasts that he is the author of all the well-known writings of the day, and that all the plays presented in the Russian theaters are his work -- a claim which certainly can be understood as Gogol's mockery of his own literary aspirations. We realize now that his element of ironic self-mockery makes of Gogol a character in the play, just as in "The Fair at Sorocints " he wrote himself into the scene as one of the narrators.

The unwitting imposter, Khlestakov, is nevertheless a liar in his own right. But he is a liar of a particular kind, as most commentators agree. There is more to his speech and general behavior than lying: a kind of playful, poetical exaggeration. He seems to wear an impish grin, a little like Gogol himself; to anticipate the "rap" of the modern American street, in which truth and logic fall secondary to the particular poetic beat of the intoxicating rhythms of slang. There is an element of the hilarious put-down, an outrageous kind of kidding, like the "hutzpah" that characterizes the heroes of Yiddish tales, though this presupposes a deliberate flaunting of accepted standards, whereas Khlestakov's behavior is not premeditated but is more like the result of an intoxication with self, the poetical inspiration of an unfettered imagination.

Dostoyevsky understood precisely this feature of Gogol's characters. He pointed to their behavior as particularly Russian. For this reason, he, too, created as basic characters in his fiction, a series of inspired liars, people who lie for the sake of creating a new reality for themselves, always seeking an escape from the confinement of existing reality. (A prime example is the hero of his "Dream of a Ridiculous Man ", who seduces and destroys an entire Paradise with the beauty of his lies.) 15

Similarly, many of Gogol's heroes use language, truth and logic as freely interchangeable and personal inventions which can be idiosyncratically navigated. Thus lies are not lies in the ordinary sense, but rather the expression of that psychological arena in which the boundaries between truth and fiction, reality and fantasy are freely and easily obscured. For this reason, perhaps, many statements of the characters in Gogol's play have become proverbial sayings in Russian, which identify the smile of an insider as reflecting an understanding of outrageously incongruous behavior.

If Khlestakov's name, which, as we have noted, suggests a whip, has fatal consequences, so also do the names of other characters. The mayor is Anton Antonovich Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky -- Ehre has explained that the word suggests "a bag of wind", or "a crook" squared. The superintendent of school is Luka Khlopov, a "slave, a serf" , but also as both first name and patronymic suggest, a peasant, reeking of onions, since luk means onions. Ehre does not notice yet another possibility, the name's link to the word lukavyj ," sly", with its connotations of deviltry. The judge's name is Lyapkin-Tyapkin -- the onomatopoeia suggests mumbling-fumbling, or a slip-shod way of going about life. Zemlyanika is the Director of Charities: the name refers to the word "strawberries", though the contrast between the name and his behavior is obvious. The Director of the Hospital is a German, a Dr. Huebner, or Gibner; the Russian pronunciation of the name suggests an allusion to the verb "to perish, to die" , while the German Hubner can also be referred to the word ueber, above, or over. The policeman also have suggestive names: Ukhovertov means "twisting one's ear" ; Svistunov is the "whistler"; Derzhimorda is the crude Russian way of saying, "Keep you mouth shut".

Gogol was greatly concerned with the way in which the play was to be presented and, in order to help the actors realize his intentions, he added precise instructions to the first version. Accordingly, he starts out with a general warning that the play should not be understood as a caricature. "Nothing ought to be exaggerated nor hackneyed," he warns, "not even the minor roles. The ridiculous will emerge spontaneously through the very seriousness with which each character is occupied with his own affairs. They are all caught up in their own interests, bustling and fussing, even fervent as if they were faced with the most important task of their lives. Only the audience, from its detached position, can perceive the vanity of their concerns."

Almost as if he were a literary critic, he supplies a detailed analysis of the individual characters, down to physical details: Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky, for example, "are round-faced, neatly dressed, with sleeked hair. Dobchinsky is even blessed with a small bald spot in the middle of his head -- it is evident that he is not a bachelor like Bobchinsky, but married." 16 The two are basically like the characters in "How Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Fyodorovich Quarrelled ". The most telling description is reserved for Khlestakov, the mayor, and his wife and daughter. The final dumb scene, Gogol says, is the crucial moment of the play which may decide its success or failure: It "must be performed with particular intelligence. Now the joking is over, and the plight of the characters is almost tragic." 17 The statement points up his basic concern with the intermingling of boundless fun and comedy with a kind of existential sadness underlying its religious implications like the lights and shadows of a medieval mystery play.

Still in his role as director, Gogol keeps underscoring these points in different letters to the actors, as well as his evidently growing apprehension of being misunderstood. This must explain his otherwise inexplicable decision to leave Russia on the heels of the play's performance. A letter dated April 29, 1836, to the actor M. S. Shchepkin is revealing: "The reaction to " The Inspector General", " he says there, "has been extensive and tumultuous. Everybody is against me. Respected officials, middle-aged men, scream that I hold nothing sacred in having had the effrontery to speak of officialdom as I did. The police are against me, the merchants are against me, and the literati are against me. They rail at me and run off the play; it is impossible to get tickets for the fourth performance. Were it not for the intervention of the Emperor, my play would never have remained on the stage, and yet there were people seeking to have it banned. Now I see what it means to be a writer of comedies: the faintest glimmer of truth -- and all the classes are up in arms against you." 18 The same note of despair is sounded in a further letter, dated May 15, 1836, to M. P. Pogodin: "Call a crook a crook, and they consider it an undermining of the state apparatus; show a true and living feature, and they translate it to read as a defamation of an entire class and an incitement of other or subordinate classes against it. Consider the plight of the poor author who nevertheless loves his country and countrymen intensely." 19

Some ten days later, May 25, 1836, writing to "a man of letters", Gogol reiterates his disappointment:" "The Inspector General" has been performed -- and I have such a troubled and strange feeling my creation struck me as repellent, bizarre, and not at all mine." In discussing the play's failure, Gogol emphasizes its miscasting and misdirecting. He harps on the fact that Khlestakov is lying sincerely: "Khlestakov doesn't bluff at all; he is not a liar by vocation: he forgets he is lying and almost believes what he says. He is sincere, completely frank, and in telling lies, he shows the stuff he is made of-- to lie, one must speak in a tone so close to the truth, [a tone] so natural, so naive as only truth can be spoken -- the comedy of lying consists precisely in this--Khlestakov does not lie with calculation like a theatrical braggart; he lies with feeling; his eyes convey the pleasure it gives him. It is the finest and the most poetic moment of his life -- almost a kind of inspiration."

Not only in private letters, but also in his own play-like reviews, Gogol keeps returning to the "misunderstanding" of the performers and the audience; and in continuing the debate, he seems to be supplying new shades of interpretation: In Gogol's mind, the play assumes spiritual and later religious significance. So, for example in the excerpt, "Leaving the Theater after the Performance of a New Comedy", written probably in 1836 but published only in 1842, Gogol offers a public debate between the author of the play and some "random members of the public" as they leave the theater after a performance. Characteristic is Gogol's explanation as to why he wants to know the opinion of the audience: "I need to know these things because I am a writer of comedies. All other works and genres are subject to the judgment of the few; only the writer of comedies is subject to the judgment of all." 20

It is not difficult to recognize here the Gogol who once begged his mother for the raw material for his Ukrainian stories or, later, who urged his "fellow citizens " ( sootechestvenniki ) to provide him with details of Russian life, so that he can "correctly portray" actual life. The various voices, identified only as "First", "Second", and so forth, express not chance remarks but serious critical commentaries and objections to Gogol's dealing with plot, heroes, and development of action. We are reminded of his earlier critical sallies, as in the discussion of "Pushkin's Boris Godunov" by the two young book lovers in the Arabesques . Here it suffices to quote as an example the Second viewer's statement about the permissibility of mixing comedy and tragedy in the same play: "Are not the positive and the negative capable of serving the same end? Cannot comedy and tragedy express the same lofty ideas? Does not the thoroughly contorted soul of a base and dishonest man potentially convey the image of an honest man?" 21

Of interest in this regard is another much debated issue, Gogol's view of the role of government in literature. Upon the remark of the First Partner that "it is odd that our writers of comedy cannot get by without the government; without it, not one of our comedies would have a de'nouement" -- the Second explains that "it has come to constitute a distinguishing feature of our [i.e. Russian] comedy. Our hearts contain a hidden trust in the government. What of it? There is nothing wrong in that. May God help the government heed its calling at all times and in all places -- to act as the representative of Providence on earth. May we trust in it as the ancients trusted in a fate that pursues crimes." 22

Thus comedy and tragedy are seen as having the same goals, namely, to bring about a catharsis, either through laughter or through tears, or even through a combination of both. The other element in understanding Gogol's aesthetics is provided by this equation of the Russian government with the Greek concept of Fate, on which many of his progressive fellow citizens would not readily have agreed, but whose seeds were already sowed in his poorly received Selected Passages.

In a final speech, the author steps forward and presents the key to the play, an appreciation of the positive role of laughter: "I heard more than I anticipated. What a variety of opinion! Fortunate is the writer of comedies born into a nation where society has not yet been molded into a single inert mass, where it has not become enveloped in the crust of ancient prejudice, conforming everyone's thoughts to the same mold, and where each person has his own viewpoint and is the creator of his own character. What a diversity of viewpoints and how the firm Russian intelligence have sparkled throughout! But why, then, is my heart so heavy? It is a strange thing: I regret that no one has noticed the honorable character who is present in my play. Yes, there is an honorable, noble character acting over its course. This honorable, noble character is Laughter [the italics are Gogol's]." 23

This startling statement, often quoted though often disbelieved, is a serious expression of Gogol's theory that the tragic and the comic serve the same purpose, namely, to edify the audience. Indeed, as he further explains, "It [laughter] is noble because it dares to make an appearance despite the slight importance the world attaches to it...Yes, laughter is more significant and profound than men imagine." 24 In defending laughter as a positive force, Gogol defines the term: Laughter can be shallow, of course, but this is not the sort of laughter that he has in mind, rather, "the kind of laughter that soars from man's bright nature, from the depths that contain its eternally surging spirit."

Gogol develops a whole theory about the social effect of laughter: It serves as a catalyst in the recognition of evil as a ridiculous, nonessential aspect of human nature, and it also serves as a weapon against scoundrels: "He [the scoundrel] senses that everyone has been left [after seeing the play] with an indelible image, that one wrong move on his part is enough to make his image his eternal designation. And even he who fears nothing in the world is afraid of ridicule!" 25 Thus, Gogol surmises, laughter can provide a means of radical change in society or, for that matter, of mankind in general: "All men are come together like brothers," he insists, " in a single spiritual motion, and a hymn of gratitude rings out in a burst of applause."

A universal brotherhood thus established will bring down all evil, without bloodshed or war, and mankind will unite in brotherly love. "The world", [he concludes] "resembles a whirlpool; opinions and doctrines are in perpetual flux, but time threshes everything. Things considered groundless may afterwards appear armed with rigorous meaning. At the heart of cold laughter one may find fiery sparks of an eternal and mighty love. And who can tell? Perhaps everyone will then recognize why, by the force of the same laws, the proud and powerful appear weak and pitiful in misfortune, while the weak grow into giants; and why, by the force of the same laws, whoever often sheds heartfelt tears also laughs the most in this world." 26 Thus the key to "The Inspector General" can be recognized as an intensely religious impulse. Again,in"The De nouement of The Inspector General" which he wrote in 1846, though it was published only posthumously, Gogol provides several imaginary characters with statements about the play. "The First Comic Actor" explains, "Now suppose this town is actually our spiritual city and is to be found in each of us--Say what you will, the Inspector who awaits us at the portals of the grave is terrible. Can you really be ignorant of this Inspector's identity? Why deceive ourselves? He is our awakening conscience, who will force us, once and for all, to take a long and hard look at ourselves. Nothing will remain hidden from this Inspector, for he is sent by the command of the Almighty." Khestakov later is pronounced to be the decoy of the Devil, who can easily be duped, though the real Inspector will never be deceived.

Finally, in a letter to his friend Zhukovsky dated December 29, 1847-January 10, 1848, he explains once again that the public's misunderstanding of his play and of the significance of laughter, has made him so pitifully aware of his failure to make himself understood, that he must now leave Russia: "The performance of "The Inspector General" made a painful impression upon me. I was angry at the audience, who failed to understand me, and at myself for being at fault in not making myself understood. I wanted to run away from it all." 27

Gogol's experiments in theater resulted in at least one more completed play, "The Gamblers ( An Incident out of the Remote Past). " It was probably also begun in 1836, was published for the first time in 1842, and was performed the next year in 1843. Not nearly so well known as "The Inspector General" it nevertheless shares a number of characteristics which reflect his thinking during that period. It, too, concerns a Russian province, a chance traveller, a cheat and card-sharp who is cleaned out of all his possessions by locals lying in wait at the inn for just such an opportunity. Here again, we find the deceiver deceived, a traveller called Ikharev .His name seems to rhyme with the sound one makes in sneezing: The connotation of the nose seems clear, as in Nozdrev or even Chi-chi-kov, the hero of Dead Souls (also a traveler in provincial Russia as well as a cheat and an impostor). Ikharev has the obligatory servant, Gavryushka, whose name stems from Gabriel -- perhaps he is Ikharev's guardian angel.

Alexey (the Man of God?) and six local gamblers split up into two groups for the sake of appearances. The first group masquerades as travellers who are staying in the inn: Krugel -- the name sounds German and perhaps means round or, as Ehre has suggested, "a stacked deck" of cards; it also suggests in the Russian peasant dialect krivoj, a curving road of many deceptive turns. Shvohknev is probably again onomatopoetic suggesting the shvokh, as cards are slapped forcefully on a table. Uteshitelny from the Russian verb "to quiet down, to pacify" , is apparently a "good guy" , as opposed to a "bad cop", for instance. Finally, the name of Zamukhryshkinseems to come from a rare, provincial slang word , which means "thief, or deceiver" -- he masquerades as an official. A second team pretend to be landowners from the provinces, a father-and-son team. The father, Glov Mikhail Alexandrovich, gets his name from golova, head, or chief; while his son, Glov Alexandr Mikhailovich (Glov Jr.) pretends like him to be the victim of the aforementioned "crooks".

The plot revolves around the possibilities inherent in a double or even triple deception, the old mirror within the mirror within the mirror trick. As the play opens, Ikharev, apparently a professional gambler, is traveling through Russia. He arrives at a provincial inn, the next lap of his journey. One cannot help but wonder why Gogol, himself a tireless traveler, is so much fascinated by the various professional crooks he finds along the byroads of Russia -- At least two of his major works hinge on the idea: Chichikov's journey through the provinces with the purpose of buying dead souls comes to mind, as do Khlestakov's adventures in the provincial town where he unwittingly cleans out the seasoned bribe-takers and corrupt town officials. Now again, we see a similar situation in "The Gambler". Ikharev's appetite for gambling gets him quickly into trouble. A trio of local card-sharps, Krugel, Shvokhnev and Uteshiteliny challenge him to a quick game, pretending to lose to Ikharev's "talent". But in the next step of their plan, they admit to being con-artists themselves, and offer Ikharev a share in a partnership whose purpose is to clean out the other guests at the inn. As if on cue, the pro- posed victims arrive: Glov, Senior, who pretends to be a provincial landowner who has just mortgaged his estate for 250,000 rubles in order to provide his daughter with a dowry; and his son Glov. Glov Senior does not play cards, but he confides in the conspirators that he has to leave town since he has important things to do back home, and that he can no longer wait for his money from the bank. He tells them that he is leaving his twenty-two year-old son at the Inn to wait next day for the money and to return home with it. Glov Senior admits that the young man has a problem: he is young and inexperienced and also he wants to join the cavalry, so he can lead "a loose life ". Ostensibly, his father is pleading with Ikharev and new-found "friends" to look after the boy in his absence and to send him home as soon as he collects the money. Sure enough, he departs and his son promptly appears, is quickly won over to play cards, and is cleaned out in no time by Ikharev and his friends. Since he does not yet have the money, they make him sign an IOU which, after some fancy footwork, is passed on to Ikharev, for cash, at the rate of fifty copecks to the ruble. The partners even produce a bank official named Zakhmuryshkin . The deception of Ikharev thus accomplished, he unsuspectingly pays out cash for the IOU. At the end, Ikharev realizes his fatal mistake, just like the mayor in" The Inspector General"after discovering Khlestakov's true identity.

The play is fast-paced from the very beginning, like" The Inspector General". It is crammed with witty asides, unintended puns, funny coincidences which the public can appreciate, though, of course, not Ikharev, the main victim of this multi-layered deception. It is also peopled with characters now familiar to Gogol's readers. Speech patterns, themes and the play's well-crafted structure meet our expectations. It begins in media res with a conversation between Ikharev, the confidence man, and the hotel servant Alexei:

Alexei: Step in, Your Honor! Here we have the quietest room in the house. You won't be bothered by noise.

Ikharev: No noise, but swarms of cavalry, eh?

Alexei: Cavalry, Sir? Oh, fleas? No problem, your Honor! If a flea or a bedbug bites a guest, we assume full responsibility! " 28

The audience, of course, sees through both words and actions as those of seasoned, fast-talking crooks, and laughter inevitably erupts.

Ikharev does not waste a minute to debate the point, but immediately bribes the waiter, hoping to milk him for information about the other guests: "Do they play cards, are there any cardsharps among them, whom have they cleaned out? His talk is highly professional, the sort that characterizes more recent tensely structured conversations in American gangster movies. The characters speak in the tradition of the famous professional crooks of modern Russian literature in such novels as Ostap Bender, The Great Combinator, Ilf, and Petrov's famous Twelve Chairs, not to mention the greatest novel of this kind,Bulgakov'sThe Master and Margareta. Clearly, Gogol created a tradition for Russian literature where it still resonates: characters, situations and idioms have been borrowed unreservedly as masterful vehicles for the description of character.

Ikharev knows how to get the information he needs. He also knows that every bit of information costs money, but he is undeterred. He is no miserly Tartuffe , but a professional, a businesslike specialist who knows how to handle his affairs:

Ikharev: Here is another ten rubles. Play ball with me, and you'll get even more. Now, own up: you have been buying the decks for them, haven't you?

Alexei: No, Sir, they bring their own.

Ikharev: Where do they get them?

Alexei: At the store in town.

Ikharev: You are lying, you thief. 29

The matter-of-fact statement: "You are lying", accompanied by his less than complimentary label "thief", merely reflects Ikharev's understanding that, though he has already forked out a ten-ruble bribe, any further information will cost him further rubles.

Structural symmetry is preserved when Gavrilushka, Ikharev's manservant, is milked for information in the same way by the triumvirate who are already in place, Drugel, Uteshitel'nu, and Svokhnev. The only difference -- or perhaps there is actually no difference except that the audience has not yet been informed -- is that Gavrilushka is serving as a double informant and tells his master immediately about his former confidants -- for the consideration of yet another bribe, of course.

Now Ikharev, ostensibly the innocent traveler, left alone in his room, opens his suitcase and pulls out a box in which his marked cards have been deftly arranged, Oh, those eternal boxes in Gogol's fictions! Still more remarkably, Ikharev looks at the cards and the money which he won at his last stop, some 80,000 rubles -- and which he will soon lose to the Svokhnev gang -- and exclaims happily, "Here, indeed, is an inheritance for my children!" 30

Ironically, from Ikharev to Chichikov, the idea of family happiness, of the bliss of married life and the role of the doting father who looks after his promising children abets these cardsharps and bachelors in their avid pursuit of quick winnings. But as we have seen, the deceiver is deceived again, and only the Devil wins.

Besides the completed plays, Gogol left several fragments unfinished. One of these is "The Order of Vladimir of the Third Class" . Some sections of the play have appeared under a different title:"The Morning of a Busy Man". Begun in 1832, it never got beyond a few scenes, because, as Gogol told Pushkin, he was afraid of the objections of censors. In actual reality, Gogol's fear of such interference was probably quite justified, yet there may have been other reasons for the play's never having been completed. According to Ehre, Gogol found himself unable to coordinate its individual details, and therefore left it unfinished, even though he used many of the situations, dialogues and characters in later plays.

As it stands, "The Morning of a Busy Man"'s five scenes introduce two "busy" men .These are familiar Petersburg types who will ultimately resurface in Khestakov. Of course, they are not really busy, but are the sort of office fops whom Gogol must have encountered during his short stint as a civil service hopeful: empty-headed loafers intent only on getting ahead in the hierarchy through pull, that is, through knowing the right person and saying the right things.

Ivan Petrovich is the first character we meet. He has a "very important" morning occupation: He must tie a piece of paper to the tail of his small pet dog (instead of toiling away in the office, of course.) In this important civil service, he is interrupted by a colleague, Alexandr Ivanovich, who seems just as busy with official matters as his friend. He has dropped by to inform Ivan Petrovich of some tidbits of gossip from last night's card game: who was there and who said what that can be put to use in the service of their mutual advancement within the office hierarchy. Their superior, Lukjan Feodoseevich was also there. During Alexandr Ivanovich's account(which greatly resembles the stories and narrative style of Dobchinskiy and Bobchinskiy in "The Inspector General"), he lets drop a most important bit of information, namely that when Ivan Petrovich (whose family name is Barsukov ) was mentioned, Lukjan said, "Hm!" after which he added, "He is a civil servant and works in my department." 31 This information sets Ivan Petrovich's mind to working: what if his superior had said, "Such and such Barsukov, in recognition of his such and such merits, I recommend."Clearly, he is the prototype of the dreamer, Khlestakov, for whom the imagined world is of larger significance than ordinary reality.

In the fragment's fifth and last scene, we are told that Alexandr Ivanovich has been approached by his friend to start the promotion process by proposing to "His Excellency" that he grant a medal of distinction to Ivan Petrovich. This, of course, will never happen, since Alexandr Ivanovich considers his friend's request as undercutting his own position in the office hierarchy. But he promises his intercession with His Excellency -- which the audience knows he will never urge.

Gogol also manages to bring in some female characters, including Ivan Petrovich's wife Katerina Ivanovna, who talks the same coquettish nonsense as the mayor's wife in" The Inspector General" , but the role is never developed.

Despite its many possibilities, the fragment remains abortive and we do not know which way Gogol wanted it to unfold: Perhaps towards Ivan Petrovich's disappointment when he does not receive the converted order. Some critics guess that he was intended to go mad, imagining himself to be the Order itself (in the manner that Poprishchev imagined himself as the Spanish King). Others suggest that he was planning to lambast the mindless Petersburg office seekers and to set off in some other direction. But, at any rate, gogol's imagination is by now firmly in control of the character types, dialogue, and situations which will make up "The Inspector General". Also garnered here are the mindless non-sequiturs that characterize conversations of the bureaucrats, especially the characters' servility towards others just slightly beneath them in rank and position. We see also the slovenly servants, the dreamer who interprets each scrap of gossip as if his desired goal will be easily within reach, provided he does the right things and talks to the right people. The fragment also underscores Gogol's uncanny feel for the riciculousness of the atmosphere, language, and the characters whom he has set adrift in an entire poshlost ' of his imagined universe.

Another fragment,"Lawsuit"which dates to 1839 or 1840, is merely a sketch of a scene now familiar to readers of Gogol's earlier tales and shows how the endless litigations of the provincial gentry can result only in financial ruin while they make the lawyers of St. Petersburg rich. Here we are introduced to the lawyer Proletov, who is a dead-ringer for Alexandr Ivanovich. (His name may come from the verb proletat' ,to pass rapidly, or to fly by.) At any rate, we find him reading the newspaper in his study and discover all kinds of news of people who have been promoted or given orders for their supposed merits. All this irritates him, since he knows them personally and has a very low opinion of their capabilities. Now an unexpected visitor appears, the brother of one of the people mentioned in the paper. He is Khristofor Petrovich Burdyukov, who has come from his provincial town of Tambov to initiate a lawsuit against his famous brother, Pavel Petrovich, who has supposedly cheated him out of his inheritance. Proletov accepts the assignment with the greatest pleasure, since he stands to make a great deal of money on a lawsuit which promises to be endless. The interest in the sketch lies not so much in this meager plot as in its characters. Burdyukov, for instance, is given to violently undisciplined non-sequiturs which remind us of Nozdrvov from Dead Souls.

Another sketch belongs to the same year (1839): "In the Servants' Quarters ".Its plot is not quite developed, but was apparently intended to focus on a ball given for and by the servants of several Petersburg noblemen, and was probably supposed to offer a mirror image of the great balls given by the nobility. Like their masters, the servants are shown as interested in appearing favorably to their betters rather than in showing off before their peers. In this respect, the monologue of the Steward is characteristic of Gogol's general concerns about the importance of recognizing one's place in life: "That's what it's all about," he says, "Every man should know his duty! If you are a servant, then be a servant; if you are a nobleman, then be a nobleman; and if you are an archpriest, then you are an archpriest! Because if that were not so, then everybody could...I could, for example, say that I'm not a steward, but a governor, or someone from the infantry. But then, everybody would tell me, no, you are lying, you are a steward and not a general." Popryshcin 32 , in "The Diary of a Madman" , would vigorously disagree, protesting against the notion that we are locked into an identity and insisting that he can become anyone he wants to be, even a Spanish King. But as we know, that role did not end very well for him and we have no idea how this play would have dealt with the problem, nor in which direction Gogol would have jumped had he completed it.

In the 1842 edition of Gogol's Collected Works, there was one more unfinished play, simply called "Fragment" 33 .Gogol had reworked it several times, starting apparently in 1837, but never getting beyond these few scenes. The plot is a familiar one, left undeveloped for reasons known only to Gogol, but he must have encountered artistic difficulties and contradictions as he tried to work it through. As it stands, it opens with a conversation between a certain Marya Aleksandrovna, a middle-aged woman, who is scolding her son Misha for not having chosen a suitable profession. He is in the civil service, but his mother wants him to change over to a military career. She also upbraids him for not wanting to marry a young woman she has chosen for him. The situation is vaguely familiar to readers of Gogol's short stories, especially "Ivan Ivanovich Spon'ka and His Aunt".The nagging, bossy, scatterbrained mother grinds away at her not so young son (Misha is almost thirty). Misha, nevertheless, decides that he must speak up if he does not want to marry the woman of his mother's choice. Indeed, he confesses that he is in love with another woman. Now the play begins to move away from the expected line of development with the introduction of another young man, a certain Sobachkin ,an acquaintance of Misha, whose assistance Marya Alexandra wants to enlist in coercing her son into marrying the young woman she has chosen for him. Sobachkin is to compromise Misha's lady-love so that Misha will be more willing to listen to his mother's plans. Now the double-crossing of the double-crosser which we have come to expect in Gogol's plots becomes into play. Though Marya Alexandrovna expects Sobachkin to work on her behalf, it turns out that he intends to exploit her for his own purposes. On the pretext of having accidentally left his purse at home, he demands money of her --just as the waiter in "The Gamblers"was willing to divulge information to Ikharev for, of course, a price.

Here the fragment stops. Even in its unfinished state, it has produced some memorable characters and situations, as well as a wealth of linguistic details like those to be found in "The Inspector General". As usual, the names indicate the drift of Gogol's thinking: the name Sobachkin, for instance derives from the word sobaka ,dog, and will appear in Dead Souls as Sobakievich, while the character himself, a scheming, neer-do-well Petersburg fop is preproduced in Khestakov; while the nagging , empty-headed mother prefigures Anna Andreevna, the mayor' wife in "The Inspector General",even though here she functions only in relation to her daughter. The fragments certainly indicate Gogol's talent in the field of comedy. They also suggest some unwillingness on his part, or perhaps lack of interest in pursuing shaping, and finishing plays which might have earned him the success of "The Inspector General". But in the following decade, Gogol's interest turns to other matters, and the ridicule of human folly which permeates these dramatic words will take a back seat in the development of Gogol's increasingly spiritual concerns.



Footnotes for Chapter Seven

1. In a letter to Pushkin, Oct. 7, 1835, Gogol writes that neithr Mirgorod, nor the Arabeski were selling well, and that he was in a dire need of money.  apparently he thought that plays would be better money makers.  He also talks aobut the MS of a play, The Marriage (Zhenit'ba), which he left with Pushkin for reading. He wanted to know if Pushkin read the MS, and if he could rturn it to him.  V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v zhizni, op. cit. p. 177

2. Arabesqus, op. cit. Ardis. p. 3

3. Arabesques, op. cit. Ardis. p. 3.

4. N. V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1898) p. 119 (My translation L.T.)

5. Professional criminals

6. N.V. Gogol': Pol. Sobr. Soch. (1898) op. cit. p. 121

7. N.V. Gogol': Pol. Sobr. Soch. (1898) op. cit. p. 123

8. N.V. Gogol': Pol. Sobr. Soch. (1898) op. cit. p. 123

9. V.V. Veresaev: Gogol' v Zhizni, op. cit. p. 168

10. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. (1898) op. cit. p. 168

11. (More than 100 years lateer, similar situation was recorded in the history of Russian letters, when Solzhenitsyn's firt novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was cleared for publication because A. Tvardovsky, the editor of the magazine Novy Mir managed to get the MS to Nikita Krushchev's attention, who, for his own political purposs found the novel useful and gave his permission for publication over the tacit disapproval of his less powerful colleagues. See: A.I. Solzhenitsyn: The Calf and the Oaktree.)

12. Ehre, op. cit. p. 12.

13. The khlysty, a religious sect, usually referred to as the "flagellants" for their ceremonial actions. See i.e. Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot in which this religious sect plays an important role.

14. See: D. Merezhkovsky; Gogola dn the Devil in R. Maguire's Gogol from the Twentieth Century. op. cit. p. 56-102.

15. See Vyacheslav Ivanov: Gogol's Inspector Gneral and the Comedy of Aristophanes. in R. Maguire's Gogol from the Twentieth Century, op. cit. p. 200-214.

16. The presence of this element in the national character has been recognized in the 20th Century as basic to the behavior and speech of the blatnye, the criminal udnerworld, which in rejecting existing reality as a sham, as created its own order, language and hierarchy.  Andrey Sinyavsky, a writer in the vein established by Gogol, is perhaps the best expositor of this aspect of the blatnye in his prison memoirs: A Voice form the Choir. (A. Terts: Golos iz khora) As he remarks, the blatnye "sing" instead of talking, or use "fenya", as this language is called, speak of a person who is a liar, a teller of tall tales, as a Pushkin.  Sinyavsky quotes a number of proverbial statements from the idiom, such as "Who is going to pay for this? Answer: Pushkin!: or, "Who is responsible for this? Answer: Pushkin!"  Story telling, according to this concept, is merely a form of lying, adn the practitioners of this concept, is merely a form of lying, and the practitioners of literature are recognized as liars, or, in Sinavsky's terms, "criminal", because any writer or artist necessarily falsifies, or "counterfeits" language by using it, not in its normal meanring, but according to its own counterfeit context.

17. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 196

18. ibid. p. 172

19. ibid. p. 175

20. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 181

21. ibid. p. 175

22. ibid. p. 184

23. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 184

24. ibid.

25. ibid. p. 181

26. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 184

27. ibid.

28. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 185

29. ibid. p. 187

30. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 187

31. ibid. p. 191

32. Ehe ed. op. cit. p. 134

33. Ehre. ed. op. cit. p. 134

34. ibid.

35. N. V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. t. 3. str. 496

36. N. V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. t. 3. str. 514

37. N. V. Gogol': Sobr. Soch. t. 3. str. 514

38. meaning "the little dog."

 


Chapter Eight -- Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends

In 1847, less than ten years after moving from Russia to Italy, Gogol produced a rather strange book which created a spate of controversy among his contemporaries. The controversy has never been settled to anyone's satisfaction, and even today, more than one hundred and fifty years later, the work remains an enigma for most of Gogol's readers. This is the Selected Passages from Correspondence with his Friends. 1 We have already quoted Karl Proffer who has said that next to the Arabesques, the Selected Passages is the other one of Gogol's books which "nobody reads". 2 Indeed, the Selected Passages proved an embarrassment for Gogol's contemporaries, and they remained relatively unknown both in Russia and the outside world. The Russian authorities, dominated for most of the subsequent century and a half by writers and tendencies hostile to the ideas expressed by Gogol in this book, 3 considered it best not to republish it, viewing it as an aberration and a blemish on Gogol's reputation. The book has remained obscure in most of the Western world as well: the first English translation was published in the United States only in 1969 by the American Slavicist Jesse Zeldin. 4 It has remained a bibliophyllic rarity and was not reprinted after the first edition by the Vanderbilt University Press was sold out.

Actually, this treatment does not come as a surprise: it is not a very entertaining work and, in contrast to Gogol's other, little known Arabesques, it does not even have the redeeming feature of including works of fiction. The volume is a collection of essays, most of which purport to be letters -- some of them are, or may, indeed, have been actual letters, even if they were not necessarily sent to the addressees intended. Jesse Zeldin sums up the case succinctly: "Between 1842, when Dead Souls was published, and 1847, when he brought out the Selected Passages, Nikolai Gogol was occupied with two things: the continuation of Dead Souls (a task that plagued him until his death 1851) and the clarification of his religious, moral, and aesthetic views. The latter form the content of the Selected Passages, the last of Gogol's works to be published during his lifetime.5 "The genesis of the work, the history of its publication, and the controversy surrounding it are well known. As they are presented in detail in Zeldin's introduction, there is no need to repeat them here. Still, the volume is worthy of attention for a number of reasons: Critics agree that it is the result of Gogol's spiritual crisis -- as most term it. Besides, it evidences a certain hesitation in Gogol's artistic development, not unlike the situation he faced when the Arabesques appeared. Then, having fully mined the possibilities of the Ukrainian scene, Gogol was looking for a new source of artistic inspiration. The Petersburg stories resulted. Now, on the heels of finishing the first volume of Dead Souls, Gogol seems to have been in need of a pause, in order to gather up his courage before moving on to the second and the hypothetical third volumes. It would seem that Gogol recognized that he must reformulate his ars poetica, and that to this investigation he now devoted the Selected Passages. These can be understood as serving as a hiatus, or even as a trial balloon, testing the validity of some of Gogol's new ideas and their reception by his readers. The test, if that is what it was, proved unsuccessful, as did the projected volumes for Dead Souls. The Selected Passages, together with the remnants of the manuscripts for the second volume of Dead Souls which survived a fiery burial by their creator, have remained an enigma, a source of difficulty to critics charting the continuing evolution of Gogol's oeuvre.

The volume is divided into thirty-two chapters. If we are to consider the first, "Testament ", and the last, "Easter Sunday ", as separate entities, it becomes clear that Gogol is exploiting the structural device of thirty chapters as a reminder that the number stands for holiness, completeness and finality and that he hoped to deliver the sum total of his views on all the problems that interested him at the time. As in the Arabesques, the proper sequence of the chapters is significant to his literary purposes as well.

The first chapter, "Testament ", constitutes a highly personal statement which culminates in the last utterance of a person ready to face his death, while the final chapter, " Easter Sunday ", closes the cycle with a discussion of Christ's Resurrection as the most important of the Christian mysteries.

Between these two poles, Gogol discourses on many topics dear to his heart: social conditions in Russia, Russian literature, Christianity, his defence of the first volume of Dead Souls, the meaning of Russian social and political reforms, painting, justice and the social order in Russia, Russian poetry, and many other concerns.

The" Preface", signed by Gogol in July of 1846, strikes a somber note and reads like the will and testament of a person nearing death, or like a religious document from the Middle Ages, perhaps the last teaching of a holy person -- Monomakh's teaching to his sons comes to mind as a precursor. "I was grievously ill, death was near," Gogol begins. From this simple statement flows an elegiac formulation of his desire to see existence in the light of eternal things ( sub speciae aeternitatis ). He describes his desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and with this journey in mind, he expresses the need to make a final testament: hence this collection of letters and essays.

The body of the text can be divided into nine requests to friends. These requests read something like the famous self-evaluations of famous literary predecessors, for instance, Derzhavin, Pushkin, or, for that matter, Horace in the" Exegi Monumentum" . A well structured statement, it devolves on Gogol's present understanding of his place in Russian literature. Like Leo Tolstoy's similar statements, penned some forty to fifty years later, Gogol rejects his former fiction as "sinful" and "useless", and instructs his friends on how to remember him, both in literature and in life. The recommendations are neither startling nor new as they are couched in the language of standard Christian arguments, especially of a medieval, monastic bent, that see life as a vale of tears and urge repentance and forgiveness of sins as the most important Christian duty. They also view art as a sacred vocation, which should serve as a guiding, utilitarian force in this world.

Among the points Gogol raises in the Introduction, is his request that his selected correspondence be published after his death, because he wants "...to leave something of myself by way of farewell to my compatriots." He is convinced that the resulting book will be useful -- we see here his insistence on the utilitarianism of his efforts -- and, he adds, "I have never before felt such a powerful desire to be useful." 6 He gives still further practical advice, that those who can afford it should buy several copies of his book, and distribute them to those who cannot.

The second request follows the same logic. Gogol asks his reading public's forgiveness for his "ill-considered" and immature works, excusing himself since his intentions were good. If matters have not produced better results, it is because of his "foolishness, my haste and precipitation", which resulted in "imperfect" works, and which "led everyone into error concerning their real significance."

This request for forgiveness is then extended from Russians as a group to his fellow writers, and then to all Christians, and ends with the general request that "everyone in Russia pray for me". In return, he promises to pray for everyone when he reaches Jerusalem.

These first pages offer some obvious inconsistencies. First is gogol's request that his " Selected Letters " be published after his death. But he published them himself while he was still alive! Was the request a mistake, a miscalculation, a role-playing --merely posing? Or was it the result of his feeling that death was imminent that forced Gogol's hand in publishing the Selected Passages ? The question is difficult to answer.It is well known that Gogol complained about his health during most of the time of his stay abroad. It is conceivable that he was seriously thinking that he was indeed soon to die. Many of his friends, on the other hand, testified that Gogol was always a hypochondriac, as well as given to schemes and charades to serve his selfish ends.

But quite apart from these biographical speculations, the Selected Passages raise another question with regard to his search for a new ars poetica. 7 His ideas and style were permeated by an outlook borrowed from the writings of medieval monks and may represent a new phase in Gogol's artistic thinking which he was now trying out on his contemporaries in a voice uncharacteristic for him, both understated and bashful. Just as he always hid his most cherished ideas behind all kinds of verbal facades and subterfuges, and borrowed the voice of German romanticism for his Petersburg tales, after having exhausted the mine of Ukrainian folk-fiction in the Arabesques, was he here experimenting with a new, if still borrowed, voice?

Indeed, the Selected Passages can be understood as a preliminary study, a collection of ideas for contemplated second and third volumes for Dead Souls with which he planned, as he hinted repeatedly, to astonish the world, with their direction and the scope of their design. Just as the first volume was written under the old formulae of satirical lambasting of provincial Russia, now his work needed a redefinition of art's purpose which was to be sketched, in outline at least, in the Selected Passages.

The somber tone of this introduction is certainly different from the comic pages of Gogol's earlier fictions, but still, it is not a complete departure from certain ideas present in such previous works as " The Portrait " and " The Overcoat ". New, however, is the author's severe personal confession, no longer counterbalanced by humor nor by the presence of lighter, fictional characters. In the past, for instance, he had opposed the tragic Piskarev with the foolish Priogov in " The Nevsky Prospect ". The effect here is startling, as the reader has come to expect some new Gogolian trick, some equivalent of the nose, masquerading this time, not as a higher official, but perhaps in the guise of a monk, still hiding in the wings to relieve the tone. But no such foolery emerges in the entire volume.

The Introduction is followed by a "Testament" , which is again divided into seven separate parts: first, Gogol requests that his body not be buried "until such time as clear signs of decomposition have appeared." 8 This strange request is supported by Gogol's supposedly having witnessed premature burials-- not uncommon in those days, he says, because of "our unwise haste in all matters." On the other hand, should his death have been established without doubt, Gogol does not care where his body is to be buried, because "nothing should be associated with my dusty remains." Therefore, no monument is to be raised to him, either, except in the reader's transformation into a better person. Nor should there be weeping for him, since to see his death as a loss would be a sin.

The fourth request is even stranger: Gogol promises to bequeath to his friends a short work of his own which he calls "The Farewell Tale", and which should explain the reasons behind his mysteries: "For a long time I have carried it in my heart as the most precious treasure, as a mark of divine grace of God to me " The most curious aspect of this "Farewell Tale", however, is that there is no trace among Gogol's papers of its ever having been written. Further, he asks his friends to collect and publish the letters he has written since 1844, since these letters might be of benefit to the general reader, and they might also "strike from my soul a part of a heavy responsibility for the uselessness of what I wrote earlier."

The next request seems scurrilous: He gives orders not to free "members of his household" (presumably his serfs). The reason he advances is that "They ought rather put themselves at the disposition of the afflicted, the suffering, and all those who have felt sorrow in life. Let their abode, their country house, have more the air of a hospital and asylum than that of a landowner's property." Gogol suggests that these new asylums could become places of general counsel for travelers: "If it is a question of someone habitually on the road, used to a wretched life and embarrassed at being lodged in a house of the bourgeoisie, then let him be led to the house of the most comfortable and best lodged peasant of the village who, besides, should have the most exemplary morals and could aid him by his good counsel." 9

If this final request sounds like some of the "practical" suggestions advanced in the Arabesques concerning modern architecture or as coming straight out of " The Portrait ", it stems from Gogol's prohibition of the reproduction and distribution of his portrait which "has been stolen from me, and against my will and without my permission, my portrait has been published abroad." 10 Instead, he suggests that another portrait be substituted, and sold for profit, the one painted by a fellow artist in Rome, F. I. Yordanov. He even goes so far as to say that one should buy only the one on which there appears the authentication, "Engraved by Yordanov"; or, even better, that one should buy Yordanov's painting, "The Transfiguration of the Lord" which, according to Gogol, "even in the opinion of foreigners, is the crown of the engraver's art and constitutes Russian glory."

The final sentence of this "Testament" is a somber warning: "My testament must be published immediately after my death in all the newspapers and reviews, so that no one may, in ignorance, be innocently guilty towards me and bring reproaches down upon my soul." 11 Thus "The Testament", like the volume's introduction, is composed of a curious mixture of vintage Gogoliana: gothic horrors are here mixed with manipulative gestures and suggestions, all clothed in the style of medieval pronouncements of high church officials -- which again raises the question as to whether the literary genre, the style itself, was just as important to Gogol as the actual content of these statements. 12 How perverse are these offerings?

Grouping the main body of the individual essays which come together with these two somewhat startling homilies, we can distinguish among five broad categories: the question of the role of women in contemporary society; advice and admonitions; art and literature; Russia; the Church and religious matters. All have already figured in Gogol's thinking, especially as he raised them in the Arabesques.

Despite the outward differences, we find here that Gogol's basic approach has not really changed. There, too, he treated the question of a woman's place as part of the general debate on improving society. Just as in the Arabesques women were seen as potentially representing the romantic ideal of purity and grace, here now, the basic approach remains: women are supposed to act as an inspiration and an example for the betterment of men. Where in the Arabesques they were seen as affecting mankind by their mysterious relationship to beauty, here the emphasis is upon duty. Entitled "Woman in the World", the first essay on the subject occupies an important place in the collection as it follows immediately on the "Testament". It begins with an apostrophe to a woman: "You believe that you cannot have any influence on society. I believe the opposite!" 13 "The influence of a woman can be very great," he insists, "especially now, in the present disorder of society, in which there is a kind of spiritual chill, a kind of moral fatigue, demanding reanimation. In order to produce this reanimation, the cooperation of women is indispensable."

What, then, does Gogol propose that a woman can do in order to reanimate society? (In Gorbachev's Russia the word was to become " perestroyka " "restructuring ")? Among other things, women should not pester their husbands to spend continually greater and greater sums in the effort to keep up with the Joneses -- or Ivanovs; but rather should remember their duty. "Husbands would not allow themselves one tenth of the disturbances [in conjugal relations] if their wives were to achieve even a modicum of their duty." Clearly, Gogol's romantic vision of the feminine ideal has changed little: "For the man the soul of a woman is a preserving talisman, guarding him from moral infections; it is a power holding him to the straight path, a guide leading him back from the crooked to the straight; on the other hand, the soul of a woman can be his evil [genius] and ruin him forever." 14 In other words, the choice is between the witches of the Gothic fairy tales like the prostitute in " The Portrait ", the selfish woman who destroys Andrey in Taras Bul'ba ; and the pannochka, the director's daughter, and others who represent the unattainable ideal. Gogol now wants to domesticate this ideal, to remind her of her "duty", and to reaffirm the eternal formula on which his universe is based, that is to know her place ( svoe mesto ). It now seems impossible to everyone to do good except in someone else's position, and so he blames his present "place" instead. But we should all consider how to do good just as we are. Gogol then offers "practical" suggestions for achieving this spiritual change: she must do charity work -- "Famine," he pronounces, "fire, insupportable spiritual tribulations, and fearful mental sickness, with which our generation is infected"--all these could be attended to by women and alleviated.

Therefore, Gogol urges women: "Fly to the world boldly, with the radiance of your smile. Your only duty is to bring your smile to a sufferer, and the voice in which a man hears his sister flying to him from heaven, and nothing more."

In two subsequent essays on the issue, Gogol writes in a more truly practical vein. In a letter to A. O. Smirnova (Letter XXI, 1848), he briefly outlines his thinking on " What the Wife of a Provincial Governor Is ". The practical "advice" begins by admonitions to an intelligent woman, the wife of a provincial governor, on how to act upon falling into the quicklime of a provincial backwater. He suggests that she establish an independent way of thinking: instead of imitating the local Ivanovs, he urges, "Banish luxury." And, "as long as there is nothing else to do, this is already a good action. Do not miss one meeting or ball; go tho them just to display yourself in the same dress; wear the same dress three, four, five, six times. Boast only of what is cheap and simple. In short, banish this nasty, foul luxury, which is the ulcer of Russia, the source of bribery, of injustice, and of all the abominations among us. If you succeed in doing no more than this, you will already be of more vital benefit than Princess O... And this [conduct] does not even demand sacrifice, does not even take time."Further, he tells her to look at provincial Russia as "a doctor looks at a leper hospital". She should carefully study each administrator's function, and become herself aware of abuses and mismanagement, so that she can then appeal to honesty in others in order to bring about a change. Interestingly, Gogol does not inveigh against abuses, but suggests rather that patience and an appeal to inborn honesty is the best way to proceed: "Believe me, the best way to act at the present time is not boldly and vehemently to arm yourself against the grafters and wicked people, not to persecute them, but rather to try to bring every honest trait to light, to be friendly and to shake the hand of a sincere, honest man in the sight of everyone." 15 On the other hand, Gogol realizes that not everybody will become honest merely because of a personal appeal; and he suggests that stubborn "villains" must be dismissed, but openly, and through the court system. In other words, in a " glasnost' " through the public disclosure of evil deeds.

How is an intelligent woman to wage this fight all alone? She needs the help of the local "intelligent priests". The Russian priests -- even though Gogol recognizes their numerous faults --are still to be used as agents of social change. They are well suited for this role because through their daily concentration on God's laws, they are better equipped to be honest than most men. "Among us worldly men there is pride, ambition, vanity, self-confidence in our own perfection, in consequence of which not one of us seems to listen to the words and exhortations of his brother. A priest, whoever he may be, still more or less feels that he should be the humblest of all and the lowest of all; besides, every day he hears himself called to service. In short, he is closer than all of us to returning to his ways, and returning himself, he can return us all." 16

Gogol suggests that the wife of a provincial governor also has the duty to change the clergy. And in changing them, everything else will be changed: "Remind them that their responsibility is terrible, that the response they give will be greater than that of the people of all other vocations, that now the Synod and the Emperor himself are paying attention to the live of the priests, everyone is being sifted, because not only the powerful State but every single person in the State is beginning to notice that the cause of all this evil is that the priests are fulfilling their functions negligently."Although these statements may not seem particularly practical, or to deal with real people in real situations, he appends on important commentary: He wants her to understand that he is talking not about some kind of future Utopia, but about actual, real work to be done here and now. He distinguishes between these two forms of social activity and warns sternly against Utopian thinking: "Everything is in the hands of merciful God: the present, the past, the future. All misfortunes come only because, looking at the present, we remark as something sad and mournful what in the past was simply foul; if it is not fashioned as we would wish, we give it up as a lost [cause] and stare at the future." Gogol sees this approach as a religious practicality: "That is why God does not give us prescience; that is why all the future is in suspense for us. Some perceive that it will be good, thanks to a few progressive people who in turn have perceived it, rather than believing it to be a matter of the laws of mathematical deduction -- but how to achieve this future no one knows." 17

The insight goes against the secular belief of contemporary progressives in mathematical principles as ordering the future of society, and reveals the clearest difference between Gogol and thinkers like Belinskij, and later Chernyshevskij, both precursors of the Marxist determinists whose ideas have dominated the fierce prejudice against Gogol's work during the past hundred and fifty years.

Gogol's advice is both more practical and more humble: "Bring me at least a knowledge of the present," he cries. He relies on awakening feelings of shame and honesty in the populace which he sees as being capable of achievement by fortifying themselves with prayer and steadfastness.

Another interesting aspect of this letter is that Gogol goes into numerous details of provincial administration at the same time that he admits to his ignorance of these matters. Just as he once asked his mother for details of Ukrainian folklore, he now asks Smirnova to act as a source of information for him, and to jot down all kinds of details about the life of an actual Russian province, since he knows so little about these from first-hand experience. Thus Gogol's design appears to be twofold: on the one hand, it is the view that he aired in "The Inspector General" and in the first volume of Dead Souls, namely, that he knows Russia is a corrupt a slothful place, a "leper hospital", as he termed it; while, on the other hand, he would like to see the ideal Russia emerging as a result of his practical suggestions. Thus the picture of the Russian provinces (and of Russia in general) oscillates between these two extremes: his vision of a grotesque comedy of corruption and his eulogy of the all-powerful and beneficial activity of the "honest" people who include the "honest" top representatives of the State and the Church.

In Letter XXIV, " What a Wife Can Do for Her Husband in Simple Domestic Matters, as Things Are Now in Russia ", he urges the same sort of practical principles for family life as well. The Letter is a fairly sensible family guide which pictures a sort of mirror of the family as he portrayed it in his fiction, especially in Dead Souls. Seeing what Gogol considers to be an important aspect of family life can explain many of the grotesque situations encountered in his fiction which concern family affairs. The letter is kept on a personal level, but is addressed to a married woman, because, as he says, she is more capable of comprehending Gogol's ideas than her husband. This is certainly a departure from his frequent portrayals of female characters as empty-headed puppets. Since he evidently considers women as the more reasonable members of a marriage partnership to whom he is addressing his advice, Gogol may not be such a fiend as many critics would have us believe, though his views may also seem archaic today.

Instead of offering moralizing preachments, Gogol says that it is the wife who should see to it that the family's finances are in order. Again, the advice is practical: "Divide your money into seven almost equal piles,"he tells her;"In the first pile will be the money for your quarters, including heating, water, firewood, and everything but the bare walls of the house and keeping the courtyard clean." And so on down the line what constitutes a proposal for the practice of regular bookkeeping. "The seventh pile," on the other hand, is "for God, that is, money for the Church and for the poor." A modern Money Manager could give no better advice, even down to the charitable deductions. After setting up these categories, Gogol warns that under no circumstances should the amounts allotted be transferred from one category to another nor exceeded in spending -- not even the charitable fund. "Ask God for obstinacy," he suggests. "Keep to this strictly for a whole year. Strengthen yourself and be obstinate, and all this time pray to God to strengthen you. And you will grow constantly. This is important, so that something may be strengthened in a man and become immutable; as a result of this, order cannot help but be established in everything. " Further, he urges the necessity of keeping regular work habits, and of parceling out obligations and regular work schedules. A woman must, therefore, recognize the necessity ( which has now become familiar to Gogol's discerning reader )to establish her "own place"( svoe mesto ).Interestingly, he considers it a wife's responsibility to make certain that her husband go to the office or do his job, instead of hanging around at home and doing nothing. The consequences of idleness are detrimental to family happiness. Indeed, in one of his plays, "The Morning of a Busy Man " , this is exactly the situation that Gogol lambastes. 18

Now he says: "Distribute your time; assume that every hour is indispensable. Do not stay with your husband all morning; send him to his work to the department, every minute reminding him wholly of the common cause and of the property of the Empire (his own property is not his care; it must rely on you and not on him).He married precisely so that in freeing himself from trivial cares, he might give his all to the Fatherland; a wife must give him not a hindrance to his service, but fortify him in his service." 19

After having worked separately in their own different "places", husband and wife,instead of being bored to death with each other, and hence seeking pleasures and luxury detrimental to all, will be happy to see each other at the end of the day, and will tell each other their problems, and their experiences. Thus Gogol's advice about married life anticipates Tolstoy's point that a happy marriage is the natural function of "natural people ".

He concludes that in starting out with management of the family finances and then naturally proceeding to the management of time, it will not only be possible to achieve a happy married life, but also to serve as a model for the rejuvenation of Russia. "Everything among us," he warns, "is now diffused and disunited. Every man has become a scoundrel, a spineless creature; he has turned into a base footstool for everything, and into a slave of his own vapid, trivial circumstances; nowhere now is there freedom in its true sense." 20

This insight lies at the heart of Gogol's satirical portrayal of Russia, though as he is now older and wiser and is living in Rome -- not to mention his increasingly monastic inclinations -- he has lost interest in satirizing. He understands that the time has come for a serious consideration of solving problems. For this reason, he is sure that a radical change in the basic financial and work ethic will lead to a liberation of the country as a whole. "A friend of mine,who knows all Russia, defines freedom as follows: 'Freedom is not in arbitrarily saying Yes to ones's desires, but in knowing how to say No to them.' He is right, as truth itself [is right]. No one in Russia now knows how to speak this stern 'No' to himself. Nowhere is there a real man. Let a feeble woman remind him of this! Everything has now become so wonderful that the wife must command the husband so that he may be her head and her sovereign."

Apart form the romantic--or, in modern parlance, sexist tenor of the statement, Gogol's sentiments stand in direct contradiction to the ideas of contemporary progressives who did not want to go along with such practical ways of solving the country's problems, but rather wanted to replace existing structures with new ones. (See, for example, the "new marriage" proposed by Chernyshevsky in his What's to be Done ? ) 21

Another group of letters and essays falls into the category of General Advice, or admonition. Some eight in number, they could be described as Christian counseling.

Letter III, to Count A. P. Tolstoy, discusses " The Meaning of Sickness ". It serves actually as a continuation of the introductory statement which dealt with the urgency of Gogol's need to do the most important things in the light of his approaching death. One should be grateful for sickness, he says: "Ah! How necessary these ailments are to us! From among the many benefits which I have extracted from then I will cite only one to you: whatever I may be now, at least I am better than I was before; were it not for these ailments, I would have thought I was already as I ought to be." 22 The insight afforded him by sickness, Gogol believes, has made him a better writer: "I see that now everything that issues from my pen will be more meaningful than heretofore." On the other hand, sickness itself is merely a precondition for improvement: one must pray for enlightenment as to the meaning of the condition. "Only pray to God that its [sickness'] wonderful meaning and all the profundity of its sublime import may be revealed to you."

Gogol always considered it important to alleviate the lot of others who, for whatever reasons, were oppressed by poverty, not to mention other disasters. In the essay :"Help the Poor ",written to A. O. Smirnova (1844), Gogol explains his ideas about charity. First, he is against the attractions of fashionable benefices, such as "giving garlands and goblets to foreign singers and actresses when whole provinces of Russia are starving". So where do misfortunes come from? He sees them exclusively as the result of normal human heedlessness. The miseries and horrors produced by hunger are far from us: he says, "They are happening in the interior of the provinces, they are not before our eyes -- that is the solution to and the explanation of everything." 23 He asks, like L.Tolstoy in his "What Then Shall We Do ? ", how to alleviate famine. (The question is still being urged today among humanistic organizations of international scope as to how humanitarian aid should be administered.) Gogol realizes that there is a danger that the results of every centrally organized effort may fall into bureaucratic hands, and not reach those for whom they were intended: "Donations for the benefit of the poor are not now made very willingly among us," he explains; "in part, because we are not at all confident that they will reach their destination as they ought and [that they may] fall into hands into which they ought to fall. It usually happens that the aid, like water carried in the hand, trickles away on the road before it is delivered." 24

Gogol then advocates priorities as to where help must be given: "It is necessary to help him to whom sudden misfortune has come, a misfortune which suddenly, in a moment, robs him of everything." He sets preconditions: aid should be given in "a really Christian way", because if aid means only giving money to the needy, "the distribution of money will mean exactly nothing and will not be converted into good."The sensible way is to teach the unfortunate person "how he should recover with the aid you have given him". But he does not have in mind some kind of training or acquisition of skills. His is a moral concern: "Explain the true meaning of misfortune to him so that he may see that it has been sent to him so that he may change his former way of life, so that henceforth he may not be as he was formerly but will become like another man, materially and morally.He will understand you: Misfortune softens a man." 25

Finally, he suggests that the aid should be administered by some "expert hands", such as those of "sensible priests", not only because "they are not corrupt", but also, because they are able to convince the sufferer that his misfortune is "the heavenly appeal crying to a man to change all his former life." Another letter, to L., (1844) : " Controversies ", deals with issues which were to lead to some of the most heated political debates in Russia between the "Slavophiles" and the "Westernizers". Gogol, who has frequently been accused of having been a Slavophile, shows himself here as remarkably balanced and impartial. He observes that both sides have something to contribute to the debate, even though: "It stands to reason that the truth is more on the side of the Slavists and orientalists",  26 because they see the whole picture rather than the details as Westernizers do. And, as was his wont, he offers a practical comparison to explain his point: the debate about Russia's future can be compared to a tall building, which the Slavophiles see from too far away to distinguish the details, while the Westernizers observe it from too close at hand so that they see only the details and not the general picture.

Though he seems here to favor the Slavophiles, he goes on to critize them as well: "There is more conceit on the side of the Slavicists," 27 he says. "they are boasters; each imagines that he has discovered America and inflates his little seed into a turnip."The resulting shouting match creates only chaos in society, because "affairs, like the subordinated officials themselves, come to grief, for they no longer know whom to heed."

His advice to the recipient of the letter is that the best thing is "not to meddle"; to let the fiery passions be practiced by youthful enthusiasts. It appears that the recipient is an older person, for Gogol tells him he should realize that every age has its own duty and responsibility (its" own place " ! ): "From the lips of an old man there ought to issue words of good will and not a shouting controversy. A spirit of the purest gentleness and meekness ought to imbue the noble speeches of an old man, so that youth will find nothing to say to him in objection, feeling that its words would be unseemly and that gray hairs are already holy." 28 Again, in a letter to "Shch" (1855), entitled " The Christian Goes Forward ", Gogol develops the need for seeing things from a higher perspective than everyday controversy. He argues that since age is a limit for one's natural development, according to nature's laws a man reaches the fullest development of his intellect by the time he is thirty and retains the peak for another decade at best: "From thirty to forty his powers still may go somewhat forward; after forty nothing progresses in him," he says. We remember that Dostoyevsky uses the same argument--this time ironically --in his Notes from Underground, in order to ridicule the "rationalistic", conspicuous "reasonable-egotism" of Chernyshevsky and his folowers. But Gogol, instead of debating this physiological argument, as he calls it, uses it to his own advantage, maintaining that these limitations do not exist for the Christian: "Where for others the limit of perfection has been reached, for him it is only the beginning." He illustrates the argument of age and its effect upon one's intellectual and spiritual development with two examples: Even the best intellectual minds have declined with age, as witness "Kant, who in his last years completely lost his memory and died in second childhood." On the other hand, "Consider the lives of the saints: You will see that they increased in spiritual wisdom and in spiritual power in just the degree that they approached decrepitude and death." 29

He marshalls further arguments; indeed, he says, it is the natural course of events that most people, while they are young,"are dreaming of that distant rainbow", though they give up the ambition with age; while before Christians, "the distance shines eternally.and new deeds are disclosed.That is why the Christian progresses when others retrogress, and why the farther he goes, the more intelligent he becomes."

He then distinguishes between three degrees of spiritual perfection: intelligence, reason, and, finally, wisdom which is the state that only Christians can reach: "If it [wisdom] enters his house, then a celestial life begins for a man, and he comprehends all the marvelous sweetness of being a pupil."

How is one to reach that stage? By prayer and by grace. On the other hand, it is not a situation which can last forever without one's doing something for it:If a man stops striving, he can lose all that he has achieved as well: "If for one instant, he imagines that his study is finished and that he is no longer a pupil, if he is outraged by anybody's lesson or instruction, then wisdom is quickly taken away from him and he remains in the dark, like King Solomon in his last days."

Further advice on the subject is offered in another letter to " Shch " (1846). Entitled " Counsels ", it opens with the Russian translation of the Latin proverb:Docendo docemus, that is, "In instructing others, one instructs oneself. The letter becomes a "Christian" interpretation of this dictum. He explains that while he himself was "in the midst of my unhappy and difficult times", almost by coincidence, he was asked for advice by his friends, and even by complete strangers -- "And I have given them answers which I would not have been able to give formerly". 30 His suffering has turned him to God and, thanks to his understanding that God has sent him the suffering in order to enlighten him, he has been able to enlighten others. "By that very grief which we flee and from which we seek to hide ourselves. God makes us wise." He argues that God's unfathomable will and the wisdom sent by Him to the sufferer oblige him then to go out and teach others about the meaning of suffering. We have already seen the expression of a similar idea in a previous letter, but the thought also bears a resemblance to ideas in Pushkin's poem "The Prophet ". God turns the prophet (that is, the poet) into His own vessel and obliges him to go out and teach men about His infinite wisdom.

Therefore, this particular letter can be taken as the statement of Gogol's new formulation of his ars poetica in his continuing struggle to define his "place" in this world.

The final logic of the argument is that teaching others will inadvertently teach one also about oneself, since one will realize that nobody is better than his fellows: "Act with a two-edged weapon ; under no circumstance take your eyes off yourself. Be an egoist in this connection. Egoism is not a bad characteristic; some people choose to give it a bad interpretation, but the real truth is at the bottom of egoism.First, look at yourself, and then after others; purify you own soul first, and then attempt to make others more pure."Among the various moral admonitions, two more letters should be mentioned. One was written to Count Sergei Uvarov (1786-1855), then Minister of Education, and an influential political figure with whom Gogol had become acquainted when he was looking for a position teaching history, and with whom he remained in correspondence.

The letter (XXIX ) entitled, "Whose is the Loftiest Fate on Earth? " reads almost like letters to the editor in some religious bulletin, debating such abstract topics as the question, whose is the loftiest position on earth ? Gogol's argument is fairly straightforward: in God's eyes we are all equal because we all have to fulfill our duties, whatever they may be. We see here again a new formulation of Gogol's idea of one "own place " , which he sees as the great equalizer in an unequal world. In support of his argument, he quotes Jesus' answer to Peter's question as to the definition of that place: "In my Father's house are many mansions." (John 14:2) 31 Clearly, Gogol interprets this answer as indicating that everyone has his "own place", though not necessarily the same one, as he is human, and fallible, and can but follow in his Master's wake.

In this respect, Gogol makes a revealing remark about himself which sounds almost like a summary of the difficulty he was experiencing in his search for a definition of his role as a writer: "But," he confesses, "as I think about these mansions, as I think about what the mansions of God must be, I cannot refrain from tears, and I know that I can in no wise decide which of them to choose for myself." (Italics ours). He therefore concludes with the standard Christian argument in favor of humility, that it is not up to him to make the decision, and he will be content as long as he knows that he will be "in that assemblage which is already favored to contemplate His glory in all its grandeur, only to lie at their feet and to kiss their holy feet."In another short letter : "Exhortations", in which the addressee is not identified , he (or she) must have complained about the injustices and indignities he (or she) had to suffer in a new place to which he (or she) has moved, somewhere in the Russian provinces. Gogol offers the advice that there is not much to be changed with regard to external circumstances, but, he thinks there is a consolation, namely, that "life is but an assignment from above, and some have the fate to be soldiers of the good cause -- even under difficult circumstances". And again, his friend must remember that "we are not at all called into the world for celebrations and banquets. We are called for battle; we will celebrate the victory there." 32

Thus, Gogol now presents existence in terms of Christian militancy, where life is a battle between the forces of good and evil, and victory is assured, though not necessarily here and now. Gogol's terms in fleshing out this vision are interesting: God he calls " The Heavenly General "; life is but a " battlefield ", and good Christians are but "soldiers" -- The language is the same as in the concept of the Church Militant or even in such contemporary hymns as Harriet Beecher Stowe's " Onward Christian Soldiers! " Or, as Gogol says, "Forward my fair warrior! With God, good comrade! With God, my good friend!" 33 As to the fate of those against whom the "fair comrades" are fighting, the wages are a sojourn in hell. As Mochulsky observed in his book on Gogol's religious views, Gogol's imagination is medieval, as is his vision that "all the host of heavenly powers shudders in terror of the punishment beyond the grave awaiting them [the Evil Ones] from which no one will deliver them". 34

The letters and essays, or general admonitions, as he calls them, make clear that Gogol's permanent mind-set and his age-old preoccupations have been merely reinforced in these apparently new views, especially his insistence on the practical nature of his thinking and his belief that in doing the right, one can do a great deal to change the status quo. They also emphasize his somewhat monkish outlook, which sees the affairs of this world as strictly ordered in a hierarchical system; and his on-going attempt to discover a new place for himself as a man of sound judgment and wisdom in the general scheme of things.

A group of some ten letters dealing with literature and art begins with " On Public Readings of Russian Poets ", and is addressed to "L", probably V. Leshkov who, as J. Zeldin has noted, was Professor of Law at Moscow University and censor for the journal Muscovite.

Gogol's remark has to do with public poetry readings that have taken place in Moscow. He seizes on the occasion to explain his views on the "educational effects" of literature. Much of what he says echoes familiar ideas from his essays on theater, for instance, "Proper reading of a lyrical work is no bagatelle" long study is needed for it. One must sincerely share with the poet those lofty sensations with which the poet's soul is filled " He adds precise technical advice on the manner in which one should read: "One must sincerely share with the poet those lofty sensations with which the poet's soul is filled, one must feel the words in soul and heart -- and only then bring the reading to the public. This reading will not be in the least flashy, feverish, or heated. On the contrary, it can even be very calm but an unknown force will be heard in the voice of the reader, the witness of a really moved internal state. This force will be communicated to everyone, and it will work a miracle: even those whom the sounds of poetry have never shaken will be touched." 35 The ideas will come as no surprise to the reader of his instructions on producing " The Inspector General" .

Gogol tops off his recommendations with the practical stipulation to use these readings to collect money as well as to raise public consciousness for the benefit of the poor: "The idea of turning these public readings into the benefits of the pooris a good one," he says. " It is especially to the point now, when there are so many in Russia suffering from hunger, conflagrations, diseases, and all kinds of misfortunes. Perhaps the souls of the poets who left us will be consoled by such use of their works."

The Selected Passages retain another feature from his youthful essays of criticism of works which he found important or interesting. When the Odyssey appeared in Zhukovsky's translation into Russian, Gogol wrote an enthusiastic review of his friend and mentor's achievement in the form of a letter to a poet friend, N. M. Yazykov. Gogol evidently included this letter in the Selected Passages not only to show his appreciation of Yazykov's work, but also to emphasize the fascination the antique world holds out for all readers. "The publication of the Odyssey ",he announces, "will mark the beginning of a new era. 36 "Though this statement may seem exaggerated, it yet expresses Gogol's basic belief that art, and literature in general, will affect reality far beyond its aesthetic appreciation by a few connoisseurs.In the process, Gogol voices naive, overblown, and often archly conservative sentiments: we recognize the former self-taught professor of history lurking in the background in this insistence that Zhukovsky's translation will not only make Russian readers appreciate Homer but will ensure that they gain a new understanding of the didactic values of a civilization long gone.

Zhukovsky's entire work, Gogol writes, was a preparation for this task, one which he could accomplish only because of his passion for Homer and the artist's true feelings communicate themselves in this translation to his readers: "It was not only necessary to conceive a passionate desire to compel everyone of his compatriots to fall in love with Homer." 37 The words echo Gogol's ars poetica so often expressed (as in " Old World Landowners "), the view that an artist's personal involvement is the most important ingredient of a work of art, since it creates the mysterious building material without which no story would have any effect.

Gogol, the amateur historian, reappears in his vision of history through the filter of the Christian concept of Creation. The result is a dilemma: even though Homer wrote before Christ was born, and since only the Christian ideal achieves the pinnacle of human thought (in the Dantean sense), how, then, are we to evaluate Homer's epic ? Gogol's excuses and prevarications are curious, and his Christian apologia for Homer reminds one of some of Gogol's own characters --for instance,Popryschin in the "Diary of a Madman ": "Among us, the Odyssey produces an influence both generally on all and separately on each.Greek polytheism will not tempt our people. Our people are sensible: without racking its brain, it will comprehend what the intellectuals do not understand. Here it will see the proof of how difficult it is for a man without prophets and without a revelation from on high to know God in his true aspect, and in what absurd aspects His image has been presented by the divisions of His unity and [His] united powers into numerous forms and powers. He will not even laugh at the pagans of that time, knowing that they were in no way at fault: the prophets did not speak to them, Christ was not born then, there were no Apostles." This problem once settled, Gogol concludes that the "sensible man" in Russia will learn something different from the man of Homer's time, namely, "that everywhere, in every vocation, much trouble comes to man and he must struggle against it -- and it is for this that life has been given to man; that, in any case, he should not lose heart, as Ulysses did not lose heart when in all his difficult and grave moments he called out in his heart, without doubting that by this interior call within himself he was creating an interior prayer to God, which in moments of distress every man accomplishes, even he who has no understanding of God."Here Gogol's naive assumption as to the relationship of Christianity and the pagan ideal is essentially medieval, a point of view which, during Gogol's lifetime, only the most orthodox Christians still professed.His conclusion, nevertheless, is sincere as to the place and significance of prayer, notwithstanding its form.

But aside from theological considerations, Gogol praises the Odyssey as a great work of art, a great lyrical achievement in its poetic qualities, in the fidelity of its pictures, and in the vigor of its descriptions. He asks, in what we can see as a summation of his definition of art, "Why is it felt so powerfully? Because it resided in the depths of the old poet's soul. You see how at every step he wished to clothe what he wanted to affirm for all time among men in all the bewitching beauty of poetry, how he tried to strengthen whatever may be commendable in popular customs, to remind men that there is something better and holier in him, which he is always liable to forget, to leave to every person an example of his profession in each of his characters, and to leave all in general an example in his tireless Ulysses of the profession of mankind in general." Usefulness, utility, the improvement of man through poetry: if all these were not enough to convince readers that the Odyssey is a great artistic achievement and its translation an achievement useful to Russia, he presents five more "concrete" arguments. These read rather like the final paragraphs of "The Nose",where the narrator enumerates the "harmful" effects of "unpatriotic "literature. He argues idiosyncratically that this translation of the Odyssey will improve the craft of Russian writers: "It will make all our writers feel anew that old truth, which we should always remember and which we always forget, namely, [one should] never take up the pen until everything is established in our brains with such clarity and order that even a child's power can understand everything and keep it in memory." Second, he claims that the debates around the Odyssey "will rejuvenate criticism." He points out that "Criticism is worn out, it is entangled in the analysis of mysterious literary works of the latest fashion; it is woefully beside the point and, deviating from questions of literature, it rushes into nonsense." Third is his view that the quality of Zhukovsky's translation will "operate meaningfully for the purification of the language."  39 Praising Pushkin and Krylov, Gogol now places Zhukovsky on the same plane as these unassailable authorities of Russian literature,and recommends that writers be more careful with language itself."It is here [in Zhukovsky's translation] that we writers see with what wise attention one must make use of the words and expressions, how each simple word may be restored to its lofty dignity when we know how to put it in its proper place." Here we easily recognize Gogol, the collector of words and expressions in his notebooks. The fourth lesson is dear to his heart: the absolute necessity to be truthful in the presentation of history "by disseminating a living knowledge of the ancient world; you will not read in any history what you will find in it; all the past breathes from it; antique man is there as though living before our eyes, as though you had met him and spoken with him. Everything is before our eyes, with more freshness than in the excavations at Pompeii."The conclusion reconfirms Gogol's belief in the beneficial aspect of finding "one's own place", when he recommends the Odyssey as a poetic and historically truthful presentation of a " harmonious world order " which alone can provide for man's happiness. With this argument he attacks those radical political tendencies in Russia which he feels would argue against the possibility of such an order in the prevailing political conditions of "the present time, when by a mysterious decree of Providence, everywhere is heard an unhealthy murmur of dissatisfaction, the voice of human displeasure with everything that exists in the world: against the order of things, against the time, against oneself when one becomes suspicious of the perfection to which the latest constitution and public education have led us; when one perceives in everyone a kind of uncontrollable thirst to be something other than what he is; it is precisely at this time that the Odyssey strikes with the majesty of the patriarchal, ancient mode of life, with the simplicity of uncomplicated social lines, with the freshness of life, with the clarity of the childhood of man." 40

These opinions made Gogol an anathema to both his progressive contemporaries and their Soviet descendants. But it would be too simple to present only these aspects of Gogol's ideas as the glorification of the existing order of things as Belinski among others have done. In the next paragraph, Gogol turns around and castigates his contemporaries for their deafness to literature and to the voice of God: "We, with our enormous means and instruments for perfecting ourselves, with all our centuries of experience, with our supple imitative nature, with our religion, given to us precisely to make us saints and inhabitants of Heaven--with all our instruments,we have come to such a sloppiness and disorder, both externally and internally." 41 Thus his ultimate conclusion is a reformulation of the basic Slavophile idea that "Many things about the patriarchal era, with which Russian nature has so much affinity, will invisibly spread abroad over the face of the Russian land." 42 It is not difficult to discover in these final lines the enthusiasm and optimism which have persisted from the most youthful works to his glorification of Russia in Dead Souls.

We see the same sentiments in a long article on literature titled " On the Lyricism of Our Poets ", purportedly to V. A. Zhukovsky and dated simply "1846". He sets off on a note of abject abasement: "My thoughts on and understanding of literature are the most absurd of all. Everything that I have written on this subject is singularly obscure and unintelligible." 43 But he immediately adds a disclaimer, for, he says, he knows "in my heart he [a critic of his] is of course, correct, and it is only the delivery that lacks competence. The bases of my article are correct; nevertheless, I explain myself in such a way that all my expressions give rise to contradiction."

He breaks off to praise Russian lyric poetry: "In the lyricism of our poets there is something which is not in the poets of other nations, namely, a kind of biblicism, that highest mode of lyricism which is alien to the flux of passion and is firmly based on the light of reason." Russia and her poetry are therefore exceptions, especially by virtue of their religious nature: "Our poets saw every lofty subject in its legitimate contact with the supreme source of lyricism,God because the Russian soul, owing to its Russian nature, already perceives this of itself, without knowing why."

The second source of this quality is the place Russia has in the interest of the poets: Russia "suddenly clarifies the gaze of the poet." Gogol also asserts that he is not talking about simple patriotism. So-called patriots, he asserts, pay only lip service to Russia, but in reality, "they spit on Russia". Gogol has in mind the idea that Russia is God's own chosen country. His sentiments recall the opinion widely held in the Middle Ages that identified Russia with Israel as the Promised Land. He supports this Slavophilism with what he asserts are historical claims that even among the Hebrews, who gave birth to the prophets, religion did not take root, "nor in France, nor England, nor Germany ". No ! Gogol sees only Russia as having the potential to become "the New Kingdom", the true Promised Land of God's design.

He suggests next that the lyricism of Russian poets is due to their "love for the Tsar" (the emphasis is Gogol's). As an example, he quotes Derzhavin, adding ,"only icy hearts will reproach Derzhavin for his exaggerated praises of Catherine". As further proof, he quotes Pushkin who, he thinks, has praised the Tsar as "merciful" in his efforts to counterbalance the severity of the law.

Gogol attributes yet another curious (and apocryphal) statement to Pushkin who, he claims, said that "A state without an all-powerful monarch is an automaton: It is already much if it achieves what the United States has achieved. And what is the United States? Carrion. A dead body." Gogol makes every effort to prove that Pushkin glorified Nicholas I, spending two pages on an incident when Pushkin allegedly "compared him [Tsar Nicholas] to the ancient seer, Moses". Next,he delivers a long tirade on the nature of the "ideal monarch". It is the monarch who generates only love towards himself, and "he alone can reconcile all classes and turn the nation into a harmonious orchestra." Thus the Tsar is God's earthly image and representative. Such a ruler is possible only among the Russians. He adds that "in Europe it has not occurred to anyone to explain the subtle meaning of the monarch." He prophecies that therefore it is "in Russia that this power will achieve its complete and perfect form". As a final argument in favor of the exceptional nature of Russian poetry, Gogol cites the "pity and compassion" he claims Russians feel for the downtrodden. This is a typical Russian trait, he says. "Only recall the touching spectacle when people in a body meet convicts departing for Siberia and everyone brings something from his home -- one food, one money, one a word of Christian consolation". On the basis of these arguments, Gogol concludes that the vocation of a writer is different in Russia from what it is in Europe, so that "spiritual nobility is already the portion of almost all our writers." It is therefore logical, he adds, that people should speak disapprovingly of writers who do not live up to this reputation: " and he still calls himself a writer! " ( a statement , which might have come out of" The Inspector General" ).

Gogol's attempt to portray Pushkin as a fervent admirer of the Tsar Nicholas I, a despot as hated by radicals as by Puskhin himself, aroused violent objections among many Russian writers and critics (e.g. Belinski). But the question is in need of further investigation. We must clarify how much Gogol invented or distorted the facts in order to prove that a "real" Russian writer must be a religious Russophile and must be in love, this time not with Homer, but with the Tsar.

He expressed similar ideas about the writer and historian, Karamzin, a conservative in Russian letters. And, writing about an eulogy delivered by Pogodin, he underscores his approval of Karamzin's conservative spirit. In this context, one issue which tormented Russian writers from Pushkin to Gogol himself, was paramount, the issue of censorship. Now Gogol defends it, urging that if a writer fulfills his duty -- that is, if he understands " his place ", he has nothing to fear from the censors. "Karamzin", he says, "is the first to have shown that among us a writer can be independent and honored by all equally as the most notable citizen of the empire. He is the first solemnly to have made the point that censorship cannot hinder a writer, and that if a writer has been filled with the purest desire for good...then no censorship is severe for him, and there is ample room for him everywhere." We remember Gogol's reference to Jesus' remark as to his Father's many mansions. But Gogol was living abroad as he penned these words and nostalgia seems to have colored his vision. He even adds that in Russia the truth can be spoken because in Russia all men love truth: "Everyone will listen to you, from the Tsar to the lowest beggar... and they will listen with a love not accorded in other lands to parliamentary champions of the right, a love with which only our marvelous Russia can listen -- a Russia which rumor has it does not love the truth at all". These patriotic delusions confirm the distance he has traveled from the Ukraine, where he was born, a distance as ideological as it was geographical.

However we are to classify these ideas -- as conservative or reactionary, and however glaring are the inconsistencies in Gogol's arguments about the beneficial effects of censorship, we hear in them the consistent strains of an idealism akin to his high-minded prophecies about the Russian Troyka at the end of the first volume of Dead Souls.

The same idealism, couched in practical, down-to-earth-language colors a letter, " On the Theater, on the One-Sided View towards the Theater and on One-Sidedness in General ". The occasion for this letter is a criticism of the theater by Count A.P. Tolstoy, who, in a letter to Gogol, gave vent to his indignation about the way the contemporary theater was being viewed as perverting Christian values. Gogol's defense of the theater in general and his attempt to define the place of theater in a Christian world are interesting, since a cause most dear to his heart is that theater has a necessary place in a Christian world.

Eager to prove his own views on the virtues of the theater he loves, Gogol harks back, in this letter, to early Christianity when, as he puts it, "the Church began to rise up against the theater in the first centuries of the universal establishment of Christianity, when the theaters alone were the sole refuge for the paganism everywhere proscribed as a den of scandalous bacchanalia." 46 But once Christianity was established, it was possible to write Christian plays, as the example of the bishop of Rostov 47 proves; though, of course, Gogol is quick to admit that anything can be perverted.

The theater, indeed, has the very positive function of uniting the audience in newly shared feelings: "A multitude... whose members, taken singly, have nothing in common, can suddenly be shaken by the same shock, sob with the same tears, and laugh with the same general laughter. It is a kind of pulpit, from which much good can be spoken to the world." 48 He defends the classical writers, Shakespeare, Sheridan, Moliere, Goethe, Beaumarchais -- even Lessing and Regnard -- as well as many other lesser writers because their plays have the ultimate result of affecting others in a positive way and will lead to a commonality of Christian views. Not the subject matter, but the spirit counts.Gogol's thinking comes very close here to Leo Tolstoy's, who some fifty years later also argued for religious art -- religious not in its subject matter and external manifestations, but in its creation of a "good feeling [which] will further the brotherhood of man." 49 Now Gogol, himself both playwright and actor, offers practical advice on the way "classical" plays can best be performed. For one thing, he argues convincingly that professional theater must be in the hands of professional actors, not of bureaucrats, especially not those he scathingly labels "secretaries". Bureaucratic meddling leads to nonsense, he announces -- Gogol's prescience can easily be documented during the Soviet reign, as Bulgakov so eloquently makes clear in his Teatralny Roman ( A Novel about Theater )

Gogol goes on to explain how actors should study their roles, advice which can still be appreciated today: He suggests that the best actors should not limit themselves to leading roles, but should undertake secondary parts as well, in order to provide models for lesser actors. He also suggests that the actors learn their parts by heart, not at home, and alone, but together with the whole troupe within which they will form an understanding of the spirit of the play and the thrust of its production. When an actor learns his role in solitude, the very heart of the play may be lost. He concludes, "So, the theater is not to blame for the evils listed by Count Tolstoy. What is wrong, instead, is the "one-sidedness" of the views of critics --by one-sidedness, he means any dogmatic ideological view which excludes other possibilities and misses the richness of nuance.

Now he tackles the issue of how to interpret what is truly Christian and what is not. His ultimate advice is a plea for greater humility. Christianity is like poetry, he adds, it is "secrets; indeed, all poetry is a secret."

He finds he must defend Pushkin from critics who claim that he is not a Christian poet. In Gogol's opinion, Pushkin is a supremely Christian poet, whose Christianity is not manifest in externals but rather in the spirit. This is the same argument he adduced in his claim that Pushkin was not opposed to the Tsar. As always in his arguments, there are ambiguities subject to various interpretations. Pushkin, according to Gogol is a traditionalist Christian, perhaps not a church-goer but one who practices Christianity in the spirit. So it is foolish to propose the most intelligent man of his time as a denier of Christianity. Whatever one may think of this argument, Gogol is consistent: What counts is not the formalities, but the spirit always. For this reason, one must maintain an open mind in order to avoid "one-sidedness". Christianity, he insists, is the opposite of one-sidedness: "The one-sided man cannot be a true Christian: he can only be a fanatic. One-sidedness in thoughts shows only that a man is still on the road to Christianity, but has not attained it, because Christianity confers a many-sided mind."

In concluding, Gogol again defends the theater and distinguishes between bad and good theater. Good theater is the one where "enthusiasm [is] generated when in a stupendous speech a powerful character raises a man's lofty feelings to a new level ... and, upon leaving the theater with new strength, [he] sets about his duty, seeing its execution as a heroic deed." 50 That is, he is more aware of his "true place "within God's design.

Gogol reinforces this formulation of the "good feelings" generated by art, much as Pushkin has in his poem "Monument ", and concludes on a religious note: "My friend, we are summoned into this world, not in order to annihilate and destroy, but like God himself, to direct everything towards the good -- even what man has already corrupted and turned to evil. There is no instrument in the world that should not be destined to the service of God."

Just as this article on the theater has provided some new glimpses into the workings of Gogol's mind, and the interconnection between his theory of art and his religious convictions, another letter, this time dealing with " Subjects for the Lyric Poets of the Present Time ", airs an important concern with regard to the place of the poet in contemporary Russian society. The letter is dated 1844 and addressed to N. N. Yazykov, the poet, who had published a poem called " Earthquake ". This poem triggered Gogol's enthusiastic reception.It deals with a natural disaster, an earthquake, which is then metaphorized and compared to the power of poetry. Gogol praises what he calls the excellent poetical device of exploiting both past and natural phenomena to comment upon contemporary events in Russia. He finds it appropriate that the didactic edge of the poem is the result not of satire, nor of its depiction of reality, but rather of its lyricism: "The present time," he says, "is precisely the field for the lyric poet. By satire you will produce nothing; with a simple picture of reality examined in the eye of a contemporary worldly man, you will awaken no one. Our century is gloriously asleep."

These claims are particularly revealing, as they explain the much debated question as to Gogol's reasons for calling his Dead Souls a " poema ". Indeed, further on he refers to Dead Souls when he admonishes Yazykov to make use of poetry for the betterment of man: "In powerful lyrical form [you must] appeal to the man who is splendid but asleep." The poet's task is thus to awaken this sleeping man and to help his reach "the other shore" -- the mythological undertones of this statement are inescapable. And, he sighs, "Oh, if you could read to him what my Plyushkin will say, if [only] I attain the third volume of Dead Souls!"

This statement is important because it indicates that in 1844, Gogol was already planning a third volume to his book and outlines the general direction the volume was to take. Gogol evidently conceived it as a vehicle for achieving the reformation and salvation of the sinners who appeared in the first volume. We also can see emerging a reaffirmation of his newly conceived ars poetica, namely that in looking to the past, as far back as the Old Testament, the poet must follow the example lived by the ancient poets who were castigating as well as warning their contemporaries of the impending wrath of God: "leaf through the Old Testament; there you will find each of our present events, more clearly than day you will see how the present has sinned against God, and the terrible judgment of God upon it so manifestly offered that the present will shake with trembling. You have instruments and ways: in your verse is a power which reproaches as it elevates. Just now both are necessary."

The thinking is apocalyptic, no doubt born of Gogol's fear of his own impending death. Indeed, we see here various key words in Gogol's insistence of the inevitable approach of a "terrible judgment", as well as his perception of the twinship of poet and prophet. The idea is familiar, from Derzhavin to Pushkin, especially the vision of the near approach of doom "because of our sins". 51 The vision seems to spring almost verbatim from Russian chronicles of old.

These ideas may also serve to explain Gogol's Utopian prophecies of the coming of the "future Russian man", the "future Russia", riding in the famous troyka with which the first volume of Dead Souls closes. He is not the man of the present, a new species -- he is what Dostoyevsky foresees in the generations to emerge from the world conflagration (in Raskolnikov's apocalyptic vision in the prison hospital at the end of Crime and Punishment ). In Gogol's formulation, "In your hymn celebrate the giant who could issue only from the Russian land, who, suddenly awakened from his shameful sleep, becomes something other than he was. In the sight of all, spitting on his abominations and infamous vices, he will become the foremost champion of the good." The writer's duty is to "show how this heroic enterprise is to be accomplished in a truly Russian soul". 52

Thus the lyric poet must act as the prophet of the nation. He has the power to bring about this transformation of Russian society. The challenge is at the root of Gogol's great "poema ", his Dead Souls.

Soon after the publication of the first volume of Dead Souls (in 1842), Gogol received many letters of both praise and criticism; and, during the next three years from 1843-1846, he responded to some in the form of certain "Letters dealing with the Dead Souls ".Altogether, four of these are included in Selected Passages, in each of which Gogol deals with a single aspect of his argument.

In the first (1843), he responds to the critics who chided him for an incorrect description of Russia, attacking him for not being aware of many of the details of Russian government and administration about which he had purported to write. He counters the criticism, admitting that he does not know Russia very well, but that he expected his readers to provide him with the details. (!) He reproaches these readers for having lost a splendid opportunity to write another book, "incomparably more interesting than Dead Souls , had they done their duty as Gogol insists he has done himself.

The second letter (also 1843) explains why there are so many of what were called his "lyrical digressions" in his novel and why he thought that he could "address Russia" herself and ask her questions as if he were some higher being whose role is that of the poet/prophet. These digressions were necessary, he explains, as an "awkward expression of a real feeling " giving voice to his understanding that despite all the country's riches, despite all the reforms instituted since the time of Peter the Great, and despite the beauty of Russia and the Ukraine, the country is still in a terrible state of disrepair. As he observes the affairs of his country, which he sees as the unfolding of fate, he cannot help but develop a certain lyrical nostalgia. But this mood springs not from helplessness, but rather from his passionate hope that all can rapidly be changed if everyone in the country were to become aware of his "own place" , and to do what is expected of him. "Who is to blame?" Gogol asks. The question is very Russian. "We, or the government? But the government all this time has acted ceaselessly, as whole tomes of enactments, statutes and institutions bear witness. It is from on high that the demands resound ... But who has responded on this earthly plane below?" Despairingly, he cries out that the proof lies in the machinations of "all our subtle swindlers and grafters who know how to bypass all decrees, for whom a new decree is only the source of new profit.In short, wherever I turn, I see that expediency is at fault." 53 Most of the government bureaucracy seems to be forgetting that each of its functionaries has been appointed not to enrich himself, but rather, "to serve his country that he ought to have accepted his place for the happiness of others and not for his own." This vision has prompted lyrical digressions, "this reproach which rises from the very heart of Russia to castigate her children for the shamefulness of their ways."

And finally, Gogol calls on his contemporaries to be transformed into heroes ( podvizhniki ) by engaging in this heroic task: "Every rank and place demands heroism," he says. "Each of us has so disgraced the holiness of his rank and position (all positions are holy) that heroic powers are necessary to lift them to their legitimate height." 54 These exhortations reveal two of the most fundamental principles of Dead Souls: A "debased" Russia must be portrayed as it is in order to create a longing in her living Souls to rise above their debased nature. Once their consciousness has been raised, Russians will become real heroes, true saints and martyrs to the will of God. Both of these actions are part of a dialectical process and should create such an enthusiasm and dedication on the part of readers that their feelings can be expressed only in lyrical terms.

The third letter (also 1843) deals with the reproach that Dead Souls is gloomy, that it includes only negative characters, that if offers not even a glimpse of hope, and that the author must have been indulging in a self-portrait in harping on this brooding picture of doom.

Gogol admits that, yes, the heroes are close to him because "they come from my soul." This means, he explains, that unless a writer uses as his material only his innermost ideas, he cannot hope to be convincing to his readers. It is true that the negative heroes are reflections of his own soul, for he has called on themto expurgate them, by "transmitting many of the abominations to my heroes."

On the other hand, they do not stand in for his alter ego: they are the expression of his talent as an artist, enabling readers to see the poshlost' in a very powerful way. Here he refers to Pushkin, who is said to have laughed so much at some of his works that tears rolled from his eyes. He is assured that Pushkin has perceived Gogol's real talent: "He always told me that no other writer has the gift of representing the banality of life so clearly ... that is my principal virtue." Here we see the classic formulation of comedy as provoking "laughter through tears", as the ability to be funny and simultaneously to give vent to profound sadness over the banality (poshlost') of the ways of men. Further, he explains that his negative heroes are not "villains ," yet, "If I had added only one good feature to any of then the reader would have been reconciled with them all."

In explaining the nature of these heroes, Gogol comes closest to portraying them as shadows in hell. The revelation is important, as it explains the first volume of Dead Souls in Dantean terms: Dante's Hell, too, knows only negative characters, and they cannot have any positive features for it is their overindulgences which have resulted in the crimes for which they are punished in the lowest circles of Hell.

Gogol adds that he wanted to test "what a normal Russian would say on being regaled with his own banality. Since the plan of Dead Souls was adopted long before, for the first part I needed worthless people." 55 How the development in the second and further volume will go, Gogol does not wish to reveal, because, he says, "It is my secret." "Do not ask why all the first part had to be banality and why every person in it had to be banal: the other volumes will give you the answer and that is all."

The "Fourth Letter" (written in 1846) finally answers questions as to why the second volume has been destroyed, though all Gogol says is that "the second part of Dead Souls was burned because it was necessary." 56 The tone is far more somber than in the previous letters. Gogol assumes the attitude of a confession: "Seeing my own death before me," he says, "I desired to leave behind me something which would be a better memorial of myself." He also explains that many people expected him to praise Russians and the Russian character in the second volume after all the criticism he had included in the first -- and after the notorious "Troika" passage with which the first had come to a halt. But he refuses to comply, because a praise of Russians without reason would merely have added to mindless nationalism. His point has been to show how to achieve a positive note: "This last circumstance," he explains, "was badly developed in the second volume of Dead Souls, where it should have been the main thing; therefore, it was burned." He implies that the second volume should have been a comparison with Dante's Purgatory and was to have spoken of the soul and of the durable things in life." 57 Evidently, the project did not work to Gogol's satisfaction, and had therefore to be destroyed. He also excuses himself for not having been able to accomplish the task since his health has been bad and there has been barely an hour a day during which he could work on the new volume. But with God's help, if the right time comes," he promises, "in several weeks I will accomplish [the work] on which I have spent five sick years."

In Rome, Gogol shared an apartment with the Russian painter, A. A. Ivanov (1806-58). About Ivanov, he wrote a letter to a certain Count Amiv. Yu. V., which speaks not only about this painter, but which also reveals many of Gogol's own ideas and aesthetic theories in 1846 when the letter was written.

By that time, Ivanov had been at work for ten years on a single picture, "Christ Appears to the People". He obviously had fallen upon hard times, as he had not been able to supplement his income. Gogol wrote the letter in defence of his friend, refuting the accusations that Ivanov has been lazy and unproductive. Rather, Ivanov has done all that a conscientious artist is supposed to do . He has made many careful studies of details of the subjects he was going to depict: "His preparatory studies for the picture alone," Gogol avers, "would fill a whole hall." But beyond the time-consuming aspect of the work, Ivanov was also finding waiting for divine inspiration difficult -- as Gogol could all too well understand, because, as Gogol says, "it was predetermined that in this painting the education of the painter himself was to be accomplished." The subject is close to Gogol's heart: "An artist can depict only what he has felt, and a complete idea of which has been formed in his head; otherwise, the picture will be a dead, academic picture." 58 And, he muses, Ivanov could depict things he has studied, and for which he has found models -- but how to depict what he could not see, and could not find a model for: Christ Himself? Gogol's question is revealing, not merely in terms of Ivanov's concerns, but also with regard to Gogol's own work (especially the second volume of Dead Souls.) In order to portray Christ properly, Gogol maintains, the artist himself must become a profound Christian: "So long as there is not an authentic movement towards Christ in the artist himself, he cannot represent Him on canvas." 59 But how can one judge whether the artist has the proper religious conviction ? By the effect of the work on the audience, and according to whether it matches the idea of the artist as he worked. Clearly, this was Ivanov's despair and ardent hope: "Ivanov prayed to God ... that non-Christians might be softened at the sight of this picture," For the work of an artist is, as he says, "a spiritual matter" (just as it was in the Middle Ages) and to do anything for pecuniary reasons would be as much as asking one's wife to prostitute herself to "save herself and her husband from poverty." 60

Gogol asks why Ivanov himself has not explained these things in writing in order to satisfy the curiosity of his admirers, or even to ask for material help. Again, Gogol is speaking of himself. The artist at work, undergoing a spiritual illumination, finds it difficult to talk about the source of his inspiration before the work is completed. "Do not think," he adds, that "it is easy to explain oneself to others while a spiritual transition is occurring -- when, by the will of God, a process is beginning in the very nature of a man. I know it, because I have experienced it myself." 61 In talking about his own predicament, about what would today be called a writer's block, Gogol recounts a bad dream which "can be compared with the situation of a man who finds himself in a lethargic sleep: He sees himself being buried alive and cannot stir a finger or make a sign to show that he is still alive." 62(Italics mine,LT.)

The article ends with a plea to send money to Ivanov so that he can do what a real artist should do, live like a monk and devote himself to the creation of his art. Gogol repeats his artistic conviction that "if he [the artist], like Ivanov, has renounced all worldly conveniences and conditions, wears a simple jacket, and having driven away from himself all thought not only of pleasures and feasts, but even the thought of one day acquiring a wife and family or some property, leads a truly monkish life, sweating day and night over his work and praying constantly, ... [then] he must be given the means to work." Any fear that he may squander the money Gogol refutes: "God .. will urge him without you; your business is to see that he does not die of hunger." 63 Clearly, Gogol's ideal of the holiness of the artist's vocation has remained unchanged since his youthful pronouncements on the subject. Further, he adds that there are people who ought to remain beggars all their lives, for "beggary is a bliss that the world has still not got to the heart of."

Letter XXXI, a fifty-page essay, dated 1846, is a critical commentary " On the Essence of Russian Poetry and on Its Originality ". Here he investigates the origin and the main trends of Russian poetry. His insights are original and often startling -- not just about the poets he discusses, but also about the personal, creative problems he was undergoing in the mid-1840's.

Gogol begins with the assumption that Russian poetry is distinctly different from any other national poetry: "In spite of superficial marks of imitation, there is much in our poetry that belongs to it alone." The perception provides one of the leitmotifs of the article and underlies his belief in Russian art and in Russia herself -- be it in terms of religion, geography, or matters related to the spirit. Gogol is mainly repeating the standard Slavophilic notion of the exceptional nature, or independence ( samobytnost' ) of Russia, but his remarks also coincide with the contemporary ideal of the exceptional, lonely nature of the Romantic hero extolled especially by German thought.

Gogol now sets himself the problem of defining the three basic sources of Russian poetry: folksong, the rich lexicon of proverbs, and the influence of the Church. To these sources Gogol adds another decisive factor, the social development particular to Russia which has given to her poetry and art their idiosyncratic quality. "Our civil order was born of a shock ... which the reformer Tsar [Peter the Great] produced ,when [he] introduced his youthful people into the circle of European states...The Russian people needed an abrupt change and the European Enlightenment was the flint on which it was necessary to strike [to arouse] all our slumbering mass ... The spark suddenly flashed from the people."

He begins his survey of the history of Russian poetry with the work of Lomonosov in order to explain the Europeanization of Russian culture: "What is Lomonosov" Gogol asks, "if he is examined rigorously? A young enthusiast, attracted by the light of knowledge." He sees Lomonosov's adaptation of foreign patterns to the Russian soul. In his discussion of Lomonosov's ode, "Meditation at Evening on the Divine Majesty", "we perceive more the gaze of the naturalist than of the poet."

Moving on to Derzhavin, Gogol enthusiastically sketches the turbulent times of Catherine II: "Out of negotiations, diplomacies, and out of the philological and teaching academies, there appeared the poet Derzhavin, with that picturesque stately mien to be found in all personages of Catherine's time [though] it still displayed with a certain savage freedom a good number of imperfections in its parts, still not quite trimmed, as happens with works somewhat hastily exhibited."He underlines e specially Derzhavin's grandeur: "Derzhavin, it might be said, is the singer of grandeur. Everything in him is majestic. The grand figure of Catherine, grand Russia gazing round its eight Seas." But Gogol wants the reader to understand also Derzhavin's particular ability to combine incongruous elements into a vital whole, though this lasted only so long as Derzhavin's talent did not leave him. But, he mourns, "Derzhavin's other gigantic virtues which gave him an advantage over all our poets, are suddenly converted into indecorum and ugliness, as soon as inspiration abandons him. Then everything is in disorder: diction, language, style -- everything squeaks like a cart with ungreased wheels, and the poem is like a corpse abandoned by the soul." 65 It is, of course, highly significant that Gogol, who later on himself must have faced a similar crisis, should have clearly recognized the difficulties inherent in the process of artistic creation when one's muse is not at hand.

Following in the footsteps of the two first giants in Russian poetry, Gogol observes that foreign influences took over -- first of France, and later, of German Romanticism. Curiously, Gogol disapproves of both. "At this time, strange things were produced in German literature," he says. "Vague reveries, mysterious legends, marvelous unexplained deeds, obscure indications of the invisible world, the dreams and terrors which had accompanied the childhood of man, [these] had become the subjects of the German poets." 66 He explains the influence of this literature on Russian letters: "Our sensitive poetry paused before this phenomenon with childish curiosity. Its Slavic origins suddenly reminded it that there was something familiar there." This tendency in Russian literature is highlighted by the name of Zhukovsky, of whom Gogol says, "This poet, Zhukovsky, [is] our most remarkable and most original author. By the miraculous will of the Almighty, from the days of his youth his soul was invested with a yearning for things invisible and mysterious which were incomprehensible to him. In his soul, just as in Vadim, the hero of his ballad, there resounded the celestial bell ringing from afar." 67 In evaluating Zhukovsky's creation, Gogol surveys his translations from the German, observing that they are better than the original. But his final judgment is nevertheless uncomplimentary: "A laziness of the spirit prevented him from being a primarily ingenious poet," a laziness," he says, "of invention, not a lack of creativity."

Most of the pages following are devoted to Pushkin. Gogol's analysis is clearly based on his personal admiration for his great Russian colleague, but also on well-founded critical principles. "He is the focal point; he has neither the abstract idealism of the first [Zhukovsky], nor the abundant voluptuous luxuriance of the second [Batyushkov]. Everything is balanced, concise, concentrated." 68 These qualities Gogol attributes not merely to Pushkin's talent as a poet, but also to his Russianness; a Frenchman, German or Englishman he insists, would not be capable of achieving his effects.

Next, he asks, "What was the matter of his [Pushkin's] poetry?" The answer is simple, it startling: "Everything was his subject, but nothing specifically." And, "What did he say that was necessary to his century? ... Pushkin was given to the world to show in himself what a poet is, and nothing more." 69 Again, in a comparison with Goethe, Byron and Schiller, Pushkin maintains the upper hand, because he has not injected is personality into his poetry: "Goethe himself, that Prometheus among poets ... displayed his personality, full of a certain Germanic arrogance and of the pretension of a German theoretician, to adapt himself to all times and all centuries. All our Russian poets -- Derzhavin, Zhukovsky, Batyushkov -- kept their personalities. Only Pushkin did not." 70 Discussing Pushkin's individual works -- Onegin,Boris Godunov, and Poltava -- Gogol reiterates his admiration for Pushkin's ability t remain impartial, and, for his not having allowed his personality, rather than poetry itself, to take over.

Gogol sees in Pushkin's dealing with the poetical inheritance of his great foreign predecessors further proof of this quality: "The Spanish hero, Don Juan ... gave him the idea of concentrating the whole affair into a short, personal dramatic picture, where, with great knowledge of the soul, there is presented the irresistible allure of a debauch, still more vividly the weakness of a woman, and more audibly still, Spain itself. Goethe's Faust suggested to him "the idea of squeezing into two or three pages the principal thought of the German poet -- and you marvel at how accurately it was understood and concentrated into one solid kernel, in spite of all Goethe's vague incoherence." 71

Gogol praises Pushkin's prose, especially his attempt to "respond henceforth to all of Russian life". Gogol holds "The Captain's Daughter" in highest esteem as "decidedly the best Russian work of the narrative kind. In comparison with "The Captain's Daughter", all our novels and tales are like saccharine mush. Purity and lack of artifice rise to such high degree in it that reality itself seems artificial and a caricature next to it." 72 Of particular interest is Gogol's observation about the effect of this prose upon the reader: "It [the novel] is not only the truth itself, but like something better. It must ( Gogol's emphasis ) be so. It was the calling of the poet to take us out of ourselves and then return us to ourselves in purified and better form."

He has little to say of Pushkin's early death: "A sudden death carried him away from us -- and everything in the Empire immediately perceived that it had lost a great man." 73 And, indeed, his conclusion is somewhat surprising: "The influence of Pushkin as a poet on society has been minor ... Society turned away from him. But his influence among poets was strong." Pushkin's followers, the "Pleiad" : Delvig, Kozlov, Baratynsky, and others were greatly influenced, he says: "Pushkin excited all these poets to activity; others he simply made." And he goes on to single out "the extraordinary artistic polish that Pushkin showed in his verses [which] attracted them all." 74 He is particularly enthusiastic about the poetry of Yazykov, mentioning such personal recollections as Pushkin's reaction to Yazykov's poetry as sheer "intoxication". Yet Yazykov also affords a sad example of the downfall of a creative individual, whose crisis of creativity was "a severe illness [that] visited the poet and afflicted his soul." The symptoms were boredom, as well as a boring imitation of German poetry: "His language ... rested on skimpy thoughts and poverty-stricken content, like the armor of a knight on the puny body of a dwarf." 75 Gogol's conclusions could be applied to himself as well: "The light of love dimmed in his soul," he says; "that is why the light of poetry faded. Love what is needful and necessary to your soul with as much strength as you used to love the drunkenness of your youth -- and your thoughts will be raised along with your verse, and the word will resound and spit forth fire: you will show us the banality of our sick lives, but you will show it in such a way that men will shudder because of their lack of strength and thank God for their foe who has given them the power to feel it." 76 Yet Yazikov was not himself to be blamed for his lack of love -- for that is a God-given gift that manifests itself in different poets in different ways. Once given, it "does not miss its proper path". 77 Gogol praises particularly Yazykov's critical biography of Fonvizin (which, interestingly, was available only in manuscript form at the time of Gogol's writing the article, even though this was finished in 1832). We see again Gogol valuing the historical basis of a poet's oeuvre, which he sees as essential to the success of his creative activity. We sense that he hoped that his own historical forays would be judged to be as important as his fiction.

On the other hand, he criticizes Yazykov for "... an absence of an internal harmonious accord among the parts [of his poetry] : Word is not matched with word, line with line, next to a solid, firm line ... As soon as it makes your heart ache with a living cry, it immediately alienates you by a sound foreign to the heart, absolutely out of tune with the subject." 78 The high standards are, of course, those Gogol applied to his own production as well.

Moving on to Krylov, Gogol expresses his appreciation of Krylov's use of proverbs: "All our great men, from Pushkin to Suvorov and Peter, have venerated our proverbs." These, according to Gogol, are much more "significant than those of other nations." 79 Not only does everything about which Krylov writes become Russian ( even the animals, Gogol contends, are Russian)--but beyond these national qualities is the fact that, as he puts it, "The poet observed every event in the state: He has lent his voice to everything, and in this voice is heard a reasonable middle way, a conciliatory court of arbitration which is the strength of the Russian intelligence when it has attained its full perfection." 80 This observation is a corollary to Gogol's own ideas about practicality and the need to go about finding one's "own place" (svoe mesto ) in a reasonable fashion.

Proceeding to "satirical poetry", Gogol maintains that "there is much irony in all of us ... It is difficult to find a Russian in whom the ability really to revere something is not united with the faculty really to ridicule it." Satirical poetry leads him to a consideration of Russian theater, which is of particular value to us in assessing his own plays. "The theater, among us as everywhere, began with imitations; then original traits broke through. In tragedy appeared the moral strength and ignorance of man in the setting of a borrowed epoch and age; in comedy, there is a light mockery of the ridiculous sides of society, without a glance at the soul of man." 81 From among all the "blazing works" of Russian theater, before which "all paled", Gogol singles out two, Fonvisin's "The Young Hopeful" and Gribodoev's "Wit from Woe" , "which Prince Vyazemsky most acutely called two contemporary tragedies." "In them," he adds, "there is no light mockery of the ridiculous sides of society; rather, the comedies chose two different focal points. One displayed the sickness arising from a lack of education, and the other from a badly understood education ... sounds and diseases of our society, the grave abuses within it that ruthless, powerful irony exposes openly and shockingly." 82 Gogol argues of "The Young Hopeful" that "Everything in this comedy seems a monstrous caricature of Russia. However, nothing in it is a caricature: everything has been taken from life as it is and verified by the knowledge of the soul. Such is the irrefutable ideal of coarseness to which only a man of the Russian land and no other people can obtain." In Griboyedov's comedy, on the other hand, Gogol sees "the diseases arising from badly understood education, from the adoption of foolish worldly trifles in place of important things, in short, the Quixotic side of the European formation, and the incoherent mixture of customs which have made Russians neither Russians nor foreigners." 83

At the same time paying tribute to these important features of the two comedies, Gogol criticizes them for poor technical understanding: "Both comedies fulfill the requirements of the stage badly. In this connection, the most insignificant French play is better than they. The substance, which is the intrigue, is neither securely tied up, nor masterfully developed." 84 He also criticizes their declaratory nature, since they miss the most important requirement of the stage, "to live the action before the spectators instead of speaking it." Had they not neglected these qualities, they would be two masterpieces of genius." 85

Last, he examines the effect of art upon society. In this respect, Gogol offers the pessimistic opinion that "since the death of Pushkin our poetry has ceased to progress", because of the high standards that Pushkin set "which cannot be duplicated nor surpassed by the present generation." "It is not fitting even to name them," he says, except for Lermontov who, he adds, went further than the others", though, of course, "he is no longer among us." Alas, "One perceives in him the marks of a first rate talent: a great career might have awaited him ... from his earliest age he began to express the heart-rending indifference to everything that we have perceived in no other of our poets." 86

Otherwise, Gogol criticizes Lermontov for showing no consistency, for "playing with his talent ... very lightly ... everywhere there is excess and verbosity", and he mourns the fact that the greatest poets of Russia -- Pushkin, Griboyedov, Lermontov -- "one after the other, in the sight of everyone, were stolen away by violent death in the course of a single decade, when their maturity was just blossoming in the full development of their powers -- and it surprised no one; [yet] our frivolous breed did not even shudder." The very fact of the death of these poets within so short a span of time causes Gogol to demand, "What is the role and meaning of Russian poetry? ... What has it done for the Russian land? Has it had any influence on the soul of contemporary society, educating and ennobling each person in accordance with his place ( svoe mesto ), elevating the concepts of everyone in general in accordance with the soul of the land and the native strength of the people, which are necessary for the state to advance? ... It has done neither the one nor the other. It was almost unheard and ignored by our society." 87 He blames foreign educating and influence: Our society "was being educated by another education -- under the influence of French, German, English tutors, under the people originally from all countries, of all possible conditions, standards of thought and manners. Our society was educated in ignorance of its country within its own country." This dreadful state of affairs has led to an ignorance and neglect to the language -- "In short, our poetry has neither taught society nor expressed it. A strange thing: we ourselves were all the subject of our poetry, but we did not recognize ourselves in it." 88

As a result, Russian poetry suffers from a lack of credibility -- even though poetry's purpose is to hold up the mirror of the future to its society: "Our lyric poets, possessing the secret of seeing clearly in the seed which is almost imperceptible to the naked eye, the future magnificent fruit, have presented our virtues in a more purified form." On the other hand, satirical poets have succeeded better: "Our satiric writers, bearing in their souls, although un-clearly, the ideal of a better Russian man, saw [in him] more clearly everything ugly and low as he actually is in Russian reality."

From this Gogol deduces both the greater credibility and the more general acceptance of satiric literature. "That is why, in the latter days, mockery is more strongly developed than all our virtues in us." 89 And he comes back to this concept from a different angle: "Everyone among us laughs; there is in our country something that laughs at everyone equally -- at the old and at the modern, preserving reverence only for the ageless and eternal. Thus, our poetry has nowhere fully expressed the Russian man, neither in the ideal in which he ought to be, nor in the real in which he is now. It accumulates only innumerable little hints of our diverse qualities ..." This perception leads Gogol to conclude that the time has still not come for a complete appreciation of one another by all members of society and the practitioners of its literature. He hints at a teleological situation when Russia will be transformed into a perfect Russian state. He proclaims that it is the duty of the writer to prepare man for this future development: "Our poetry did not resonate for our contemporaries, but in order to edify future times, when the ideal of the internal structure of man, in the image in which God commanded it to be made of his own nature at the (moment of) creation of the world, would finally become common to all Russia and equally desired by all, so that we would see that there really is something in us better than ourselves, and we would not forget to find room for it in our configuration. Our own treasures are more and more revealed to us in accordance with how carefully we read our poets." 90 A view oriented to the future of Russia, he maintains, is expressed in the best poets of the past; in Derzhavin for biblical grandeur; in Pushkin for sensitivity; in Vyazemsky for a caustic, aching Russian melancholy -- and so on. "All these characteristics, revealed by our poets, are our natural virtues, most visibly developed in them: poets do not fall from the moon, they issue from their own people." These virtues cannot be merely repeated, however they must be incorporated in a higher stage of Christian development into which the poet must be educated. How this new development can be brought about, Gogol considers to be a riddle, as there is "still no one among us in whom is fully reflected a many-sided poetic plenitude," But when the development comes, poetry will play a positive role; it will be imbued with an angelic passion and, having struck every string there is in the Russian soul, it will move the most hardened with a holiness with which no power and no instrument in man will contend: it will evoke our Russia for us -- our Russian Russia ... the one that has its roots in ourselves, and it will display us in such a way that everyone ... will say with one voice: 'This is our Russia: it is a warm refuge for us, and now we are really at home in it, under our native roof and not in a foreign land."' 91

On this patriotic note ends this lengthy article on Russian poetry which has summarized the most important ideas Gogol then held on the meaning and place of poetry in the national literature of Russia. The poet is the "Volkspoet " of German Romanticism. His task is to express the essence of the people from whom he springs and to be a beacon and pathfinder for that people. The road -- both for the folk and for the poet, will lead to an ultimate Utopia, to the Christian ideal of a rejuvenated man, and a rejuvenated country as well. Not surprisingly, the ideas are identical to their fictional expression in Dead Souls.

A fourth cluster of letters in the Selected Passages extends these thoughts to the subject of the land of Russia herself: Letter XIX, "It Is Necessary to Love Russia ", directed to Count A.P.Tolstoy in 1844, sets the tone for the patriotic letters included in the section. This examines the question in a somewhat circular argument, starting with the premise that "without the love of God no one can be saved". No on can see God, and it is very difficult to love what one cannot see. Happily, Christ's mission has solved the dilemma: "Christ alone brings and proclaims this mystery to us: that it is in love for our brothers that we obtain love for God." Thus, the formula of God -- Christ -- and fellow man -- provides the individual steps of the argument. The argument is familiar, but Gogol offers a new link. In order to fulfill God's commandments," he urges, "go into the world and acquire love for your brothers," that is, your brothers who live in Russia. "Love Russia," he commands. The outlook is promising. "For the Russian at the present time, there is a way; that way is Russia herself." Though Russia is also associated with "outrages, lies and bribes", -- the very fact that people are upset about these things Gogol takes for a sign that they are not indifferent, and that the Russians themselves "want to be free of them and do not know how to do it." 93

Therefore, he offers a final recommendation: "If you really love Russia, you will burst to serve her; you will be not like a governor but like a justice of the peace -- the least post that anyone seeks in her you will accept, preferring a little activity in her to all your present lazy and idle life." The converse of the argument, of course, also holds true: "Not loving Russia, you do not love your brother, you are not burning with love for God, and not burning with love for God, you are not saved." 94 Letter XX , also addressed to Count A. P. Tolstoy, " It Is Necessary to Travel Through Russia ", contains a number of important insights into Gogol's mood at the time. Here Gogol informs his reader that he personally would have liked to become a monk: "There is no higher title than that of a monk, and God honors some of us with a day when we can don the humble black chasuble which is so desired by my soul that the very thought of it is a joy for me." 95 He adds that in order to enter a monastery, one must first distribute one's wealth -- though he, having no wealth to distribute, cannot follow this route. What he does have to distribute is good advice to those who are seeking "their place" outside a monastery. " Your monastery is Russia ! " he cries, suggesting to his correspondent that he can follow the great examples of the monks Oslablya and Peresvet from the Zagorsk monastery, who, in 1380, took up their swords against the Tartar Khan Mamai. Countering the argument that there is nothing to do in Russia, especially in the Russian provinces, he says that it is indispensable to travel through the length and breadth of Russia oneself in order to discover the truth ". Characteristically, he gives practical advice as to how this traveling should come about -- the advice sounds much like an outline of Chichikov's Travels through the Russian Provinces.If one were to travel in Europe, Gogol continues, one would start getting acquainted with a new place by looking at its monuments and buildings. In provincial Russia, where there are none, one must begin by talking to people. "I swear to you that a man is worth being considered with greater curiosity than a factory or a ruin." 96  He goes further, almost literally repeating Chichikov's instructions: "First make the acquaintance of those who constitute the cream of each town and region: there are two or three in every town."He warns the traveller not to satisfy himself with the "progressives" he may encounter, even though he does not mind including them on the list among the names which will include "an efficient and sharp merchant", "a respectable and sober petty bourgeois", a "chinovnik" and, finally, "the general color and spirit of society [which] you will perceive yourself."

Gogol apprises the traveler that in any community people are at odds with each other -- there are lies, and accusations and counter-accusations -- but his admonitions now take a somewhat surprising turn: the traveler should not allow himself to be a passive onlooker of the local mores, but rather assume an active role and become a reconciler of adverse positions. "In the course of the journey, you can do much good if you want to," he says. "You will find more opportunities for Christian action than you would meet in a monastery." 97

So how should a traveller begin his useful activities? Gogol readily advises him: "Most important, in pleasant conversation, pleasing everyone, you will be able, as an outsider ... to be a third, conciliating party ... Our Savior values this person more highly almost than all others. He frankly calls the peacemakers the sons of God. And among us a career is open to peacemakers everywhere." Gogol knows that though things are bad in Russia, what is needed is neither irony, nor acerbic criticism, but rather a spirit of reconciliation: "Everyone quarrels: the nobles among themselves like cats and dogs; the merchants ... the petty bourgeoisie, the peasants, if they are not forced by some compelling force to work together, among themselves like cats and dogs. Even honest and good people are in discord among themselves; it is only among rogues that one sees something like friendship and unison, when one or another of them has the police at his heels. There is a career for the conciliator everywhere." 98 True to form, Gogol tries to keep the advice on a practical plane: "In the nature of man," he reminds his correspondent, "and especially of the Russian, there is a wonderful quality: immediately he notices that someone else is somewhat inclined to him or manifests some leniency towards him, he is ready almost to ask pardon." Courts of arbitration should thus be working well, and as a matter of fact, he concludes that they have always worked well in Russia.

The traveller should meet yet another stratum of the population, namely, the clergy. Gogol says that they have been rejected by the educated aristocracy, so that, convinced that no one will listen to them, they have given up trying to influence society. They have become corrupt, bribe-takers,who justify themselves by proclaiming that they "accept bribes only from the rich," But if before the traveller the "curtain be raised, and he be shown that he is part of those horrors which he indirectly, rather than directly, causes, then he will speak otherwise." 99

The same treatment should be afforded to the unscrupulous rich man, to show him the harm he causes, "to present to him one of those horrible spectacles of famine in Russia which will make his hair stand on end." The same can be applied to the dandies "who do not like to appear anywhere in the same clothes twice", and who themselves, through the vanity of their wives, add to the sufferings of the poor.

No, he concludes, "a man is not insensible, a man may progress, if you only show him things as they are." 100 Ignorance and depravity are the two worst causes of human suffering. Most men will therefore welcome a mediator who leads them away from their false path. So, for example, a landowner, who spends all his money on senseless living and luxury, and causes great distress among his peasants, upon mediation, "will realize that to ravage half the village or half the district in order to furnish work for some cabinetmaker is an idea which could be formed only in the empty head of a nineteenth-Century economist, and not in the sane head of an intelligent man."

"Life must be shown to man," he says. "Life, from the angle of its present problems and not those of the past -- life, looked at not with the superficial gaze of a worldly man but weighed and appraised by an expert who has gazed at it with the lofty gaze of a Christian." And, he exclaims, "great is the ignorance of Russia within Russia. Everyone lives in foreign reviews and newspapers, not in his own land." Therefore, the traveller must use the information he has garnered in his travels through Russia to arouse the country: "Wake up !" Gogol cries, "Your monastery is Russia!" 101 The ideas were as controversial, and perhaps as apt, as they are today -- the contest between the Slavophiles and the Russianizers rages still.

One of these letters, XXII, addressed to a certain B. N. B. in 1846, " The Russian Landowner ", raises questions that appear in fictional form in the figures of "positive" landowners in the second volume of Dead Souls -- Tententnikov and others like him. The letter has earned Gogol a reputation as a heartless and ignorant hater of peasants, and as the supporter of the most reactionary strata of Russian landowners. The contemporary critic, Belinsky, certainly saw the letter in this light when he called Gogol "the preacher of the whip and ignorance". In the past century and a half, this letter has been the source of continuing and heated condemnation.

But a close reading in the light of Gogol's mentality during the 1840-s can recognize this evaluation as false and superficial. Gogol's aim is not to give license to Russian landowners to mistreat their peasant subjects, but rather to remind them of their obligations.In other words, he is trying to define the "ideal landowner"--as he has, for instance, the ideal housewife -- by pointing out his place ( svoe mesto ) in the general scheme. That this desire is Quixotic, not a callous support of "the whip and barbarism", should make it obvious that Belinsky's reading, in the light of the position Gogol has taken in the letters as a whole, is for the most part unmerited. Utopian idealism, which can often be confounded with reactionary sentiments, is at fault if fault there be. The artist, seduced by a vision of the beauty of medieval Christianity, is here voicing opinions that follow logically on his other efforts to identify his own station, his mission in life as an artist serving God.

Russian writers of the 19th Century faced this question repeatedly. One has only to refer to the writings of Leo Tolstoy, 102 of Turgenev and others. Gogol was not alone in trying to crack this tough nut.

He begins with the general assumption that "the former bonds uniting landowners with peasants have disappeared forever." Gogol puts little trust in this assessment and, spicing his advice with the language of the folk he so admires, he suggests that one "spit on such words," and that one maintain an attitude of healthy skepticism. He outlines a detailed plan for changing the relationship -- by simply being "good" to the peasant and doing what is right, "it is possible to attach him so that afterwards you will only wonder how he could [ever] have been detached from you." The only condition is to follow Gogol's advice: "If only you fulfill in detail everything that I now tell you, at the end of the year you will see that I am right." 103 The general principle is to establish a clear line of authority: "Conceive the business of the landowner as that of one who should take the Russian in hand, in the proper, lawful sense." What follows is a virtual stage management of the resulting meeting between landowners and peasants: "First of all, gather the peasants together and explain to them what you are and what they are. That you are a landowner over them not because you wanted to command and be a landowner, but because you are already a landowner, because you were born a landowner, because God will make you answer if you should change this rank for another because everyone must serve God in his place or in another's ... because there is no power which is not from God." 104 In order to deliver a proof of this thesis as to the responsibilities and obligations which come with the recognition of one's own place, Gogol suggests a demonstration, a proof of the position taken by the landowner: "Show them this in the Gospels, so that they may see it -- everyone." He suggests a further theatrical presentation of proof: "Tell them that you are compelling them to work not because you need money for your pleasures -- and as proof then and there before them, destroy some money -- but that you are compelling them to labor because it has been commanded by God that man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, and then read them a lesson in the Holy Writ, so that they may see it." 105

Next, the landowner should point out to the peasants that he, the landowner, is directly responsible to God for the morals of his peasants, and that therefore, the landowner is in duty bound to see to it that nobody is " lazy, a drunkard, or a thief" . The landowner should open the Bible and point with his finger to the very passages where these strictures are written.

This introduction and delineation of duties and responsibilities, Gogol considers essential so that the peasants are not confused about their role, and the landowner is not trying to introduce "some kind of European or other farce". He delineates further steps for enforcing morality and virtuous work habits among the peasantry: the landowner should point out that if they commit trespasses against the rules, they are trespassing against God, and ruining their souls. "Show him [the peasant] that he sins against God and not against you!" To intensify the psychological pressure, Gogol offers a further recommendation which sounds like a standard Soviet enforcement of extorted labor from farmers and prisoners: Make the collective responsible for the behavior of the individual. "Arrange it so that the responsibility may lie on everyone and so that everyone who is around the man may be reproached and be not too much undone." Gogol foresees the emergence of the ideal peasant, who can be pointed to as a shining example, much like a " Stakhanovite" of later times, the "shock worker" of the Soviet system . By the same token, put those who fall behind, or do not fulfill their duties, publicly to shame, calling them all kinds of uproarious names: "You, you unwashed bum! ... Down on your knees and beg that he [the model peasant] may bring you to reason; he who does not call on reason dies like a dog ! " The public recognition of model workers, on the other hand, should reward those who follow in the path of righteousness. "If they are old, having seated them before you, have a little talk with them about how they can edify others ..." 106 If the landowner follows this advice for a single year, Gogol can guarantee great material and organizational success. Clearly, he sees religious vocation and practical success as one and the same.

Once the basic psychological attitude toward the peasants has been established, great improvements can be made on the estate. Gogol does not go into details as to the means to be adopted for achieving the landowner's aims. Rather he offers some general principles, the most basic of which is that the landowner must "be a patriarch, the inceptor of everything, the vanguard of all things,- the head of everything." The words seem almost prophetic of the terminology adopted after the Revolution of three quarters of a century later -- at the same time that they hark back to the days of the Kermesse and other such peasant celebrations of the success of their labors: The landowner should from time to time invite the peasants to his house: "Let there be a feast for the whole village, and on those days let there be a common table for all the peasants in your manor house." The landowner should "dine with them, and go out to work with them". He should also encourage the good workers by "keeping in reserve a supply of synonyms for "brave fellow" ... and, of course, he should keep an appropriate number of words for those who should be reprimanded, though Gogol advises against physical punishment: "Do not beat the peasant: to slap his face betokens no skill " ! 107

Many of these suggestions anticipate Tolstoy's vision, for instance, of Levin's mowing the grass together with his peasants. Gogol suggest, "Take an axe or scythe in your hands; this will be good for you and more useful for your health than all the medical tortures and languorous strolls of Marienbad."

( There are wide differences, nevertheless, in the two writers' views, especially on the need for setting up schools and schooling for the peasants.)

As he suggested in Dead Souls, Gogol does not believe in progress for progress' sake, but only if it has a practical application, and he does not think that setting up schools for the peasants just for the sake of progress is a good idea: "To teach the peasant reading and writing so that he may attain the possibility of reading the vapid booklets which European philanthropists publish for the people is really nonsense," he says. 108 After having done hard work all day -- Gogol suggests -- the peasants will not have the time and energy to read, anyway. As a matter of fact, even the landowner will feel the same way: "You yourself will do the same ( fall asleep after work) when you engage more often in hard work." On the other hand, should there be someone particularly gifted, such a person, especially if he wants to read religious literature, should be educated: "Educate him like your own son and for him alone use everything that you would use for an entire school." As far as other literature is concerned, Gogol is fairly strict: "For the present," he says, people "ought not to know that there are any books other than holy ones." 109

A particular concern for the landowner should be the local priest. Gogol realizes that in most cases the priests are held in low esteem, and that educated, "useful" priests are a great rarity. But again, the landowner must charge himself with the priest's education. "Be his guide; you understand the responsibilities of the rural priests as well. If the priest is foolish, it is almost always the landowner who is at fault." Gogol suggests frequent social contacts with the priests. "Arrange for the priest to dine with you every day," he says. Further, the landowner should read "spiritual books" together with the priest and "take the priest everywhere with you." These measures should have the effect that the priest will become molded into the image of the landowner, and also gain greater recognition and acceptance among the peasants than has been customary.

When it come to the priest's sermons, Gogol wants the landowner to maintain control over them as well. If the priest is unable or not well-enough educated to deliver his own sermons, Gogol suggests that the landowner should have him read the Holy Fathers -- "especially St. John Chrysostom" -- because, as he points out, "Chrysostom worked with the poor who had adopted the popular Christianity which remained in the hearts of rough heathens. He tried to be especially accessible to the understanding of the simple, rough man :"Take up Chrysostom and read him together with your priest."

But when it comes to a public reading, Gogol the playwright and actor steps forward with his strictures on the learning of a text: "But the priest, before pronouncing them [sermons] to the people, must read them through several times together with you, in order to pronounce them not only with animation but in a persuasive voice, as though he were petitioning for his own advantage, on which the welfare of his life depends." 110

Gogol concludes these recommendations with the injunction: "But enough -- work diligently just one year, and then everything will be functioning so well that you will not have to apply your own hand. You will grow rich as Croesus." Besides -- having found his rightful place ( svoe mesto ), the landowner will necessarily "deliver such service to the state in your rank of landowner as no other great official has delivered." 111

We find further practical advice to the landowner in another letter, written in 1845 to a certain M. (probably K.I. Markov, a landowner, and a minor literary critic). This time, Gogol's concern is with " Rural Justice and Punishment ". He envisages a landowner as a "natural authority". Indeed, by virtue of the undeveloped nature of the Russian legal system in most rural areas ,landowners frequently functioned as justices of the peace. Gogol's advice is to take this responsibility seriously: "Do not neglect the investigation of legal problems and justice. Do not delegate this matter to the steward or to anyone in the village; this is the most important part of your activity as landlord." Gogol's advice focuses upon the need to strengthen what he calls the natural bond between landowners and peasants--but beyond this, as usual, he has some practical advice interconnected with his religious preoccupations. The land owner should listen to both sides of an argument and establish justice and guilt as clearly as he can. Further, he should "judge every man with a double judgement, and give every action a double decision " 112 -- one human and according to law; the other divine. At this juncture, Gogol views the landowner as speaking in the capacity of God's representative on earth, a function Russians will understand if they are not spoiled by the "empty" European notion of justice. According to the Russian view of justice, when a quarrel arises, both sides to the quarrel are guilty, and both sides should admit their share of guilt and become reconciled to one another.

This model, he believes, should work better than the present addiction to red tape among government bureaucrats: "If many people in the government began their career not with paper work but with the verbal administration of business among simple people, they would know the spirit of the land better, they would not borrow unseemly innovations for us from foreign lands." 113 As an example of this "Russian Justice", Gogol quotes the example of the commandant's wife from Pushkin's tale, The Captain's Daughter , , who "sent a lieutenant to judge between a garrison soldier and a peasant woman who had fought in the bathhouse over a wooden bucket; she gave his these instructions: "Look into who is innocent and who guilty, and punish them both." 114

A religious outlook dominates all Gogol's ideas. " Letter XXVI,Fears and Dreads in Russia ", is a response to an unnamed Countess who wrote him in secret, requesting a secret answer. He answers with a public statement, seeing her concerns as those of "half of educated Russia ... who are disturbed by the same fears". She had expressed a general feeling of uneasy about growing social tensions in Russia and had asked Gogol's advice as to where she could flee. Gogol does not debate the legitimacy of her fears. He compares Russia's situation with that of Europe, and suggests the Europe is in greater danger of social unrest. Wait, he advises, "Soon a great wave of dissent will rise from below precisely in the apparently well organized state whose external luster so enraptures us that we try to adopt their ways and adapt them to ourselves, dissent that would put in a whirl the heads of those same, famous government personnel whom you so admire in the Chambers and offices." 115

The time of writing is 1846, only a year or two before revolutions rolled through the European continent. The last waves rolled all the way to the borders of the Russian empire to be finally put down, in Hungary in 1849, by Russian military intervention. Gogol's understanding was prophetic, whatever its limitations. 116

His advice to the Countess is religious. She should stay where she is and assume her place ( svoe mesto ) and the natural responsibilities which come with the place and position she occupies in society. "Each of us ought now to serve," he says, "not as he would have served in old Russia, but as he would in the celestial state, the head of which is Christ himself." 117 This important distinction, so often repeated in Gogol's works, creates a confusion, here spelled out as the confusion between the Russia "of old" whose geography is still a reality, and the future Russia, the "celestial" country where God Himself will be king.

What is to happen to those who do not follow this advice? Gogol somewhat inaccurately refers the reader to the Old Testament and the apocalyptic darkness of Egypt before the children of Israel were finally released from bondage: "Remember the darkness of Egypt, produced with so much strength by King Solomon when the Lord, wishing to punish the Egyptians, sent mysterious and incomprehensible fears upon them." Saving oneself and saving one's country are inseparable necessities. One will therefore accept the responsibility of one's position .To do so is neither to confer a favor nor to indulge in a luxury, nor even to express the nobility of soul -- but the only means by which to reach personal salvation.

He goes still another step: He believes that Russia is closer to this salvation than most European countries; in a few years, he believes, Europeans will be coming to Russia for advice on saving themselves from the winds of revolution that are blowing across the continent.

Of course, this salvation which is to emanate from Christian Russia will best be effected by her women -- here Gogol praises the daughters of the Countess, one of whom is already the perfect Christian ideal of womanhood.

In his comparisons of Europe with Russia, Gogol returns each time to a criticism of the former and a glorification of the Russia which is to be -- or that can be. In Letter XXVII, written two years before in 1844 to a "Myopic Friend", he gives advice to an unnamed individual who apparently has been educated in Europe and has made predictions for Russia relying only on European examples. Gogol thinks the comparison ill-judged: "Your thoughts on finances are based upon the reading of foreign books and English newspapers; and that is why your thoughts are dead." The result is "alien mush", because "Russia is not France." 118 His interlocutor's ideas about Russia will come to nothing, Gogol says, because they have no religious context: "You have armed yourself with the sight of contemporary myopia and you think you judge events correctly. Your conclusions are rot; they were drawn without God." Indeed, he is convinced that foreign, non-religious ideas lead only to a lesser desire to serve the country: "No, you are doing no good in your position, although you wish to; your actions will not yield the fruit you expect." Like all "progressives", Gogol's correspondent evidently has been talking about the future of Russia, "for which one must work." Gogol's objection is interesting: "Fear not the future, but the present. God orders us to take care of the present." 119

Finally, he says that he hopes his friend will suffer defeat and disgrace, so that he will wake up from his conceited opinions. "Oh, how we need a public slap in the face, given in the sight of everyone." The strangeness of this desire can come only from Gogol's most fervently held convictions.

Matters of Church and religion figure increasingly in all these letters. Four are devoted exclusively to these matters and to the position of the Russian Orthodox Church. Two short Letters, VIII, a " Few Words on Our Church and Our Clergy ", and IX " On the Same Subject ", to Count A. P. Tolstoy, undated, defend the Russian Orthodox Church from specific attacks by Westerners and Russian Westernizers. The first premise is that the Church and the clergy are indifferent to problems: Gogol's point is that not only the Church is ignorant of society's affairs, but society itself; we are not surprised to hear him ringing changes on his favorite " svoe mesto ". Society does not know the proper place of the Church. "Our clergy is not inactive," he says, "I know very well that in the depths of the monasteries and in the silence of the cells, irrefutable works in defense of our Church are being prepared. But they know their business better than we; they are not in a hurry, and knowing what the subject requires, they accomplish their task in profound calm ... raising their souls to the height of that celestial impassivity in which one must abide in order to have the strength to speak of these things." 120 Gogol's advice on ways to measure the effectiveness of the Church is pragmatic: "Has your Church made you better? Has each of you fulfilled your duty as you ought ? " The Church's function is clearly to remind one of the duties which correspond to an understanding of one's own place. He then extols the Russian Orthodox Church as the best representative of Christianity on earth, "which, like a chaste virgin, has uniquely preserved itself since apostolic times in the immaculate purity of its origins, this Church which is whole, whose profound dogmas and least external ceremonies are as though sent directly from Heaven to the Russian people, which alone has the power to resolve all out tangled perplexities and questions." 121

Gogol's defense of the Church thus represents the extreme of nationalism and clericalism. In the second letter, his defense of the clergy takes up the issue as to whether Orthodox priests should follow the example of some Western European Catholic priests, who seek more direct, every day contact with lay people. According to Gogol, such efforts stem from a misconception of the proper role of the clergy, which is merely to carry on everyday conversations: "Our clergy has two legitimate realms in which they may meet us [Russians] : confessions and preaching." 122 He defends the separation of the clergy from ordinary lay people according to the clothing they wear: "No, it is rather good that our clergy finds itself somewhat apart form us. Their clothes are beautiful and majestic. They are neither a senseless survival of eighteenth Century rococo, nor the shabby clothes of the Roman Catholic priests ... They have a meaning: they are modeled on [patterns] like unto those clothes our Savior Himself wore." 123 This final argument sounds almost like a quotation from one of his fictions, especially "The Terrible Vengeance", where Katherine's husband makes the argument against her father that he cannot be a good Christian if he does not eat galushki and does not drink vodka, since these are good Christian food -- "All the Saints used them." But Gogol probably has in mind the flowing robes of simple priests which may indeed bear some resemblance to mideastern clothing rather than the ornate vestments of the higher clergy.

Finally, he defends the separation of the clergy from daily, lay affairs, since in thus keeping themselves aloof, they are imitating Christ: "A priest must have time for himself," he says. "He should work at his concerns. He ought to take an example from the Savior, who lived for a long time in the desert and only after the preparation of forty days of fasting, came to teach the people. Certain wits today imagine that one must meddle in the world in order to learn about it. This is simply rubbish," 124 The last letter of the collection, XXXII, " Easter Sunday ", summarizes the opinions which have gone before about the interconnection between Russia, Europe, Russian Orthodoxy, and Russia's past and present. He opens the letter with the argument that Easter Sunday is celebrated more fully in Russia than anywhere else in the Christian world, especially Western Europe. This proposition he sees as immediately contradicted by a clear look at present-day Russia -- Gogol is as critical here as anywhere else in his writings of Russia's social problems. Since all is corruptible, and is corrupted by man, even Russian orthodoxy, "the poor Russian sighs over all this [social problems], and he understands that it [the celebration of Easter] is really only a caricature and mockery of celebration, not the celebration itself." 125 He satirizes the reactionary Russian patriot "who exclaims, "Everything is among us -- family life and family virtues; customs among us are observed piously; we fulfill our duty as nowhere else in Europe; we are a people who are a marvel to all." He distances himself from these "reactionary patriots": he wants to go back to the basic meaning of Christianity, which will establish a universal brotherhood of mankind, since "we are all related to Him [Christ] through our perfect Heavenly Father." 126

In investigating the causes for the fact that his universal feeling of brotherhood is not more visibly practiced, Gogol offers two basic failings: "Pride" and "Intellectual Pride". Both aspects lead to a rejection of one's lesser brothers" or those whom one considers to be inferior. This form of Pride is the basic disease of the 19th Century, a new aspect of the Devil's presence on earth. "The prideful intellect of the 19th Century has annihilated it [brotherhood] ", Gogol says. The Devil already struts in the world without a mask." 127 This terrible state of affairs would be hopeless, had not one chosen nation kindled the spark in its soul to preserve and revive true Christianity --clearly Gogol means the Russians, whom he considers to have been elected by God -- as the Children of Israel were in long gone times -- to carry out His will. Thus in a circular way, Gogol returns to a defense of the Russian nature, which harbors within it the seeds of the New Jerusalem. Russian Easter customs are better than other customs, he claims. "The kernel passed down by our ancestors, which is really Russian and has been sanctified by Christ Himself, will not die." 128 "Are we not better than other peoples?" he boasts. The Slavs are a chosen people, and better than others -- but not now and not here -- only in the Utopian future. Small wonder, then, that every Russian really feels that "In our country, earlier than in any other, The advent of the Kingdom of Christ will be celebrated." 129

The Selected Passages, little read as they are, have proved to be not only a mixed bag for their author, but also a mixed blessing. Nevertheless, the reader of his collected works will have profited from studying the outlines of Gogol's ideas at this critical juncture in his life, ideas which will so decisively influence his major work, Dead Souls.



Footnotes for Chapter Eight

1. N. V. Gogol': Bybrannye mesta iz perepiski s druzyami, Poln. Sobr. Soch. 1952. t. 7 in English: Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends by Nikolai Gogol. tr. Jesse Zeldin, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, TN 1969. Quoted here as: Zeldin: op. cit.

2. Zeldin: op. cit.; N. Gogol: Arabesques. tr. A. Tulloch, Intr. Karl Proffer op. cit. p. 4.

3. V. G. Belinskij's famous letter, of course, summarizes the basic objections of the "progressives" to Gogol's ideas. See R. Maguire: Gogol form the Twentieth Century, op. cit. p. 10-11. also: A. Terts: V teni Gogolya. op. cit. p. 79

4. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 4

5. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 4

6. Gogol's contemporaries uniformly testify to Gogol's personality as being a bypochondriac, a play-acitng, and self-serving person.  See. V.V. Veresaev; Gogol' v Zhisni. op. cit.

7. This view is not frequenlty expressed in critical  literature. The opposite is more often true: Gogol's views are taken "literally", as social-political statements, which they of course are, but rarely is he given any benefit of the doubt. See even such an insightful critic of Gogol as A. Sinyavsky, who in his V Teni Gogolya follows basically the old Belinsky line of argument.

8. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 7

9. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 11

10. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 11

11. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 14

12. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 15

13. See also: A. Ters: V Teni Gogolya op. cit. p. 31. Sinyavsky sees these pronouncemetns of Gogol as the last urgent statements of a mortally ill person.

14. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 14

15. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 15

16. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 123

17. Zeldin: op. cit. 128

18. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 130-131

19. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 131

20. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 132

21. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 134-5

22. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 159

23. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 161

24. See the fragment in the previous chapter: Utro Delovogo Cheloveka. (The Morning of a Busy Man)

25. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 161

26. L. N. Tolstoy: Family Happiness, or especially Anna Karenina, where Tolstoy makes the devastating statement about Anna dn Vronskij that as soon as they have eloped abroad together their problems really started because they have realized that "16 hours of the day had to be filled somehow".  Their relationship started to disintegrate, because they had nothing "natural" or "functional" things to do.

27. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 163

28. Zeldin: op. cit. p. 162

29. G. Chernyshevskij: What's to be Done? op. cit. The "new marriage", the "women" question, the "liberation of women" as the first step towards the lieration of society ahve been the favorite topics of the "progressives", and the favorite target of their opponents, as well.  Gogol is preceding Dostoyevsky here, who in his Crime and Punishment satirizes the "women question". Lewbezyatnikov, a "progressive", is uring his wife take a lover, as a sign of her being a liberated woman.

30. L. N. Tolstoy: What, then shall we do?" (Chto zhe nam delat'?) recounting his experiences as a "census taker" in the Moscow slums.

31. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 30-31.

32. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 65

33. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 46

34. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 70

35. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 90

36. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 196

37. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 198

38. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 27

39. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 28-29

40. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 29

41. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 29

42. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 37

43. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 38

44. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 38

45. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 39

46. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 39

47. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 39-40

48. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 40

49. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 41

50. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 41

51. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 48-49

52. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 49

53. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 52

54. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 53

55. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 58

56. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 62

57. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 72

58. St. Dimitry of Rostov (died 1709) wrote plays on Biblical themes. Marc Slonim: Russian Theater form the Empie to the Soviets. World Publishing Company. NY 1961. p. 20

59. Zeldin op. cit. p. 75

60. L. N. Tolstoy: What is Art?  Gogol, of course, is also close to the "socialist realism" in his arguments about the spirit of the work being important and not the subject matter!  See; A. Tertz: On Socialist Realism. 1960. Pantheon Books. NY p. 30 passim

61. M. Bulgakov: Teatralnyj Roman. as discussed in Ellendea Proffer: Bulgakov Life and Work. Ardis, 1984. p. 458 passim.

62. The basic argument in medieval Russian documents reporting on some disaster befalling the Christian Russians -- especially at the hand of "pagan" enemies.

63. Zeldin op. cit. 89

64. Zeldin op. cit. p0. 102

65. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 106

66. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 108

67. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 109

68. The Comedy of Dante Allighieri, The Purgatory. tr. Dorothy Sayers. Penguin Books. 1949.

69. Zeldin op. cit. 149

70. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 150

71. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 152

72. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 154. See also: A. Terts; V teni Gogolya, op. cit. where Sinyavsky discusses Gogol's fears of "being buried alive", an how this fear permeate Gogol's work.

73. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 206

74. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 208

75. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 208

76. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 213

77. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 215

78. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 215

79. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 217

80. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 218

81. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 219

82. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 219-221

83. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 224

84. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 225

85. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 226

86. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 227

87. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 228

88. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 229

89. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 233

90. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 234

91. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 235

92. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 238

93. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 240

94. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 241

95. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 242

96. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 243

97. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 249

98. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 111

99. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 112

100. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 113

101. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 115

102. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 116

103. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 117

104. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 142

105. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 119

106. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 120

107. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 121

108. See especially War and Peace, the chapters about Pierre Bezukhov's attempts to give aay his property, or Levin's discussion about the landowner's responsibility towards his peasants in Anna Karenina, and at other places.

109. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 137

110. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 128

111. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 138

112. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 135

113. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 139

114. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 141

115. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 142

116. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 144

117. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 145

118. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 163

119. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 164

120. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 166

121. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 167

122. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 167 Interesting though to note that Gogol doesn't seem to notice further the European revolutions of 1848.

123. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 168

124. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 171

125. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 172

126. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 46

127. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 42

128. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 251

129. Zeldin: op. cit.  p. 258

 


Chapter Nine -- Dead Souls

The genesis of Gogol's most ambitious project goes back as far as 1835. Dead Souls was to preoccupy Gogol for the next seven years when, in 1842, the first volume was published. His fruitless toiling over

the novel's continuation lasted seventeen years in all, until his death in 1852. The documentation that Gogol was working on the novel comes in a letter to Pushkin dated October 7, 1836, where Gogol informs his mentor that "I have begun to write Dead Souls . The plot has stretched out into a very long novel, and it will, I think, be extremely amusing. But now I've stopped it on the third chapter. I'm hunting for a good slanderer with whom one can become intimate. I want to show all Russia -- at least from one side -- in this novel." 1 This is the first reference to Gogol's engagement with a project longer than usual. Thus far none of his works had stretched beyond the limits of a short story, or, as in Taras Bulb'a , of a novella. Gogol seems to have had a presentiment that the project would take on a life of its own, both in direction and in length.

Just as in the contemporary "The Overcoat " (1835), the genesis of the story was provided by an anecdote which soon, perhaps to his own amazement, grew into something quite different, what he termed a poema with grand pretensions and a grand design. The basic anecdote is simple enough, while the hero is a character familiar to us from Gogol's theater. He is a traveler, a lone bachelor -- like Khlestakov and Ikharev in the plays, and even like Gogol himself, traveling in provincial Russia on his own business. On the road, the hero experiences all kinds of unexpected adventures and meets all sorts of people, whereupon he leaves as unexpectedly as he had appeared.

In comparison with Khlestakov and Ikharev, however, important differences emerge. Khlestakov, who got stuck in a government backwater, was a young fop, dined and wined and almost married to the Mayor's daughter, and who disappeared as if he had never existed, 2 after having fleeced the corrupt officials of the town. All the town's subsequent calamities were the result of their having mistaken his identity, as well as of his having taken advantage of the local officials when they offered him bribes. Ikharev was a still older version of the same hero -- or we might better call him an anti-hero (as was to be the case in Dostoyevsky's fictions as well ). 3 But this hero did not merely stumble into an adventure -- the whole purpose of his journey was to have the adventure, a profitable one if possible, while cleaning out unsuspecting travelers and provincial townspeople, thanks to his skill as a card-sharp. One cannot help but think of Herman Melville's almost contemporary The Confidence Man, whose protagonist plies the unsuspecting up and down the Mississippi River with his quack nostrums.

In Chichikov, Gogol developed, on a somewhat more epic level, a character whose adventures result from the nature of his "business". He had already noted this third transformation of the hero in Chapter XX of Selected Passages, where, in a letter to Count A. P. Tolstoy, he advocated the importance of traveling through Russia. Not the least surprising aspect of his advice to Count Tolstoy is on what to do during such a journey: One should be the opposite of a card-sharp, a swindler; one should be "useful" to the communities one visits and exploit his position in the effort to reconcile social differences. This principle of usefulness, as compared to the self-serving attitudes of Ikharev and Chichikov, provides perhaps the best starting point for an analysis of the hero's development. While Khlestakov, Ikharev and Chichikov himself are self-serving egoists, negative heroes in Gogol's fiction, they are intended rather to act as a positive force, at least in theory, moved by the needs of the community and the desire to serve. Such, of course, is the dialectical thrust of the development projected for the second and third volumes, where Gogol's problems will become insurmountable -- probably because of the conflicting demands of developing a negative hero into a positive one.

At any rate, as Dead Souls opens, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov is traveling on business. While Ikharev's adventures were limited to a single performance in a provincial inn, Chichikov's enterprise is more elaborate, the scope of his activity is more expansive, and the confusion he creates is not limited to a single town, as in "The Inspector General", or to a provincial inn and to the crooks lodged there, but this time to a large area of Russia proper.

And even though Chichikov appears from nowhere and disappears into nowhere, he is by no means just a casual traveler. Like Ikharev before him, he has a purpose, and he is just as secretive about this purpose. He enjoys throwing up all kinds of smoke screens and talking in generalities, he likes to retain his incognito (not unlike Gogol himself, who hid his identity during his frequent travels abroad after 1836). 4 The hero's biography and purpose are revealed only slowly as the novel progresses and the hero's occupation remains a mystery.

The novel's structure is defined by Chichikov's chance meetings with a variegated cast of characters, very much as in Cervantes' Don Quixote or Dante's Divine Comedy . These works, frequently considered as the great and unapproachable prototypes of Gogol's poema, are securely framed within the hero's encounters during his journeys. Indeed, Gogol mentions Don Quixote and Cervantes in the well-known letter about his own novel and refers to the Divine Comedy as well when Chichikov brings in the completed deeds for his purchase of dead souls for registration to the Office of Registry of Serfs. 5 One could almost think of Gogol's plays as preliminary studies, as a laboratory in which he developed the basic situations and characters to be aired in Dead Souls .

Now Chichikov, at the outset, is depicted in his notorious carriage drive into the provincial town of N --, no doubt like Gogol himself, as well as the fictional Ikharev and Khlestakov before him. At any rate, Gogol emphasizes from the first the "mediocrity" of the carriage and of the occupant as well. As he says, ambiguously, "The gentleman lolling back in the chaise was neither too stout nor yet too thin; it could not be claimed that he was old, but he was no stripling, either." 6

Later, Gogol points out that his character was unknown, he was not expected, his arrival went unnoticed in any way by anybody: "His arrival in town created no stir," he says, nor was it "marked by anything out of the ordinary." 7 Only two peasants, lazily lolling around the local inn, offer their little idiotic conversation about the wheels of Chichikov's carriage, speculating whether it could go as far as Casein, or only to Moscow. Again, we are involuntarily reminded of Bulgakov's Twentieth Century Master and Margarita 8 with the entrance of the Devil into Moscow --unnoticed, unknown, unexpected. We cannot help but be influenced by Bulgakov's reading of Gogol's text, and it is not difficult to see why it can so easily be understood in religious terms as a parable of the arrival of the Devil in the Russian provinces. 9 Many critics who have commented on Gogol's religious orientation have seen in Chichikov, in his mediocrity, in his traveling incognito, the appearance of the very Devil himself. He is the low-keyed, chatty smooth Devil--like Dostoyevsky's inThe Brothers Karamazov, 10 a mediocrity, " poshlost " in refined form: the older self of the fierce, devilish forces which peopled Gogol's earlier fiction.

The traveler is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov -- as in many other cases, his name hides some etymological riddles, this time resulting from the Ukrainian interrogative particle,chi = who, in its double form, chi-chi, to which the ending -kov has been added, thus creating the ambiguous combination, "the son of whom". Bulgakov seems to have followed in Gogol's footsteps here as well, in the first chapter of The Master and Margarita , "Never Talk to Strangers"--the entire chapter is devoted to a kind of guessing game by the heroes as to the identity of the "mysterious visitor". 11 In both cases, the nomenclature adds to the riddling nature of the stranger -- whose name cannot be guessed nor spoken. The religious significance becomes clear by extension: If God's name cannot be spoken, neither can the Devil's. We believe also that a similar etymological game is being played with the name of an important character in Volume II: Tentetnikov, that is, ten', or shadow, again with the addition of the suffix -kov, or, son of shadows.As to the first name and patronymic, Pavel Ivanovich, this can be deciphered as being made up of Paul, the first Apostle and teacher of the new religion of Christianity -- in this case, it is the new "religion" of the cult of the Devil -- and Ivanovich, that is, the Russian, son of the Russian Ivan. Thus his name tells us that he is the Prophet and teacher, traveling around Russia to spread the new creed like his New Testament forebear. Though this decipherment is at best hypothetical, judging form the riddling games Gogol played in earlier works, it seemed more than plausible.

Immediately on his arrival, Chichikov does the things expected of him: he checks in at the local inn, has his first dinner, makes his first inquiries about doings in the town -- When was the last epidemic, for instance, he asks the waiter and the town policeman. He takes a walk around town where he pays attention to a poster for the local theater and in no time has managed to introduce himself to the town officials -- and to some of the available landowners. Chichikov is ready for business. Indeed, by the end of the third chapter, he has made the acquaintance of all the town officials, has made his first trip to the countryside and has achieved his first visit with the landowner Manilov, making his first transaction and acquiring Manilov's "dead souls". Though it appears that nothing has really happened, the first three chapters serve not only as a model for what is to come, but also reintroduce familiar motifs from earlier works: comments on the inn, the road, the nature of the servants Seliphan and Petrushka, and so forth.

But before we deal with any of these, let us say a few words about the servants, especially their names. Critics have already made the point that Chichikov and his two servants make up a sort of trinity. 12 Seliphan's name in this regard can be deciphered as Serafim, or guardian angel, while Petrushka is probably a borrowing from Russian or Ukrainian folklore, the popular fool (who was a century later to figure in Stravinsky's ballet of that name). Again, mention of Bulgakov's novel seems unavoidable, since Voland and his retinue have names taken from a wide variety of sobriquets for the Devil in history. 13 Yet another trinity is made up by the horses of the brichka, or troika. 14

Topics familiar from previous works are all here: the Russian countryside, observations about architecture (both with regard to peasant houses and to Manilov's house itself) and about Manilov's family" his wife and his children, about the wife's qualities, her education (piano, French,and crocheting ), 15 about Manilov's business attitudes -- all point to a single picture of mismanagement, of dreamy innocence and a complete ignorance of the real state of affairs in this world. Thus clearly,even though characters are seamlessly drawn and very funny,the totality adds up to a devastating critique of a way of life. We see the Russian Hell as composed of mismanagement, deception, foolishness, provincial stupidity, slovenliness and a complete lack of rational practicality, that is, of understanding what is the concept now familiar to us of" one's own place" ( svoe mesto ).Typical is the scene of the loving couple: though Manilov and his wife are following the romantic ideal of a harmonious family idyll, Gogol presents them as misguided simpletons living in a fool's paradise.

Manilov's name comes from the root of the word manit ', with its connotations of enchantment and enticement. If he is the enchanting, charming fool in Gogol's version of Dante's Divine Comedy, we may regard his house as existing in the first circle of Hell -- he may not be suffering, but he is missing those positive qualities which, as in the case of Tentetnikov, Gogol presents as the qualities of the "new man": drive, enthusiasm, practical control of the environment, and material prosperity.The Manilov children's Greek names, Themistoculus and Alcides, seem also designed to recall Dante's virtuous pagans who inhabit the first circle of Hell. Manilov himself is just a dreamily misguided, careless, miserable manager of his estate, and we note that the issue of estate management is again paramount as a yardstick against which characters are measured -- much as in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. 17 Manilov, clearly, is far from being the model manager of whom Gogol dreams.

When he meets Chichikov, the devilish businessman, Manilov is no match in business acumen and does not grasp Chichikov's design: he is ready to give away his "dead souls" as a sign of friendship with his new acquaintance, but the friendship is of the wrong sort, merely a Dantean corruption; Gogol plans to counter it with an exploration of the meaning of true friendship in the projected second volume.

Chichikov's business dealings, like every other facet of the novel, serve again as a measuring stick for observation. No two business dealings are alike -- Gogol's great artistic achievement is that a recurring topic never becomes predictable or boring. Each time, the transaction is different (just as all Don Quixote's meetings on the road are different). With Manilov, the dealing is easy; with Sobakievich, it is tough going; and with Nozdrev, impossible.

Another familiar motif is the journeys to visit the various land-owners. Indeed, being on the road is so important a feature of the novel that Donald Fanger has called the road its main theme. 2 Oh his way from Manilov to Sobakievich, Chichikov runs into a heavy rainstorm and misses the road. Seliphan is so inept at driving that the carriage turns over and ditches Chichikov in the mud: the events correspond perfectly with the arduous nature of Virgil's travels. The very fact that Chichikov arrives at the next station of his journey in the middle of the night, all muddied and confused, provides another Dantean image of the darkness, the insecurity, the cold uncomfortable circumstance, while his unexpected adventures mirror those of Virgil's progress from one circle to another in Hell.

Expecting to meet Sobakievich, Chichikov instead encounters an unlikely hostess in Korobochka. He has arrived as the Nightly Visitor, accompanied by terrible weather -- as befits the entrance of the Devil in popular theater. Korobochka is a widow; Gogol's portrayal of her estate repeats many aspects of his short story, " Old World Landowners ", except that her life is still more shabby, more isolated, and breathes the stale air of a complete ignorance of the outside world. Korobochka does not know who her neighbor Sobakievich is: she has derived her knowledge of the world from some traveling salesman. Her name, Korobochka, means "little box". Gogol's box fetish has given rise to much speculation as to the name's meaning. Are the connotations sexual, emanating from her frustrated widowhood, or do they merely hint at her need to hoard whatever comes her way? It is difficult to say, though it seems logical to think that following Dante's idea Gogol is portraying in her the way a woman's positive qualities (like those, perhaps of Gogol's own mother) can go stale in the isolation and ignorance in which she lives. In general, this deterioration is one of the novel's guiding principles.Indeed, Gogol comments that the characters in the novel are not bad people, and were some small qualities to be included in their makeup, they might turn out to be perfectly acceptable. Primarily, they lack positive knowledge, the hope that things are meaningful, the vision that there are many ways to reach Paradise.We remember Donald Fanger's observation that the novel seems to be characterized by "a lack of things". Just as the dead souls in Dante's Hell most of all lack the sun, God's symbol, Gogol's characters, too, lack hope and the faith that their isolation can be broken through, that the human community makes sense, that there is a better future. The perception is fundamentally religious and highlights his basic intentions in writing Dead Souls.

The breathless logic of the road -- the meetings with unexpected adventures and colorful characters, produce the third landowner (though still not the expected and announced Sobakievich), perhaps the most colorful of all the cast, Nozdryov. In him Gogol has presented a quintessential Russian type: the reckless daredevil, the absolutely foolish and self-destructive character of whom the proverbs say, "The ocean reaches up to his knees". 18  He is an habitual liar, a violent gambler,the typically Russian bully (samodur ) as we know him from Ostrovsky's plays as well. 19 He is the reincarnation of Gogol's Nose, as a gesunkenes Kulturgut, a cultural heritage corrupted, the very essence of the destructive, unfettered, non-European forces in Russian life and history. Indeed, his name is derived from the word for nose,or rather, nostrils, probably to suggest some beast wildly breathing through inflated nostrils. He is also a gossip-monger, the busybody who, through his arrant noseness, will be Chichikov's downfall. His conflicting attributes are presented in great detail. Many of his mannerisms and sayings were to become proverbial (-- like the history teacher's query in " The Inspector General" about Alexander the Great's being a superior statesman : "But why should one break up chairs for that?" ).Thus, Nozdryov shows Chichikov and his own brother-in-law -- the three complete a troika of their own -- the boundaries of his land: "'Here is the boundary,' Nozdryov announced. 'Everything on this side of it is mine, and on the other side, too. That forest over there and everything beyond it, are all mine'" 20 In reality, everything that Nozdryov possessed, showed, said, or touched, indicated that something was missing: everything was broken, unusable, or useless to begin with. Formerly, he was married, but "marriage had not changed him in the least, especially as his wife had soon passed into the other world, leaving him with two children for whom he had no use at all. He kept, however, a good-looking nanny to take care of his children" 21 -- like Ivan Ivanovich Gapka in " The Two Ivans ". It goes without saying that Nozdryov's economy is a shambles, and that Chichikov is not getting anywhere in their business dealings. As a matter of fact, he escapes from a violent Nozdryov only through the appearance of a deus ex machina in the form of the police captain who comes to arrest Nozdryov for earlier misdeeds.

Rid thus providentially of Nozdryov, Chichikov finally makes his way to the home of the landowner he has been wanting to see ever since he left Manilov. This is Mikhail Semyonovich Sobakievich, a colorful character vastly different from the others. Where they are all bad managers of their estates, Sobakievich runs his efficiently, with an iron fist. His name has an obvious etymology, coming from the word sobaka, dog, together with the suffix -ievich, which seems to evoke a Polish, as opposed to a Russian (-evich ) context. The name itself first evokes the euphemism for the Russian expletive, sukin syn, s.o.b, while the Polish ending evokes Gogol's xenophobia, of which more will be said later (during our examination of his comparing Russian food to the "inferior quality" of French or German cuisine. Later, the author himself comments on the superiority of the Russian language over other European languages ).

Sobakievich, the "son of a bitch", is a rich man, whom Gogol describes with the word " kulak " a word which has acquired notorious overtones in the Soviet world. Gogol uses it in a similar way to denote a rich, cruel, tight-fisted, greedy, uneducated, uncultured peasant, who will look out exclusively for his own interests under all circumstances. Sobakievich is the only landowner to cheat Chichikov in return --by selling him the dead soul of a woman, Elizaveta Vorobyev, thanks to the simple device of changing the ending of her family name, dropping the final -a from the word, and making it appear to have a masculine ending. 22 Of course, Sobakievich's entire house, his furniture, his wife and children, the food he serves, all exude the same ill-natured air and bear the stamp of his character.

Gogol reveals something of the nature of the force that drives Chichikov and explains at last why he is traveling in search of dead souls to buy, though his motives are only slowly developed so that the reader is kept guessing for a long time. On several occasions, Chichikov mentions his desire to get married and start a family, to have children and heirs. And it seems that in buying those dead souls he was aiming at some advantage to enrich himself and his hypothetical children financially. 23 The plan is a scam which results from the fact that, before 1861, in the age of pre-reform Russia, the wealth of a landowner was in direct relationship to the number of his serfs. Taxation was based on the head-count of these 'souls', as serfs were officially called. As the tax base was established by periodic census, a landowners's taxes remained constant between two census takings, even if some of his serfs had died in the meantime. Chichikov's idea is to buy the "dead souls", thus freeing the landowners of their unfair tax burden and enriching himself in the bargain. Registering the dead souls he has purchased as alive, he turns himself instantly into a rich man, on paper at least, where-upon he mortgages the serfs to the State Bank. At the next census, the souls can be written off as dead, that is, as a business loss, and their owner can be compensated for his loss. The scam is thus composed of an elaborate web of deceptions, even though is based on a very simple idea, like the card game in "The Gamblers" where Icharev, the traveling con-man, is taken to the cleaners by the local confidence men. The difference is that now the get-rich-quick operation is expanded beyond a single case and provides the fabula for the picaresque novel as a whole.

Marriage also serves as a continuing leitmotif: We are by now familiar with Gogol's views on marriage, a concept that underwent tremendous change from his seeing it as the saving force for young people in love to its becoming the nightmare of lone bachelors ( Spon'ka ) facing the immediate danger of becoming entangled.In Dead Souls, Gogol elaborates his observations on the matrimonial state. We see the various landowners and their various attitudes towards marriage and family life, none of which is particularly complimentary. Chichikov himself is described as a middle-aged bachelor. In Chapter Five, where Sobakievich is introduced, he has a fleeting encounter on the road with the Governor's daughter. She is the epitome of the ephemeral female character, the elusive ideal akin to the Pannochka in Taras Bulb'a . This character provides a new note, however. Chichikov, after the first moment of infatuation, immediately reminds himself that even such heavenly persons turn into grown-up women: "But our hero was already middle-aged and of a cautious and tempered character. He also grew thoughtful and reflected, but his pondering was more positive, less irresponsible, and to some extent even well-founded ... 'A goodly wench,' he said, opening his snuff box and taking a pinch of snuff." He concludes that she will become like all other women: "What makes all women so repulsive? " (italics ours) he asks the world at large.

His visit and the business deal with Sobakievich completed, Chichikov meets one more landowner before the story switches again from the country to the town. This is Plyushkin, the sad miser. The story of his unhappy life is told in a flash-back: After the death of his wife, Plyushkin turned into a miser who, wanting to "save" his family, became ultimately responsible for its destruction. His son, who, like a new version of Shvokhnev's son in the play,"The Gamblers", joined the military and was soon pestering his father for increasing sums of money to keep up his expensive life-style, while his daughter and her two little children were chased away by Plyushkin himself, who is doomed to a sad and miserably lonely old age spent amid the rubbish and decay of his estate. Plyushkin's character is one of the great evocations of the miser in world literature, on a par with Moliere's Tartuffe or Shakespeare's Shylock.

Chichikov's business dealings with the landowners vary according to their characters: Manilov, carelessly dreamy; Korobochka, a worrying fuss-budget: Nozdryov, a violent bully; Sobakievich, who gets the better of Chichikov; and Plyushkin, the miser who insists on bargaining for kopecks, finally getting 24 rubles and 96 kopecks for the souls instead of the 25 rubles originally promised. These transactions are similar to those in "The Inspector General", where the different officials bribe Khlestakov in different ways which he accepts in equally different ways.

Gogol introduces the five landowners [in the novel's first seven chapters (out of 11)]. The scene then moves away from the countryside back to the town, where Chichikov began his excursion and where he now plans to register the "deeds" to his purchases. The description of the office of the "chinovniki " working there, the bribes they are intent on acquiring, the atmosphere of sloth and mindless discipline -- all are reminiscent of the situations and characters in "The Overcoat" and "The Inspector General."

Gogol's mood thereafter turns increasingly melancholic and lyrical, as he reminisces on the transitory nature of life, the passing of youth, the sad fate of the bachelor returning from a journey to an empty house, reflections on the nature of art, especially the art of Dead Souls.25 In The Selected Passages, Gogol had considered paramount the need for a positive, as opposed to destructive, sarcastic criticism. Negative criticism, he thought, was inferior to the lyrical, open-minded approach: 26 the novel's sub-title of poema seems to serve this purpose exactly. The comments, especially as to the nature of art, seem to reinforce this judgment: Gogol's purpose is not to ridicule Russia nor the social conditions within her borders, but rather to show up, as Dante did, the consequences of Sin. 27 What are these sins? Manilov's amiable carelessness, the fussy Korobochka's stale goodness, Nozdryov's violent, unpredictable bullying, Sobakievich's stingy godfather-like behavior, called in Russian the :samodurstvo and, finally, Plyushkin's sad miserliness. These are all sins according to Dante's definition: good qualities ill-defined and misapplied. Indeed, Dante and Virgil are cited in this chapter when Chichikov is guided through the office by one of the chinovniks, "just as Virgil had once offered his services to Dante." 28 From time to time, Gogol seems to be feeling the need to guide his reader to that end as well, and to hint at the "real" development, which is still ahead, of the theme of the "gradual regeneration of man" as Dostoyevsky was to express it at the end of Crime and Punishment: "For a long time to come," Gogol says, "I am destined by the magic powers to wander together with my strange heroes and to observe the whole vast movement of life -- to observe it through laughter which can be shared by all and through tears which are unknown and unseen. And far off still is that time when the dread whirlwind of inspiration will spout in another stream out of a head swathed in holy terror and in flashes, when in confusion and trembling men will hear the majestic thunder of other declamations." 29 The remaining four chapters are devoted to two scenarios: the first which finds Chichikov in town and the last, in which he leaves.

The town episodes display many similarities to the town scenes in The Inspector General in which Khlestakov was taken for the Inspector whom the town and the mayor managed to win over to their side. In Dead Souls, Chichikov is celebrated as "our own Pavel Ivanovich", the "Kherson landowner". Gogol unleashes his sarcasm in vitriolic descriptions of the social customs, the gossip, the scenes familiar to town life which will ultimately turn into the same sort of love intrigue as in The Inspector General. Chichikov is said to be in love with the Governor's daughter, a rumor launched unwittingly by Korobochka and Nozdryov. The action then speeds towards that denouement, namely, the impending marriage of Chichikov and the Governor's daughter.

There is nevertheless a basic difference between the plots of "The Inspector General "andDead Souls . While Khlestakov leaves as he is about to consummate his marriage, Chichikov never gets that far. The whole affair is a mirage, a tangle of rumors, and Chichikov, very much like Khlestakov, has to flee the town just as his real identity is about to be discovered. Khlestakov's identity, of course, was easily discovered by the post-master's opening both incoming and outgoing mail. In Chichikov's case, the riddle is not solved -- at least, not for the town officials. The crisis which would ensue from his exposure is postponed, and the confusion is further compounded in an aside, the postmaster's vignette of Captain Kopeikin.

The story told by the postmaster, which has little to do with Chichikov's predicament or with the townsfolk's solving the riddle of his identity.It is a wonderful little folk tale about the mistreated and misunderstood Russian hero of the 1812 campaign. It can easily be characterized as a bit of quaint, primitive folk art (lyubok ) .It also serves the purpose of masterfully delaying the development of the main thrust toward the revelation of the "real" identity of the hero, and can be compared to the excursions in the chance encounters and the tales told to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

The final chapter is devoted to the revelation of the hero's true character. He is the negative hero who wants to get ahead in life at all costs, though he shares a hero's positive qualities, his drive, his need to succeed against all obstacles -- these are the very features which turn into sins, and make him a traitor to his benefactor, his would-be father-in-law. In this guise, he is certainly deserving of a niche in the lowest circle of Dante's Hell.

Delaying the action's denouement leads Gogol to many theoretical statements on the particular nature of art and the character of the hero and to the well-known statement which echoes the words of the Psalmist: "There is a time and a place for everything. And so my hero is not a virtuous man. And I can even explain why a virtuous hero was not chosen. Because it is time at last to give the poor, virtuous man a rest; ... no, the time has come at last to put the rogue in harness." 30 Further, he hints at a time when the hero will become a virtuous man: "There will be an upsurge of Russian emotions ... and then it will become apparent how deeply embedded in the Slav nature are those elements which appear only on the surface of other people's natures ... But why speak of what is still to come?" 31 Gogol dropped hints as to the line of possible development for the second and third volumes, just as in Dante's Purgatory and Paradise where the repentant souls are promised the reward of both liberation from the consequences of their sins and the vision of Paradise.

Finally, in a long flashback, Gogol presents the hero's true biography: Chichikov's life story begins with the example provided by his father-Gogol's favorite theme in the Selected Passages as well- namely, the responsibility of parents for their children's upbringing. Chichikov's father taught him how to be greedy and calculating, so that it is no wonder that the son has followed his father's advice throughout his life. When he heard about "dead souls", the possibility of a tax scam occurred to him. The explanation brings us back in a round-about way to the beginning and to his scheme for implementing the trickery. The resulting flashback covers the entire length of the first part of the novel. Thus Gogol starts with Chichikov in government service, then traces the individual steps of his advancement. Clearly, his intentions are not so much to tell a story as to provide a stage for social criticism which is to illuminate the woefully bureaucratic nature of the Russian state and the corruption and mismanagement of its economy, despite the constant "reforms" which have come only in bursts. These reforms may even have produced some temporary relief, but cumulatively, the inertia of life always brings everything back to the path of least resistance and to the inevitable triumph of corruption and slothfulness. The whole is larded with personal asides about bachelorhood, about traveling, about the sad moral state of Russia -- the characters and the countryside appear frequently in terms of the contemporary puppet theater. There are also commentaries as to the difficulties of writing narrative prose: old concerns are aired -- the problems of narration, lyrical asides mixed with comic relief, dialogues in which both partners cheat one another, unexpected turns of events...

But Gogol is never really an outsider in his work, despite his claims. He wants the reader to be integrated into the story as well, and to participate in the argument. He warns the reader that Chichikov's is not an exceptional case: "Are we not all Chichikovs?" he asks. "Is there not a chip of Chichikov in me, too? But of course there is." 32 We see here, in different words, the query at the end of " The Inspector General": "What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourself!"

The next unexpected logical twist occurs at the end of the volume in Chichikov's wild troika ride and a resulting glorification of Russia's own fast ride in history. The tone and arguments are similar to the ending of Gogol's youthful poem about Italy which he had written some thirty years earlier, while still a pupil . This is not, however, the Russia mired in dead souls, but the Russia of the future. And the logic is the same as in "The Nevsky Prospect " where Gogol talked about Schiller, "but not the one who wrote Wilhelm Tell and the history of the Thirty Years War " but Schiller, the famous tinsmith." 33 "Russia," he asks now, "are you not speeding along like a fiery and matchless troika? ... Russia, where are you flying? Answer me. There is no answer. The bells are tinkling and filling the air with their wonderful pealing; the air is torn and thundering as it turns to wind; everything on earth comes flying past, and looking askance at her, other peoples and states move aside and make way." 34 This vision of a regenerated Russia is unsupported by the first volume but is justified here as a preview of future events, the planned subject matter of volumes to come.

Indeed, the second volume seems an implementation of this promise. Gogol explains how to get to the promised land, how to bring about the hoped-for regeneration. 35 True to his previous statements in the Selected Passages, he does not advocate progress in general, but believes in the sensible, rational action of the individual, which will necessarily lead to a progress in particular. Cervantes' grand design, to bring back the chivalric ideal in a secular world, and Dante's vision of the journey to the self-fulfillment of the soul, to witnessing God in His Glory, oblige Gogol to demonstrate his own grand design. This design remains unclear, however; we are merely at the beginning of the journey, with all kinds of promises to be fulfilled as to where the road will lead; but the extant work is only a fragment, for Gogol burned the finished copy. Where Volume One is an image of Hell, whose satanic, deceptive hero rides through a moronic landscape, the second part, intended to portray the regeneration of both Russia and the anti-hero, Chichikov, remains only as a fragment. Nothing at all survives from the third part.We can only surmise that it was to trace the course of this regeneration.

What remains of the second part immediately shows unexpected features: Before dealing with Chichikov's visit to Tentetnikov's farm, Gogol takes time off to portray the loveliness of Nature. Long, sensuous descriptions of a paradisiacal countryside indicated that Gogol intend to introduce an opposite landscape from the mean provincial scene presented in Volume One, with its hellish rainstorms and demonic darkness. Here, instead, is the clearest indication that Gogol is following Dante's example, moving away now from Hell into Purgatory, where nature can show its real face, innocent and happy, and designed also to suggest the possibilities for human redemption.

The first landowner the reader encounters is Andrey Ivanovich Tentetnikov, "a lucky young man of thirty-two, who was a bachelor into the bargain." 36 At the moment when we meet him, he is idle, "a sky gazer ", an idealist who, "because he had no occupation, no responsibility, did not manage his estate [and] let things go," 37 without giving any directions to his household and servants, who were constantly quarrelling and fighting among themselves, while the master was idly looking out of the window, and in the afternoons devoted himself to writing a grandiose work about Russia: "Before dinner he would retire to his study for a couple of hours in order to apply himself seriously to a work he was engaged in, a work intended to embrace the whole of Russia from every angle -- civil, political, religious and philosophical." 38 But it is obvious that Gogol discounted the value of such a theoretical work, which has no useful effect on the reality of the immediate day. 39

Tentetnikov's life story illustrates the truth of Dante's vision that it is possible to see and seek the light in Purgatory, but still fail to reach it, since Purgatory is merely a way station, a place for further search and longing, but not the final destination of the soul. His youth is described in great detail: he has been under the good influence of his beloved tutor, Alexander Petrovich, who was able to set up a practical plan of education, an issue dear to Gogol's heart. His less intellectual pupils are dismissed from school sooner than the more intelligent, so that they can go out and be useful in some practical field. The second category are being prepared to become the future leaders of the nation. Their preparation consists in the tutor's instilling in them the magic word, "Forward", and Gogol is disarming in his conviction that enthusiasm to perform clearly defined, worthy goals necessarily will affect the minds of young people and cause them to behave positively when they go out into the world.

Tentetnikov's problems began with the death of his beloved tutor and the appearance on the scene of another, Fyodor Ivanovich, who replaced the goal-oriented inspiration of his predecessor's tutelage with the dead weight of formal discipline. Within no time, the good teacher's positive influence is dissipated and "everything was turned inside out." Thus, after Tentetnikov leaves school, he finds himself wondering what do with his acquired knowledge and with his desire to do good. His uncle's advice places him in a government office, where his youthful enthusiasm is quickly worn down by the stupidity and superfluous nature of the work to which he is assigned. He decides to resign from his job and return to his home to care for his estate and to do his duty as a landowner, which he sees as a noble calling. "Well, haven't I been a fool till now?" Tentetnikov exclaims. "Fate decreed that I should be the owner of an earthly paradise, and I became the slave of lifeless paper, a mere scribbler." 40 What follows reads almost like Levin's experiences in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, where he discusses the issue of the proper management of an estate, or like Pierre Bezukhov's in War and Peace . "He took matters into his own hands," Gogol tells us, "and began to issue orders. He cut down the amount of labor due from the peasants ... He dismissed the fool of a steward. He started to take an interest in everything, ... but that did not last long." 41 He also has to learn the lesson that the peasants were not so enthusiastic about his plans for improvement of the estate as he. They use the free time allotted to them for "general" improvement of their own fields, instead. The difficulty is not unlike those encountered in the kolkhoz arrangement later on in Soviet history. "Tentetnikov began to notice that his own land was giving a poorer yield than that of the peasants. His own fields were sown earlier and came up later, although there seemed nothing wrong with the work ...in short, the master noticed that the peasants were simply up to their old tricks in spite of their reduced obligations." 42 After a while, Tentetnikov gives up, and in this state we meet him now as a "disappointed lover of humanity". In this disillusionment is his great weakness, which separates him from the really good landowners projected (we assume ) for the third volume .

He suffers further defeat in his matrimonial plans. Though he lives in the village, he dismisses out of hand his neighbors' plans for socialization. These come from two political directions: from the mindless, pipe-smoking retired army officer and, on the opposite side of the social scale, the radical intellectuals. His meeting General Betryshchev's daughter, Ulinka, offers the perfect situation for a marriage, but for a chance remark of the General who addresses him with the familiar ty, instead of the vy. This misplacement of words, --as we saw in "The Two Ivans " with the word gander -- proves disastrous, and nothing comes of the projected marriage.

His grand design for social improvements and his personal aspirations for life having failed, Tentetnikov at the conclusion of Chapter One, is sinking ever more deeply into a mental and physical provincial torpor, though he still clings to his last youthful project, namely to write an all-encompassing description of the present and future state of Russia -- perhaps not unlike Gogol's own plan in his youth to write a five-volume History of the Ukraine, or, for that matter, in the mid-forties, to complete the second and third volumes of Dead Souls. 43

Here Chichikov returns. He, too, has changed; he has grown older, mellower. Gogol lovingly describes his newly acquired mannerisms: his elegant foot-scraping, his jumping backwards like a rubber ball, the accommodating nature of this now middle-aged man, tired from his journeys and longing for a settled life, for marriage and children, and financial security. He dreams of owning real peasants and real land instead of having to settle for dead souls and an estate which exists on paper only.

The new Chichikov walks about in the meadows and enjoys nature, which he did not even notice in the first volume. Yet the change is hardly fundamental, for he scrapes up capital, still dreaming of riches. "He also learned how many peasants died off," Gogol tells us. "There were not many at the Tentetnikov estate. As an intelligent observer, he could not help soon noticing that Tentetnikov's affairs were not being managed very efficiently: there was a great deal of waste, neglect, thievery and much drunkenness among the peasantry. And he thought to himself: All the same, what a pig is this Tentetnikov, to neglect his estate like this: He could be getting an income of fifty thousand a year from it."

This second part is only a fragment, and we do not know what is to happen to Tentetnikov -- whether his life is to change for the better--it seems conceivable that it might. But as we leave him, he is agreeing to send Chichikov off on a self-appointed mission to bring about a reconciliation between him and General Betryshchev (Ulinka's father) in the hopes of achieving Ulinka's hand in marriage at last. We do not know whether or not Gogol planned that he should realize his aim; but Gogol does launch a new career for the middle-aged Chichikov who, nevertheless, is still the same nosy, provincial in touch with all manner of souls. And thus the new journey begins.

A visit to General Betryshchev provides a vivid forum: Chichikov convinces the General that Tentetnikov is not a bad fellow, since he claims that Tentetnikov has written a book about the" history of generals" . Betrishchev wants to know what generals; Chichikov quips: "The book is to be about generals in general." Chichikov then manages to acquire the General's "dead souls" by telling him another tall story about his supposed uncle. 44

After Tentetnikov and Betryshchev, Chichikov wants to get in touch with a certain Colonel Koshkarev (from the Russian word koshka =cat?), but just as in the first volume, when Chichikov stumbled upon Korobochka instead of Sobakievich whom he sought, he now stumbles upon Pyotr Petrovich Petukh, Peter the Cock.

Petukh is a great gourmand. Chichikov meets him fishing and Petukh immediately invites him to dine with him, along with his neighboring landowner, Platonov. If Petukh is the very image of the hospitable Russian gentry, he is also the image of the mindlessly poor manager, who is about to waste his entire property on his sons' education, which consists of sending them to St. Petersburg. In Chichikov's imagination, they are already there, and living it up like playboys, much like young Ikharev in "The Gamblers ". The estate will soon be mortgaged to the hilt. Petukh is thus an example of the virtuous sinner who has many positive qualities, among which being economical does not figure. As the second volume progresses, Gogol puts greater and greater emphasis on this quality: by this standard, Petukh fails miserably to merit Paradise. His whole being is focused on eating; he is like the village elder in Gogol's early " The Night before Christmas ". Memorable is the conversation Chichikov half-dreamily overhears at Petukh's house, his host's instructions to his servants for the next day's repast -- this just as they have finished a feast which sent everyone with bulging stomachs to bed! "Make the fish pie a four-cornered one," he says, "'in one corner put the cheeks and dried spine of a sturgeon, in another, some buckwheat, and some mushrooms and onions and some soft roe, and, yes, some brains, and something else as well. Yes, and see to it that the crust is well browned on one side and a trifle less on the other. And see to the underside ... see that it is backed so that it's quite ... not to the point of crumbling but so that it might melt in the mouth like snow and make no crunching sound.' Petukh smacked his lips as he spoke." 45

Platonov, the other guest, is also a landowner who demonstrated the "fashionable spleen" of the Century, boredom. He is bored with everything, even though he is successful in his affairs. For a while, he becomes Chichikov's traveling companion and serves as an intermediary for the introduction of one of the volume's most important characters, Konstantin Fedorovich Kostanzhonglo.

Kostanzhonglo's name is not Russian, though Gogol does not want to reveal its etymology (suggesting, perhaps, that Gogol does not believe there can yet be any positive Russian heroes). 46 He is everything Gogol considers important: practical, he makes use of all that comes his way; there is no waste on his estate, and he is so successful that he has to send away peasants who want to work for him instead of having to deal with the contemporary problem of runaway peasants. Among other observations (Tolstoy's Levin would have envied many of the practical details in his running of a successful agricultural operation!) there is one odd curiosity which recalls Gogol's youthful enthusiasm for architecture, his comment on an observation tower on top of the main manor house designed to facilitate oversight through a spyglass: "The high rooftop of the house was topped by the turret of an observation post; it was not there for adornment nor for the sake of the view alone, but to allow the master to keep an eye on the work that was going on in the distant fields,"

The key to Konstanzhongolo's success is his personal involvement in the running of his farm, as well as his practical business sense. He engages in no such fancy business ventures as setting up factories for the sake of progress or other abstract ideas. Indeed, in order to show how not to run an estate, Konstanzhonglo takes Chichikov over to visit his neighbor, the long-awaited Koshkarev. Koshkarev is the epitome of the crazy Russo-Prussian military bureaucrat descended from the times of Peter the Great, who mistakenly believes that military orders and bureaucratic red tape are the key to economic success. Instead of real products, he and his men produce innumerable reams of paper documents on how to run a successful economy ... prophetic, all too sadly, of the numerous plans for economic reform that characterized the now-defunct Soviet regime.

A comical scene ensues in which Chichikov manages to buy Koshkarev's dead souls, where the two come to an understanding as to what the documents should show to indicate that these are indeed dead souls:"Very well',the Colonel replied' , You will put that down in writing, that the souls are, to some extent, dead."

In the character of Koshkarev, Gogol can air his views on the statism of the Russian Enlightenment in its extremist form. As Kostanzhonglo comments, "Koshkarev is a comforting phenomenon. A necessary one, too. He is the epitome and caricature of the stupidities of all our smart thinkers ... who instead of learning their job on the spot, make a point of stocking themselves with all sorts of rubbish abroad." 47

Kostanzhonglo goes on to generalize: "There is a quixotism about the Russian character now, " he says, "which it never had before. If a Russian gets a bee in his bonnet about enlightenment, he immediately becomes a Don Quixote: he will set up schools such as even a fool would not dream of founding. And such a school will produce the type of man who is good for nothing, fit neither for the city nor the village, a drunkard only, yet full of his own importance. He will turn philanthropist, a Don Quixote of hospitals and institutions ornamented with columns; then he will go bust and loose his patients on the world. That's philanthropy for you." Kostanzhonglo advises Chichikov to "till the land with the sweat of thy brow," 48 like Jehovah's first man after the Fall. To Chichikov's question as to how one can get rich quickly, Kostanzhonglo answers, "If you want to get rich quickly, then you'll never grow rich. But if you want to grow rich without worrying about time, then you'll grow rich quickly." 49 "You must love your work," he adds, "and you'll have no time for idle stupidities" -- by which he means clubs, theaters, taverns --" or for boredom." Chichikov sums up the lesson: a naturally working and busy person is God-like in his creation: "It is here that man is most like God," he exclaims. "The task of creation is God's highest pleasure, and He asks man also to be a creator and to work for prosperity all around him." We see here Gogol's most succinct formulation of his views on the question of "one's own place" ( svoe mesto ), namely, that it must be the same as God's own place and must result from the act of creation itself.

Kostanzhonglo is not only a successful landowner, but also a happily married man with a pleasant and happy wife. The implication is that achieving one's own place involves a harmonious family life, a state none of the characters of Gogol's poema has demonstrated.

Now the pace quickens in the penultimate fragment of the volume, as Gogol tries for variety and a movement towards a conclusion. We meet the next landowner, Khlobuyev, whose etymological background is possibly either to beat somebody ( khlopat' ) , or perhaps an indecent word for buttocks( zhlob ) . He is another bad landowner, neglectful in his rush to keep up with the Joneses. The details of his rundown family estate are again prophetic of the many stories of Soviet kolkhoz life, and the poverty and demoralization of the peasants.These have lost any initiative or interest, in work, as well as their inheritance of the habit of work. "But now it will take years to put it to rights," Gogol says sadly. "And the peasants, too, have lost the habit of working, they will all have become idlers and drunkards." The remedy is not surprising to Gogol's careful readers and is provided by Kostanzhonglo: hard work. "And to think that he has neglected this treasure of a land! Well, if he had nothing with which to plough, he might at least have used a spade and made it into a vegetable plot. He could have taken the spade himself, and made his wife, children, and all his servant folk do the digging. Yes, he should have died working. If he had killed himself while doing it, he would at least have been doing his duty instead of gorging himself like a pig at some dinner or other." 50 "Patience," he says again. "Work hard for six years on end, plant, sow, dig the earth, without giving yourself rest ... Yes, nature love patience: and that is a law given by God Himself, Who glorified the meek." 51

But the eternal Russian question, "What is to be done?" remains unsolved if the advice falls upon lazy or unwilling ears. Gogol's answer is troubling: The peasants, he says, "need some stern and just man over them, somebody who would live among them for a long while and inspire them by the example of his own indefatigable activity ... Judging by myself [Khlobuyev is talking], I can see that a Russian cannot go on without a taskmaster. Otherwise, he will drowse off and stagnate." 52

Khlobuyev's family mirrors the carelessly spending officials of the first part of the novel,though here, they are aware that they are sinners. In other words,to speak in Dantean terms

these are the inhabitants of Purgatory, who see their sins and want to be rid of them. The conversations and self-accusa-tions of these landowners seem almost like Eighteenth-Century morality plays, like Fonvizin's "Minor ",for example, whose heavy didacticism weighs down the texture of his play .

The plot now resonates with echoes from the first volume: After his visit to the countryside, Chichikov moves to the city where his tour in quest of dead souls comes to an end unexpectedly in a legal entanglement and a hair-breadth escape from punishment.

For Chichikov has come to realize that neither dead souls nor real property are going go give him the peace of mind for which he longs. Khlobuyev's estate presents itself as a perfect occasion to acquire real property on which Chichikov makes a down-payment. The balance is to be paid at a later time. It is no surprise that his habits as a cheat will land him in debtors' prison for non-payment. Nevertheless, his encounter with Platonov's brother has left him with an intense longing for the "honest and simple life" -- we see that his journey has brought about a change in his understanding of the meaning of life.

The case of Platonov's older brother is interesting: the manor house already shows some of the qualities which, perhaps, later in the third volume would have represented heaven: "The manor house was completely concealed from view ... All these buildings were hidden among bushes. The nightingales sang loudly, making the thickets ring with their trilling. Involuntarily, the soul was invaded with a peaceful and agreeable feeling. Everything reminded one of those easy complications." The older Platonov's house is based on self service, simplicity and unpretentious living. Chichikov is offered kvas, 53 a drink he seems not to have tasted thus far on his journeys through Russia. "Chichikov poured himself a glass from the first decanter. It was like the mead he had once tasted in Poland; it bubbled like champagne and its gaseous effect communicated itself rapidly from mouth to nose. ...'This is nectar,' he said. He tried another glass, filling it up from the next decanter. It was even better." 54 Unhappily, the positive effect of the visit is spoiled by an incident, left unfinished in the extant manuscript.

Another landowner, a certain Lenitsin ( " lazy" ), has leased some of the common land between Chichikov's and Platonov's newly acquired estate. What happens with that quarrel remains unrevealed in the fragment.

The remaining chapter -- numbered V in available editions, though not numbered by Gogol himself brings the denouement of the novel. Chichikov is in town, visits a fair, and there is ready to buy himself material for a new coat, whose color is smoke and flame.

The suggestion as to Chichikov's infernal qualities have so far been well hidden. Here Gogol hints more openly: The smoke and the flame, the newly developing rumors that he deals in dead souls, the references to the Devil, even if only in such casual reactions as Chichikov's to a realization that his creditor Khlobuyev is at the fair, when he exclaims, "The Devil take it!" --all these are clues to his true identity. On the other hand, as the story develops, even Chichikov seems to be affected by the consequences of his wicked life: he is arrested for non-payment of debt, thrown into prison, and finally released through the intercession of another of the "good" characters, a certain Murazov, a contractor whom Kostanzhonglo introduced. The agent of all these changes is the Prince who, like a deus ex machina, explains what everyone is supposed to do, namely, his duty. Murazov also advises Chichikov to change his ways: "What a man you would have made if you had turned all that energy and patience of yours to good account and had some worthy subject," he exclaims. 56

We see again the Dantean principle that the falsely pursued path to happiness is the cause of sin and suffering, while the recognition of its falseness leads sinners out of Purgatory and onto the right road to Heaven. The third part of the novel remains a mystery -- how Chichikov would have made the transformation is difficult to say. On the final pages, the Prince makes an unfinished speech about duty and about finding one's own place for the benefit of the Motherland: "So each one of us must rise up against those lies. As a Russian bound to you by ties of common blood, I appeal to you now. I appeal to those of you who have any inkling of what nobility of thought signifies. I invite you to remember the duty that is each man's burden wherever he may be. I invite you to examine your conscience more closely as well as the obligations of your earthly occupation, because that is something we can all picture to ourselves, and we are hardly ..." 57

Here the manuscript breaks off. We can never discover how Gogol intended to finish his sentence, for the work ends in darkness and in mere hints as to how it was to proceed. Nevertheless, though what remains of the second volume is a fragment, it still indicates the direction Gogol was taking -- especially in the light of his reliance of Dante as his mentor. All his oeuvre points to his further development of the idea of the regeneration of man through a recognition and embrace of duty, as well as through finally understanding one's own place.

The ideas expressed in this second volume coincide with the ideas presented in the Selected Passages -- about the land question, the arguments over the liberation or non-liberation of the serfs, the issues of woman's place and the role of the family, the burning topic of the imitation of foreign ways as opposed to home-grown Russian wisdom: these are all reconsidered. Indeed, the fictional presentation of what Gogol considered to be the cardinal virtues is interestingly implemented throughsuch characters as Tentetnikov and Kostanzhonglo, who remain in many ways abstract principles rather than Gogol's usual sharply defined characters. They point towards a vision of a resurrected Russia, the ideal country, though the possibility of bringing into being the land of the risen Christ may have seemed to Gogol beyond the limits of the possible, since she had not yet shown herself as able to accept the grand vision of God presented to Dante in his Divine Comedy and imagined by Gogol himself when he allowed himself to hope. Indeed, it would seem to be hope that was driving him as he composed the sequel to Dead Souls -- perhaps it was the failure of hope that induced him to burn the volumes he had penned.

Despite any such wavering, the fragments surviving still show Gogol as the tireless creator of memorable characters and situations. It is a shame that the second volume is less well known than the first ... But one could say that a similar fate has been allotted to Goethe's Faust, where the second volume which describes Faust's journey -- or the final section of Dante's Divine Comedy, for that matter -- remain known only to specialists in literature instead of to the world of enlightened readers to whose attention we have dedicated this book.


Footnotes to Chapter 9

1. N.V. Gogol': Poln. Sobr. Soch. t. 3. In English: N.V. Gogol: Dead Souls. ed. by George Gibian. The Reavey Translation, W.W. Norton, NY 1985. Quoted here as Dead Souls, Norton. op. cit.

2. L. Kent. op. cit. v. 2. p. 334.

3. The problem of "positive heroes" has been well illustrated with development in the s.c. "socialist realist" literature of the Soviet period. See A. Tertz: On Socialist Realism. op. cit. Dostoyevsky also recognized the imposisibility fo writing "positively" about "positive heroes"; His intended "positive hero" Myshkin was a "failure". V.V. Versaev: Gogol' v Zhizni. op. cit. pp. 384 passim

4. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 152

5. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 1

6. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 1

7. M.A. Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita. tr. M. Glenny. Harper & Row. NY 1967. Chapter 1: "Never Talk to Strangers"

8. Religious interpretations of the Dead Souls include the idea of the arrival of the "devil", Chichikov in "Russia". See: R. Maguire: Gogol from the Twentieth Century, op. cit. p. Introduction 28. passim

9. F.M. Dostoyevsky: The Brothers Karamazov, Norton, 1976. p. 601 passim. Book IX, Chapter IX: Ivan's Nightmare.

10. M.A. Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita. tr. M. Glenny. Harper& Row. NY 1967. Chapter 1: "Never Talk to Strangers"

11. James B. Woodward: Gogol's Dead Souls. Princeton. New Jersey, 1978.

12. M.A. Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita. tr. M. Glenny. Harper & Row. NY 1967. Chapter 1: "Never Talk to Strangers". See also: L. Tikos "Some Notes on the Significance of Gerbert Aurillac in Bulgakov's Master  and Margarita". Canadian-American Slavic Studies. 15. No. 2-3. (181) p. 321-329.

13. James B. Woodward: Gogol's Dead Souls. Princeton. New Jersey, 1978.

14. See Gogol's letters on the "Women" question in the "Selected Passages", especially the letters II. Woman in the World, and XXI What the Wife of a Provincial Governor Is.

15. Again -- compare Gogol's notes aobut the "happy married life" from the Selected Passages. op. cit. p. 158. XXIV. What a Wife Can Do for her Husband in Simple Domestic Matters, as Things are Now in Russia.  Here Gogol emphasizes practicality, diligence and "knowing one's place" (svoe mesto) in the division of labor within the family. The Manilov family clearly represents the Dantean principle of turning a virtue into vice by deliberately misguided actions.

16. See the same in L. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina the contrast between Stepan Oblonski, the easy going, philandering fool, bankrupt at the end of the novel and his "coutnerpart" Levin, who is presented as both a devoted pater familias, and a financially successful landowner.

17. N.V. Gogol: Four Letters About the Dead Souls, see in Zeldin, op. cit. p. 96 passim, also: Dead Souls, Norton, p. 411.

18. Emu more po kolenu

19. Marc Slonim: Russian Theater. op. cit. p. 78 passim. Ostrovskij portrayed the "samodur" type, especially in his play The Storm (Groza).

20. Dead Souls. Norton. op. cit. 76.

21. Dead Souls. Norton. op. cit. p. 71.

22. Dead Souls. Norton. op. cit. p. 109. passim.

23. The entire argument about Chichikov's "marriage, children and domesticity" shows how far Gogol moved away from his youthful ideal, the "wedding" as the solution for the searching male's problems.  Chichikov's thoughts about marriage are rather melancholic -- and the "love intrigue" with the "governor's dauther" is really a farce and not a "real" love story.

24. Dead Souls. Norton. op. cit. p. 94.

25. The question of "digressions" was already raised during Gogol's life time, and it has been discussed frequently in literary crticism. See: Laszlo Diienes: Are there any Digressons in Pushkin's Evgenij Onegin and Gogol's Dead Souls?  A REview of the Critical Literature with Commentary. International Area Studies Program, University of Massachusetts. Amherst. 1981. Occasional Papers Series No. 7.

26. See in the Selected Passages. op. cit. X. On the Lyricism of Our Poets. p. 48 passim.

27. See in the Selected Passages. op. cit. X. On the Lyricism of Our Poets. p. 50 passim.

28. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 152.

29. F.M. Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment. Norton. 1964. p. 456.

30. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 242.

31. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 242.

32. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 268.

33. The logic of the tinsmith Schiller from "The Nevskij Prospekt" is reversed here!

34. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 270. The "flying troika" image appears first in the "Diary of a Madman" at the end of the story, as the final desire of Popryshchin to escape his tormentors in "Spain", i.e. the insane asylum.

35. This corresponds precisely to the "Dantean" structure: the second part was going to be he Purpatory, and the projected third part: Paradise. In Gogol's plans it probably would ahve meant to devote the second part to the gradual regeneration of Russia through the example of some enlightened, and already "saved" characters (saved by "reason", and "love of work" -- i.e. practical qualities): and the third part might have shown Russia "in spe", the "ideal" as reality. Obviously, this would have been quite an udnertaking and apparently Gogol was not able to complete it.

36. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 273.

37. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 275.

38. It seems that Tentetnikov has certain parallels to Manilov from the first part of the novel as the "idealist" but ineffective dreamer. Only their "position" in the structure of the novel is different. While Manilov could be Dante's "virtuous pagan", who has not see the "light" yet in his dreamy udnerworld, Tentetnikov has already "seen the light" -- in the form of his first tutor -- but failed to follow up on his insights, even though he is only partly blame for this, having succumbed to the "negative" influences of his new tutor.

39. There seems to be a lot of "autobiography" in these descriptions: Gogol's grand designs of his youth, whether the projected five volumes "History of the Ukraine" or other similar "unfinished" projects, as well as other suggestions in the Selected Passages.

40. Again, perhaps an autobiographical reference: Gogol as a young man, looking for some "useful" occupation in the capital and finding a tedious job in a government office as a clerk.

41.  Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 285.

42. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 286.

43. The etymology of the name seems to indicate the word Veter (wind), in which Gogol turns the V into a B.  The ending of the word ishche is the standard suffix with the implication of something tremendously big, massive, huge etc. Thus, the whole implication seems to be -- a windbag of colossal proportions. Indeed, the name fits the "general" well -- he is a pompous, self-inflated individual, who gets upset quickly over supposed insults and slighting of his "authority."

44.  As mentioned before, there seems to be a great deal of "autobiography" in these decirptoins: Gogol's grand designs of his youth whether the projected five volumes "History of the Ukraine" or other similar unfinished projects, including suggestoins in the Selected Passages.

45. This matches Gogol's recommendation from the Selected Passages, where he is talking about the need to travel through Russia. (Letter XX)  One of the "useful" things that a traveler could do: to reconcile warring parties!

46. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 308.

47.  This "uncle" story, of course, is the new "cock and bull" story of Chichikov, in order to get his "dead souls". In other words, the new sales pitch!

48. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 326.

49.  Just as in Turgenev's novel Smoke, the only positive hero is a Bulgarian.

50. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 335.

51. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 356. This advice resemble the one given by Gogol to a provincial lady: how to set up a househould budget, and how to hold onto it "at least for a year".  In letter XXIV What a Wife Can do...for her Husband. Selected Passages, op. cit. p. 159.

52. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 357. Again, the passage is similar to Letter XXV Rural Justice and Punishment. p. 164. of the Selected Passages, where Gogol advises the landowners to take firm leadership in directing their estates.

53. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 367.

54. A refreshing drink, made form fermented black bread.

56. Compare the "red jacket" of the devil in the "Fair at Sorocints".

57. Dead Souls, Norton, op. cit. p. 408.

Instead of an Epilogue

Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? ( Ecclesiastes 3:22 )

 Every blade of grass grows and his happy: Everything has its own path, and everything know its path and with a song goes forth, and with a song returns. Only he knows nothing, and understands nothing, neither men nor sounds; he is outside of it all and an outcast. ( F.M.Dostoyevsky:The Idiot )

 It is not easy to establish paradise on earth, and you do seem to count on that a little; paradise is a difficult business, Prince, a great deal more difficult than it seems to your splendid heart . I think it better if we drop the subject, otherwise, we shall indeed get embarrassed again ...(F.M.Dostoyevsky:The Idiot )

 Gogol's influence on Russian as well as world literature is unquestionable. 1 The significance of his creation had already been recognized during his lifetime. Yet, in casting about for an all overall assessment, many Gogol's critics have run into problems.In this work, I have undertaken to approach Gogol's art with the objective of defining his concept of svoe mesto, which I have translated as the somewhat awkward phrase, "one's own place", one's role with regard to God, one's understanding of the right way to conduct one's life within the context of the place in which one was born. The British notion of station comes closer than any other formulation of the idea. The svoe mesto in our understanding expresses an existentialist quandary over one's "real" situation, which manifests itself through the mixture of hilarious comedy and heart-rending tragedy which marks all of Gogol's works. Relying on the restorative effects of laughter heard through tears, Gogol's acknowledged mater, Pushkin, had formulated an approach to literature: The examples in Gogol's works are unforgettable: Akaki Akakievic's overcoat, the Mayor's quandary upon discovering the truth about Khlestakov, Chichikov stumped by Nozdryov's outrageous behavior and breath-taking lies, these and so many other incidents people the Gogolian stage. But an all-encompassing formula 2 barely suffices to explain the seductive magic of Gogol's art and leaves his enigmatic personality a mystery. Indeed, the attempt to plumb his depths and to tear his creation apart threatens to destroy the magic of the trickster world he has conjured into being. For this reason, perhaps, Gogol remained reluctant to explain his intentions in the second and third volumes of Dead Souls -- perhaps even for this reason he destroyed the manuscripts. All his explanations resulted only in creating more mysteries. The example of another Russian writer who also wanted to be "useful" to his contemporaries is a case in point: Vladimir Mayakovsky bent over backwards to explain for the benefit of the masses "How to write poetry". He even produced a "homework example" in his "A Conversation with the Tax-Inspector about Poetry " 3 , in which he compared the poet's work to the tax-collector's, and reached the melancholic admission, permeated with irony, that writing poetry is a difficult and dangerous occupation which always requires hard work and mental involvement, producing, ultimately, a mystery. In the same manner, an assessment of the overall significance of Gogol's oeuvre is an elusive endeavor much like an attempt to assess the overall significance of nature, of green grass, of flowers, of fresh air. Significant in themselves, they are what they are, because we are what we are, and their significance is the same as our own significance. Gogol's art matters in a similar fashion. His hilariously funny images have become proverbial: the history teacher smashing the chairs in the classroom to prove his devotion to the greatness of Alexander the Great; " Major " Kovalev's waking up one morning and finding his nose missing; the many non-sequiturs, the topsy-turvy language, the unforgettable characters, the careful craftsmanship in the creation of a text which fuses folklore, borrowed motifs, anecdotes, autobiography, history, native and foreign influences into a canvas all his own -- these are what distinguish Gogol from the warp and woof of Russian writing of the Nineteenth century as a whole.

D. Fanger's formulation of the "missing qualities of things" in Gogol's world is particularly revealing for our attempt to define Gogol's concept of "one's own place". Other writers have formulated the existentialist unease differently. We have quoted Berthold Brecht's words:die Unzulaenghlichkeit menschlicher Verhaeltnisse " 4 -- words which sum up the inconsistencies in the human condition which lie at the heart of Gogol's own vision: -- Observations about the inadequate nature of the stuff of things, of life's vagaries, the contradictory implication of language -- these are Gogol's territory. So is his longing for remedies.Within the framework of the unattainable ideal move the creatures of his imagination in search of solutions, lured always by the "director's daughter", the "pannochka," the "Governor's daughter", in their various manifestations, always beyond the reach of the aspiring males. No matter that in their confusions they transform themselves into the " Spanish King " , the Savior of the wronged Poles, Andrei ( Taras Bulba's turncoat son ) or even Chichikov, the middle-aged and introspective schemer. Their elusiveness, coupled with a foreboding and heart-breaking agony, are the proof of their credibility. But when the older Gogol himself wanted to become the Spanish King, when he wanted to discover a panacea not just for himself but for all Russia and even for mankind, when he put forth "useful" suggestions as to how to be economical, religious, submissive, or commanding, depending on what was demanded by one's station, including, perhaps, even God -- then the credibility of his characters was put to the test: Gogol had convinced readers of his earlier stories that cause and effect have seldom stayed in a straight line, and that ultimately the tribulations generated in the search for one's own place must remain an enigma. Readers have long accepted his vision, believing the logic of Danilo, Katerina's husband in " The Terrible Vengence ", that since "dumplings were good Russian food as was vodka -- all the saints relied on them, too" -- and since Katherine's father did not like them, it was a sure sign that something was wrong. And lo and behold, the old man was a sorcerer ! Yet, the Prince's preaching about "duty" on the final pages of the fragment of Dead Souls' Volume II lacks credibility and smacks of moth-balled 18th-Century rationalism. Indeed, Gogol's failures lie in his efforts to concertize the impossible ideal, just as his triumphs are the fruit of his earlier perceptions that "our place" (svoe mesto ) is unattainable and the closer we get to it, the more it recedes into the distance.

But who are we to criticize? Who are we to give advice to Gogol --who, after all, is long since dead, though his message persists. Who are we to say that there is indeed, no Prince and that no unexpected Inspector General will appear on our doorsteps to call us to account for our "small sins"? And do we not stop short on hearing the Mayor's final outcry: "What are you laughing at: You are laughing at yourselves."

Gogol's significance goes beyond theories. He wrote in the conviction that his art represented the very personification of art's meaning, not to mention his belief that it must teach. He wrote passionately, caustically, to remind us that things are always meaningful in their mysterious way because they hold within themselves the dialectics of laughter and tears, of agony and ecstasy, of life and death -- the dual nature of our existence. Where then, is the real svoe mesto of our being? Gogol sees in the end that it is here and there and everywhere, and we come at last to accept the solution that Gogol himself discovered. Setting up always temporary residences, he lived his life as a "homeless" man, a bezdomnyj. 5 He was never, despite his longings, at home. Nor were his characters. Nor might be his readers, unless they open themselves to his laughter, to his dark perception of the possibilities for joy in this most precarious and comical existence which is the common lot of the humanity he so lovingly, so wrily observed.


Footnotes to Epilogue

1. Robert A. Maguire: Gogol from the Twentieth Century. op. cit. p. 1-54. Also: S. Fusco, P. Meyer: Essays on Gogol. Northwest University Press. 1992.

2. See: A. Terts: V teni Gogolya. op. cit. Chapter II: The turn of the "zolotoy klyuch" (the golden key). A Sinyavsky (Tertz) compares the Inspector General to an 18th c. music box, with a charming melody, wexquisite craftmanship, and delightful figurines, who dance the same dance over and over again, upon turning the "golden key."

3. V. Mayakovsky: How to Make Verse. Modern Russian Poets on Poetry. Ed. Carl Proffer, Ardis. 1975. pp. 103-145. Also: Dmitry Obolensky ed.: Heritage of Russian Verse, Indiana Univeristy Press, 1965. pp. 379.

4. Berthold Brecht: Die Dreigroschen Oper. op. cit.

5. As mentioned in the Introduction to this book, M. Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita uses this word to designate the hapless Soviet hack poet Bezdomny, who upon meetin ghte devil in Moscow can escape him only by findin his true identity!

Selected Bibliography


Collected Works in Russian:

Polnoe Sobranie Sohinenij N.V.Gogolq, 1-4 t. 3-e izd. ego naslednikov, Moskva , 1873. ( This edition is indicated as Sobr.Soh. here. )

Sohineniq N.V . Gogolq, 5 t.izd. 14-oe. pod red. N.S.Tixonravova.St.Peterburg,1898 ( This edition is indicated as Soh. in distinction to the "Academic Edition " of 1940- 1952, which will be referred to as Poln.Sobr. Soh. .L.T.)

Polnoe Sobranie Sohinenij N.V.Gogolq, v 10 t. "Slovo" , 1921 , Berlin.

N.V.Gogol; : Poln.Sobr. Soh. Akad.Nauk. 14 t. Izd. 1940-1952. ( If not otherwise indicated Russian references are made to this edition L.T. )

Collected Works in English :

Ronald Meyer, ed.:Nikolai Gogol: Hanz Kuechelgarten, Leaving the Theater& Other Works. Ardis, Ann Arbor, 1990.

Leonard J.Kent,ed.: The Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol The University of Chicago press, 1985. vol 1-2.

Milton Ehre,ed. :The Theater of Nikolay Gogol.Plays and Selected Writings The University of Chicago Press. 1980.

Nikolai Gogol: Dead Souls. ed. George Gibian, Norton Critical Edition, 1985.

N.Gogol: Arabesques, tr.A.Tulloch,Intr. C.Proffer. Ardis, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982.

Jesse Zeldin ,trans. : Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends. Nashville, 1969

Critical Literature :

Franz Philip, ed.: Gogol : A Bibiliography. Ardis, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1989.

S.T.Aksasakov: Istoriq moego znakomstva s Gogolem. Izd.Akad.Nauk . M. 1960.

Andrej Belyj: Masterstvo Gogolq.Issledovanie. OGIZ.M.L.1934. Reprint.Ardis.Ann Arbor, 1982. .pp.319.

M.N.Braun: N.W. Gogol; Eine literarische Biographie, Munchen, 1973.

Victor Erlich : Gogol. New Haven and London. 1960

Paul Evdokimov: Gogol et Dostoyevsky. Desclee de Brouwer, Paris, 1961.

Donald Fanger: The Creation of Nikolai Gogol. Harvard University Press. 1979. pp.300

V.V.Gippius: Gogol. ed. and transl. by Robert A.Maguire. Ann Arbor,Mich. 1981.

Simon Karlinsky: The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol. Harvard University Press, 1976.p.333.

Wolfgang Kazack : Die Technik der Personendarstellung by Nikolaj Vasiljevic.Gogol. Wiesbaden. 1957.

Thais S. Lindstrom : Nikolay Gogol. Twayne Publishers, New York, 1974.

David Magarshack:Gogol. London. 1957

Robert A. Maguire ed.: Gogol from the Twentieth Century ( Eleven Essays ) Princeton University press. 1974.

V.Mann: Gogol; i mirovaq literatura. M." Nauka ". 1988. pp.275

rij Mann : V poiskax 'ivoj duwi. ( Mertvye duwi: pisatel;, kritika, hitatel;. ) M.1984.

Konstantin Mohul;skij: Duxovnyj put; Gogolq, YMCA PRESS, 1934.

Helen Muchnic: The Unhappy Consciousness: Gogol, Poe, Baudelaire, Baltimore,Md. 1967.

Vladimir Nabokov: Nikolai Gogol. New Directions Books, Norfolk,Connecticut. 1944

Alexander P. Obolensky: Food-notes on Gogol. Trident Press LTD. Winnipeg, Canada, 1972.pp.180.

Charles Passage: The Russian Hoffmanists. The Hague. 1963.

Richard Peace: The Enigma of Gogol (An Examination of the Writings of Gogol and Their Place in the Russian Literary Tradition ) Cambridge University Press, London, New York, 1981

Carl R.Proffer: The Simile and Gogol's Dead Souls. The Hague. Mouton, 1967.

Daniel Rancour-Laferriere: Out from under Gogol's Overcoat. Ardis.Michigan 1982.

William Woodrin Rowe: Through Gogol's Looking Glass: Reverse Vision, False Focus and precarious Logic. New York University Press, 1976.

Vsevolod Setchkarev:Gogol. His Life and Works ,Tr. R.Kramer, New York University Press.1965.

Hildegund Scheiber: Gogol's religioeses Weltbild und sein literarisches Werk. Muenchen, 1977.

Leon Stilman: Gogol. ( ed. by Galina Stilman. ) Hermitage Publishers.Columbia University. 1990.p.240.

Helmut Stolze: Die franzoesische Gogol Rezeption. Koeln. 1974.

Abram Terc : V Teni Gogolq , Overseas Publications, London.1975

Abram Tertz: In the Shadow of Gogol. London. 1975.

Elizabeth W. Trahan, ed. : Gogol's Overcoat: An Anthology of Critical Essays. Ardis. Ann Arbor. 1982.

Henri Troyat: Divided Soul: The Life of Gogol. New York. 1973 .

V.V.Veresaev: Gogol; v 'izni .( Sistematiheskij svod podlinnyx svidetel;stv sovremennikov) . Academia M.L.1930.pp.638. reprint: Moskovskij Rabohij, 1990.

V.V.Veresaev: Kak rabotal Gogol;. " MIR " M. 1934. reprint Ardis, Ann Arbor.1983. pp.82

Jesse Zeldin: Nikolai Gogol's Quest for Beauty: An Exploration into His Works. Lawrence, Kansas.1978.

James B. Woodward: Gogol's Dead Souls. Princeton. N.J. 1978.

M.V. Xraphenko: Mertvye duwi N.V. Gogolq. Izd.Akad.Nauk.M. 1952.


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