Nikolai Gogol was born in Sorochintsi, Ukraine, and grew up on his parent’s country estate. His real surname was Ianovskii, but the writer’s grandfather had taken the name «Gogol» to claim a nobel Cossack ancestry. Gogol’s father was an educated and gifted man, who wrote plays, poems, and sketches.
Gogol started write while in high school. He attended Poltava boarding school (1819-1821) and Nezhyn high school (1821-1828). In 1829 he mowed to St. Petersburg. Gogol worked at minor governmental jobs and wrote occasionally for periodicals. Between the years 1831 and 1834 he taught history at the Patriotic Institute and worked as a private tutor.
In 1831, Gogol met Aleksander Pushkin who greatly influenced his choice of literary material, especially his «Dikan’ka Tales», which were based on Ukrainian folklore. Their friendship lasted until the great poet’s death. In 1835, Gogol became a full-time writer.
Under the title «Mirgorod» (1835) Gogol published a new collection of stories. The book included the famous historical tale «Taras Bulba», which showed the influence of Walter Scott. The protagonist is a strong, heroic character, not very typical for the author’s later cavalcade of bureaucrats, lunatics, swindlers, and losers.
«St. Petersburg Stories» (1835) examined disorders of mind and social relationships. «The Nose» was about a man who loses his nose and which tries to live its own life. In «Nevski Prospect» a talented artist falls in love with a tender poetic beauty who turns out to be a prostitute and commits suicide when his dreams are shattered. «The Diary of a Madman» asked why is it that «all the best things in life, they all go to the Equerries or the generals?» «The Overcoat» contrasted humility and meekness with the rudeness of the «important personage».
Gogol published in 1836 several stories in Pushkin’s journal «Sovremennik» and in the same year appeared his famous play, «The Inspector General». It told a simple tale of a young civil servant, Khlestakov, who finds himself stranded in a small provincial town. By mistake, he is taken by the local officials to be a government inspector, who is visiting their province incognito. Khlestakov happily adapts to his new role and exploits the situation, but then arrives the real inspector.
Its first stage production was in St. Petersburg, given in the presence of the tsar. The tsar, as he left his box after the premiere, dropped the comment: «Hmm, what a play! Gets at everyone, and most of all at me!» Gogol, who was always sensitive about reaction to his work, fled Russia for Western Europe. He visited Germany, Switzerland, and France and settled then in Rome. He also made a pilgrimage to Palestine in 1848.
In Rome Gogol wrote his major work, «The Dead Souls». Gogol claimed that the story was suggested by Pushkin in a conversation in 1835. It depicted the adventures Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, who arrives in a provincial town to buy «dead souls», dead serfs. By selling these «souls» with a cheaply-bought lands, Chichikov planned to make a huge profit. He meets local landowners and departs in a hurry, when rumours start spread about him.
Except for short visits to Russia in 1839-1840 and 1841-1842, Gogol was abroad for twelve years. The first edition of Gogol’s collected works was published in 1842. It made him one of the most popular Russian writers. Two years before his return, Gogol had published «Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends» (1847), in which he upheld the autocratic tsarist regime and the patriarchal Russian way of life. The book arose disappointment among radicals who had seen Gogol’s works as examples of social criticism. In the play «Marriage» (1842) nearly everybody lies and the protagonist cannot make up his mind about marriage. He hesitates, agrees, then withdraws his promise.
In his later life Gogol came under influence of a fanatical priest, Father Konstantinovskii, and burned sequels for «Dead Souls», just 10 days before he died on the verge of madness on the 4th of March, 1852. Gogol had refused to take any food and various remedies were employed to make him eat. Rumors arise from time to time that Gogol was buried alive.
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Николай Васильевич Гоголь родился в Sorochintsi, Украина, и рос на его родительской усадьбе. Его настоящая фамилия была Ianovskii, но дедушка писателя взял фамилию «Гоголь», чтобы претендовать на Нобелевскую казачьей родословной. Гоголь отец был образованным и одаренным человеком, который писал пьесы, стихи, и зарисовки..
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