Gogol, Nikolay (Vasilyevich)

Gogol, Nikolay (Vasilyevich)

biographical name


Gogol, oil painting by F.A. Moller, 1840; in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow—Courtesy of the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

(born March 19, 1809, Sorochintsy, near Poltava, Ukraine, Russian Empire—died Feb. 21, 1852, Moscow, Russia) Russian writer. Gogol tried acting and worked at minor government jobs in St. Petersburg before achieving literary success with Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (1831–32). His pessimism emerged in such stories as “Taras Bulba” (1835) and “Diary of a Madman” (1835). His farcical drama The Government Inspector (1836) lampooned a corrupt government bureaucracy. From 1836 to 1846 he lived in Italy. During this time he laid the foundations of 19th-century Russian realism with his masterpiece, the novel Dead Souls (1842), a satire about serfdom and bureaucratic inequities in which he hoped to castigate abuses and guide his countrymen through laughter, and his story “The Overcoat” (1842). His collected stories (1842) received great acclaim. Soon afterward he came under the influence of a fanatical priest who prompted him to burn the manuscript of the second volume of Dead Souls. He died a few days later at age 42, perhaps of intentional starvation, on the verge of madness.

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