Saturday, 25 July 2020

And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories by Nikolai Gogol


And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories by Nikolai Gogol
First published as individual stories in the 1830s and 1840s. This five-story compilation, translated into English by Oliver Ready, published by Pushkin Press on the 5th December 2019.

A Classics Club Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Admired by writers from Nabokov to Bulgakov to George Saunders, Gogol is considered one of the more enigmatic of the Russian greats. He only wrote one novel, Dead Souls, and destroyed much of his later work, so his stories constitute his major output.

In this collection, beautifully and skilfully translated by Oliver Ready, Gogol’s three greatest St Petersburg stories – ‘The Nose’, ‘The Overcoat’ and ‘The Diary of a Madman’ – are presented alongside two masterworks set in the Ukrainian and Russian provinces - 'Old World Landowners' and 'The Carriage' - demonstrating the breadth of Gogol’s work.

Gogol’s extraordinary work is characterised by his idiosyncratic, and often very funny sensibility, and these stories offer us his unique, original and marvellously skewed perspective on the world.

I've only got a short review of this new Gogol Essential Collection because, unfortunately, his storytelling style wasn't really to my taste. I quite liked the characterisations and did enjoy Gogol's lively descriptions of scenes, but the stories themselves seemed more weird than anything else. I think from the synopsis I had been hoping for something along the lines of Daniil Kharms' surrealism or Mikhail Bulgakov's sharp satire. Instead, these five tales felt more along the lines of The Steel Flea by Nikolay Leskov and Gogol's sense of humour just didn't chime with my own. I'm glad to have had this opportunity to read a selection of Gogol's work so I now at least know what he was about and I could understand why the stories are considered classics, however I probably wouldn't make a point of reading this author again.


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