Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Selected Stories - Nikolay Gogol

The book contains stories such as 'Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and his Aunt', 'How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled With Ivan Nikiforovich', 'Nevsky Prospekt', 'The Nose', 'The Overcoat', 'Diary of a Madman', 'The Carriage' and 'The Government Inspector'. Gogol is one of a kind and his characters are too, unique but universal.
Penguin. 330 p, Rs. 299

In the first story Ivan Fyodorovich returns after serving in the army for many years to his estate that was being looked after by his single aunt (and quite profitably too) and how he meets his neighbour and seems to like his neighbour's daughter. The aunt seems to want him to marry. In the second, two great friends and neighbours quarrel needlessly over a rifle and spend many years fighting the case in court and hoping that each will win the case - until they die. In Nevsky Prospekt we relive the experience of this famous street in St. Petersburg and a man's romance. The Nose is simply about a nose that appears one day in some one's bread and well the owner's search for his nose and his frustration in proving that the nose is his own. Incredible writing. In 'The Overcoat' the poor clerk finally gets a new overcoat but it is stolen from him tragically. In 'The Diary of a Madman' we have another young clerk who secretly desires a young girl who he knows is in a class above him and who slowly starts imagine he is the King of Spain - a suitable match for his dream girl. But his behavior as King of Spain causes him to lose his job and entry into the mad house. Not a false step there. In 'The Carriage' comes the young businessman who goes beyond what his brief is and tries to sell a carriage to the army officer and finds himself in a spot - in his very carriage.

The play 'The Government Inspector' is brilliant. It's about this corrupt government in a  small town and how there is a news that a government inspector was coming to inspect. As luck would have it a good for nothing young man is staying in a  hotel in town and the mayor and other top officials mistake him for the inspector and how his life suddenly changes from being broke to being plied with everything including money, food and women.

The stories cling to you briefly and lightly and many times you need to go back to find out what happened. Nothing really happens but a lot happens. Like life. That's' where his brilliance lies.

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