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Nikolai Gogol

Plays and Petersburg tales

Plays and Petersburg tales is a collection of six stories and two plays by Nikolai Gogol, mostly set in the city of St. Petersburg.

The Nose is probably the best known of the stories, where a civil servant finds his nose has disappeared, and is pretending to be a civil servant two ranks about him. (Civil service ranks play a significant part in the stories, and there is a list of the 14 different levels in the introduction). It's certainly surreal, not so much as the works of Kafka maybe, more of a dream-like quality. I did find that this meant I didn't tend to empathise with the protagonists of the stories, for instance poor Akaky Akakievich in The Overcoat, as much as I might in stories by other authors, but maybe that's just me.

I found the plays less interesting than the stories. Perhaps plays need to be seen on stage to be appreciated, but then again it seems that the initial audiences also found Marriage rather plotless. (The Tsar loved The Government Inspector, which ensured its success.)

The translation into English is smoothly done, and the book has a useful introduction (which I read after the stories - it rather gives the plots away if you read it first), as well as maps of St. Petersburg and a chronology of Gogol's life.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews