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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Nose (1836) by Nikolai Gogol

Book Review
The Nose (1836)
 by Nikolai Gogol

   What is crazy about The Nose, a short story by Russian author Nikolai Gogol, is that it was written in 1836, almost a century before ideas like dadaism and surrealism began to break down the borders of so-called "reality" in a way we now find intimate to our day-to-day existence.   Certainly 18th century literature has some wild moments, but those are broad about more usually by authorial eccentricity than any ideological attempt to subvert reality.  Whatever could Nikolai Gogol, writing in the early to mid 19th century, been thinking, or doing.  Was he high? Mad? Mentally ill?   There is some comparison to a fairy tale, greek myth or even the conventions of gothic fiction in the 18th century, but the satiric tone differentiates The Nose from those other categories of prose.  Even the more familiar trope of social satire was not hugely popular in the early to mid 19th century.  You wouldn't call Tolstoy, Dostoevsky or Turgenev "funny" by any stretch of the imagination.

  Unfortunately as to the circumstance which animated Gogol to write The Nose: The introduction by the Czar of "Tables of Rank" which allowed civilians to become aristocrats via service to the crown, even the most well equipped modern reader is likely to miss the significance without an advanced introduction to the back story. 

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