Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852: A Centenary Survey

Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852: A Centenary Survey

Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852: A Centenary Survey

Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852: A Centenary Survey

Excerpt

NO ONE interested in modern Russian literature can afford to ignore either Pushkin or Gogol. The very entrance of its imposing (if somewhat labyrinthine) structure is dominated by these two figures -- like two great symbols of what one finds within. It was Vissarion Belinsky, the leading Russian critic of the thirties and forties of the last century, who stressed the fact that in Pushkin and Gogol Russian literature has passed 'through the most difficult and most brilliant process of its development; although it may not have reached in them its full manhood, it had left behind its adolescence and that youthful period which verges on adolescence.' Yet in spite of such a partnership, it is difficult to imagine a greater contrast than that between Pushkin and Gogol. Apart from their artistic genius, these two men seem to have little or nothing in common. On the other hand they are mutually complementary even in their differences. So much so that only by taking them together can we obtain a reliable approach to the Russian literature of the last hundred and twenty or hundred and thirty years.

Outside Russia this literature is often associated with gloomy introspection, with probings into man's psychological and spiritual underworld, where chaos, lack of balance and even madness are taken almost for granted. But an attitude of this kind is oblivious of the fact that . . .

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