Writing as Exorcism: The Personal Codes of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol

By Ilya Kutik | Go to book overview

Chapter Three

Gogol's Nausea and Nossea

… 4. The highest sneezing speed on record
registered at 103.6 miles per hour. 5. The
sense of smell is directly connected to the lim-
bic system in the brain, which is concerned
with behavior, memory and emotion….
—[Nine New Things to Know about Your Nose]

NIKOLAI GOGOL WAS an oddball, an eccentric, a strange man, in both his life and his literary art. The strangeness of his literary work—its novelty of language, its pre-Surrealist Surrealism—has been discussed and recorded by many critics, who exercised their wit in explicating it. In addition, some insightful investigations, especially those of Vikenty Veresaev in Russia and of Vladimir Nabokov and Simon Karlinsky in the United States, have focused on Gogol's human oddity, including his hidden sexuality.

One of the strangest and most intimate relationships Gogol maintained, however, was with his own self or, to be more precise, with his own long, almost Bergeracian nose. This synecdochal part of Gogol's own [I] was a magnet of his permanent cares and irritations. His Catullus-like, love-hate attitude toward his nose probably started in school, where Gogol was famous for being able to touch it with his lower lip—a neat party trick. Later in life, he simultaneously was afraid of injuring it by frostbite while traveling and lived in an apartment in Rome where the low temperature, as registered by Gogol's temporary roommate there, the Russian poet Nikolai Iazykov, always kept his nose blue.

His literary debut of 1829, a long Romantic narrative poem, failed because of its poetic clumsiness. The book, the remaining copies of which were bought back by its author and destroyed, was titled [Ganz Küchelgarten,] a sign of Gogol's admiration for Wilhelm Küchelbecker. The latter, a Russian poet of German origin, was famous not only for his heavy eighteenth-

-53-

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Writing as Exorcism: The Personal Codes of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Praise for Ilya Kutik's Hieroglyphs of Another World A
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction: Reading the Extra vii
  • Chapter One - Exorcism and [The Extra] in the Text 3
  • Chapter Two - Two Superstitious Men 14
  • Chapter Three - Gogol's Nausea and Nossea 53
  • Chapter Four - Rome Before Rome 84
  • Conclusion: Musings on Modifications of Exorcism 118
  • Notes 131
  • Works Cited 141
  • Index 145
  • About the Author 153
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