Tag Archives: nikolai gogol

BOOK REVIEW: ‘THE OVERCOAT’ – Nikolai Gogol

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

“The Overcoat” sometimes also translated as ‘The Cloak’ was written by Ukrainian-born Russian author Nikolai Gogol. It is a short story that was published in the year 1842. Both the story and the author have had a great influence on Russian literature, as expressed in a quote about Russian realist writers, by French lit-critic Eugene-Melchoir de Vogue, often misattributed to Russian Novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky that says, “We all come out from Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’.” While writing in 1941, American-Russian novelist Vladmir Nabakov called it ‘The greatest Russian short story ever written.’ The story has been adapted into a variety of stage and film interpretations.

    The story narrates very sharply the life and death of a titular councillor Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, an impoverished government clerk and copyist in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. Although Akaky is dedicated to his job, he is faintly recognized in his department for his hard work. Instead, the younger clerks tease him and attempt to distract him whenever they can. His threadbare overcoat is often the centre of their jokes. One day Akaky decides it is now necessary to have the coat repaired. He takes it to his tailor Petrovich, who declares, the coat is now irreparable, and tells him that he must now buy a new overcoat.

    The cost of a new overcoat is beyond Akaky’s meager salary, so he forces himself to live within a strict budget to save sufficient money to buy the new overcoat. Meanwhile, he and Petrovich frequently meet to discuss the style of the new coat. During that time, Akaky’s zeal for his work of copying is replaced with excitement about his new overcoat, to the point that he stops thinking about anything else. Finally, with the addition of an unexpected large holiday salary bonus, Akaky has saved enough money to buy a new overcoat.

    Akaky and Petrovich go to various shops in St. Petersburg and pick the finest materials that they can afford. Marten fur is too expensive, so they use cat fur for the collar. The new coat finally emerges impressive and of good quality and appearance and becomes the talk of Akaky’s office on the day he arrives wearing it. His superior decides to host a party in the honour of the new overcoat, but Akaky who is habitually solitary feels out of place. After the party, Akaky goes home, far later than he normally would. But en route home, two ruffians short shrift him, take his coat, kick him down badly, and leave him in the snow to die.

    Akaky gets no help from the authorities in recovering his lost overcoat. Finally, on the advice of another clerk in his department, he asks for help from an important person, a Russian general recently promoted to his position who belittles and shouts at his subordinates to solidify his self-importance. After keeping Akaky waiting, the general demands of him exactly why he has brought such a trivial matter to him, personally, and not presented it to his secretary. Socially inept, Akaky makes an unflattering remark about departmental secretaries, provoking, so powerful a scolding from the general that he nearly faints and has to be led away from the general’s office. Soon thereafter, Akaky falls seriously ill with fever. In his last hours, he is delirious, imagining himself again sitting before the general. At first, Akaky pleads forgiveness, but as his death nears, he curses the general.

    Soon, a corpse, identified as Akaky’s ghost, haunts areas of St. Petersburg, taking overcoats from people. The police find it difficult to capture him. Finally, Akaky’s ghost catches up with the general—who, since Akaky’s death, had begun to feel guilty over having mistreated him—and takes his overcoat by frightening him intensely. Satisfied, Akaky is not seen again. The narrator ends his narration with the account of another ghost seen in another part of the city.

    Apparently it is a simple story of a common man and his tribulations, and the final denouement. But when you dig in deeper, you see the condition of Russia in the early 1800s, and a parable of the yoke of feudalism and how it crushes individuality. Akaky-Bashmachkin is the representation of the common man that is victimized under the feudal regime and its social and economic structure. He is a man who has no grasp at all of the true meaning of freedom. Gogol expresses it very well through the fabric of a simple, everyday story of that subaltern copying clerk.

    Gogol is considered the father of realism in Russian literature, and he, along with Pushkin brought about the emergence of Russian literature as we know it. He wrote about people on the ground and his protagonists and their troubles are troubles of your and mines. The Overcoat is a good read.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai and Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, India)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K.)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June 15 & 20 2020; Indica 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu August 31 2020; Breaking Through the Chakravyuh September 30 2020.

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

Author: Nikolai Gogol

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

    Short lifespan 43 years (31 March 1809–4 March 1852) was a Russian dramatist of Ukranian origin.

    The popularity of Nikolai Gogol in India can be judged by the fact that the main character in Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2003 novel The Namesake and its 2006 movie is named after Nikolai Gogol, because his father survives a train crash while clutching onto a copy of one of Gogol’s books in his hand.

    An eponymous poem “Gogol” by poet-diplomat Abhay Kumar refers to some of the great works of Gogol such as “The Nose”, “The Overcoat”, “Nevsky Prospekt”, “Dead Souls” and “The Government Inspector.”

    Gogol’s story “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” was adapted into a Marathi movie titled, Katha Don Ganpatravanchi in 1996. The movie was directed by Arun Khopkar and dialogues are written by Satish Alekar. The movie had Dilip Prabhawalkar and Mohan Agashe in lead roles.

    Although, Gogol was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the pre-eminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism. Later his critics have found in his work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strands of surrealism and grotesque in works such as, “The Nose”, “Viy”, (a horror story) “The Overcoat” and “Nevsky  Prospekt”. His early works, such as “Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka,” were influenced by his Ukrainian upbringing, Ukranian culture and folklore. His later writing satirised political corruption in the Russian Empire which includes (The Government Inspector and Dead Souls,). His novels “Taras Bulba” (1835) and his play “Marriage” (1842), along with the short stories “Diary of a Madman”, “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich”, “The Portrait” and “The Carriage”, are all among his best-known works.

    Gogol was born in the Ukrainian Cossack town of Sorochyntsi, in Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire. His mother descended from Leonty Kosyarovsky, an officer of the Lubny Regiment in 1710. His father Vasily Gogol-Yanovsky, was a descendant of Ukrainian Cossacks who died when Gogol was 15 years old. He belonged to the ‘petty gentry’, who wrote poetry in Ukrainian and Russian, and was an amateur Ukranian-language playwright. As was typical of the left-bank Ukrainian gentry of the early nineteenth century. The family spoke Ukrainian as well as Russian. As a child, Gogol helped stage, Ukrainian-language plays, in his uncle’s home theatre.

    In 1820, Gogol went to a school of higher art in Nizhyn (now Nizhyn Gogol State University) and remained there until 1828. It was there that he began writing. He was not popular among his schoolmates, who called him a “mysterious dwarf”, but with two or three of them he formed lasting friendships. Very early he developed a dark and secretive disposition, marked by a painful self-consciousness and boundless ambition. Equally early, he developed a talent for mimicry, which later made him a matchless reader of his own works and induced him to toy with the idea of becoming an actor.

    In 1828, upon leaving school, Gogol came to Saint Petersburg, with vague but ambitious hopes. He wanted literary fame, and brought with him a Romantic poem of German idyllic life – Hans Küchelgarten. He had it published, at his own expense, under the name of “V Alov.” The magazines he sent it to, almost universally, derided it. He bought all the copies and destroyed them, swearing never to write poetry again. Gogol was always in touch with the “literary aristocracy.”

    In 1831 Gogol brought out the first volume of his Ukranian stories—‘Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka’ that met with immediate success. He followed it in 1832 with a second volume and in 1835 by two more volumes and in 1835 by two volumes of stories entitled Mirgorod as well as miscellaneous prose titled Arabesques. With all this Gogol emerged more as an Ukranian writer than a Russian one. The themes and style of Gogol’s prose were similar to the work of Ukranian writers.

    Gogol developed a passion for Ukranian history and tried to obtain an appointment in the history department at Kiev University. Where, despite the support of Pushkin and Sergey Uvarov the Russian Minister for education his appointment was blocked by a Kyivan bureaucrat on the grounds that Gogol was unqualified.

    In 1834 Gogol was made professor of medieval history at the University of St. Petersburg, a job for which he had no qualifications. At the final examination, he sat in utter silence with a black handkerchief wrapped around his head, simulating a toothache, while another professor interrogated the students. This academic venture proved a failure and he resigned his chair in 1835.

    Between 1832 and 1836 Gogol worked with great energy. It was, only after the presentation, at the Saint Petersburg, State Theatre, on 19 April 1836, of his comedy “The Government Inspector” that he finally came to believe in his literary capabilities. The comedy, was a violent satire of Russian provincial bureaucracy. From 1836 to 1848 Gogol lived abroad, travelling through Germany and Switzerland. Gogol spent the winter of 1836–37 in Paris, among Russian expatriates and Polish exiles, He eventually settled in Rome. For much of the twelve years from 1836 Gogol was in Italy developing an admiration for Rome. He studied art, read Italian literature and developed a passion for opera.

    In 1841 the first part of Dead Souls was ready, and Gogol took it to Russia to supervise its printing. The book instantly established his reputation as the greatest prose writer in the language.

   After the triumph of Dead Souls, Gogol’s contemporaries came to regard him as a great satirist who lampooned the unseemly sides of Imperial Russia.  

    In April 1848 Gogol returned to Russia from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and passed his last years in restless movement throughout the country. He fell into a state of deep depression. On the night of 24 February 1852 he burned some of his manuscripts, which contained most of the second part of Dead Souls. He explained this, as a mistake, a practical joke played on him by the Devil. Soon thereafter, he took to bed, refused all food, and died in great pain nine days later.

    Gogol was mourned in the Saint Tatiana church at the Moscow University before his burial and then buried at the Danilov Monastery. His grave was marked by a large stone (Golgotha), topped by a Russian Orthodox cross. In 1931, Moscow authorities decided to demolish the monastery and had Gogol’s remains transferred to a cemetery in Moscow, Russia.

    His body was discovered lying face down, which gave rise to the story that Gogol had been buried alive. The authorities moved the Golgotha stone to the new gravesite, but removed the cross. In 1952 the Soviets replaced the stone with a bust of Gogol.

    Gogol was a great destroyer of prohibitions, and of romantic illusions. He undermined Russian Romanticism by making vulgarity reign where only the sublime and the beautiful had been before.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****