Tag Archives: the overcoat

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

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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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

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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)

*****

BOOK REVIEW: THE OVERCOAT by Ruskin Bond

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India 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.

    Ruskin Bond is one of India’s best known authors. He was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh in 1934. He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, at the age of 17. Some years later, it won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957.

    Bond spent his growing years in Jamnagar, Dehradun, Delhi and Shimla, all of which occupy a central place in his writing. After a four year stint in London and Channel Islands in the early 1950s, Bond returned to India and made Landour, Mussoorie, his home.

    A prolific writer, Bond has written several books, short stories, poems and essays. He won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1993 and was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999.

    The story Overcoat is set up in a hill station. It’s about a merry encounter with a ghost. And here it goes.

    The weather was clear and frosty. But as the noon came up over the Himalayan peaks, I could see patches of snow still lay on the roads of the hill station. I would have been quite happy in bed, with a book and a hot-water bottle by my side, but I’d promised the Kapadias that I’d go to their party, and I felt it would be churlish of me to stay away at the last moment. So I padded up myself before setting out for Kapadias on the moonlit road.

    It was a walk of just over a mile to the Kapadias’ house. I had covered about half the distance, when I saw a girl standing in the middle of the road.

    She must have been sixteen or seventeen. But she looked rather old-fashioned, with long hair hanging up to her waist, and a flouncy sequined dress, pink and lavender in colour that reminded me of the photos, in my grandmother’s family album. When I went closer, I noticed she had lovely eyes and a winning smile.

    ‘Good evening,’ I said. ‘It’s a cold night to be out.’

    ‘Are you going to the party?’ she asked.

    ‘That’s right. And I can see from your lovely dress that you too are going. Come along, we’re nearly there.’

    She fell into steps beside me as she commenced walking. We soon saw lights from the Kapadias’ house shining brightly through the deodars. The girl told me her name was Julie. I hadn’t seen her before, but then, I’d only been in the hill station for a few months.

    There was quite a crowd at the party, but no one seemed to know Julie. Everyone thought she was a friend of mine. I did not deny it either. Obviously, she was someone who was feeling lonely and wanted to be friendly with people. And she was certainly enjoying herself. I did not see her do much of eating or drinking, but she flitted from one group to another, talking, listening laughing and enjoying. When the music began, she started dancing and continued alone, or with partners, for it didn’t matter to her, as she was completely wrapped up in music.

    It was almost midnight when I got up to go. I had drank a fair amount of punch, and was ready for bed. As I was saying goodnight to my hosts and wishing everyone a merry Christmas, Julie slipped her arm into mine and said she too would be going home.

    When we were outside, I asked, ‘Where do you live Julie?’

    ‘At Wolfsburn,’ she said. ‘Right at the top of the hill.’

    ‘There’s a cold wind,’ I said. ‘And although your dress is beautiful, it doesn’t look very warm. Here, you’d better wear my overcoat. I’ve plenty of protection.’

    She did not protest, and allowed me to slip my overcoat over her shoulders. Then we started walking back home. But I did not have to escort her all the way. At about the spot where we had met, she said, ‘There’s a shortcut from here. I’ll just scramble up the hillside.’

    ‘Do you know it well?’ I asked. ‘It’s a very narrow path.’

    ‘Oh, I know every stone on the path. I use it all the time. And besides, it’s really a bright night.’

    ‘Well, keep the coat on,’ I said. ‘I can collect it tomorrow.’

    She hesitated for a moment, then smiled and nodded. She then disappeared up the hill, and I went home alone.

    The next day, I walked up to Wolfsburn. I crossed a little brook, from which the house had probably got its name, and entered, an open iron gate. But little had remained of the house. Just a roofless ruin, a pile of stones, a shattered chimney, a few Doric pillars where a veranda had once stood.

    Had Julie played a joke on me? Or had I found the wrong house?

    I walked around the hill, to the mission house where the Taylors live and asked old Mrs Taylor if she knew a girl named Julie.

    ‘No I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Where does she live?’

    ‘At Wolfsburn, I was told. But the house is just a ruin.’

    ‘Nobody has lived at Wolfsburn for over forty years, the Mackinnons once lived there. One of the old families who settled here. But when their girl died …’ She stopped with that and gave me a queer look. ‘I think her name was Julie … Anyway, when she died, they sold the house and went away. No one ever lived in it again, and it fell into decay. But it couldn’t be the same Julie you’re looking for. She died of consumption (Tuberculosis)—there wasn’t much you could do about it in those days. Her grave is in the cemetery, just down the road.’

    I thanked Mrs Taylor and walked slowly down the road, to the cemetery. Not really wanting to know any more, but propelled forward almost against my will.

    It was a small cemetery under the deodars. You could see the eternal snows of the Himalayas standing out against the pristine blue sky. Here lay the bones of forgotten empire-builders—soldiers, merchants, adventurers, their wives and children. It did not take me long to find Julie’s grave. It had a simple headstone with her name clearly outlined on it:

Julie Mackinnon

1923-39

‘With us one moment,

Taken the next,

Gone to her Maker,

Gone to her rest.’

    Although, many monsoons had swept across the cemetery, wearing down the stones, but they had not touched this little tombstone.

    I was turning to leave, when I got a glimpse of something familiar behind the headstone. I walked around to where it lay.

    Neatly folded on the grass was my overcoat.

    There was no thank-you note. But something soft and invisible brushed against my cheek, and I knew someone was trying to thank me. And that was no one else but Julie … Julie’s soul.

    It is an interesting story and I would give this story seven out of ten.

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)

*****