Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (Russian: Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, tr. Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol; Ukrainian: Мико́ла Васи́льович Го́голь, Mykola Vasyliovych Hohol; 31 March 1809 – 4 March 1852) was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer.
Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism and the grotesque ("The Nose", "Viy", "The Overcoat," "Nevsky Prospekt"). His early works, such as Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, were influenced by his Ukrainian upbringing, Ukrainian culture and folklore. His later writing satirised political corruption in the Russian Empire (The Government Inspector, Dead Souls), leading to his eventual exile. The novel Taras Bulba (1835) and the 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", round out the tally of his best-known works.
After the triumph of Dead Souls, Gogol came to be regarded by his contemporaries as a great satirist who lampooned the unseemly sides of Imperial Russia. Little did they know that Dead Souls was but the first part of a planned modern-day counterpart to The Divine Comedy. The first part represented the Inferno; the second part was to depict the gradual purification and transformation of the rogue Chichikov under the influence of virtuous publicans and governors — Purgatory.
From Palestine Gogol returned to Russia, and passed his last years in restless movement throughout the country. While visiting the capitals, he stayed with friends such as Mikhail Pogodin and Sergei Aksakov. During this period he also spent much time with his old Ukrainian friends, Maksymovych and Osyp Bodiansky. More importantly, he intensified his relationship with a starets or spiritual elder, Matvey Konstantinovsky, whom he had known for several years. Konstantinovsky seems to have strengthened in Gogol the fear of perdition by insisting on the sinfulness of all his imaginative work. His health was undermined by exaggerated ascetic practices and 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.
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