The History of Literature #189 – Weeping for Gogol


“Gogol was a strange creature,” said Nabokov, “but genius is always strange.” Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809 – 1852) rose from obscurity to a brilliant literary career that forever changed the course of Russian literature. Born in 1809, he and his contemporary Pushkin influenced the titans who followed, including Tolstoy and Doestoevsky and Chekhov. Best known for his novel Dead Souls, his play, The Government Inspector, and a handful of classic short stories like “Diary of a Madman” and “The Nose,” it is his short story “The Overcoat” that perhaps best expresses his artistry and influence. As Doestovsky famously said, “we all come out from under Gogol’s overcoat.” But who was this unusual writer? Where did he come from? What was so different about his fiction, and what made it resonate with readers? And why does his story “The Overcoat” still have the power to make Jacke weep?

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Music Credits:

“Amazing Plan” and “Piano Between” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License


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