Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Midweek Mad Geniuses: Nikolai Gogol
The first in a series of geniuses who were also lunatics.
Let's take a look at genius/madman Nikolai Gogol.
Anybody who's read Dead Souls (Gogol's most famous work), will appreciate the man's outstanding skills as a novelist and part time comedian. The guy's hilarious. Read The Nose of you're in any doubt. The protagonist of Dead Souls, Chichikov, is a roguish anti-hero who wanders Russia buying up 'dead souls' or deceased serfs for commercial profit. The novel describes numerous devious, unscrupulous and ridiculous characters in an hilarious and profound manner. 'Dead souls' also refers to the characters Chichikov encounters. It is a superb study of morality.
Anyway, Dead Souls was supposed to be part 1 in Gogol's longer work. Chichikov was supposed to find redemption in part 2. Part 2 was largely completed when, in a fit of stupidity, drunkeness or 'influence of the devil', Gogol hurled the manuscript into the fire, went to bed, forgot to eat and died a week later in extreme pain.
During this time he described the burning as a practical joke. Nice one Nikolai.