Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gogol or Hohol?

I've just started Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (or Mykola Hohol as he is known in Ukrainian). I read his Evenings in a village near Dikanka a couple of years ago, his first book which was based on Ukrainian stories. But I felt I should read this one before I head over. Even though it's a bit of a duty read in that way, I am really enjoying it only 60 pages in. What a great narrator! Here are a couple of my favourite bits so far -- in describing one of the main character's servants:

He was more taciturn than talkative in character; he even had a noble impulse for enlightenment, that is, for reading books, the content of which did not trouble him: it made absolutely no difference to him whether it was the adventures of some amorous hero, a simple primer, or a prayer book -- he read everything with equal attention; if they slipped him chemistry, he would not refuse that either. He liked not so much what he was reading about as the reading itself, or, better, the process of reading, the fact that letters are eternally forming some word, which sometimes even means the devil knows what. This reading was accomplished mostly in a recumbent position in the anteroom, on a bed and a mattress which, owing to this circumstance, was beaten down and thin as a flapjack.

Or, the first landowner from whom Chichikov purchases some dead souls, who is a dreamy sort:

In his study there was always some book lying, with a bookmark at the fourteenth page, which he had been reading constantly for the past two years.

I look forward to the next 337 or so pages!


  1. I love that second description -- maybe because it is a little like myself. I have so many books on my TBR list that have a bookmark at the fourteenth page, and have for the past two years... but I'm intrigued by the dead souls. I await your updates!

  2. Oh, good stuff! I want to read this book ...

  3. Oh dear, you just reminded me how behind I am with my Russian Reading Challenge.

    I am swamped with books!

    But I want to read Gogol!

  4. Temptress! I really need to try some Gogol.

  5. I am PROFOUNDLY Ukrainian and have always meant to read this book, which is sitting on my shelf right there, next to my coil of kielbasa.... thank you for reminding me of Hohol, Melanie....


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