The nineteenth-century author Nikolai Gogol occupies a key place in the Russian cultural pantheon as an ardent champion of Russian nationalism. Indeed, he created the nation's most famous literary icon: Russia as a rushing carriage, full of elemental energy and limitless potential.In a pathbreaking book, Edyta M. Bojanowska topples the foundations of this russocentric myth of the Ukrainian-born writer, a myth that has also dominated his Western image. She reveals Gogol's creative engagement with Ukrainian nationalism and calls attention to the subversive irony and ambiguity in his writings on Russian themes. While in early writings Gogol endowed Ukraine with cultural wholeness and a heroic past, his Russia appears bleak and fractured. Russian readers resented this unflattering contrast and called upon him to produce a brighter vision of Russia. Gogol struggled to satisfy their demands but ultimately failed.In exploring Gogol's fluctuating nationalist commitments, this book traces the connections and tensions between the Russian and Ukrainian nationalist paradigms in his work, and situates both in the larger imperial context. In addition to radically new interpretations of Gogol's texts, Bojanowska offers a comprehensive analysis of his reception by contemporaries.Brilliantly conceived and masterfully argued, Edyta Bojanowska fundamentally changes our understanding of this beloved author and his place in Russian literature.
Edyta M. Bojanowska is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University.
Table of Contents
A Note on Transliteration
1. Nationalism in Russia and Ukraine
2. From a Ukrainian to a Russian Author
3. The Politics of Writing History
4. Confronting Russia
5. Nationalizing the Empire
6. The Failure of Fiction
Index of Works Cited
What People are Saying About This
Edyta Bojanowska confronts head-on a fundamental anomaly: Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian, but he became a great Russian writer. She shows how Gogol, throughout his literary career, was deeply torn between his identity as a Ukrainian and his commitment to be a Russian writer. It was his mission to sear Russian hearts with his message of truth and righteousness and show them the way to purify their souls. But his Ukrainian heart was never really in it; he didn't like Russia or believe in it. This is an illuminating, impressive, and original work by a very talented scholar.
Hugh McLean, University of California, Berkeley
Bojanowska's well-researched, sophisticated, and provocative analysis of the writings of one of Europe's most famous nineteenth-century authors not only offers a new perspective on Gogol's life and works but also sheds new light on the complex and often contradictory formation of modern national identities. A major contribution to the study of nationalism, as well as to the intellectual and cultural history of the region.
Serhii Plokhy, University of Alberta
Jeffrey P. Brooks
A major contribution to the history of Russian literary culture. Bojanowska illuminates Gogol's works in a new and interesting way, and makes a convincing case for his identification with Ukraine and his frequent inclination to compare Russia unfavorably to it. Her research is extensive, her argument fresh, stimulating, and controversial. The implications for our understanding of Gogol are enormous.