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Russian literature, so full of enigmas, contains no greater creative mystery than Nikolai Vasil'evich Gogol (1809-1852), who has done for the Russian novel and Russian prose what Pushkin has done for Russian poetry. Before these two men came Russian literature can hardly have been said to exist. It was pompous and effete with pseudo-classicism; foreign influences were strong; in the speech of the upper circles there was an overfondness for German, French, and English words. Between them the two friends, by force of their great genius, cleared away the debris which made for sterility and erected in their stead a new structure out of living Russian words. The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.
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.
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About the Author
John Cournos, born Ivan Grigorievich Korshun (1881 - 1966), was a writer and translator of Russian-Jewish background who spent his later life in exile. In June 1912, he moved to London, where he freelanced as an interviewer and critic for both UK and US publications and began his literary career as a poet and, later, novelist. He later emigrated to the US, where he spent the rest of his life. He was one of the Imagist poets, but is better known for his novels, short stories, essays and criticism, and as a translator of Russian literature. He used the pseudonym John Courtney. He also wrote for The Philadelphia Record under the pseudonym "Gorky." Later in life he married Helen Kestner (1893-1960), who was also an author, under the pseudonym Sybil Norton. However, he is probably best known for his unhappy affair with Dorothy L. Sayers, fictionalized by Sayers in the detective book Strong Poison (1930) and by Cournos himself in The Devil Is an English Gentleman (1932).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fascinating historical novel by Gogol. One of my favorite of his books.