Book Review — The Nose and Other Stories

The Nose and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol and Translated by Susanne Fusso is a Columbia University Press publication.  Gogol was a Russian dramatist of Ukrainian origin. Although Gogol was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, this collection is an example of the more surreal and grotesque.  Fusso is a specialist in nineteenth-century Russian prose, especially Gogol and Dostoevsky. She is the author of Designing Dead Souls: An Anatomy of Disorder in Gogol and Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky.

A hellish trip for a messenger, a man’s nose that has a life of its own, a man slipping into madness, hidden stories of a well-described street, and a story of a man and his overcoat round out the stories in the collection.  The title story, which starts out shockingly as a barber finds a nose in his morning bread, has a humorous side as its owner goes in search of the missing appendage.  The rank conscious owner is in an awkward position as the nose not only outranks him but dismisses him.  Gogol’s other stories capture real issues in Russian society and twist them violently.  Class, greed, sex, and status are all covered in different stories.  There is a strange humor in many of the stories unlike “The Nose,” “The Diary of a Mad Man” is a descent into madness, a grave plot topic, but the character’s delusions are quite humorous.  Other stories like “The Carriage” seem to touch the absurd.

Gogol is a master of short stories.  He delivers excellent detail with minimal use of words, and this survives in the superb translation.  His darker side runs the full range from horror to humorous to a combination of both.  Fusso’s translation captures nineteenth-century Russian life as well as the setting while faithfully rendering it into English.  Her translation captures all of Gogol’s magic.

1 Comment

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One response to “Book Review — The Nose and Other Stories

  1. And the opera is wonderful too, The recent Met production.had sets by Kentridge that were just perfect.

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