Join us on a literary world trip!
Add this book to bookshelf
Grey
Write a new comment Default profile 50px
Grey
Subscribe to read the full book or read the first pages for free!
All characters reduced
The Mantle and Other Stories - cover

The Mantle and Other Stories

Nikolai Gogol

Translator Claud Field

Publisher: Merkaba Press

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0

Summary

As a novel-writer and a dramatist, Gogol appears to me to deserve a minute study, and if the knowledge of Russian were more widely spread, he could not fail to obtain in Europe a reputation equal to that of the best English humorists.
 
A delicate and close observer, quick to detect the absurd, bold in exposing, but inclined to push his fun too far, Gogol is in the first place a very lively satirist. He is merciless towards fools and rascals, but he has only one weapon at his disposal—irony. This is a weapon which is too severe to use against the merely absurd, and on the other hand it is not sharp enough for the punishment of crime; and it is against crime that Gogol too often uses it. His comic vein is always too near the farcical, and his mirth is hardly contagious. If sometimes he makes his reader laugh, he still leaves in his mind a feeling of bitterness and indignation; his satires do not avenge society, they only make it angry.
 
As a painter of manners, Gogol excels in familiar scenes. He is akin to Teniers and Callot. We feel as though we had seen and lived with his characters, for he shows us their eccentricities, their nervous habits, their slightest gestures. One lisps, another mispronounces his words, and a third hisses because he has lost a front tooth. Unfortunately Gogol is so absorbed in this minute study of details that he too often forgets to subordinate them to the main action of the story. To tell the truth, there is no ordered plan in his works, and—a strange trait in an author who sets up as a realist—he takes no care to preserve an atmosphere of probability. His most carefully painted scenes are clumsily connected—they begin and end abruptly; often the author's great carelessness in construction destroys, as though wantonly, the illusion produced by the truth of his descriptions and the naturalness of his conversations.
 
The immortal master of this school of desultory but ingenious and attractive story-tellers, among whom Gogol is entitled to a high place, is Rabelais, who cannot be too much admired and studied, but to imitate whom nowadays would, I think, be dangerous and difficult. In spite of the indefinable grace of his obsolete language, one can hardly read twenty pages of Rabelais in succession. One soon wearies of this eloquence, so original and so eloquent, but the drift of which escapes every reader except some Œdipuses like Le Duchat or Éloi Johanneau. Just as the observation of animalculæ under the microscope fatigues the eye, so does the perusal of these brilliant pages tire the mind. Possibly not a word of them is superfluous, but possibly also they might be entirely eliminated from the work of which they form part, without sensibly detracting from its merit. The art of choosing among the innumerable details which nature offers us is, after all, much more difficult than that of observing them with attention and recording them with exactitude...

Other books that might interest you

  • Pierre et Jean - cover

    Pierre et Jean

    Guy de Maupassant

    • 0
    • 0
    • 0
    A vague jealousy, one of those dormant jealousies which grow up between brothers or sisters and slowly ripen till they burst, on the occasion of a marriage perhaps, or of some good fortune happening to one of them, kept them on the alert in a sort of brotherly and non-aggressive animosity. They were fond of each other, it is true, but they watched each other. Pierre, five years old when Jean was born, had looked with the eyes of a little petted animal at that other little animal which had suddenly come to lie in his father's and mother's arms and to be loved and fondled by them.  
    Jean, from his birth, had always been a pattern of sweetness, gentleness, and good temper, and Pierre had by degrees begun to chafe at everlastingly hearing the praises of this great lad, whose sweetness in his eyes was indolence, whose gentleness was stupidity, and whose kindliness was blindness. His parents, whose dream for their sons was some respectable and undistinguished calling, blamed him for so often changing his mind, for his fits of enthusiasm, his abortive beginnings, and all his ineffectual impulses towards generous ideas and the liberal professions. Since he had grown to manhood they no longer said in so many words: "Look at Jean and follow his example," but every time he heard them say "Jean did this - Jean does that," he understood their meaning and the hint the words conveyed.
    Show book
  • The Transition of Juan Romero - cover

    The Transition of Juan Romero

    H. P. Lovecraft

    • 0
    • 0
    • 0
    The Transition of Juan Romero is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written on September 16, 1919, and first published in the 1944 Arkham House volume Marginalia. 
    The story involves a mine that uncovers a very deep chasm, too deep for any sounding lines to hit bottom. The night after the discovery of the abyss the narrator and one of the mine's workers, a Latino called Juan Romero, venture inside the mine, drawn against their will by a mysterious rhythmical throbbing in the ground. Romero reaches the abyss first and is swallowed by it. The narrator peers over the edge, sees something—"but God, I dare not tell you what I saw!" and loses consciousness. That morning he and Romero are both found in their bunks, Romero dead. Other miners swear that neither of them left their cabin that night. The chasm has vanished as well. 
    Famous works of the author Howard Phillips Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Horror at Red Hook, The Shadow Out of Time, The Shadows over Innsmouth, The Alchemist, Reanimator, Ex Oblivione, Azathoth, The Call of Cthulhu, The Cats of Ulthar, The Festival, The Silver Key, The Other Gods, The Outsider, The Temple, The Picture in the House, The Shunned House, The Terrible Old Man, The Tomb, Dagon, What the Moon Brings.
    Show book
  • Man in the Case - cover

    Man in the Case

    Anton Chekhov

    • 0
    • 0
    • 0
    As two friends are sharing stories together, the story of the man in the box comes up. The man in the box, Byelikov, was an eccentric professor that often made his coworkers feel uneasy. One day, Byelikov finds himself enamored with the sister of a new teacher at the school, Kovalenko. The prospect of a relationship between Byelikov and the sister, Varinka, excited his colleagues as they thought it might help to make him more normal and approachable. However, when someone takes it upon himself to draw a humorous caricature of the couple, things fall apart. When Byelikov's concern over the picture is not taken seriously, he retreats further into himself and the reader discovers what makes him the man in the box.
    Show book
  • Othello - William Shakespeare - cover

    Othello - William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare

    • 0
    • 0
    • 0
    Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603. It is based on the story Un Capitano Moro ("A Moorish Captain") by Cinthio (a disciple of Boccaccio's), first published in 1565. The story revolves around its two central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, and his treacherous ensign, Iago. Given its varied and enduring themes of racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, and repentance, Othello is still often performed in professional and community theatre alike, and has been the source for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.
    Show book
  • The Pursuing Shadow - cover

    The Pursuing Shadow

    Andrew Soutar

    • 0
    • 0
    • 0
    Andrew Soutar (1879-1941) was a British author and journalist best known for his novels and short stories.'The Pursuing Shadow' is the story of Spatz, an unscrupulous and self-absorbed businessman who has left a trail of devastation behind him in the form of destroyed business partners, one of who lost an arm as a result of a suicide attempt when cheated by Spatz. But karma catches up with everyone, and the amputee finally returns to find Spatz at the precise moment of his own downfall.
    Show book
  • The End of the Affair - cover

    The End of the Affair

    Graham Greene

    • 3
    • 43
    • 0
    Graham Greene’s masterful novel of love and betrayal in World War II London is “undeniably a major work of art” (The New Yorker).   Maurice Bendrix, a writer in Clapham during the Blitz, develops an acquaintance with Sarah Miles, the bored, beautiful wife of a dull civil servant named Henry. Maurice claims it’s to divine a character for his novel-in-progress. That’s the first deception. What he really wants is Sarah, and what Sarah needs is a man with passion. So begins a series of reckless trysts doomed by Maurice’s increasing romantic demands and Sarah’s tortured sense of guilt. Then, after Maurice miraculously survives a bombing, Sarah ends the affair—quickly, absolutely, and without explanation. It’s only when Maurice crosses paths with Sarah’s husband that he discovers the fallout of their duplicity—and it’s more unexpected than Maurice, Henry, or Sarah herself could have imagined.   Adapted for film in both 1956 and 1999, Greene’s novel of all that inspires love—and all that poisons it—is “singularly moving and beautiful” (Evelyn Waugh).
    Show book