The front cover of this superb publication shows a sleek black cat, tail high, eyes narrowed to luminous slits, strutting along an embankment in a photograph by Alexander Petrosyan. Like Russia, the cat is proud, a survivor. Gogol saw Russia as a brooding, dark country. These readings convey other writers’ takes on Gogol. Some of the fiction is absurdist fiction written in the early part of the twentieth century, when there was much experimentation in art and literature, like Dadaism. A Soviet writer could get himself shot for writing absurdist fiction under the Stalin regime.
The introduction is written by Tamara Eidelman, who states, “Gogol is an agonizing and painful love for Russia, from which there is no deliverance.” She makes us see how Gogol melds with Russia’s soul. “One Day in February,” by Mark Kharitonov features Gogol as the main character, in a crowd on a busy day, and while not exactly stream-of consciousness in its style, it cleverly depicts Gogol’s thoughts as he whiles away time, gets lost, muddled, and more – a novel study, taken from his novel. Much more delirious is “A Hell of a Fate” by Alexei Remizov: a sequence of dreams, or visions; a kaleidoscope of vignettes and images. “Gogol in Life” is an agonizingly detailed piece from a “biographical epic” by Vikenty Veresayev featuring the last three weeks of Gogol’s life, made even more miserable by the blundering treatment of doctors.
Several poems are present in their original Russian, then translated into English poetically, as well as literally for comparison. This is a very unique, interesting if incomplete array of Russian writers’ gestures of Gogol and examples of different kinds of literature it has produced in the past one hundred years.