Nikolai Gogol The Diary of a Madman

ISBN 13: 9781511740319

The Diary of a Madman

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Gogol's most famous and high;y regarded work and the perfect introduction to his writing. 'Diary of a Madman' centers on the life of Poprishchin, a low-ranking civil servant and titular counsellor who yearns to be noticed by a beautiful woman, the daughter of a senior official, with whom he has fallen in love. His diary records his gradual slide into insanity. As his madness deepens, he begins to suspect two dogs of having a love affair and believes he has discovered letters sent between them. Finally, he begins to believe himself to be the heir to the throne of Spain. When he is hauled off and maltreated in the asylum, the madman believes he is taking part in a strange coronation to the Spanish throne. Only in his madness does the lowly anti-hero attain greatness. As he said in his first sight of her, just after being a beast of a civil servant himself, “A footman opened the carriage door and out she fluttered, just like a little bird.” The story satirizes the rampant petty officialdom of the bureaucracy in the 1830s in St Petersburg, and some have interpreted it as going beyond this to become an allegory about the political state of Russia at the time, revealing Gogol's view of the government from the standpoint of a lowly citizen. The story also portrays the average man's quest for individuality in a seemingly indifferent, urban city.

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About the Author:

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809-1852), although Russian, was born in the village of Sorochyntsi in the Poltava Oblast province of central Ukraine. He was never accepted by the Russian public as being completely Russian in his thinking and political ideology, and indeed he was not. Gogol's Ukrainian upbringing is most evident in his early works which draw heavily from Ukrainian culture and folk history. His later writing was more subversive, openly satirizing the corruption he saw rampant throughout Russia's empire. Gogol was homosexual. At age seventeen he wrote passionate letters to a friend who, being two years older, had graduated before Gogol, leaving him bereft. Gogol eventually exiled himself from Russia, living in Rome. It was here that he enjoyed at least one mutual love affair with a man, but his lover died within a year of their meeting. Two years later Gogol fell in love with the poet Nikolai Yazykov and penned love letters to him, but his efforts came to nothing. Gogol died in Moscow and was buried at Davilov Monastery. His last words were placed on his tombstone: "And I shall laugh my bitter laugh." When Soviet authorities decided to demolish the monastery in 1931 and transfer Gogol's remains, it was discovered his body had been buried lying face down, leading some to wonder if he had been buried alive.

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