It’s very interesting what good writing can evoke in the mind of the reader. (This probably stands out in my mind right now, as I’m preparing to speak on this topic very soon.) While reading the works of Gogol, this does bring about images of the Ukrainian countryside and various powerful emotions, as you may expect, but more distinct for me were images of myself sitting on a terrace on a warm Toronto evening, sipping my tart red wine, when I first read this collection. Interesting, perhaps, that I’m writing this review during another stay in Toronto, though a frigid stay this time.
The skill that Gogol exhibits with his writing, and the joy I experience when reading it, is probably easy to understate. His flowery prose never ceases to bring a smile to my face, though I accept that it could be a little too much for some readers. Nonetheless, the imagery the author constantly peppered throughout the tales were equal parts elaborate and specific – the specificity most likely owed to the author’s correspondence with his mother, encouraging her to describe every little nuance of the homes, the dress, the festivities, and everything else from the old country. The Collected Tales also offers the stark contrast between his earlier stories and the later St. Petersburg tales, where you can see the growth of the author, the height of which, I believe, is the complex metaphor at the heart of The Overcoat. Despite this, Gogol’s range of writing is clearly demonstrated throughout the collection, from humor to frightening, from realistic to fantastic; there’s no real surprise to me that Gogol was so respected in his day.
If you haven’t experienced the delight of reading The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, I highly recommend it. If you’re not familiar with the culture or the time, it will take some adjustment to the names and terminology, but, once you do, you’ll easily find yourself immersed in Gogol’s meticulously crafted worlds. (And, you know, the notes from the translators help quite a bit.)