Picture the scenario.
You wake up from your slumber.
You are a little groggy.
You are resisting getting out of the womb-like duvet.
You will rise but you will not shine.
You make your toilet.
You feel a little peculiar.
You splash your face with water and it is then that you notice.
It cannot be so.
You must be in one of those dream-like states were you think you have woken up but you really have not. You look closer.
You cannot NOT notice!
Your nose, the centre of your face.
Your nose has disappeared.
This is the predicament that Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov finds himself awaking to in the surreal short scrap of literary genius, the BOSS* little tale that is Gogol’s The Nose.
(* Please note to the non-Liverpudlian reader, ‘boss’ translates as fantastic, wonderful, splendid etc.)
To make things all the weirder he later spots his Nose casually walking in the street!
Strangely enough, I mistook it for a gentleman at first.
Fortunately I had my spectacles with me so I could really see it was a nose.
Nikolai Gogol’s writing has always captivated me. As a storyteller he really grabs the reader with both hands and drags him or her directly into the action of the narrative.
To celebrate 80 years of Penguin Little Black Classics, the publisher has released 80 shorts by everyone from Thomas Hardy to Edith Wharton. 80 titles priced at just 80 pence. I have taken advantage of sending Gogol’s surreal tapas of the written word to friends around the UK and Internationally.
I am actually quite jealous for those readers who have not read this title or heard anything about it as I would love the sensation of looking at it once again for the very first time. I distinctively remember reading it in my room decorated with pop posters of PULP, BOWIE, SUEDE and BJORK. It was a dismal winter’s evening, howling winds licked the window glass with rainy saliva. Gogol blew my mind with his clever satirical wit.
It was Camus that said,
The purpose of a writer is to keep civilisation from destroying itself.
Clearly Gogol wanted to hold the mirror up against the society he lived in and attack it. His play The Government Inspector is a classic example of this. If you are suitably impressed by the Russian writer’s imagination, I implore you to also take a peep at Diary of a Madman. It is absolutely hilarious in all of its complete insanity.
And keep an eye on your nose!
UK readers can buy a copy of The Nose from an independent bookshop near you via this affiiate link. This site may earn a small commission if you do.
Gogol picture by Otto Friderich Theodor von Möller, via Wikimedia Commons