Gogol in contemporary Russian literature

Indeed, Gogol fundamentally changed the face of Russian literature and his influence is evident throughout its subsequent development. Today we see a certain Gogolesque element in contemporary Russian writing - though we are hardly likely to come across a new Gogol.
The classic 19th century Russian novel largely grew out of the so-called realistic school, which bore the distinct imprint of Gogol's works: the attention to social ordinariness, even to the insignificance of human existence, to trifles of everyday life, to common and unprepossessing characters and types. These features are easy to find in other famous Russian writers later in the 19th century: in Goncharov, in the early works of Dostoevsky and Turgenev, in Ostrovsky. This tendency to social criticism prevailed in the Russian literature of the second half of the 19th century.

Then again, Gogol's treatment of social problems cannot be reduced to simple realism. His world is too strange and fantastic. And this is not merely grotesque, that is a satirical description. Gogol's sensitivity to otherworldly realities is naïve and open in Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, and apparent as well in Mirgorod, in the Petersburg tales, and in Dead Souls. Dostoevsky was perhaps the first to master these lessons of Gogol's: it is exactly this fantastic quality that colors his story "The Double".

One way or another, with greater or lesser elements of the fantastic (mystical), Gogol's perception of ordinary life can easily be traced further. Not only in novels of the 19th century, but in works of the early 20th century: in works of the Symbolist poet Andrei Bely, in the stories of Alexei Remizov, in the work of Mikhail Bulgakov, and so on. As well as in works by contemporary writers. The novels of Sasha Sokolov, The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, and the strangely grotesque stories of Yuri Mamleyev all belong to the Gogolesque tradition. The characters are not as vivid as Gogol's, to be sure, but his view of life and his intonations are there.

Sometimes it seems that any even slightly socially colored phantasmagoria has its roots in Gogol's work. A passion for that sort of social fantasy in Russian literature has come to the fore of late. Certainly such popular authors as Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin, and even last year's winner of the Booker Russian Novel Prize Mikhail Elizarov may be viewed from this angle.

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