March 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nikolai


Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Gogol

An announcement from the Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament has made it official: Celebrations to mark the 200th birthday of Nikolai Gogol have begun. “Starting from today, eight cities of Ukraine will have big-boards with Gogol’s portrait and some quotes from his works dedicated to Ukraine,” Mykola Tomenko said yesterday.

Apart from the “big-boards,” 12 “mini-plays” based on Gogol’s works will be aired on the state radio, but not much else will be done. As reported in a story from the Kyiv Post, Tomenko said “the authors of the project wanted to avoid the standard celebrations procedure, which includes the issue of a special stamp, the minting of a commemorative coin and one concert.” Er, also, “some of the projects planned for the celebration period could not be implemented because of low funding from the government.” In fact, “neither the Ministry of Culture, nor the Education Ministry of Ukraine could generate or present any idea on organizing and celebrating the event.”

Gogol, the author of the early realist novels Taras Bulba and Dead Souls, as well as important early short stories such as “The Overcoat,” and the novella How the Two Ivans Quarrelled, left his country home in the Ukraine for St. Petersberg when he was 19 and never moved back.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives