Monday, September 17, 2007

Reader's Diary #292- Nikolai Gogol: The Cloak / and various plugs

Short Story Monday

I've covered so many Russian writers lately I'm expecting to get a call from Smirnoff any day now looking to take out ad space.

Today's short story is Nikolai Gogol's "The Cloak," or as it is sometimes translated, "The Overcoat".

I know I've been complaining lately over the seriousness of Russian literature, but thankfully Gogol offers up something with a sense of humour. This is not to say that it is a frivolous piece, but at least there's a chance to smile amidst all the philosophy and social commentary.

I loved the narration in particular. While the story is presented almost as a serious critique on various facets of bureaucracy and of the working world in general, the tone is undeniably satirical. Imagine Frasier narrating the Office.

At the center of the story is Akakiy Akakievitch, a serious individual who lives to work. This is not to be confused with ambition, for he has none. He is mundane to the point of being comically so. However, through the use of office bullies, Gogol made sure I still had sympathy for the guy. It's okay to laugh behind his back, just not directly at him.

It is only when faced with the task of affording a new coat that Akakiy shows any spark at all. He scrimps and saves, and actually shows signs of being excited about the prospect of the coat. When he finally gets it, things look like they might finally be looking up. This is not to be, however, and the story takes a somewhat strange turn. Personally I see the ending as a bit of poetic justice. I think Gogol plays it safe by making the reader question the authenticity of the conclusion, but it works either way.

(I'm again reminding my fellow bloggers that if you, too, write a short story post, please consider submitting the link to me at jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com to use in my short story themed Bookworms Carnival coming up in November.

This month's carnival is hosted by Book Nut. Her theme is classics. Check out all the great links- including one by yours truly- here.

And since I'm in a plugging mood, for all you writers or aspiring writers out there, please consider entering Patricia's "Good Granny/ Bad Granny" writing contest over at BookLust.

Also check out Raidergirl's SSM post: Stephen King's "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away")

7 comments:

MyUtopia said...

Great short story Monday post. Dude has some funky hair!

* Check out my big blog announcement.

Rob Hardy said...

No short story from me this week, I'm afraid. I was going to read a story from Steve Earle's short story collection "Doghouse Roses," but I ended up listening to his music instead.

John Mutford said...

MyUtopia: Congrats on the pregnancy! That's so wonderful!

Rob: I didn't even know Steve Earle wrote short stories. I'd love to check those out.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Is that the same Gogol for whom Gogol Bordello named themselves? I need to read this. Hey, maybe I can use it on my Fall Reading Challenge!

John Mutford said...

Barbara: The one and only (hence the label).

Barbara Bruederlin said...

D'Oh! You'd think that I would notice a label like that, wouldn't you? It's a dandy.

3M said...

I'm reading Gogol's stories from Evenings on a Farm in Dikanka right now for the RIP challenge.

http://1morechapter.com/2007/09/20/rip-stories-2-and-3/

http://1morechapter.com/2007/09/12/rip-short-story-1/