Author. Nikolay Gogol was a Russian short-story writer, novelist, and playwright. Born on his parent's country estate, the household spoke their native Ukrainian as well as Russian. The death of his younger brother deeply affected him causing him to socially withdraw with dark moods. He attended Poltava boarding school for seven years and then Nezhin High School, where he started to write. In 1829 he settled in St. Petersburg, with a certificate attesting his right to "the rank of the 14th class." Gogol worked at minor governmental jobs and wrote occasionally. His early narrative poem, "Hans Kuchelgarten," was published at his own expense and received negative reviews from the critics. Between the years 1831 and 1834, he taught history at the Patriotic Institute and worked as a private tutor. He developed a friendship with the great poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, who became a true literary father and a magnificent friend. With the lack of formal education, he could not obtain a college professorship position. After being a failure as an assistant lecturer of world history at the University of St. Petersburg, he became a full-time writer. In 1835 he published "Mirgorod," a collection of four stories, beginning with "Old World Landowners," which described the decay of the old way of life, and also including the pseudohistorical narrative tale, "Taras Bulba." Gogol published in 1836 several stories in Pushkin's journal "Sovremennik," and in the same year, presented his famous play, "The Inspector General." While in Rome in 1835, he began to write his major work, "The Dead Souls," which took six years to finish. He claimed that the story was suggested by Pushkin in a conversation in 1835. Published in 1842, "The Overcoat," is without doubt the masterpiece of Gogol's short pieces of fiction. This ended his most productive period of writing, as "Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends" which was published on December 31, 1846, was badly received by critics. Except for short visits to Russia from 1839 to 1840 and 1841 to1842, Gogol was abroad for twelve years. While in western Europe, he studied art in Paris, read Italian literature and developed a passion for opera. Later in life, he came under the influence of a fanatical priest, Father Konstantinovskii, who insisted that his writings were sinful. On February 24, 1852, he burnt all his manuscripts including a second part of "The Dead Souls." He fell into a deep depression. When he had refused to take any food, various remedies were employed to make him eat, such as spirits being poured over his head, hot loaves applied to his person and leeches attached to his nose. After 10 days, he died in madness. Originally, he was buried at the Danilov Monastery with his grave marked by a large stone topped with a Russian Orthodox cross. In 1931 the monastery was demolished with his remains transferred to the Novodevichy Cemetery. Upon opening the original grave, his body was found face down, which led to the rumor he was buried alive. With the Soviet standard of no religious markings, the stone without the cross was place on his grave. In 1952, the stone was removed and a marble bust of him was placed on the site, but about 2009, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox cross replaced the bust. Most of his writings have been translated to English. He was among the first Russian authors to write about how life actually was in Russia.
Bio by: Linda Davis