Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809 - 1852)

Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol is a Russian writer born in the Ukraine, who was closely connected with the culture of «Little Russia» (Malorossiya), but always wrote in Russian and on different stages of his creative development invariably addresses to the theme of Russia. After finishing Nezhin school Gogol in 1828 came to Petersburg and published there his first works and narrative series («Hans Kuhelgarten» - 1829, «Evenings at the Farm near Dikanka» - 1831-1832, «Mirgorod» - 1835, «Arabesques» - 1835). Petersburg in April 1836 witnessed the first night of the «Inspector General» on the stage of Mariinsky Theater.

Gogol's Petersburg is a phantasmagoric, hierarchical, mercantile city that seems to have lost any spiritual elements, but secretly strives for religious and spiritual essence of life. Meditations on the contradictory nature of art find their expression specifically in Petersburg's stories (that have been first published within the third volume of Gogol's Collected Works in 1843). That was also in Petersburg where in 1831 Gogol made acquaintance with Pushkin. He carried his veneration for the poet through his whole life that did not prevent him from a special polemics with Pushkin. Gogol would soon come to a conviction that poetry of  «sweet sounds and prayers» that had transfigured art is not enough for the spiritual transfiguration of life. In the end of the 1830s - early 1840s the writer suffered through creative crisis and took for the crisis of art in general. Gogol was carried away with the idea to bring closer secular and spiritual kinds of literature. His travail at «The ead Souls» that had lasted from 1835 till the end of his life reflected this difficult process of creative search. Gogol was trying to understand the nature of Russian people, but at the same time he explored human soul in general; within this context his turn to Christian tradition - to the Bible, texts of Holy Fathers, Old Russian sermonizing literature - becomes inevitable and natural.

Having left Russia in 1836 and coming back only sporadically Gogol travelled a lot around Europe, but most time he spent in Italy, in Rome. In the 1840s he worked at some principally novel works, trying to create spiritual prose basing on Christian literature tradition. In this context he published (in the early 1847) «Chosen Place from Letters to Friends». In the new book he presented himself to a reader as a new writer, combining functions of a spiritual tutor and pupil; monk and citizen; the writer carrying out his messianic calling, and an artist repenting the sinfulness of his art.

In 1848 Gogol made a trip to Jerusalem. In the following years he lived in Russia, in Moscow. In summer 1950 he undertook a travel to his native places and also paid a visit to Optina Hermitage. After publication in 1842 the first volume of «The Dead Souls» he continued working on the poem that, according to the writer's plan, was to consist of three parts. The burning of the second volume (at night of February 11-12, 1852) as a foreboding of Gogol's death is symbolic. This act was an expression of dissatisfaction with what he had produced, desire to overcome the power of secular literature over him, unwillingness to leave unfinished the creation that was supposed to embody Gogol's innermost idea - to turn literature art into life-creation.

Gogol fund within Pushkinsky Dom was formed as a result of isolation of materials belonging to Gogol and also concerning his life and art from several collections. These are autographs of several works – «The Lost Charter», «Nights at the Villa» and others. «Nights at the Villa» is especially interesting in perspective of Gogol's attempt to turn to a diary form; he wrote this text while being in Rome, at the villa of Countess Zinaida Volkonskaya.

The fund also comprises the writer's sketches and separate notes, including written in death-agony notes and prayers that certify to the profundity of his religious meditations. These are threshold texts situated on the border of intensely private, nearly intimate, and the creative, sacral for Gogol.

The fund also preserves numerous letters from Gogol to famous Russian cultural figures - S.T.Aksakov, P.V.Annenkov, A.A.Ivanov, P.A.Pletnev, M.P.Pogodin, A.V.Nikitenko, S.P.Shevyrev, N.M.Yazykov and others. Epistolary exchange with A.A.Ivanov carries ruminations over the correlation of secular and church art, communication with P.A.Pletnev contains important discussions about the timely and adequate edition of the writer's works. P.A.Pletnev's letters to Gogol of 1844-1848 demonstrate community of their spiritual interests and explain why Gogol commissioned Pletnev publication of his «Chosen Places». Due to the efforts of Leningrad (Petersburg) researchers Gogol's epistolary exchange with Pletnev and his other contemporaries was published; its complete corpus will be included in the academic Gogol's Complete Works that is being prepared for publication now.

The fund comprises not only manuscripts and letters, but also drawings throughout his whole creative career the writer paid much attention to the looks of his book covers. For example, the cover of the first edition of »The Dead Souls» was executed after Gogol's design.

Representations of Gogol preserved at the Literature Museum reflect his spiritual and creative progress. Autolithography by Venetsianov preserved the way Gogol looked in the period of his work at his first narrative series, when the young man was just entering Russian literature. Pushkin also made a sketch of Gogol who then was not yet immersed in religious meditations, the image of a man and an artist who escapes single definition. A famous painter A.Ivanov, author of «Christ's Appearance before the People», with whom Gogol was closely connected with the links of spiritual and creative mutual understanding, managed to convey in his image of the writer intense concentration of Gogol's thought of his last creative period.

E.I.Annenkova