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Literature & Fiction

Diary of a Madman (Signet Classics) - Nikolai Gogol

Diary of a Madman (Signet Classics)

Author: Nikolai Gogol
Book title: Diary of a Madman (Signet Classics)
ISBN: 0451520149
ISBN13: 978-0451520142
Publisher: Signet Classics (January 1, 1961)
Language: English
Category: Short Stories & Anthologies
Rating: 4.4/5
Votes: 975
More formats: lrf lit azw mobi

Reviews: (7)
Beware of translated works that don't mention the name of the translator.

That should have been my first clue. I'm not sure who did the translating of this collection, but he obviously does not have a thorough knowledge/appreciation of Russian humour and literature. I can say this because I'm from Russia and after reading the original version of Diary of a Madman (I didn't bother further with the others) and comparing it to this one, I was disappointed by how lengthy and confusing the passages were. The language was tripping over itself, rather than flowing with the Gogolian humour and absurdity. It was boring and difficult to follow and had none of the finesse that, for instance, Pevear and Volokhonsky's version was able to capture. Most surprising is that entire sentences were missing from certain passages. It seems that whenever there was a phrase the translator couldn't make sense of or see how it fit into the scheme of things, he just omitted it entirely!!! This is really offensive to the writer and unfair to the readers.
For goodness sake, he didn't even get the name of the dog right!! It's "Medji," not "Meggy"---just because this sound doesn't exist quite the same in the English language, doesn't mean you can rename the dog! (Unless it isn't read "Meggy" like "Peggy" but most English readers will read it this way anyway)
But the dog isn't the most important part. It's really the fact that the translator did not do Gogol justice. He did not treat this work with the dignity and reverence it deserves and as a result, has put out a shoddy interpretation of a classic tale.
I gave two stars because I did notice some attempts to capture the complexity of dry wit, as is often the style of satirical Russian authors. It is indeed very difficult to do this with English. Whoever this translator was, they made a solid effort; unfortunately, he just couldn't carry it. And the publisher should be more selective with the quality of work it puts its stamp on.
I only became familiar with Gogol through references in the work of Philip Roth. After all, great writers should give their due to their predecessors. Five of Gogol's most celebrated short stories are included in this collection. While I can only classify myself as a fan of three of these stories, this collection is still worth purchasing.

"The Diary of a Madman" harkens Kafka-esque images of man versus isolation and the bureaucracy in the story of one man's sometimes humorous spiral into madness. Scorned in love and work, the main character retreats into an alternate reality. "The Nose", the story of a runaway body part, possesses elements of Kafka's "Metamorphisis". A fiction that borders on absurdity can still be frightening. It brings to mind that the superficial image one presents in society is too important. "The Overcoat", having themes of superficiality and prized possessions, is a peculiar tale. Taunted by his co-workers for the condition of his overcoat, the main character makes many sacrifices to replace his coat. To a point, the new overcoat becomes more of an obsession than it should.

While "The Carriage" and "Taras Bulba" are also included in the set, I do not believe they carry the same feeling as the other stories. To a degree, "Taras Bubla" almost seemed out of place in the set. The collection of short stories is enjoyable and highly recommended to lovers of literature. It brings the thought to mind of what other works of literature were hidden from American eyes by communism.
A retired English teacher introduced me to Russian writers. The first one I read was "The Overcoat." It was wonderfully absurd. Gogol creates real personalities and gives insight into Russian culture and values. They are funny, sad and enjoyable literature.
Aside from Gogol's relationship on Russian and World Literature... aside from the Translation of this particular version... I enjoyed it.
I bought it for Diary of a Madman. One of Three stories. Quick, simple, to the point, and over. A fun little read.
Mr Freeman
Nikolai Gogol often gets overlooked in the realm of the Russian greats, but "Diary of a Madman" is nothing short of genius.
I purchased this for a study abroad class in St Petersburg on Russian literature. The formatting was good, as was the story and writing quality.
In my last review I said this book makes for edgy, fascinating reading! It is hard to put this book down! I also read this book as a senior in high school, between ages 17 and 18 years of age!
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