April 1, 2009KR BlogKR

Gogol Turns Ten Duotrigintillion

gogol09Gogol was born on the 1st of April, 1809. According to his mother (who, of course, made up the following dismal anecdote) a poem he had written at the age of five was seen by K., a well-known writer of sorts. K. embraced the solemn urchin and said to the glad parents: “He will become a writer of genius if only he lives until the year 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001809.” But the other thing–his having been born on the 1st of April–is true.

So concludes Nabokov’s Nikolai Gogol, published by New Directions in 1944. It was brilliantly championed (by one “P.B.R.”–anybody?) in the pages of the Review the following year, just as G.M. Hopkins by “Kenyon Critics” was appearing in same series, The Makers of Modern Literature. This grew out of a special issue of the Review, based on a symposium to mark Hopkins’ centenary. (May KR and ND partner up for a special Walser issue in 2078.) As with Kafka’s 125th last year, American ears are mostly deaf to Gogol’s 2C anniversary. (The Google nose was displayed all day at google.com.ru.) The 92nd Street Y did have a celebration a few days early, perpetuating the confusion about a man whose birthday was no more in March than one born on 2-34. In their defense, March is arguably the best time to read Gogol’s three greatest stories: after all, Akaky Akakievich was born on 3-23, “The Nose” begins on 3-25, and “The Diary of a Madman” ends on “The of 34 yraurbeF th” (with earlier entries dated “Martober” and “January of the same year, which came after February.” On the other hand, Nabokov’s The Defense, modeled on “Diary,” ends on 4-1.)

Now, Frank O’Hara, there’s someone who was born in March (namely, 3-, and not as his protective parents told him, 6-27). And so, Mothers of America, until the next week of this year’s April is Gogol Month, let your kids go to the movies!

???????????? (THE OVERCOAT-in-progress by the great Yuri Norstein and Franchesca Yarbusova

LE NEZ (1963) pin-screen animation by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker

Gravediggaz, DIARY OF A MADMAN (produced by The RZA…)