Reading progress update: I've read 34 out of 306 pages.

The Diary of a Madman, The Government Inspector, and Selected Stories (Penguin Classics) - Nikolai Gogol, Ronald Wilks, Robert A. Maguire

"Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt"

 

I only just realized that the story that follows this one, while connected, is its own story. "Ivan Fyodorovich..." ends rather abruptly, but the notes on the text state this is purposeful, in line with how so many of our unheroic lives work.

 

The story follows the titular character, Ivan, as he makes his way through life quietly. He's intensely shy, owing to an incident at school when he was younger, but is efficient. He has a career in the military before his aunt, who's been caring for his farm, writes to tell him she needs his help running the land. Ivan immediately leaves the military to do her bidding, though his aunt is a hilariously formidable woman. She prompts him to get a deed to some land from a neighbor, which doesn't go so well. While Ivan visits this neighbor (whom he met while traveling home), he meets two young ladies of the house and notes to his aunt that he liked one especially. Immediately, she prods him in the direction of marriage, which terrifies and astonishes Ivan.

 

The best things about this story are the funny, provincial characters and the crazy dream Ivan has at the end about having a wife.