Reading progress update: I've read 112 out of 306 pages.

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

"Nevsky Prospekt"


This story's somewhat different from the first two: it's still funny, but in a more bittersweet way, or is more subtle in its satire. There are references for which I'm glad I had end notes because they clarify some points of satire that only readers at the time (or those well-versed in Russian lit) would get.


The story opens with a lengthy, lively description of the titular street at different times of day, leading to the introduction of the two main characters, one a self-important officer, the other a too-sensitive-to-live artist. Each sees a girl he likes, and the story splits to follow first the artist, then the officer in their romantic tragedies or misadventures.


The absolutely beautiful girl that the artist sees (and follows like a stalker) turns out to be a prostitute, and he cannot reconcile her beauty with her profession. I wasn't sure if the story is upholding notions of beauty and purity or critiquing them. The artist is definitely a fool, but is he a fool for not questioning those notions too? This story also involves a dream like "Ivan Fyodorovich." I was fooled into thinking it reality. The artist is only happy in sleep where he can idealize the girl, and starts taking opium to get to sleep. He decides to go see the girl again and "rescue" her but is laughed at. He ends up killing himself!


The officer's girl turns out to be a married German, but that doesn't stop him. Her husband is a tinsmith that he employs in order to make more advances toward his wife. But this tinsmith doesn't show the officer the proper respect, the latter thinks. The officer just can't understand what his problem is. :)