Reading progress update: I've read 139 out of 306 pages.

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

"The Nose"

 

By far, "The Nose" is the most absurd and therefore probably the most hilarious of the stories so far. I'm having a terrible time trying to explain what's funny in particular (besides the concept of a guy waking up minus a nose and later seeing said nose out and about and dressed like an officer). The characters do react to the situation with surprise, but it's not the kind of surprise you'd expect exactly. Kovalyov is outraged and goes through "proper channels"--or tries--to get his nose back. The nose, by the way, is initially found in his barber's bread! Though others share (almost) Kovalyov's dismay, he's met with resistance as he seeks aid--e.g. the paper won't allow him to place an advertisement seeking his nose, the police are out or too tired, etc. Kovalyov does get his nose back, but a doctor can't reattach it and offers to buy it! Then one day Kovalyov wakes, and his nose is back.

 

The story ends with the narrator musing on the far-fetched nature of the story as well as unexplained elements."But the strangest, most incredible thing of all is that authors should write about such things." This offers a clue that the story is in part addressing censorship; "The Nose" was, in fact, not published at first due to objections regarding its content, and the story was also censored (e.g. initially, Gogol had to revise it so that the nose goes elsewhere rather than to a church as in the original; the censors claimed it was sacrilegious for a nose to enter and pray at a church!).