Book Review: “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol

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Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing all right. Here I am once again with a book review. As I had promised in my last one, I’m going to talk about “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol.

This was my first book by Gogol and I absolutely loved it. They are both short stories but they are both meaningful and very deep in my opinion.

Let me start with “The Overcoat”, which is my favorite of the two. I guess the main character of the story, as the title suggests, is the overcoat that Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, a rather poor government copyist, has to buy in order to keep himself warm during the cold St. Petersburg winter. Basically what happens is that Bashmachikin, a dedicated worker who is the subject of his coworker’s jokes for his overly used coat, takes his coat to the tailor to have it repaired but the tailor says that he needs to buy a new one. Since Bashmachikin lives a very basic life and does not have a lot of money he doesn’t really know what to do but, in the end, he finds a way to get the money he needs for his new overcoat.

Now I’m not going to reveal the ending because you have to read it, seriously, but somehow this story spoke a little bit to my heart. Probably because I could relate to Bashmachikin situation, which is what I really loved about this story because as I understand Gogol drew a lot from his personal experiences in order to write it.

This is a universal story, and it reminded me a little bit about Dostoyevsky’s “White Nights”. I think that it’s because both of these stories are about a feeling of isolation from the rest of society, and I think that everyone who ever felt alienated or alone will really love them. In fact, there’s a famous saying attributed to Dostoyevsky: “We all come out from Gogol’s Overcoat.”

This is my favorite quote from “The Overcoat”:

“And for a long time afterwards, even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: “Leave me alone, why do you have to torment me?” And in these piercing words he could hear the sound of others: “I am your brother.” The poor young man would bury his face in his hands and many times later in life shuddered at the thought of how brutal men could be and how the most refined manners and breeding often concealed the most savage coarseness, even, dear God, in someone universally recognized for his honesty and uprightness…” – Nikolai Gogol.

The other short story is called “The Nose”, and frankly, it’s one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read. It kind of funny, but it’s a very dark sense of humor I guess. It’s an absurd story about a man who basically loses his nose and has to go through a lot of tribulations to get it back to its place since the nose has decided to wander around the city.

It was really fun to read, I recommend it. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy in the second moment of its arrival is already less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal mental state, just as the circles which the fall of a pebble forms on the surface of water, gradually die away.” –  Nikolai Gogol.

Now I just want to say something about Russian literature, in general: the more I read about it the more I love it. It’s so dark and twisted but also incredibly deep, it’s really amazing, I have no idea why I thought it was too hard to read I’m completely fascinated by it, and I recommend it to everyone.

As always if you want to tell me something about your thoughts let me know in the comments.

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Book Review: The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! How have you been doing? Today I’d like to write about a book I finished recently. The book is called “The Queen of Spades” and it’s by the famous Russian author Alexander Pushkin. In the book edition that I got there was also another short story, also by him, called “The Shot”.

I really liked both of these short stories, particularly “The Queen of Spades” which is a story about a young officer, named Hermann, who watches other gamble but never play himself. One night one of his friends tells him the story of his grandmother, who a long time ago was able to win back the fortune she had lost at cards by using the secret of the tree winning cars. The countess never played again and Hermann becomes obsessed with learning the trick from her.

I’m not going to reveal the ending but I have to say it was quite unpredictable to me, I mean I thought it was going to end in a certain way and it ended in the opposite way. I really like Pushkin style so far, I find it easier than I expected it to be, yet it always kind of sophisticated, and it’s never boring. I highly recommend this short story.

The other one, “The shot” was the story of a retired soldier named Silvio, who seeks revenge against a man who disrespected him a long time ago.

I really liked this story as well, it was very short, even shorter than the first one but it was still entertaining. What I have found interesting is that, sadly, Pushkin life ended tragically in a duel, and I thought about what a sad set of circumstances had to take place in order for that end to happen. It’s such a shame that one of the greatest writers of all time had to die in such a way, I think of what more he could have done if things would have been different.

The next stories I will be reading next are two short stories by Gogol: The Overcoat and The Nose. I don’t think it will take me that long to finish them because they are very short as well, so expect a review in the next few days.

This is it for now, let me know in the comments if you have read these stories and what did you think about them, and also if you have any suggestion about what to read next, I not sure if I should start with some of the longer novels first, for example, I want to start reading “The Brothers Karamazov”, “The Idiot” and “Demons” by Dostoyevsky, “War and Peace” by Tolstoy, or if I should go for other short stories first, if you have any suggestion please let me know in the comments below, thanks.

I live you with my favorite quote from “The Queen of Spades” (if you haven’t read the story yet, let me warn you that it contains a spoiler):

“Lizaveta listened to him in terror. So all those passionate letters, those ardent desires, this bold obstinate pursuit—all this was not love! Money—that was what his soul yearned for! She could not satisfy his desire and make him happy! The poor girl had been nothing but the blind tool of a robber, of the murderer of her aged benefactress! … She wept bitter tears of agonized repentance. Hermann gazed at her in silence: his heart, too, was a prey to violent emotion, but neither the tears of the poor girl, nor the wonderful charm of her beauty, enhanced by her grief, could produce any impression upon his hardened soul. He felt no pricking of conscience at the thought of the dead old woman. One thing only grieved him: the irreparable loss of the secret from which he had expected to obtain great wealth.” Alexander Pushkin.

Movie Review: Doctor Zhivago

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Hi everyone! Here I am again. Today I want to talk about a movie I saw the other day. The movie is “Doctor Zhivago” and it’s based on the novel from Boris Pasternak.

It’s one of those famous classic movies that everyone has seen but for some reason, I had never seen it before, even though I’m a classics lover.

Before I get into it let me just say that this was one of my grandmother’s favorite movie, along with “Gone with the Wind”, every time they showed this movie on the TV she just stopped whatever she was doing and started watching it until it was done, no matter what time it was. So, out of curiosity, my sister and I decided to watch it. Before we started I said to her that if we got bored or if we didn’t like it we could just stop it.

I wasn’t expecting to get so much into it the way I did. The story was captivating, and even if we started watching it late at night I just didn’t want to go to bed until we finished it.

For those of you who did not watch the movie, it’s a love story between a doctor, with the heart of a poet, Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago, (played by Omar Sharif) and a young woman named Larissa or “Lara” (played by Julie Christie). The story is set in Russia during the years going the First World War, the Soviet Revolution and the Soviet Regime, the two protagonists have to go through a vast number of obstacles and tribulation during the course of their lives. I don’t want to reveal too much, in case you haven’t watched it but it’s one of those epic movies, with a lot of hardship and struggles, but also with a lot of beautiful and poetic moments.

Now there is one thing I’ve found particularly interesting about Pasternak’s novel. As it turns out the novel was banned from the USSR, probably due to the fact that it portrays the revolution and the following years in an unflattering light.

The book was smuggled to Milan in 1957 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, a very famous Italian publisher, and activist. The Italian Communist Party even expelled Feltrinelli for publishing the book. The following year Pasternak was even awarded the noble literature prize, which angered the communist party of the Soviet Union even more.

Now here is the interesting part: apparently in 2014 some declassified documents showed that the CIA used this novel as an instrument to cause discontent inside the USSR, they describe the novel as having “great propaganda value”.

This goes to show how powerful books truly are. It is something I’ve always known, but finding out this information got me thinking about how books and novels are viewed by governments and people in power.

Well anyhow, I’ve found the story particularly interesting and fascinating, I haven’t read the book yet but I will definitely add it to my long Russian Literature reading list. One thing that really stuck with me though was the captivating main theme. Here’s the link if you want to listen to it: https://youtu.be/4T3SUjwrsEo. It was truly fascinating.

This is it, for now, I’ll be back here soon with my weekly Game of Thrones episode review. If you want to let me know in the comments what you think about this movie, please do. I’m also interested in knowing how the book is compared to the movie adaptation, if some of you have read the book please let me know what you think about it.

Book Review: The Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! Guess what I was finally able to finish in the last few days? … *drumroll*… “The Captain’s Daughter” by Alexander Pushkin!

I know it has been a while since I had promised you a review but for a number of reasons I wasn’t able to finish the book up until now.

The book itself it’s not long at all, you can easily read it in just a few days, and as I said in one of my previous posts, the reason why I wasn’t able to finish it was that I wasn’t actually reading it, I read the first chapter and then I stopped. By the way the version I’ve read was the Italian translated one.

As for the story, I wasn’t expecting how engaging and captivating it could be, I swear that in some parts I just couldn’t wait to turn the page and find out what was going to happen. I was deeply invested in those characters, which was something I wasn’t expecting since it’s just a short book.

This is a historical novel, set during Pugachev’s Rebellion against Catherine II of Russia, during the second part of the 18th Century. The main character, Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, is a noble young man who gets sent to the army by his father in order to strengthen his character. During his service, he meets Masha, the daughter of Captain Ivan Mironov, the commanding officer at Fort Belogorsky, which is the place where he is serving. The two fall in love and their love story is the main theme of the whole story. Things get complicated when the rebel Pugachev and his army of Cossacks attack the Fort and manage to kill Masha’s parents in the process.

I won’t reveal the ending, if you are interested I strongly advise you to read it, because I  found it to be a very interesting and compelling reading. I learned a little bit more about Russian history, and in the book edition I got there’s also another historical novel, also by Pushkin, called: “History of Pugachev” which I’m currently reading now. It is a less romanticized and more historical description of the events that led to the Pugachev’s Rebellion.

This was also my first book by Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. I was curious to find out whether I would like his style or not, and I have to say that I really, really like it. I know he is considered one of the greatest in Russian literature, like in Italy we have Dante, in England there’s Shakespeare and in Russia there’s Pushkin, so I know he was one of the big ones. I have to say that I’m truly enjoying my journey through Russian Literature, I have yet to find one book that I did not like at all. They are all unique, mysterious and deep in my opinion and I can’t wait to read more.

Right now I’m reading “History of Pugachev” and a novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an Italian author, which is called “Teutoburgo”, I don’t know how the title is going to be translated in English, I guess: “Teuterburg”. After this, I have got three other books by Russian writers, “The Queen of Spades” also by Pushkin, “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Gogol and “Day of the Oprichnik” by Vladimir Sorokin. I’m very looking forward to reading all of them, if you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments below, and also if you want to share your thoughts and opinions about Pushkin please do.

As always, here is my favorite quote of the book:

“Young man! If my notes should fall into your hands, remember that the best and most enduring changes are those which stem from an improvement in moral behavior, without any violent upheaval.” Alexander Pushkin

Book Review: Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Hi everyone! Today I’m going to review a little book called “Heart a of Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov.

I read the Italian version, I finished it just a couple of days ago and I’m still thinking about it. As I said before, I’ve read “The Master and Margarita” and I’ve loved it, I think it’s an incredible book, and it’s probably the strangest book I’ve ever read. It’s one of those books that kind of strikes at the heart, therefore I was looking to get my hands on something else by the same author.

After reading “Heart of a Dog” I can say that I really appreciate Bulgakov’s style. It’s unique, shrewd and incredibly entertaining. I have to admit the book is not that long, still, I’ve read it in a heartbeat.

(Spoiler alert) The plot is quite simple: it’s basically the story of a stray dog, named Sharik, that gets lured into the home of a famous professor. After a few days Sharik undergoes a “Frankenstein’s style” operation in which the professor gives him a human pituitary gland and human testicles. After a miraculous recovery Sharik slowly becomes human, he loses his hair, he starts walking on two feet and he even begins to talk. The downside of the experiment is that Sharik, who now goes by the name Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov, behaves badly because he has taken the negative aspects of the donor who was an alcoholic and a bully, for example he swears a lot, he drinks, he harasses the two women who work for the professor etc. The story is set during the soviet times, and it is also a smart critic to the soviet regime, there’s a lot of conflict between Sharikov and his “maker” who are on opposite sides.

If I had to describe this book very simply I would say that it’s Frankenstein meeting Animal Farm. I really enjoyed it, I think Bulgakov is an incredible author, I wish I discovered him sooner. Does anyone have any suggestion on what should I read next? I would really love to read more of his writings. To continue my trip inside the amazing Russian Literature I just started to read “The Captain’s Daughter” by Pushkin, it’s my first Pushkin book so let’s see how that goes… after that, I’m open to suggestions.

I’ll end this review with my favorite quote:

“The whole horror of the situation is that he now has a human heart, not a dog’s heart. And about the rottenest heart in all creation!” Mikhail Bulgakov