Gogol - Ревизор (Revizor/Inspector)

2023-11-24 @Literature

I read a fair bit of theatre, though not so much Russian theatre. Ревизор (1842), Gogol’s most renown theatrical comedy, along with Козьма Прутков’s nearly entire absurdist collection (if you can count that), is mostly it. Oh, and Pushkin’s dramas/mini-dramas, though there I’ve never felt particularly moved in contrast to his poetry and prose. That’s right, not even by Boris Godunov.

But concerning Ревизор. A grotesquely funny mixture of comedy, satire and farce. Well caricatures the ugly side of Russian functionary bureaucracy and nobility. Corruption, pomp, insurmountable vanity intermingle in a rural municipality. Gogol’s naturalistic lingo is so inherently Russian that I earnestly can’t imagine any translation attempt to do the non-Russian reader anything but injustice. This sort of lingo can only be experienced unhampered.

That said, I struggled to reconcile the narrative. Much of the drama felt too inverosimile, however much within the genre constraints of farcical comedy. Can’t get myself to imagine even a third of the dialogue to transpire in such fashion. I guess, unlike those parodies of Козьма Прутков, or the hyperbolic and metaphorical devices comprising much of Elizabethan theatre, Gogol’s comedy falls among Russian realism, and in that paradox I struggle. Not too unlike my struggles in certain parts of the realism novel Madame Bovary.

Maybe I’m misled or missing the grander picture.

Principles aside, if I don’t dwell over the category-vs-form dilemma, its hilarious dialogue exchange across the board, along the ranks of Gogol’s sharpest stories and novellas. I enjoyed it. Really! Don’t seek suppressed rancour between the lines. It’s tough to genuinely develop a distaste for Gogol’s output.

The only other critique, highly personal: Gogol’s provincial portrayals render an acquired taste for me. Can only read on occasional basis, when in particular mood for something this seamless, this charming. Too much of an imbalance between pure hedonistic pleasure and the craving for heavier literary device.

Questions, comments? Connect.