The back says: This collection offers an excellent introduction to the author's works. Opening a door to his bizarre world of broad comedy, fantasy, and social commentary, the title story portrays a petty official's mental disintegration as he struggles for the attention of the woman he loves. Set during the repressive rule of Nicholas I, it satirizes the bureaucratic excesses of the era. Additional tales include “The Nevski Prospect,” a portrayal of the feverish pace of St. Petersburg street life, and “The Portrait,” a gripping depiction of a souls perdition.
I say: I fell in love with Gogol after reading Dead Souls earlier this year, and I’ve really been looking forward to reading more of his works. Having done that now, I think that this may very well turn into an obsession.
Diary of a Madman (5/5) was hilarious, and I was literally laughing out loud at so many places. It was just so absurd with talking and letter-writing dogs, a clerk whose job is to mend pens, and a Spain without a king. As much as I want to give a plot outline it seems a tad spoilery since it's such a short story, so one will have to take from that what one wills.
The Nevski Prospect (4/5) starts out with the narrator telling us about that street in St Petersburg; giving an exquisite account of all the goings on. If you like to sit at a café and people-watch (like me) the first part of this story will please you, because that's exactly what it felt like. While observing the street we come upon two men who happen to see two women. They each pursue one woman with completely different outcomes – one far more severe than the other.
And then finally The Portrait (3/5) which is about a portrait that causes the owner great distress. I can't really say any more as that would give away the entire story, but I did enjoy the beginning and the end. There was a few things in the middle that I thought were a tad drawn out and quite unnecessary, and it ended with slight predictability.
All in all it was a nice collection with humour, satire, a little bit of horror and (in my opinion) a slightly cynical moral - pretty much what I adore. I’m definately looking forward to reading more Gogol as I'm now starting to fully grasp the distinctness of his prose and how much he has influenced other Russian authors.