Nikolai Gogol was a Russian writer born in 1809. He died in 1852. Known especially for his realistic, humorous works depicting Russian life and all types of Russian characters, Gogol is regarded as the "founder of the so-called critical realism in Russian literature.
Gogol grew up on his family's country estate in Sorochintsi in the Ukraine. Although the family's last name was Ianovskii, Gogol's grandfather had taken the name "Gogol" to make a claim for Cossack ancestry. Gogol got his interest in writing from his father, who wrote plays, poems, and sketches in the Ukrainian language. In 1829, after going through boarding school and high school, Gogol settled in St. Petersburg. There he worked in minor government jobs and occasionally had works published in literary periodicals. A narrative poem published titled "Hans Kuchelgarten" published in 1829 met with no interest. From 1831 to 1834, he worked as a teacher of history at the Patriotic Institute in St. Petersburg and as a private tutor.
Aleksandr Pushkin, whom Gogol met in 1831, had a strong influence on his choice of literary material. After meeting Pushkin, Gogol wrote his "Dikinka tales" based on Ukrainian folklore. With these tales, titled "Evenings on a Farm near Dikinka," Gogol attracted some attention as a writer. Failing as an assistant lecturer of world history at the University of St. Petersburg, Gogol turned his attention to writing full time. He published a second collection of stories in 1835. "Old-World Landowners," the first story of this collection named "Mirgorod," dealt with the decay of the old way of life in Russia. The historical tale "Taras Bulba" of this collection became famous. The main character of this story was a strong, heroic character who stands apart from the bureaucrats, swindlers, and madmen of Gogol's later novels and stories from which he gained his lasting reputation.
"Mirgorod" was followed in 1935 by another story collection titled "St. Petersburg Stories." This collection contains the story "The Nose" which added to his growing fame as a writer of satiric works. In this story, a man loses his nose and goes through a series of episodes trying to return it to its proper place on his face. In another of this collection's stories, "Nevsky," a young man falls in love with a sensitive, beautiful young woman. She turns out to be a prostitute, however, and the young man commits suicide. "The diary of a Madman" and "the Overcoat" are two other stories of the collection "St. Petersburg Stories" which proved to be popular for generations of readers.