How the Two Ivans Quarrelled
Translated by Guy Daniels
The first story in this volume, How the Two Ivans Quarrelled, is an amusing portrayal of two exceptionally close friends, the mortal insult that drives them apart, and the ensuing chaos that occurs. This is Gogol’s humour at its best, where the most irrelevant-seeming details and turns of phrase take on a bizarre life of their own. Ivan Krylov’s Panegyric in Memory of My Grandfather has an ingenuous narrator praise the nobility and modesty of a landowner whose actions prove him to be otherwise. The two tales by Mikhail Saltykov are satirical attacks on civil servants and Russia’s autocracy. The final piece, Tolstoy’s Ivan the Fool, is a playful and allegorical critique of contemporary Russian society. Together, they represent some of Russia’s finest comic writing before the twentieth century.
One of the leading figures in nineteenth-century Russian literature, Nikolai Gogol (1809–52) is best known for his satirical masterpiece, Dead Souls, and humorous plays and short stories such as The Government Inspector and The Overcoat, written in a highly original and often experimental style.