Books: Mad Russian

GOGOL (329 pp.)—David Magarshack —Grove Press ($6.50).

Nikolai Gogol was one of those truly bizarre characters who appeared in. and occasionally wrote, the great Russian novels of the 19th century. He was born of Ukrainian Cossack stock into that great shambling mess of splendor and squalor, the Russian Empire. The society must have had something in it of Elizabethan England (with its preoccupation with theology, place and power, and its spiritual ferment). To this was added a fantastic, ramshackle bureaucracy with bewhiskered officials dedicated to the ledgers of obscurantism. Gogol's own parents typified that society. His mother was a pious, eccentric ninny;...

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