Nikolai Gogol (1809-52) was born in the Ukraine and left for St Peterburg at the age of 19 where he published a collection of short stories and for a short time held the post of professor of history at the university. Gogol's experience of life in St Petersburg informed his savagely satirical play, The Government Inspector, and a series of brilliant short stories including Nevsky Prospekt and Notes of a Madman. From 1836 to 48, Gogol lived abroad, mainly in Rome, where he was working on his comic epic Dead Souls - a work he wrestled with for the rest of his life before renouncing literature and burning parts of the manuscript shortly before he died. Robert A Maguire is Professor and Head of Department at Columbia University. He is the prize-winning translator of Petersburg by Andrei Bely (Indiana UP, 1979) and several contemporary Polish poets, author of Exploring Gogol (1996) and editor of Gogol from the Twentieth Century (1995). He has received a Ford Foundation Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several awards for his service to his field of study and his published works.
Gogol was a strange creature, but then genius is always strange. (Vladimir Nabokov)"