A little post-Christmas and Birthday round-up


As I’ve mentioned before on the Ramblings, I am blessed (cursed?) with having a birthday fairly close to Christmas. It means I have to wait all year without celebrations and then two come along at once… Which can be a nuisance; but as my friends and family know me well, it also means there are often a fair amount of bookish incomings at this time of the year. Despite the fact that 2020  has been the year from hell and unlike any other, it’s comforting to find I still have piles of incoming books to share… ;D

First up the birthday pile:

There are some rather fascinating books in the heap, some of which I requested and some of which were inspirational choices by Mr. Kaggsy! From the bottom up, there’s “The Way of the World” by Nicolas Bouvier from Youngest Child; from what I’ve heard this should be a fascinating travel book! Then there’s “Moscow in the Plague Year” by Marina Tsvetaeva courtesy my Little Brother – he thinks the combination of Russia and Poetry and depression is ideal for me! ;D

Next up on the pile is Emile Zola – the first two books in his great cycle of novels. I have kind of conceived a desire to read the whole lot in sequence (gulp!) so requested these from Brother-In-Law. Then we get to Mr. Kaggsy’s choices, and he has done well. I love Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, so a pair of books by and about them promise great things. Mr. K. had a great attack of inspiration when he decided on the “Nineteenth-Century Russian Reader” as I don’t have this, and it’s stuffed full of fascinating stuff, as is “Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction”. The final book from Mr. K, “The Day They Kidnapped Queen Victoria”, is one I’d never heard of – but it sounds a hoot!

Finally, atop the pile is volume 1 of the Journal of Montaigne’s Travels from my BFF J. (I am expecting remaining volumes to arrive later) – an antique and very pretty edition. Yay! Lovely birthday treats, all – and I’m keen to pick them all up at once, of course!

As for the Christmas arrivals, I sometimes expect to get less in the way of books but this year has seen some lovely books turning up under the tree:

I was a little knocked out by all the arrivals! To look more closely, from the bottom up, first we have books from family:

The bottom three are from Mr. Kaggsy, who managed to once again successfully get me books I want and don’t have – result! The next three are from the Offspring – thank you children! – and the top book is from brother-in-law who is usually good at following instructions re gifts…!

Next up is bookish arrivals from my Virago Secret Santa! As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m part of the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing, and each year we do a little Secret Santa. This year my gifts were from Alvaret, who I know through her own blog, and she sent me the most wonderful books!

Thoughtfully, she included one book from my wishlist (Nancy Spain), one she thought I would like based on my reading taste (“The Boarding School Girl” – spot on!) and a book she would like me to read (“The Brothers Lionheart” – I’m intrigued!) Such lovely gifts – thank you!

Last but not least, books from friends:

The Ocampo is an impromptu gift from the lovely Jacqui – thank you so much! Perfect! In the middle is volume 2 of the Montaigne mentioned above – hopefully volume 3 will eventually make an appearance… And finally, “The Salt Path” is from my old friend V. – an inspired choice, as I’ve been thinking I should read this one for a loooong time!

So I have been very spoiled bookishly in the last couple of weeks – and once I have shaken this “Underland” book hangover off, I will really have to try to choose what to read next! 😀

Gogol, translations and missing fragments – some ramblings… #gogol


I mentioned in my review of the Russian Library edition of Gogol, “The Nose and Other Stories”, that I would be posting on the subject of Gogol collections generally – and it’s certainly a fairly complex topic! Now, I own a reasonably substantial collection of Gogol editions, and here it is:

The Gogol tower…

That’s quite a pile of fiction from a man who didn’t produce *that* many works.. Breaking down the heap a little, some of the items are quite straightforward…

This is “The Government Inspector”, Gogol’s most famous play. Two versions of it – my original in the blue cover which I would have picked up in the 1980s, and the recent lovely Alma Classics version which I reviewed here. Nothing complex about that!

Next up, “Taras Bulba”. A Cossack epic, apparently… I haven’t actually read it and possibly won’t (but you never know). However, the completist in me picked up this lurid covered edition, again most likely back in the ’80s, because I wanted to have everything Gogol I could get!

“Dead Souls” should really need no introduction. It’s Gogol’s work of genius, and again I first read it back in the 1980s, in the David Magarshack-translated edition on the top of the pile. I re-read it in 2015 in the Robert Maguire translation and loved it all over again. The bottom version is translated by Bernard Guilbert Guerney for when I want to revisit it…. ;D

OK. This is where it gets more complicated… Gogol wrote a *lot* of short stories and the books above are the collections or individual stories I own. Though I’m sure there are a lot more out there. But here’s the thing – not one of these collections is *complete* and that’s what I actually would like! According to Wikipedia, these are the short stories/collections Gogol published:

Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, volume I of short story collection (1831):

The Fair at Sorochintsï
St John’s Eve
May Night, or the Drowned Maiden
The Lost Letter: A Tale Told by the Sexton of the N…Church

Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, volume II of short story collection (1832):

Christmas Eve
A Terrible Vengeance
Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt
A Bewitched Place

Arabesques, short story collection (1835):

The Portrait
A Chapter from an Historical Novel (fragment)
Nevsky Prospect
The Prisoner (fragment)
Diary of a Madman

Mirgorod, short story collection in two volumes (1835):

The Old World Landowners
Taras Bulba
The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich

The Nose, short story (1835-1836)
The Carriage, short story (1836)
Rome, fragment (1842)
The Overcoat, short story (1842)

But the thing is, there appears to be no English complete collection of all of these stories which I think is actually a bit shocking. All the anthologies select, and they select differently. Fair enough, but if you’re going to mix and match from Ukrainian tales and Petersburg tales, why not just do a complete collection with *all* of his stories for those of us who love his work?

As you will have seen, I have a battered old ex-library book containing the collected Pevear/Volokhonsky translations, which again is not complete but has stories I don’t have in other volumes. I want to offload it, frankly, which sent me searching online and I came up with this Wordsworth edition:

It was £2.50 and it has a really wide range of the stories, including the ones I was missing that were in the P/V edition… So of course I sent off for it and it now sits happily on my shelf and the unwanted one is in the donation box. The translations are mostly by Constance Garnett and I’m happy with that. It has a version of “The Portrait”, too and I’m going to be interested to see which one…

BUT! I am still missing things, although I’m happy to have near complete Gogol now. The two fragments listed above as being in “Arabesques”, “A Chapter from an Historical Novel” and “The Prisoner” don’t seem to be anywhere in any of the collections I have, and I’ve failed so far to track them down anywhere else. If anyone know if they’re out there anywhere in English, I’d be very happy to hear about it. In the meantime, I am going to have to hang onto all the varying collections I own to make sure I have as many of the short works as possible. Really – unless I’m missing something obvious, isn’t it about time we had a complete Gogol edition for us Anglophone readers???? ;D

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