Some beautiful thoughts and sentences appear in Ronald Wilks’ lovely introduction to Gogol’s short stories in a delightful little Penguin book.

On the Diary of a madman:

Here we find expressed the essential absurdity and tragedy of life, where dream and reality merge so that we have no means of distinguishing what is true from the illusory, what has value from what is worthless;

On the Overcoat:

The use of language alone (as opposed to any conscious effort on the author’s part to impose his vision or message) to create what is literally another world, where logic does not apply, where values become transmuted and the world is turned upside down, is quite extraordinary.

Gogol did not so much work from the imagination…as by using apparently irrelevent, trivial details to astonishing effect…..

Gogol’s characters do not have psychological depth and are developed in the main purely by external physical descriptions.

On Gogol’s portrayal of women:

It is interesting to note that Gogol generally portrays women either as delicate, ethereal, impossibly unattainable beauties, or as viragos or witches, in league with the devil and ready to lure man to destruction.