bq.. It’s a curious thing, but perhaps the greatest historical novel ever written came from a literature that hardly existed at the moment of the book’s composition. In the early 19th century, Russia had only the thinnest gloss of modern European civilization, and, apart from the efforts of Pushkin, the Russian language had hardly produced a book worth reading. And then came Nikolai Gogol, who, before his death in 1852 at the age of 43, suggested, in the barest handful of works, every path down which Russian literature would subsequently head. An “epic poem,” he called “Taras Bulba”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679642552/christianitytoda when he transformed an 1835 short story into a novel in 1842, though the book is entirely in prose and runs fewer than 150 pages. As it happens, Gogol was right. “Taras Bulba”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679642552/christianitytoda is an epic, and it’s structured like a poem. Tolstoy could not have written “War and Peace”:http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product/?item_no=00841&p=1006323 without the epic feeling Gogol gave Russian literature?any more than Solzhenitsyn could have written “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”:http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product/?item_no=527097&p=1006323 without the imagistic logic of poetry, rather than the narrative logic of fiction, with which Gogol endowed his nation’s prose.
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