Gogol is one of my favourite authors. I have published his Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Fell Out with Ivan Nikiforovich (under the title The Squabble) and other stories at Hesperus, and my greatest ambition is to publish a new translation of Dead Souls and his Petersburg Stories.
I think he is one of the greatest and most influential geniuses in the world of letters. He should be as widely read as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky or Bulgakov. Still, his works are very little known in this country. Perhaps it’s because he’s a humorous writer, and humour must be of a particular kind to appeal to English and American readers.
But another reason why Gogol is so dear to me – apart from the fact that he was stark raving mad – is that he has a strong connection with Rome. He commented on and praised the poetry of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, and even talked about my hometown Genzano in one of his letters:
I want to tell you about a feast that took place over the past few days in Genzano, a small village not far from Rome. It is called the Infiorata. Just imagine: all the streets are strewn and adorned with flowers – but don't think that the flowers are simply scattered around. Not at all! You wouldn’t even guess they are flowers: imagine some sort of carpets depicting a variety of things, and these all made of petals: baskets, vases, patterns and even a portrait of the Pope – simply extraordinary. The streets, the windows, the door frames were crowded with people…And he goes on to describe the Infiorata procession.
Our Oneworld Classics edition of Dead Souls should be coming out in the Spring of 2010. For the time being, dear Nikolai, a happy two-hundredth anniversary, with many returns!