We love books

 
Random Article


 
Don't Miss
 

The Inspector General – Nikolai Gogol

 

Ratings
 
 
 
 
 


 


0
Posted October 13, 2016 by

The Inspector General – Nikolai Gogol – 1836

Posted by Andrew on 9/10/2003, 20:02:59

First of all let me apologize for being so late in putting together an intro for the discussion on The Inspector General. Punctuality and reliability are two qualities I value highly and regret not having exercised them here, to a group I consider important to my mental and spiritual well-being. That having been said, take my professional advice: Sue Me! (you may want a second opinion, ask Anna Van Het Nieuw Huis In Groningen Gelderen)

OK. Some questions for thought, answer all, none, or chime in with your own two kopecks’ worth:

· Why do you think Gogol chose to put this in the form of a play and not as a novel?

· The title in Russian ‘Revizor’ is instantly identifiable as foreign. Why do you think that Gogol chose to use it instead of a Russian-Language word?

· This book is as popular in Russia as it was when it was written (>150 years ago) – what explains that?

· What effect did the names of the characters have on you? Did you have a favorite character, and why?

· Could this book have been set in your country, if so – during what time period, if not, why not?

· Did you have any favorite lines?

My thoughts:

· I haven’t read a lot of plays, so my answer is kind of amateurish: perhaps Gogol felt he had tighter control over the action in the form of a play. Of course, everything is exaggerated, but it moves along very quickly. I don’t think he had to ‘set up’ or lay a foundation for the humorous points as much as he would have had to in novel form.

· This question is not my own, it came from a final exam I took 25 years ago. I think Gogol chose it to emphasize the total Russian-ness of everything else in the play … but why?

· In case it escaped your attention, this is about as far from Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky as you can get. I think Russians see a lot of the same mentalities today as in the book. Remember the Judge (?) who took bribes, but assured everyone it was OK b/c he only took white greyhound puppies? About five years ago I was at the main post office in St Petersburg buying stamps to send postcards home. For some typically Russian reason, you had to buy those stamps in a separate section from other stamps. When I got to the head of the line I was surprised to see that there were two fat cats (an orange tabby and a tricolor)sitting in their own chairs. The lady selling me the stamps assured me that they were allowed to keep the cats b/c they were the International Department!

· The names clearly add to the humor, and set us up for a lot of what goes on. Many of the names are very old-fashioned or clearly foreign. Dobchinsky & Bobchinsky! Liapkin-Tiapkin! These all add to the slapstick comedy aspect – but is there more to it? I liked the Governor and kind of felt that it all revolved around him. Dob/Bob kind of irritated me, but I also felt that was part of the point! Some ‘hints’ from names: Dmukhanovsky (Gov.) – ‘Mukh’ means insect, and is key to the Russian equivalent of “to make a mountain out of a molehill.” Khlopov (Supt. Of Schools) ‘Khlop’ means ‘bedbug.’ I can’t figure what if anything he meant by it, but Khlest (as in Khlestakov) is from he verb ‘to whip.’

· My favorite lines are: when the Judge tells the Governor that his assessor smells of vodka because his nurse hit him as a child(!!!!), and when Gogol writes ‘The doctor gives forth a sound intermediate between ‘M’ and ‘A.'” Maybe it’s me, but I spent ten minutes trying to figure out what that sound could possibly be!

And of course, as always, did you like it, and how many stars?

Honestly, the first time I read it was in Russian, and I gave it four, four and a half. This time, only three.

And last, it was only in thinking about whether this could have happened in the USA that I recalled a similar story. ‘The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg’ by Mark Twain is a novel with a broadly similar general theme. The inhabitants of a provincial town known for its high morals and values (scary all by itself!) make fools of themselves and expose their own corruption in much the same way as the characters in Inspector General. While by no means closely paralleling each other, I see Hadleyburg as very much an American Revizor.

If you’re interested in learning more about Gogol try:

http://www.todayinliterature.com/biography/nikolai.gogol.asp

Regards to all,

Andrew Donaldovich Scal

 

Posted by Lale on 10/10/2003, 18:12:17

In my opinion Gogol was one of the greatest satirists of all times. His short stories and his “Dead Souls” are masterpieces of comic social critisism. Even though I did like “The Inspector General”, I don’t think it is as good as his stories.

Since this is the first “play” we read together, I want to first talk about “reading” a play. I don’t know if plays are written to be read. Does anyone know? Do playwrights have the “reader” in mind when they are writing them? Or do they just consider the audience?

I read a lot of plays: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Chekov, Beckett, Ionesco etc. And I always felt that there was something weird about them. They have to be seen on stage on on printed paper. The author has signed off half of the story to the director. Without that other half (for which we still maintain the right to like or dislike) the story is not complete.

We don’t read movie scripts, do we?

In short, it is a little bizarre to be reading plays. But we have to, since it is so much easier to get hold of the book and just read it then to come across a staging of a play where you live and have the opportunity to go and se it.

Now, Gogol’s play, being very old fashioned, annoyed me with all the “aside”s.

CHIEF OF POLICE (aside): Listen to the yarns he’s spinning! He’s even tangling up his old daddy! (Aloud.) And shall you be gone long?

: · Why do you think Gogol chose to put this in the form

: of a play and not as a novel?

Maybe for wider exposure??? Maybe the Russians love their theatres and plays are more popular than books? I wish he had written it like one his marvelous stories.

: · The title in Russian ‘Revizor’ is instantly

: identifiable as foreign. Why do you think that Gogol

: chose to use it instead of a Russian-Language word?

That is interesting. My copy has footnotes on almost everything but it says nothing of the original title.

: · This book is as popular in Russia as it was when it

: was written (>150 years ago) – what explains that?

The corruption is as common now as it was 150+ years ago. Like in Turkey.

: · What effect did the names of the characters have on

: you? Did you have a favorite character, and why?

The names were funny. My copy explains all the names in details, like you have done Andrew, and it helps to know that they are not just random ridicoulous sounding syllables but they indeed have funny meanings.

: · Could this book have been set in your country, if so

: – during what time period, if not, why not?

This story could easily have happened in Turkey of 20 years ago and before. In fact, we have our own satirist, Aziz Nesin (1915 – 1995), who has written hundreds of stories of this sort. The telling part is this: Aziz Nesin has been trasnlated into some 50 languages, but one of the first was Russian. I believe he is quite well known in Russia.

To sum up: I liked it but he has written much better. 3.5 hearts.

Lale

 ~~

Posted by Howard on 10/10/2003, 22:39:00

: In short, it is a little bizarre to be reading plays.

: But we have to, since it is so much easier to get hold

: of the book and just read it then to come across a

: staging of a play where you live and have the

: opportunity to go and se it.

I found this one quite entertaining to read but I prefer to watch live performances whenever possible. The only other play I’ve attempted to read is Chekov’s Ivanov but that was only after hearing a performance on the radio. More from me later.

 

Posted by Howard on 12/10/2003, 18:04:55

: · Why do you think Gogol chose to put this in the form

: of a play and not as a novel?

I agree with both Andrew and Lale’s answers to this one. I think humour comes across better in plays. The theatre would have given the Inpsector-General more exposure than if it had been written as a novel as most Russians were illiterate at this time.

: · The title in Russian ‘Revizor’ is instantly

: identifiable as foreign. Why do you think that Gogol

: chose to use it instead of a Russian-Language word?

It’s possible Gogol wanted to demonstrate how remote the bureaucrats of St Petersburg were from the realities of life in provincial Russia. The use of a foreign word, “Revizor,” for the Inspector-General emphasizes this remoteness. He is a type of official the townspeople never encounter in their daily lives and therefore unrecognisable to them, of uncertain age, rank (in a society where rank was important) and appearance. It is not surprising that the Governor is ready to believe that Khlestakov is this man simply because he is a stranger.

: · This book is as popular in Russia as it was when it

: was written (>150 years ago) – what explains that?

: · What effect did the names of the characters have on

: you? Did you have a favorite character, and why?

I can’t really comment on the popularity of the book today as I’ve never been to Russia.

I have two favourite characters – Dobchinsky and Robchinsky, undoubtedly forerunners of the great comedy duos of the twentieth century.

: · Could this book have been set in your country, if so

: – during what time period, if not, why not?

I can’t imagine this play being set in England in recent times. Possibly back in the nineteenth century and earlier.

: · Did you have any favorite lines?

I liked Artemy’s comments to the Governor about the patients at the hospital:

“Oh, as to treatment, Christian Ivanovich and I have worked out our own system. Our rule is: the nearer to nature the better. We use no expensive medicines. A man is a simple affair. If he dies, he’d die anyway. If he gets well, he’d get well anyway. Besides, the doctor would have a hard time making the patients understand him. He doesn’t know a word of Russian.”

 ~~

Posted by Lale on 12/10/2003, 19:19:09

: It’s possible Gogol wanted to demonstrate how remote

: the bureaucrats of St Petersburg were from the

: realities of life in provincial Russia. The use of a

: foreign word, “Revizor,” for the

: Inspector-General emphasizes this remoteness. He is a

: type of official the townspeople never encounter in

: their daily lives and therefore unrecognisable to them,

: of uncertain age, rank (in a society where rank was

: important) and appearance.

Yes. I believe they did invent the “general” rank themselves.

: “Oh, as to treatment, Christian Ivanovich

: and I have worked out our own system. Our rule is: the

: nearer to nature the better. We use no expensive

: medicines. A man is a simple affair. If he dies, he’d

: die anyway. If he gets well, he’d get well anyway.

: Besides, the doctor would have a hard time making the

: patients understand him. He doesn’t know a word of

: Russian.”

Oh, I loved that too. Hilarious.

Lale

 ~~

Posted by moana on 13/10/2003, 3:07:09

I can’t read plays very well… I love the theatre, so it’s really hard for me to enjoy sitting down and reading through something that’s obviously incomplete without being staged. Yes, it was funny, but it would be ten times funnier if I could see people acting out the characters instead of having to make them up myself in my head.

This play reminded me of Durrenmatt’s The Visit, partially because of the plot and also because of the style – perhaps something about the way they were translated.

I think I missed a lot not knowing Russian, I didn’t get as many of the jokes as I should have.

I liked it, it was funny, but not laugh out loud funny. So, overall, 3 stars, but I think I’d give it a lot more if I saw it onstage.

~moana

 ~~

Posted by Howard on 13/10/2003, 21:16:30

I’ll give it three and a half but like Moana my opinion might change if I ever see it performed.

Have any of you come across the 1940s movie of the Inspector General with Danny Kaye?

 

Posted by Lale on 14/10/2003, 17:07:10

: Have any of you come across the 1940s movie of the

: Inspector General with Danny Kaye?

Such a thing exists? It would be cool to watch it but I doubt I can find any obscure movies here in Ottawa. One has to search the internet and order online. And if amazon doesn’t have it then you have to give your visa number to the 597th online business and wonder how populating the cyberspace with your visa number can possibly end to your benefit.

Lale

 ~~

Posted by Andrew on 14/10/2003, 22:06:15

I’ve heard of the Danny Kaye version, and I understand that they took some serious poetic license with the staging. I’ll pass on it in favor of http://entertainment.msn.com/movies/movie.aspx?m=32004

(I even think I’ll go out and buy it)

From Rotten Tomatoes:

“When a town clown is forced to impersonate a visiting inspector general, he soon becomes the target for murder and mayhem. A charming musical based on the play by Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol. The inimitable comic jester Danny Kaye stars.”

From All Movie Guide:

The satirical bite of Gogol’s play The Government Inspector is dispensed with in favor of traditional Danny Kaye buffoonery in The Inspector General. Kaye plays the illiterate stooge of two-bit medicine-show- entrepreneur Walter Slezak. Abandoned by Slezak, the starving Kaye wanders into a corruption-ridden Russian village, which is all geared up for a visit from the Inspector General. Mistaking Kaye for that selfsame royal inspector, the townsfolk fawn on the confused Kaye, granting him his every whim and plying him with all sorts of bribes. In the original Gogol play, the boorish phony inspector takes advantage of the villagers’ error by laying waste to the town and seducing a few local maidens; in the film, Kaye is as pure as the driven borscht, as is his true love (Barbara Bates), the only honest person in town. The treachery is in the hands of Slezak, who fakes Kaye’s death and tries to blackmail the crooked local officials. The deus-ex-machina arrival of the real Inspector General foils the crooks and places the nonplused Kaye in the job of town mayor. Those of you who read the play in college may remember it ends with everyone frozen in horror when the genuine inspector shows up, with Gogol’s stage directions insisting that the actors hold their fearful poses for a full sixty seconds. Be assured that in the film version of Inspector General, nothing stands still–least of all Danny Kaye, who cuts quite a swath through several Sylvia Fine/Johnny Mercer specialty songs. Hal Erickson

Other reviews:

http://www.clown-ministry.com/Resources/InspectorGeneral.html

 ~~

Posted by Anna van Gelderen on 19/10/2003

As we say in my native tongue: “Better let dan net”, so here goes.

Andrew asks:

Why do you think Gogol chose to put this in the form of a play and not as a novel?

Anna ponders:

Other people have already given very rational comments on this, but perhaps I might add that perhaps Gogol did not want to give any explicit comment on the situation, but preferred to let the action and the characters speak for themselves and let the audience draw its own conclusions. When this is well done, it may make much more of an impact than straightforward moralizing.

Lale was annoyed by the asides. I can see why, but I think we have to keep in mind that the 19th century stage was something quite different from the movies-as-faithfully-copying-reality-as-possible that we are used to today. Just like opera still is, the stage at that time was often highly stylized. It was not meant to convey a replica of life, but provide a comment on it. Exaggeration was the norm and unnaturalness not at all a problem. Asides used to be a highly valued convention, a useful tool for the playwright and a delightful extra for the spectators, especially those of comedies and farces. An aside gives the audience inside information,as it were, and highlights the discrepancy between the expectations of the characters on the stage and those of the audience. Shakespeare, for instance, uses asides quite regularly.

It was fun reading the play. Three-and-a-half hearts.

Anna Ivanovna


ReadLit Team

 


Want to contribute?