Gogol and the Search for Major Kovalyov’s Nose

31 August, 2015

Nikolai Gogol’s stories continue to captivate readers in Russia and around the world. In St. Petersburg, Gogol’s legacy has provided the inspiration for a restaurant and a hotel in his name. But why does Gogol continue to carry such importance in St. Petersburg? Although Gogol did not live in St. Petersburg for very long, his lasting memory is set in bronze in the centre of the city. But it’s Gogol’s characters that truly haunt the city…

Just off from Nevskii Prospekt on Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa stands a statue of Nikolai Gogol. In the midst of this lively pedestrian zone, Mikhail Belov’s depiction of Gogol seems frozen in time, as if Gogol had been walking along the street himself and paused, deep in contemplation. Gogol is imagined in bronze, with folded arms, and looking to the ground with a woeful expression. Speaking about his work, Belov stated that he was fascinated by Gogol’s personality and that he can relate his outlook on life to Gogol’s pessimism.

Nikolai Gogol was born on the 31st March 1809 and is best known for his short stories, many of which were set in St. Petersburg, including “The Overcoat”, “The Nose” and, of course, “Nevskii Prospekt”. A dramatist, novelist, and short story writer, Gogol was considered as a leading figure of the natural school of Russian literary realism by his contemporaries. However, later critics have drawn attention to a romantic sensibility in his works, with marks of Surrealism and the grotesque.

The grotesque has been linked to Gogol’s satirical short story “The Nose” in which Major Kovalyov wakes up to discover his nose has left his face to gallivant around St. Petersburg. Kovalyov eventually locates his nose in Kazan Cathedral. His nose is dressed in a uniform of a higher ranking officer, but it refuses to return to its rightful face.

There have been sightings of Kovalyov’s nose on Voznesenkii Prospekt since 2003. If you wish to join the search, head over to Voznesenskii Prospekt and make sure you pay attention on every street corner. Kovalyov’s nose could be floating around anywhere, perhaps it’s even stuck to a wall…

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