Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Summer with Nikolai Gogol

Nikolai Gogol postage stamp, Russia, 2009.

Summer of 2011 was particularly sad and tough time for me. On June 24th (Midsummer's Eve), my beloved mother suddenly got a seizure, and she was knocked unconscious. A brain aneurysm had ruptured in her head! I was there and I saw my mother's seizure, and it was the worst and most traumatic thing I have ever experienced. I'd like to forget it!

An ambulance took my mother quickly to the hospital. After an intense brain surgery, she laid for two weeks in the hospital, and for most of the time, was unconscious. She never talked to us anymore (her last word, before the seizure, was "Petroskoi"; it is a city in Russia)... My mother passed away on July 9th, 2011. She was only 67 years old.

In addition to this tragedy, I will always remember how I read Nikolai Gogol the entire summer 2011. In three months, I read all his works: novels, plays, and short stories. I had found a new favorite writer; and more. Mr. Gogol's humorous and imaginative stories gave me something else to think about during that serious time of sickness and death.

I remember one night that I spent in the hospital beside my mother. I had to stay awake, and I brought Gogol's book with me. I heard the heavy, painful breathing of my poor mother while I was reading Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (a short story which I was reading at that moment was St John's Eve or May Night). My dear Russian friend Nika had recommended this short story collection to me, it's her personal favorite from Gogol. And I read... and I stayed up with my mother (that was her next to last night on earth)... I was in two worlds at the same time!

Daguerreotype of Gogol taken in 1845.

A Brief Introduction to Mr. Gogol

Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer. He was an Orthodox Christian. Many of his stories are funny and humorous, but he also wrote some really scary ghost stories. Quoting the Wikipedia: "Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism and the grotesque."

My favorites from Gogol (besides Dikanka) are his great novel and magnum opus Dead Souls, his satirical play The Government Inspector, and his short stories  Viy, Nevsky Prospekt, Diary of a Madman, The Nose, and The Overcoat. After my mother's death, I bought all Gogol's books. Actually, collecting Russian classics has been one of my hobbies since summer 2011.

Altogether, I love Russian literature especially much: Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and other great authors. Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita (1940) is the best novel I have ever read. For me, reading is the dearest "hiding place". More than ever I needed that happy place in 2011. During those days, Nikolai Gogol led me to another world. I will remember that as long as I live.

 ✿⊱╮ ✿⊱╮ ✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮

A later addition: The main purpose of this article was to tell about Gogol and how I  found the Russian literature, once and for all. I didn't tell everything (all important things) about the summer 2011 and my mother's death, and how I got comfort from many of my friends, and from many things. All means were used! But please note the limited context. Above all, this time I wanted to write article about my new favorite author.

On those tough times, I had actually more than just one "angel". Those angels were my few best friends (you know who are are), who prayed for my mother and encouraged me. I haven't forgotten any of you. I thank you for your good words and prayers, they will be always remembered by God as well as in my heart. Thank you! m(_ _)m

Russian literature section at my home library. On the shelf, you can also see matryoshka dolls and one of my icon, both bought from Russia.


  1. Hi Teisuka,
    Thank you for sharing your unforgetable moments in life with us. It was really sad that your mother passed away at comparatively a young age. I know that it was like a trauma to your heart. But everybody has got to move on and stay positive (I'm sure you do). I can very much relate to your mother's death, and I believe it still hurts when you think about this. Compared to my mother, your mother is actually lucky. She did not suffer too long before she passed away. About 20 years ago, my mother had an accident while riding her bike (At that time in China, most residents in cities commute to work by bike.), and she broke her bone near pelvis and was bedridden later on. While she was recovering, suddenly she had a stroke and could no longer talk. I was in another city at the time, and my father did not send her to hospital right way, and such a delay proved to be fatal. She could no longer recover, and she was bedridden for a whole year before passing away. Few people could imagine how much she suffered during that one year. She was only 62 when she died. What was even more hurting was the rude and poor medical service at that time, to me, the doctors and nurses treating my mom were all bastards. They did not show a tiny bit of sympathy. I have been trying to forgive them and forget all about this, but it is still hard for me even today.

    I first learned about Gogol in my literature class in high school. But I've never seriously read his novels or short stories. I'm really glad that you could find some comfort from reading them while your mother was fighting for her life in hospital. I think maybe I should read some of his works when I have time. Such kind of classic literatures should have its eternal value no matter what times we are in.

    From your picture, I can see that you have quite a collections of Russian literature. -:)It's just amazing. And I also like these unique Russian dolls. -:)

    Thanks again for sharing part of your life. May you continue to find treasures from what you read and have fun. Also hope you sleep well tonight. :)Blessings,

    1. Hi Bao,

      Thank you for your long message and understanding, I really appreciate that. I'm sorry to hear about your mother who died when she was only 62 years old. So sad. It is too young age to die, indeed. I can understand you very well if you are still a little bitter because of that rude and poor medical service in China at that time.

      My mother's death, it is my worst trauma, yes... She was taken from us too early, and I still miss her terribly. She was very close and dear to me. It is not right to say that she was "lucky". She wasn't ever so lucky, and she had a quite hard life. She was a poor proletarian woman, and our family wasn't rich.

      What I didn't tell in my article, was that my mother tried to get help more than 9 months, and she had no possibility to go to brain surgery in time, even they knew what is wrong with her. She died while she was waiting her time to get the brain surgery! Her time would come one month after her death... too late!

      People always think that Finland is a welfare state and we have a great public health care system. I can tell you, it is partly myth or based on the old information. This WAS a welfare state, and we HAD a good public health care system. But during last years, stupid politicians has mostly ruined that old good system, and they are mostly right-wing jerks and "super capitalists".

      But you are right, we try to forgive and try to get over troubles. We have got to move on and stay positive, even though it's difficult sometimes...

      Regarding Gogol, ah you know this great writer! Classic literature has its eternal value, that's right. Just like the music of Teresa Teng has its eternal value. True art is timeless and universal and it never gets old.

      Thanks for "praising" my collection. It is my pride. :) Yes, I have a lot of all kind of Russian stuff: books and dolls and teapots, etc. But I have no any Lenin or Stalin statues. Hahaha. ;) Communism and revolution always means death and terror, sooner or later... I hate fanatism and extreme policy (both left and right). More I am interested in old "Holy Russia", 19th century, Orthodox Christianity, old culture, literature, cinema, music, and good things like that. The culture is what we leave behind. Good culture deserves to live and it also give us strenght to live.

      All the best to you, my friend, and thank you also for sharing your memories here. May God keep us safe and blessed. Our mothers, may they both rest in peace in a better place. Amen.


  2. Dear Teisuka,

    I love what you have shared about Gogol. When I was in high school, I developed a passion for Russian literature and an eagerness to learn whatever I could about that culture. When I was 17 I took a total immersion Russian course at the University of British Columbia for 6 weeks. Believe it or not, it was two years' worth of credit in 6 weeks!

    Regarding Gogol, I especially remember reading "The Nose" and laughing myself silly. At the time, it seemed the funniest, most ridiculous story I'd ever read. I love his writing! When I lived in Harbin, China, which was a city founded by Russians originally, there is a street called "Guogoli Dajie"--Gogol Street. That street and many others in that area of the city are filled with old Russian style buildings. St. Sophia church is nearby too.

    You, Bao and I all have very painful stories about the passing of our mothers. It sounds like they were all three far too young. My mom was only 53 when she got a disease that destroyed her brain. She lived for 12 years like that. She died almost 17 years ago but I still think of her and can cry easily. I try to imagine her happy now.

    This night, which is actually tomorrow morning your time, I wish you well. May your day bring you brightness and love.

    :-) Mingxin

    1. Dear Mingxin,

      I'm happy to see you here again, my friend. Many thanks for your heartfelt and profound comment. Yes, I remember you have a passion for Russian literature too. And your Russian course was REALLY intensive! Haha. :)

      When I was a teenager, I was also a huge Russia-fan. Two years ago I found my old passion again, when I met my dear Russian friend. She have taught me so much about her country and culture.

      Aiyaa, you remember Gogol's short story 'The Nose'! That is so crazy and Kafka-like story, indeed. One morning Ivan Yakovlevich finds a nose in his bread during breakfast, and so on... Haha. Gogol has a weird sense of humor. :D

      Nice to hear about your experiences in China. A street called 'Guogoli Dajie'? Interesting!

      Oh, you have also lost your mother and only at the aged of 53. Too sad! I'm so sorry for that, my friend. Yes, mother will be always close and remembered, regardless how many years ago she have passed away. She never die in our heart! Surely our mothers are happy now, they are all in a better place...

      By the way, I just realized that Nikolai Gogol, Teresa Teng and Elvis Presley, they all died at the age of 42. That is really too young age to die! I am 42 years old now. But nothing is self-evident in this world. Life is so unexpected. That's why every day is a little miracle, and we should be grateful we are still here. More and more I appreciate the value of life. The hourglass of life is full of gold-dust.

      Aww, thank you for this lovely wishes, my friend: "May your day bring you brightness and love." How well said! I hope it comes true. :) With the words of Mr Spock, I want to wish you: "Live long and prosper." :)

      Blessings and all the best to you, Mingxin!


  3. Hi Teisuka,

    Thank you for sharing how you got over your very traumatic period. It may help us in the future when we need help to get over our own trauma. Your article brings back memory of what you shared during your traumatic period. Time heals. Now you are much stronger emotionally. This is very good. I am happy for you. *~*

    "Death" may help us to think about "life" - how to better spend the rest of our lives and this is a positive aspect of "Death". *~*

    Thank you for introducing us to Nikolai Gogol. I look forward to reading his writing!

    Blessings to you!


    1. Hi G2kdlj,

      Thank you very much for your kind and comforting message. I hope you are right, that I am now "much stronger emotionally". Time heals, that is true... Sometimes we have only two choices: grow up or "perish".

      With the help of God, we can survive. At least for me, the religion and spirituality is a source of strength. At my darkest moment in summer 2011, God sent me an angel. This "angel" (messenger) was a human being who had a "message" to me, and she helped me to find my hope and faith again... Indeed, God lead us, if we are open to listen. ^^

      Aiyaa, I'm glad to hear that you are going to read Gogol now! ^^ Blessings to you too!


  4. Dear Bro. Teisuka...Just stopby want to what's in ytour mind recently
    come back when you grew up (girl)that's my words for you this week, although don't know the situation but as friend of you during past three years do know that my brother shouldn't desert like this and truly believe will find ture love soon, with my best wishes


    1. Dear brother Tze,

      Thank you very much for your heartfelt and comforting comment. I really appreciate it! Well, the situation is very complicated (I want to keep details private)... Generally speaking, I have had such a bad luck in love affairs whole my life. Haha. But I'm an optimist. I believe, I can meet a true love, and she will stay. I just thought, I already found her...

      It's morning here already, and I've been awake all night. But no worry, I don't need to go to work tomorrow, and these days we have no night in Finland at all. Lenght of day is now over 20 hours. The sun is shining almost continually.

      Again, thank you for your kind comment, my brother. All the best to you and your loved one! :)