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Taras Bulba 
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Post Taras Bulba
"Taras Bulba", by Nikolai Gogol



Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:25 pm
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Post Re: Taras Bulba
The Hapgood translation is available at Googlebooks. I have added the link but it is very long and much care must be taken if you wish to past it in you browser. I got there with a Google search for "Tarus Bulba" (please note the spelling). This translation is dated 1915. The MacAndrew translation in the Signet Classics text of "The Diary of a Madman and Other Stories" is probably easier for 21st century readers.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Tw5gAA ... q=&f=false


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Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:10 pm
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Post Re: Taras Bulba
Gogol retells the folk-tale of the Cossack leader Taras Bulba with verve and imagination. But, it is Gogol's gift for description that catches the reader. Scenes come alive and characters are real people in Gogol's hands. His descriptions of battles sound like stage directions for a modern movie battle sequence. There is a lot going on in this novella; I will limit my comments to a few things that stood out for me on my first reading.

"And so it was the end of childhood, of games, of all such things." This is the transition from the introduction to the rest of the story. Nothing that follows could be mistaken for a game.

"No one is wiser than the people." We are not to have a story of kings and those of noble birth. This is about real people who cover themselves in glory by their actions not the accidents of their births.

Here is an example of Gogol's economic use of imagery: "And he sank into the arms of the Cossacks and his bright young blood streamed out like expensive wine carried from the cellar in a decanter by careless servants who slip and break their precious load by the dinning room door. And the master, seeing the wine all over the floor, holds his head in despair, because he has been keeping this wine for a great day, in his old age he would meet a friend of his youth and they'd remember the old days together when men partook of different and stronger joys .... "

My last comment. The online version of this story warns potential readers that it is anti-Semitic, among other unforgivable things. There is no doubt the title character despises Jews and Gogol makes no bones about showing him doing so. But he puts the following into the mouth of the story's most important Jewish character: "And that's because everything is blamed on the Jew, because a Jew is treated like a dog, because people believe a human is not human if he is a Jew." Hardly the way an anti-Semitic writer would have Jews characterize their plight.

Others will tell of this story's glorification of martial behavior and the old masculine virtues of loyalty, courage, and honor. I leave that to them.


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Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:36 pm
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Post Re: Taras Bulba
I did not like this story as much as Gogol's other stories. I do not like that the main character is so attracted to starting wars. I read in the afterward, however, that this was kind of a story of cultural celebration kind of like the Illiad. I suppose you could compare it to the King Arthur stories in a way. I can understand that, but I did not enjoy reading it as much as Gogol's other stories.

Overall, I thought that Gogol's stories are thoroughly enjoyable. I appreciate the fact that he gives those in the society that are invisible visibility. Gary G48 brought up the fact that some people argue that the story of Taras Bulba is anti-semitic. I can see why people would see that. I also do not necessarily think that Gogol was anti-semitic even if his major character was. I think there are assumptions about Jewish people written in that were Gogol's assumptions. I do not think that they were mean-spirited, however. I think they were just assumptions of the culture that Gogol was in and he sincerely thought that they were attributes of being Jewish. I really think that Gogol was trying to show Jewish people in a positive light, despite the fact that he did not question the stereotypes, necessarily. In fact, Yakel becomes a major player at the end. And he makes it possible for Bulba to be reconnected to his son in a way.

Reading this book definitely makes me want to seek out more stories by Gogol. He was an interesting, creative writer. :)



Sat Apr 17, 2010 2:29 pm
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