Dialogue on the Threshold

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Sunday, 6 May 2012

De stultorum natura (2)

Chichikov himself is merely the ill-paid representative of the Devil, a travelling salesman from Hades, “our Mr Chichikov” as the Satan and Co. firm may be imagined calling their easy-going, healthy-looking but inwardly shivering and rotting agent. The poshlust [i.e. пошлость] which Chichikov personifies is one of the main attributes of the Devil, in whose existence, let it be added, Gogol believed far more serously than in that of God. The chink in Chichikov’s armour, that rusty chink emitting a faint but dreadful smell (a punctured can of conserved lobster tampered with and forgotten by some meddling fool in the pantry) is the organic aperture in the devil’s armour. It is the essential stupidity of poshlust.

Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol, 1959, 2nd edition 1961

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