Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Leggo My Gogol!

Russia and the Ukraine are battling it out. Not over land disputes or political power. It's all about their respective literary claims to Nikolai Gogol.

Frankly, I'd rather have Gogol from The Namesake, but they take what they can get.

Naturally, Russia claims Gogol as a national writer, because he was born in what as then part of then tsarist Russia, later lived in St. Petersburg, and was buried in Moscow. The Ukraine says that doesn't matter--Gogol was technically born in the Ukraine, so he's Ukrainian.

My favorite throw-downs in this debate:

For the Ukrainian team, Aleksey Vertinsky--an actor at Kiev's academic youth theatre--said: 'They can get lost...If I announce this morning that I'm a blue trolleybus, does it mean I should drive off to the depot?'"

Igor Zolotussky, a Russian authority on Gogol, comes back with: "A part of the political elite in Kiev wants to claim Gogol as their own so they can enter civilised Europe with at least one great Ukrainian writer."


We literary nerds don't have much, but we sure do have pride.