Emily's Reviews > The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil

The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil by Nikolai Gogol
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Jan 15, 2011

really liked it
Read from October 26, 2010 to January 13, 2011

I started this book and then read Troung's book somewhere in the middle and then came back to finish the rest of the short stories. As such, I starkly saw the difference between what Foucault said characterized the difference between recent novels vs past novels. Recent novels read more as memoirs, biographies, or confessionals. Whereas with Gogol's short stories, especially with "The Portrait," questions about how to make sure that I am a good person, that I lead a meaningful, purposeful and although I don't like this work--authentic life dominates the short stories. I think I used to think about these questions so much more when in highschool reading Dostoyevsky. It was nice to be reminded of these questions.

Especially from "The Portrait," I am wondering if evil is a mood. Roy's book The God of Small Things made me painfully see that evil is in the banality of insisting on the traditions and practices of social life. The Portrait made me think evil can be much more intimate--for it can be lodged in one's mood. Letting oneself, (well I guess one's mood does not feel like one has control over it, but there must be some agency in regards to one's mood,) and to the extent that there is some control over one's mood, much more than practices, in this intimate relation to our moods, letting oneself slip into certain desires--this can be the site of evil. Now I don't really believe in the notion of evil, especially after Nietzsche's conception that evil is the thought of slave mentality. But nevertheless, it was interesting to think about how close human beings are to our own demise.
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