Nicolai Vasilyevich Gogol|
(1809 - February, 1852) Ukraine
A major literary figure of the 19th century, born in Sorochintsy, near Poltava in Ukraine, he tried several careers before entering the St Petersburg Civil Service. His first collection of stories, Evenings on a farm near Dikanka (1831-32), had an immediate success, and his second, Mirgorod, was warmly praised by Pushkin.
Later were Arabesques (1835), the short story The Overcoat, and the comedy The Inspector General (1836), an attack on bureaucracy. From 1835 he had travelled in Europe, and it was in Rome that he completed the earlier part of his best-known work, the picaresque novel Dead Souls (1842), depicting Russian provincial society.
Nikolai Gogol was certainly gay, but being a deeply religious man he spent his life trying to repress his sexuality. At school he became sentimentally attached to a fellow student, Gerasim Vysotsky, who left for St Petersburg teo years before Gogol's graduation. Gogol wrote a series of amorous letters to Vysotsky but found himself rebuffed when reunited with him in St Petersburg in 1828. This was Gogol's first unhappy infatuation with a heterosexual man.
It was in Italy that Gogol's repressed sexuality found an outlet. Gogol eventually settled in Rome, where he lived until 1848. While in Rome he had an open relationship with the Count Iosif Vielhorsky who died of consumption a year after they had met. Gogol then fell in love with the poet Nikolai Yazykov who did not respond to Gogol's passionate letters.
Gogol's stories and plays are full of his fear of marriage and of any kind of sexuality involving women, while his diary describes his strong romantic attachments to men. In January 1852 Gogol confessed his homosexual longings to a bigoted priest, Father Matvei Kostantinovsky, who eventually induced him to fast and pray day and night until Gogol starved himself to death.