Describe Nikolai Gogol, the author for whom Gogol Ganguli in "The Namesake" is named.

Describe Nikolai Gogol, the author for whom Gogol Ganguli in "The Namesake" is named.

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The renowned author Nikolai Gogol plays an integral part in the plot and characterization of the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. He is one of the father Ashoke's favorite authors. In his youth, just before Ashoke is involved in a horrific train wreck, he is reading a collection of Gogol's short stories, and when he is found in the wreckage barely alive, he is clutching a page from Gogol's book. When he and his wife Ashima need a name for their son before they can leave the hospital, Ashoke suggests Gogol. The boy's acceptance of the name proves to be a key element in his growth as a character.

Nikolai Gogol was born in a Ukrainian village called Sorochyntsi on March 31, 1809. His mother had Polish ancestry, and his father was a Ukrainian Cossack author who wrote dramas and poems in the Ukrainian language. Gogol, however, decided to write only in Russian. When he finished school, he relocated to St. Petersburg to pursue a literary career. His stories set in the Ukraine were immediately successful, and after their publication in book form, he received strong support from the Russian literary community.

Although his achievements in literature made him famous, he was generally unhappy in his personal life. In 1836, he left Russia and traveled around Europe until he settled in Rome. There he worked on a novel that was to become his masterpiece: Dead Souls. When he finished it in 1841, he returned to Russia for its publication. The novel achieved overwhelming success, and Gogol was praised as one of Russia's finest writers.

After Dead Souls, though, which Gogol had planned to follow up with two sequels, Gogol's writing output dropped drastically. He became involved with a spiritual teacher who convinced him that his writings were sinful. He practiced asceticism and fell into deep depression. Eventually he burned all of his unpublished manuscripts, refused to eat, and after several days, died in great pain on March 4, 1852.

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Gogol was born into a Ukrainian Cossack family in 1809. His family were landowners, so there was money for him to attend boarding school. As a child, he was frequently ill; the Dictionary of World Biography notes that he was so pampered by his mother that he developed an "inflated opinion of himself." The dictionary also describes him as "a skinny, unattractive child with a bad complexion and a long nose; he was often called dwarfish by his schoolmates."

His early attempts at writing received negative reviews. He worked for a time as a teacher, but after his father's death he tried to manage the estate. Failing at that, he had to take a civil service job, and he supplemented his income by writing stories. These stories were received well by critics and readers, and Gogol, along with Edgar Allan Poe, is credited with helping to create the short story genre.

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