GOGOL TURNED HOHOL

Nikolai Gogol became Mykola Hohol at the Ukrainian Franko Theatre in Kyiv today. The transformation of the name happened because the famous Russian writer’s play “Marriage” (Russ.: “Zhenit’ba”) was translated into Ukrainian (Ukr.: “Odruzhennya”) and staged by the Franko theatre troupe. I say “Russian writer”, but many Ukrainians consider him to be a Ukrainian writer because Nikolai Gogol (in Ukrainian his name sounds as “Mykola Hohol”) was an ethnic Ukrainian whose first (native) language was also Ukrainian. Besides, Ukrainian themes, vocabulary and syntax permeate his Russian writings. Personally, I think that Gogol belongs to the Russian literature, but I believe that this time there was some logic in the Franko theatre’s choosing Gogol’s play: whenever Gogol wrote about Russia, he was rather critical  (even sarcastically critical) about what he saw in that country. Take his classical works “Government Inspector” or “Dead Souls”, for example.

I won’t dwell on the play itself. Those who would like to refresh in their minds its contents may turn to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_(play) I want only to say that due to the brilliant performance of the actors (and, particularly, of Bohdan Benyuk) Nikolai Gogol was won over to the Ukrainian side in the context of Russia’s current aggressive war. Suffice to mention the moment when Zhevakin (a retired navy officer and also one of the suitors) told a story about the time he had spent in Sicily, and he said had been surprised that no one spoke Russian there. When one of his listeners observed (right after these words!) that Sicily must be a very good country, the spectators laughed and a storm of applause followed.

When the curtain fell down, all the actors came to the edge of the stage and treated the audience to Christmas carols, in which good wishes for the Ukrainian people were one of the motifs. And when at the very end Bohdan Benyuk  pronounced “Glory to Ukraine!”  the whole of the theatre replied with the thunderous: “Glory to the heroes!” Just as it has been happening all the time since the winter of 2014-2015 in Kyiv.

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