Russian Novel “Unfinished”

By Kieron Gillen on April 1st, 2011 at 2:50 pm.

The oddest thing about writing this story was googling for a picture of Gogol and discovering he's a total spitting image of Him From Gogol Bordello. How curious.

Boo! Boo! And thrice-boo! Why must we gentlemen be fobbed off with literature that emerges from the land of the Tsar in a state that can only be described as unfinished? Clearly, this is a problem here at the heart of Her Majesty’s empire too – no, Mr Dickens. It’s not episodic! you’ve just not finished writing the bally thing yet! - but it’s all the more onerous in the Russian texts, where we deal with shoddy translations and… oh, let’s not avoid the main issue any longer. We all know the prime offender. One is talking Gogol. One is talking Dead Souls. One is getting so furious that the most extensive application of brandy can’t steady my nerves.

The first part of Dead Souls was released in 1842 in a simply shocking state. While other commentators have hailed its exquisite charactersation, masterful satire and his eternal battle against the perfidy of Poshlost, to the eyes of this organ all that pales in insignificance to the fact it’s unfinished. It even draws to a close mid-sentence! How anyone can claim any merits whatsoever is beyond us. It is an insult to all gentlemen and to accept its existence is to only hurry our literary culture along the road to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Excuses for Gogol’s failure to give us the finished product we all deserve include Gogol’s extensive travel, his increasing religious belief that all creative thought was in fact sinful and his death in 1852. What poppycock! These excuses are no such thing! In a world where the right and proper science of seances has advanced to its present state, we can pursue the Sorochyntsian and insist on making his prose word-complete. To your Ouija boards, my fine fellows! Let’s harry him until he relents and sees sense.

It’s been a slow week for video games.

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44 Comments »

  1. Nallen says:

    Released in 1942 Sir? I must protest!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Sirrah! My apologies. A simple error. To talk of such far flung dates is the province of Mr Wells and similar fantasists.

      KG

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Fantasists that no less earn the respect of their readers, despite the fatuous comments of their critics.

      Moderate your tone.

    • HermitUK says:

      The marvel of the modern printing press is such that the correction can be made in any and all future print runs. Truly spectacular.

    • Will Tomas says:

      Much mirth greeted the line “no, Mr Dickens. It’s not episodic! you’ve just not finished writing the bally thing yet!”

    • frenz0rz says:

      @Will Thomas
      Quite so, quite so! I was caught so unawares that I could not help but dribble earl gray all over my open copy of Sir John Smythe’s Certain Discourses Military!

      (Note to RPS – This actually happened, and I’ll be forwarding the university library bills to Mr Gillen.)

  2. Joshua says:

    This is the result mainly of the publishers. In an desperate urge to gain more profits before the end of the fiscal year, they often publish unfinished manuscripts. This only frustrates the author and the readers, but the shareholders smile as they quickly get some extra profits. I wish that this practice of shareholding would have died along with the Dutch Golden Age…

  3. McDan says:

    A slow week for videogames results in nostalgia for the good times my dear sirs.

  4. Daniel Rivas says:

    I have just started this, and it seems fine to me. Sure, it doesn’t have the polish one would expect from a Western novel, but it offers an experience that really can’t be compared to anything else.

    The voice acting is terrible, but I’m sure any cultured “soul”, dead or otherwise, can look past this.

  5. MrtheP says:

    I find many of my contemporaries avoid this novel; it is indisputable these foreign works are simply not as, let us say, digestible as our own. In fact, I’ll offer one pound to any gentleman who can complete it without having a tantrum.

    One. Pound.

  6. Will Tomas says:

    I did hear tell of a writer of France (obviously of a lower standard than our fine proponents of the noble art), by name of Marcel Proust, who has these two years ago begun work on a novel of his own. Inspired, says he, by a small French cake. I suspect that it shall mirror its inspiration for unappetising slightness, and I can see him completing it within the year.

  7. Sarlix says:

    Why if it isn’t our esteemed gentleman friend of yesteryear, Mr Gillen. Such a timely return seems more than coincidental. Who will join me and raise a pipe or two as we welcome another brother back to the fold. Even if such a fixture is surely temporary.

    • Fede says:

      Indeed! Let us raise our glasses and cheer! Let’s welcome back Mr.Gillen and congratulate again the delightful Lady who has caught him :)

    • trooperdx3117 says:

      Indeed I shall raise a glass of brandy to the dear fellow!

  8. sissyneck says:

    And with this series of April Fool’s posts, the transformation of RPS into the Pitchfork of PC gaming is complete. From the singularly personal and idiosyncratic tone of the reviews, to the establishment of the site as a major tastemaker (World of Goo = And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Minecraft = Broken Social Scene); from the efforts at establishing the canon, both yearly and universal (Games of Christmas, Very Important PC Games, respectively) to this, an April Fool’s “prank” involving an ostensible change in format and tone (I believe Pitchfork attempted the same back in ’01 or ’02. This commenter was fooled to the extent that he sent an angry e-mail accusing the site of “selling out”).
    The metamorphosis has become…complete.

  9. drdss says:

    Gogol, you say? I believe it to have been released unfinished on purpose, as a sort of testing of the waters before a more complete release some time in the future. I believe the phrase used by today’s street urchins is “it’s still in beta”.

    • amishmonster says:

      What an odd turn of phrase. I shall have to discover what it means. Let me Gogol that for you.

  10. roryok says:

    I would venture that a modicum of entertainment can be found in such unfinished works. I can recall hours spent re-reading passages of Joseph Conrad’s The Boiling Point and Other Tales of Adventure simply for the joy of finding unfinished paragraphs, words missing or used in quite the wrong context, and sentences missing key words or sometimes containing no words whatsoever! It was simply a delight at times to find oneself reading the authors notes to himself, never intended to be part of the work. My enjoyment was only broken by pages which stuck together, preventing me from reading certain sections of the book at all (I don’t have knowledge of the neglectful previous owner, but damn the fellow)

    I daresay the readers of your esteemed publication might find such works thoroughly entertaining, not despite these errata but because of them. In fact, the young quentin recently embarked on a chapter by chapter reading of one such work, Galsworthy’s Of White Gold

  11. somnolentsurfer says:

    Our Ouija boards? What, pray, would they be? I have heard something of a patent application from Messrs Bond and Kennard, but I can not foresee a product of that name for at least another score or so years.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      As Mr Meer has shown, RPS has mastered time-travel. It is, indeed, the greatest week for videogames in all history.

      KG

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Excellent. Perhaps you can direct us to some manner of time port, which you no doubt be opening, so that we may make our way to these futuristic “Ouija boards” of which you speak?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      No, for I fear you are an Anarchist or a woman.

      KG

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      My good sir, not that I wish to cast fear into the hearts of all good men, but what if this ne’er-do-well is an anarchist… and yet also a woman?

    • bob_d says:

      Sir, ’tis but a planchette under another name! No patent can alter its familiar character.

  12. Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Truly this is a tragic day for this fine periodical. First you gleefully admit to corrupting young Quintin, who is not yet even blessed with the first whisps of whisker upon his phiz, and now you countenance the reading of ‘literature’ writ by Russian fiends. That such talk stirs the shrapnel I received on the slopes of Balaclava is cause for concern enough, but the Empire yet tangles with the Tsarist menace as it threatens our Oriental possessions to this day.

    One can but hope that these articles are writ purely in the spirit of Foolish April the First.

  13. phlebas says:

    Villainy! And yet I can conceive of a greater evil yet: What if some craven novelist were to release his latest work, claiming it complete – and only afterwards to reveal several segments previously excised and now only available for a further fee? That, my friends, were villainy indeed and deserving of a good birching.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Hear him! The Capitalist agenda moves swiftly and on many unforeseen tangents!

  14. phuzz says:

    On the subject of literature, may I draw other reader’s attentions to a review of the serialised book “The Wire”, an excerpt follows:

    “The Wire began syndication in 1846, and was published in 60 installments over the course of six years. Each installment was 30 pages, featuring covers and illustrations by Baxter “Bubz” Black, and selling for one shilling each. After the final installment, The Wire became available in a five volume set, departing from the traditional three.”

    You may read here

    • Temple to Tei says:

      (out of tone and for that I apologise but ‘fuck me that is great’)

      “Omar comin’, yo!”

    • Lambchops says:

      A fine piece of work indeed, you do yourself great credit by bringing it to our attention.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      (Go look up ponycraft in the forums for something off topic yet brilliant -it is a Friday afternoon after all- I would modestly suggest mine are the better contributions [better things stolen from someone else] but you kilometerage may vary)

  15. Quirk says:

    Love Gogol. Love Dead Souls. Never expected to find the book mentioned here. I suppose Kieron probably always topped the list of “Games Journalists most likely to talk about Gogol”, but I still find the literary reference oddly satisfying.

  16. AndrewC says:

    If I may be allowed, good sirs, to offer the following whimsy: that Gogol, with his increasing religious belief that all creative thought is in fact sinful, may have taken great solace in the future of what has come to be known as Games of The Three Alphas.

    • AndrewC says:

      Indeed there are rumours of an unpublished, final, Gogol text that used a central image of walking slowly down a corridor as a metaphor for the impossibility of individual agency in a modern world.

    • drewski says:

      Hah! Sir, I find your dark intepretation of Gogol’s vision most unsatisfactory. Surely no *educated* man could ever allow his own actions to be determined by another.

  17. Josh Brandt says:

    I think more RPS articles should use the word “bally.”

    • Oak says:

      RPS World Exclusive: The Creative Assembly announces Bally: Total Fitness

  18. Darth_Vaneri says:

    This piece of “news” made me finally to register to RPS. Thank you Mr Gillen. Never mind, I think I’ll have another glass of that red “wine”, please.

    Next: Kuprin?

  19. Bhazor says:

    I’ve always liked that picture of Gogol. Looks like he’s just about to stand up and commence a whuppin’.

  20. plasticsaint says:

    Personally, Gogol is my second favorite Russian author and Dead Souls Pt. I is my second favorite Russian Novel… The fact that it’s unfinished never really bothered me. My favorite Russian Novel is A Hero of Our Times. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m qualifying these with “Russian”… they’re my favorite novels.

    Of course, I did major in Russian Language and Area Studies in university… maybe I’m just odd.