Friday, July 23, 2010

St. John's Eve

"I know what you lack: it's this!" Here, grinning devilishly, he clanked the leather purse that hung from his belt. Peyro gave a start. "How it glows! heh, heh heh!" he bellowed, pouring gold coins into his hand. "How it rings! heh, heh heh! And I'll ask just one thing for a whole heap of such baubles!" "The devil!" shouted Petro. "Let's have it! I'm ready for anything." And they shook hands. "Watch out, Petro, you came just in time: tomorrow is John the Baptist!"
--Nikolai Gogol, "St. John's Eve," in
The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol 3-18, 9 (Pevear and Volokhonsky trans. 1999)

"St. John's Day," the Nativity of St John the Baptist, is celebrated June 24. so "St. John's Eve" would be June 23. But Gogol's Ukraine operated on the old-style calendar, so we should add some correction days (exactly how many is an issue all its own).

Afterthought: would it be fair to say that Gogol is like V.S. Naipaul, in that both began doing local-color stories about their natal places, and went on to do more subtle and complicated work after they had encountered life in the big city?

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