The Nose (Gogol)

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"The Nose" (Russian: Нос) is a satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol. Written between 1835 and 1836, it tells of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own.


The story is in three parts:

Part one[edit]

On the 25th of March, the barber Ivan Yakovlevich finds a nose in his bread during breakfast. With horror he recognizes this nose as that of one of his regular customers, Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov (known as 'Major Kovalyov'). He tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the Neva River, but he is caught by a police officer.

Part Two[edit]

At the onset of “The Nose,” Major Kovalyov awakens to discover that his nose is missing, leaving a smooth flat patch of skin in its place. His nose is already pretending to be a human being. He finds and confronts it in the Kazan Cathedral, but from its clothing it is apparent that the nose has acquired a higher rank in the civil service than he, and it refuses to return to his face. Kovalyov visits the newspaper office to place an ad about the loss of his nose, but is refused.

Kovalyov returns to his flat, where the police officer who caught Ivan finds him and returns the nose (which he caught at a coach station, trying to flee the city). Kovalyov's joy is cut short when he finds that he is unable to re-attach the nose, even with the help of the doctor. The next day, Kovalyov writes a letter to Madam Podtochina Grigorievna, a woman who wants him to marry her daughter, and accuses her of stealing his nose; he believes that she has placed a curse on him for his fickleness toward her daughter. He writes to ask her to undo the spell, but she misinterprets the letter as a proposal to her daughter. Her reply convinces him that she is innocent. In the city, rumours of the nose's activities have spread, and crowds gather in search of it.

Part three[edit]

On the 7th of April, Kovalyov wakes up with his nose reattached. He is carefully shaved by the barber and happily promenades about the city to show off his nose.


Critics note that the story's title in Russian (Нос, "Nos") is the reverse of the Russian word for "dream" (Сон, "Son").[1] As the unreliable narrator himself notes, the story "contains much that is highly implausible", while an earlier version of the story ended with Kovalyov waking and realizing that the story was indeed a dream. Without the awakening, however, the story becomes a precursor of magical realism, as an unreal element is woven into a realistic narration. Peace also notes that some critics have interpreted the story as referring to a castration complex: the removal of Kovalyov's nose (and its developing a mind of its own) threaten both his chances of acquiring a position of power and of being a success with women. In Russia, a version has appeared which substituted "..." for the word "nos" (нос) so that the reader would be inclined to interpret it as "khui" (хуй), the Russian taboo word for penis. It can be said that Kovalyov equates the loss of his nose with castration, emasculation, and impotence to a certain degree.[2]

At the end the story drifts away and it appears Gogol is talking directly to the reader. It is never explained why the Nose fell off in the first place, why it could talk, nor why it found itself reattached. By doing this, Gogol was playing on the assumptions of readers, who may happily seek absurd stories, but at the same time still having the desire for a normal explanation.[citation needed]

Critical assessment[edit]

In A History of Russian Literature, the critic D.S. Mirsky writes: "The Nose is a piece of sheer play, almost sheer nonsense. In it more than anywhere else Gogol displays his extraordinary magic power of making great comic art out of nothing."[3]


Dmitri Shostakovich's opera The Nose, first performed in 1930, is based on this story. A short film based on the story was made by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in 1963 and used pinscreen animation.

A play for radio based on the story was written by UK author Avanti Kumar and first produced and broadcast in Ireland by RTÉ in 1995.

In April 2002, the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Three Ivans, Two Aunts and an Overcoat broadcast an adaptation of the story starring Stephen Moore.[4]

An album in Romanian, Nasul, based on the story was released by Ada Milea and Bogdan Burlăcianu in 2007.

A play based on the short story was written by Tom Swift and produced by The Performance Corporation in 2008.

The Fat Git Theatre Company performed their adaptation of the short story in 2011.

WMSE (91.7 FM in Milwaukee, WI) broadcast an adaptation by Wisconsin Hybrid Theater (Radio WHT)in 2011.

The Moscow Museum of Erotic Art put on an adaptation based on Vladimir Putin losing his genitalia to coincide with the 2012 presidential election.[5]


  1. ^ Bocharov, Sergey (2008). Гоголь в русской критике: антология. p. 357. 
  2. ^ Lauren Lydic (2010). “Noseological” Parody, Gender Discourse, and Yugoslav Feminisms: Following Gogol'’s “Nose” to Ugrešić’s “Hot Dog on a Warm Bun”. Comparative Literature, 62(2). University of Oregon. doi:10.1215/00104124-2010-004
  3. ^ Mirsky, D. S. (1858). Francis J. Whitfield, ed. A History of Russian Literature. Alfred A. Knopff. p. 152. 
  4. ^
  5. ^

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