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Cover for Gogol's Wife

Gogol's Wife

& Other Stories

Tommaso Landolfi


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Much admired in Europe, Landolfi has been called "the Italian Kafka"; he is often linked with the Surrealists, and in the intellectual quality of his fantasy there are certain affinities with Borges; but beyond these superficial comparisons, his is a truly unique––and fascinating––art. It is based in a prodigious imagination, a very curious sense of humor and a rare command of irony.

In 1964, with the stories of Gogol’s Wife, New Directions introduced English language readers to the indelibly strange Italian master Tommaso Landolfi. Each tale is more astonishing than the next (what with a sacrilegious ape and an inflatable wife), though the stories are all delivered in a smooth and oddly decorous way. Casting its spell, this combination of the outré and the well-mannered unnerves the reader. The stories’ duality is the stuff of nightmares, though the author’s real nightmare, according to his champion Italo Calvino, is 'that nothingness does not exist.'

Praise For Gogol's Wife: & Other Stories

What we know about Tommaso Landolfi would barely fill the pages of a hotel-lobby brochure. Briefly, he was (a) born in Pico, Italy, in 1908 and died in Rome in 1979; (b) addicted to gambling, and a fastidious dandy; (c) compulsively protective of his own obscurity. A lexicographic genius, beneath whose casually sadistic storytelling lies a lustful fascination with words and the dilemmas they encourage, Landolfi was a master of the insulting anticlimax, and usually managed to undermine the seriousness of his topics with an almost vaudevillian indifference. But, of course, he never liked readers anyway.
— Michael Peck - The Believer

Extraordinary—it is Landolfi's clean, deliberate style that is so striking: that, combined with a lovely freedom of invention, allowed him to bring off this incredibly pure potion of the grotesque and the ludicrous. It is difficult to praise Gogol's Wife too highly—it is an occasion for joy, comparable to the belated recent translation and discovery by the English reading public of Machado de Assis and Jorgue Luis Borges.

— Susan Sontag - The New York Review of Books

The triumphant Gogol’s Wife by the modern Italian short-story writer Tommaso Landolfi, is perhaps the funniest and most unnerving story that I’ve yet read—Landolfi’s Gogol (who might have been invented by Kafka or by Borges) has married a rubber balloon, a splendidly inflatable dummy who assumes different shapes and sizes at her husband’s whim.

— Harold Bloom

New Directions, 9780811200806, 187pp.

Publication Date: January 17, 1963

About the Author

Tommaso Landolfi was a Italian writer and translator. His collection of stories, Gogol’s wife, was cited as a “must read” by Donald Barthelme.