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Nikolai Gogol – What is man?

December 1, 2014

“And therein was clearly evinced what kind of creature man is: he is wise, he is clever and sensible in all things that pertain to others but not to his own self. What circumspect, firm counsel he will supply you with on the difficult occasions of life! ‘What a wide-awake head he’s got on his shoulders!’ shouts the mob. ‘What a steadfast character!’ But let some calamity come swooping down upon this wide-awake head, and should it befall him to be placed himself in the difficult occasions of life, why, where in the world has his character gone to? The steadfast man of action is totally at a loss and has turned out to be a pitiful little poltroon, an insignificant, weak babe, or simply, as Nozdrev puts it, a horse’s tail.”

(from Dead Souls [1842], translated by Bernard Guilbert Guerney)

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