Gogol’‘s “portrait” repainted: On gary shteyngart’s “shylock on the Neva”

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The Russian-American novelist Gary Shteyngart has frequently been called a “Gogolian” writer, usually in an attempt to explain the pedigree of his grotesque humour. This article focuses on Shteyngart’s story “Shylock on the Neva” (2002), which is a modern-day rewriting of Gogol’‘s tale “Portret” [”The Portrait”]. A close analysis of Shteyngart’s text and comparison to its Gogolian model reveals a complex relation that is not necessarily centered on Gogol’‘s humour. In his rewriting of “The Portrait,” Shteyngart emphasizes the inherent venality and vulgarity of Gogol’‘s characters, who turn into grotesque caricatures of their prototypes. In doing so, he seems to “Gogolize” Gogol’‘s tale by adding some of the absurd humour that critics have found to be lacking in “The Portrait.” By making a painting the focus of their stories, both Gogol’ and Shteyngart engage in a self-reflective comment about art and the role of the creative artist. Similar to the clichéd hack-paintings of Gogol’‘s painter Chartkov, artistic creation has been reduced in “Shylock on the Neva” to the production of postmodern simulacra based on stereotypes and cultural myths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-348
Number of pages16
JournalCanadian Slavonic Papers
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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