Nikolai Gogol was born in 1809 in the Ukrainian Cossack village of Sorochintsy. Seeking literary fame, he went to St. Petersburg at 18 to self-publish an epic poem; it was so ridiculed he fled the city. He eventually returned and began writing stories influenced by Ukrainian folklore. Collected as Evenings on a Farm Near Dilanka, they were an enormous success. New friends including Pushkin encouraged him, and in stories such as “The Overcoat” and “The Nose,” and novels such asDead Souls, he developed a bitter realism mixed with ironic humor and surprisingly prescient surrealism. In 1836, fearing he’d offended the tsar with his satirical playThe Inspector General, Gogol left Russia for a twelve-year European hiatus. Upon returning he published an essay collection supporting the government he’d always criticized, and was so mercilessly attacked by former admirers he became despondent. Falling into a state of questionable sanity, he renounced writing as an immoral activity, and in 1852 burned his last manuscript, a sequel toDead Souls, just days before dying of self-imposed starvation. John Cournos (1881-1966) was born in Russia and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. In addition to translating, he gained some renown as a poet.