If mere creative force is to be the standard of valuation, Gogol is the greatest of Russian writers. In this respect he need hardly fear comparison with Shakespeare, and can boldly stand by the side of Rabelais. Neither Pushkin nor Tolstoy possessed anything like that volcano of imaginative creativeness.
Nobody can ever imagine what Gogol was really like. From beginning to end everything about him is incomprehensible. The individual features are blurred, inchoate—they refuse to add up to anything.
… Anna Akhmatova
What are you like? As a person you are secretive, egotistical, arrogant, and mistrustful, a man who sacrifices everything for fame. As a friend what are you like? But then, do you really have any friends?
Pletnyov letter to Gogol, Oct. 27, 1844
Your nose? No, my dear sir, you are mistaken. I’m not your nose; what I am is just me.
… Gogol, “The Nose”