I have this Doc on my Google Drive that has a long list of books I am itching to read. It's 31 pages long single-spaced and while it is organized into certain categories, I've forgotten the reasons why I put most of those books on the list in the first place. But I knew some of them were Russian, so I'm taking a class on books published in the 19th century to make me actually read them, and that has therefore led me to the Inspector General.
The Inspector General is a play written by Nikolai Gogol. He was born in the countryside of Ukraine and wrote the play in 1836. You probably glazed over that date, but it's important because the Industrial Revolution was just starting to take shape across Europe and the makings over a modern nation were coming together. This is important because despite the play's age, there is a lot about it and the time period that is still understood and relevant. In the real world there was government censorship that tried to protect Russia's citizens from the danger of this book. In the book itself, it's about a lazy, rich young man who pretends to be a government inspector in a small town and rips the whole town off so they would refrain from receiving a bad review.
The story is a total farce as the townspeople trip over themselves appeasing to this layabout on his every whim and the fraud himself being so horrible to actually keep up the charade. It's an easy read and once you get a hang on everyone's name and title, it is easy to understand, and this book has a special quality that very few books can match: this book made me laugh. When reading and especially after finishing a good book I sometimes get a really satisfied or even just optimistic feeling if the book is good, but it's a feeling that's a bit hard to pin down. In the Inspector General I was chuckling quite a lot at how disheveled everyone's office is, the physical, slapstick humor, and when they read the letter at the end. It's breezy and in general just a good time for about 70 pages.
I would like to finish this off by talking about the relatability on display. So many authors are worried about representation in their books, but that at best comes down to superficial characters in their books that don't have much depth or really touch upon all the things that make those people who they are. You would think a book set in a village nearly 200 years ago and in Russia might as well be a fantasy, but there's a lot that's similar. The people that live in the small town and the attitudes of the young man pretending to be an inspector have some relatable qualities that could easily compare to people I've met in real life, or even just my perception of how things are even if I can't remember a particular face. A book doesn't have to have characters just like you to be relatable and strike a chord with you and Gogol did that in this book. At the very least I'd say you should read the first few pages where the Police Chief roasts the important people of the town for how bad their offices are, now that's funny.