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Literature / Diary of a Madman

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"Diary of a Madman" is short story by Russian author Nikolai Gogol. It consists of entries from a madman, the madman in this case being Poprishchin, a 40 year old titular counsellor who serves as an assistant to the director of his division, a job consisting mostly of sharpening quills. He entertains delusions of self-importance, holding great pride in being officially a nobleman. He has fallen in love with the director's daughter, and desires to be noticed by her.

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One day, while walking to work, he encounters the director's carriage, carrying his daughter to the store. While observing, he hears a voice, which he discovers to be that of the dogs. The rest of the story details his descent into madness, told through the entries of his diary.

A planned Animated Adaptation in the 1970s never materialised, but the narration by Kenneth Williams was later turned into a radio play by The BBC.

Absolutely no relation to the 1963 Vincent Price horror film, or the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Diaries of a Madman.

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This story provides examples of:

  • Bedlam House: Poprishchin is eventually sent there, where he undergoes such wonderful therapies like being beaten with a stick or having cold water poured on him.
  • Classical Antihero: Poprishchin's a complete failure in every regard.
  • Global Ignorance: After going completely off the deep end, Poprishchin starts believing that Spain and China are one and the same.
  • Mood Whiplash: Mostly funny. And then it ends with him sobbing in a heap.
  • Napoleon Delusion: An early example— Poprishchin doesn't believe he's Napoleon, but he does think he's the King of Spain.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The crisis in Spain Poprishchin refers to appears to be the then-current First Carlist War, a civil war waged over the legitimacy of the succession of Princess Isabella (who is indeed mentioned, but not by name) to the Spanish throne.
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  • Sanity Slippage: The story details this, as Poprishchin's grip on reality continues to slip, eventually resulting in him believing himself the heir to the Spanish throne.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Poprishchin, who thinks he is a person of some importance, when, well, he isn't.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Poprishchin's first delusion is that he can understand the talks of dogs, and later the letters they write each other.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: It's the diary of a madman.


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