Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Gog

Go To

Gog is a satirical novel by Italian writer Giovanni Papini, published in 1931.

Our unnamed narrator, who frequently visits an insane asylum where a friend of his, a poet, is interned, met an extravagant American billionaire by the name of Goggins (Gog, for short), son of a native Hawaiian woman and a white father who, after a childhood of poverty, managed to become one of the richest men on earth. In 1920 he withdrew from business, as he wanted to see the world. In 1928, after losing most of his money, he wandered from asylum to asylum, no one being able to figure out his illness.

After meeting the narrator several times, in the end Gog gave him the sheets of paper from his personal journal, wrapped in silk, dated only by location and day and month, without a year. The narrator never found Gog again, so he decided to translate and publish the journal, arranged chronologically as best as he could, not as a memoir or work of art, but more as material for the study of a person that the narrator deemed frightening and symptomatic for the problems of the modern world.

The book is divided into over 70 chapters, all of them (except the first) being Gog's journal entries. Here he recounts his thoughts, his meetings with famous people and with intellectuals and charlatans with weird ideas that pester him for money for their outlandish projects.

This satirical novel provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Gog's general attitude towards life, people, and the Universe.
  • A God Am I:
    • In the Cosmocrator chapter, Gog fantasizes about being the "ruler of universal life" and "chief-engineer of the world's theatre", wanting to treat the world as his house or plaything; Asia would be his domain, Africa his hunting grounds, North America his factory, South America his plains, Europe his museum and vacation home, the Atlantic his pool etc.
    • The entire focus of the Egolatry chapter, where a hideously ugly professor tells Gog that the best, most natural and closest to humankind religion that "combines the advantages of monotheism and polytheism" would be everyone worshipping themselves. Therefore, everyone would be equal in their beliefs and no longer disunited. He believed this to be an extension of ideas of "man creating God" and recommended that everyone build shrines to themselves in their homes.
    • Gog gathers some "living gods" in the Gods' alley chapter. They prove to be a disappointment.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Inverted in the case of the giants in the colony that Gog created in A collection of giants. They did not get along at all (not helped by the fact that there were 16 men and one woman) and eventually all left. One of them, an Italian who often sat next to a river, told Gog that being a giant made them unique and loved by the other people and that, when they were no longer special, they lost their sense of uniqueness and that led to many problems. He himself sat next to the river to see many small creatures and regain a bit of that sense of specialness.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Spanish poet Ramón Gómez de la Serna from Ramón and the metals believes that metals are living things who act upon the world (for instance, metal spoons being constantly dropped by a bad critic of his). He wants to create a "League for the Rights of Metals" to give back the metals to the mines and stop their persecution.
  • Anti-Hero: Gog, very much. He is narcissistic, sociopathic, nihilistic, omnicidal, cynical and unlikable. Compared to the people he meets along the way, however, his ideas are not nearly as silly. Oddly enough, he averts being a Social Darwinist (ignoring FOM's offers), is a Self-Made Man who is not a snob, and if the last chapter is to be believed, may have found peace after all, after meeting the kindness of a small girl.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: In Fear insurance, Gog evokes this as a way to more easily deal with his problems. When he broke his leg, he paid two amputees to jump around in front of him. When his eyesight got worse, he brought some blind people to talk to, and it all seemed much less worse for him.
  • Auction: In Countries for sale, Gog has a dream about an auction in a large glass dome. In the center there is a stage, surrounded mostly by old ladies, where a short man auctions off countries, talking about their area, population and resources. Everyone was disinterested, the only purchase being made was that of an old hunter who bought Andorra. Gog found the dream very boring and monotonous.
  • Beige Prose: One of the poets in The industry of poetry chapter, a Germanic-looking fellow by the name of Muttermann, took the "Brevity is the soul of wit" aphorism and ran with it. At age thirty he wrote a 50.600 verse-long epic. He spent the rest of his life shortening it, arriving at the end at a single word: "Entbindung". Even after the explanation, Gog was not pleased, but did not say anything for fear of the poet's madness.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Gog has one on a peninsula of Brazil, prepared for the apocalypse.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Architect Sulkas Perkunas believes that architects should design entire cities, not only individual buildings. He gives several descriptions of strange cities (quite similar to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities), like giant cities who extend in all directions, cities without windows, cities full of identical houses, underground cities etc. He needs money for these projects.
  • Blank Book: One of the poets in The industry of poetry chapter gives Gog a book containing only titles on otherwise blank pages. He said that the interaction between text and reader produces the true meaning of a work of literature, and that his titles are the logical conclusion of that. Gog is livid. This is probably intended as a critique of modern literary criticism.
  • Brain in a Jar: Ben-Chusai has quite a few heads in jars, and probably other organs as well. Gog himself had a collection of beating pig hearts in jars that he liked to imagine were human hearts in One hundred hearts.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Knut Hamsun believes so, as people constantly pester him for money, critiques, good words or even things that he cannot provide. That is why he became a recluse.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Gog orders for people resembling famous historical figures to be brought to his home, taught English and dressed in appropriate outfits in A collection of celebrities. They ended up saying nonsense and acting vulgarly. An Ukrainian peasant who looked like Leo Tolstoy told him that he just wanted to be sent home and that he understands his plight. Gog eventually sent them away, while letting them keep their costumes.
  • Color Motif: Duke Hermosilla de Salvatierra has color-themed palaces, like the Red Palace or the Green Palace.
  • Cool Mask: Gog quite likes masks, believing them to be a necessary part of everyone's wardrobe as a way to easily express emotions instead of faking them.
  • Crapsack World: How Gog sees the world and humanity as a whole. He is very hard to impress, prefers ghost cities that make him feel superior over living ones (in Amusement he says that Berlin is small and crap), none of the drugs he tried helped him, and even had fantasies of killing the whole world.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Gog prepared for the end of the world by building a castle on a peninsula of Brazil that can turn into an island and that can function by itself indefinitely, with tons of food and books available.
  • The Cynic: Gog is quite bitter and grumpy. He sees the world as a crapsack one and has a burning hatred for humanity. Granted, the endless idealists with very dumb ideas that he is perpetually attracted to may have contributed to this.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Duke Hermosilla de Salvatierra has the Empty Palace, full of wax figures of his ancestors, which he prefers over portraits. They are creepy and decomposing, but the duke doesn't seem to mind. Gog basically runs away from the place.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Giovanni Papini's critique of the modern world appears in the clearly ludicrous ideas and morals of his characters.
  • Devolution Device: Sarmihiel from "The return to nature" wishes for man to become an animal again because he is stuck between animal and the Nietzschean superman and, as the latter is unattainable, men should devolve to animalhood.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Our narrator at the beginning says that the journal entries are Gog's, translated and arranged chronologically. There aren't hints that he modified anything, however (besides omitting some pages deemed "too repulsive").
  • Dirty Communists: While there are criticisms of capitalism (especially in the Henry Ford chapter), Lenin is portrayed as a genocidal maniac who wishes to turn Russia into a prison, for everyone's good, of course.
  • Doom Magnet: George William Smith from The innocent assassin chapter killed people, no matter what he did. He was a deadly doctor and pharmacist, he crashed planes etc. He begged Gog to give him enough money to not starve so he'll not have to work for the rest of his life in order to not kill any more people.
  • Dream Episode: The Countries for sale chapter. Gog has a dream of an auction of entire nations inside of a glass dome with a stage in the centre, surrounded by mostly old ladies. He found the dream boring and monotonous, as only one purchase (Andorra) was made.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Gog, one of the richest men on Earth, is nihilistic and omnicidal and admits to being attracted to crazy people and their stupid ideas.
  • Epistolary Novel: Besides the first chapter, the book is comprised of Gog's diary entries.
  • Fictional Country: Possibly, as the republic in The buying of the republic is unnamed.
  • Fictional Field of Science: Pthiriology, the study of lice, in The chair of Pthiriology. Gog said that he wanted to create at the University of W. a chair that does not exist in any university in the world. Among the many proposals, this one was his favourite. The person who wrote it wanted to study lice not only from a taxonomic and biological perspective, but also culturally, in the arts and literature, politics and religion, giving many example of its significance in these fields.
  • Genuine Human Hide: Tattooed bits of human skin and human skin-bound books are just a few items from Ben-Chusai's store.
  • Ghost City: Gog's favourite kind of city, as it makes him feel superior over the dead.
  • Gonk: The professor in the Egolatry chapter, ironically, despite preaching the worship of oneself, is described as being limp, bent, with an eye-patch, scarred, with four fingers on one hand and six on the other.
  • Gratuitous English: The original novel is in Italian. Gog, the American, peppers his speech with terms like "biggest in the world" that the translator kept in, despite being perfectly translatable.
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end of the novel, Gog discovers the meaning of life after being given bread by an innocent girl while being dressed as a poor man in Italy.
  • Historical Domain Character: Gog meets various famous people on his travels, including Henry Ford, H. G. Wells, Knut Hamsun, Thomas Edison, Vladimir Lenin, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and others. Their portrayals are largely fictional.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The only completely sympathetic portrayals of celebrities are of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Albert Einstein and anthropologist J. G. Frazer. As for the rest,...
    • Lenin wishes to turn Russia into a prison and he has a genocidal hatred for the peasantry. He is shown as old, senile, almost monstrous, not caring about ideology and Marxism and intolerant of anyone stepping out of line.
    • George Bernard Shaw is portrayed as impossibly arrogant.
    • H. G. Wells is shown as mostly a con-artist who creates "prophecies" on a dime that wow everyone but are otherwise useless.
  • Human Resources: Everything in Ben-Chusai's store.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Gog's view on humanity.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Gog makes makeshift mannequins of his enemies and the (many) people he hates, filled with fake blood, that he puts in his forests to shoot if he sees them.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: I used to be a humanitarian, rather. Gog had an old African man from a cannibal tribe in his home that turned a new leaf. Nsumbu, The penitent cannibal, felt the souls of those he had eaten, and believed that God had given white people domain over the Earth for not doing such a thing. Gog, of course, believes that "civilization broke him".
  • Insane Troll Logic: While Gog does this to an extent, the people that he comes across have serious problems with logic. For instance:
    • Professor Killaloe from Reverse history says that he will write a book about history in backwards chronological order, as it is necessary to understand the future in order to understand the past.
    • Mad Doctor Harold Olafsen, who wants to cure people by making them ill.
    • The ultimate example is the eponymous Caccavone, member of such illustrious organizations as the "League for Plants' Rights", the "International Comission for the Extirpation of Common Sense" and the "National Society for the Pneumatic Emptying of Latrines". He believes in "Oudenism"; while Descartes taught that he thought, therefore he existed, Caccavone holds that, because thinking is just abstract and does not correspond to reality, he doesn't think, therefore he doesn't exist! He believes that absolutely nothing exists ("Being=Nothing").
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Gog sees the world as very, very small, comparing it to his own house in Cosmocrat.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The theosophists Gog comes across, as well as the proposal of Unitarianism in Gods' alley.
  • I Own This Town: Gog owns an unnamed republic that he can intervene in whenever he wants.
  • Kill All Humans: What Gog wishes he could do.
  • Kill the Poor: What Lenin wants to do to the peasantry, whom he hates. He says that, the moment food would be able to be produced artificially in factories, he will murder all the peasants and that "An electrician is worth to me as much as 100.000 peasants".
  • Lack of Empathy: Gog and the other sociopaths that he encounters, like FOM and (this novel's portrayal of) Lenin.
  • Living Relic: Amerindian Tiapa from Executioner's nostalgia is frustrated that his "art" has mostly died out. Gog tries to appease him by giving all chickens to be slaughtered in the kitchen for him to kill, but it's just not the same.
  • Mad Artist: Almost all whom Gog encounters.
    • The Russian intellectual in Theatre without actors says that a "radical realism" is needed, where no one is an actor and people who die in the play die for real. This is most likely a critique of Socialist Realism.
    • All poets and musicians in the novel write art that is incomprehensible, almost nothing, or just random. Gog hates all of them.
    • The most charitable example is Czechoslovak Matiegka from The new sculpture, who makes beautiful statues out of smoke who vanish within a few seconds. Gog comments on his impressive speed.
  • Mad Doctor: Two:
    • Doctor Horald Olafsen from Disease as cure believes that healthy people live less and that being free of ill is "a hidden harm", so logically everyone must be perpetually sick, and that people should receive diseases from doctors in order to have an average level of well-being. Gog notices that he was probably the only person to ever bother hearing the doctor's ideas.
    • Doctor Anosh-Uthra from Moral surgery claims he can rid people of sins or unwanted virtues. When Gog asks if his entire soul can be amputated, the doctor says that he could try it.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Most claims of ghosts or immortality in the book can be chalked up to charlatanism or madness, but in the I have inherited a soul chapter Gog says that before a good friend of his, George Springhill, committed suicide, he sent him a letter where he gave Gog his soul. Gog didn't read the rest of the letter, but he observed changes in his personality and tastes, receiving new ideas from seemingly nowhere and taking a liking to things he didn't care for previously.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Gog wants to be alone, but can't. Even when he is alone he still feels part of humanity, and that makes him angry. He hates absolutely everybody. He even bought some land in the middle of a city, cleared it of all its buildings and roads, and built a completely walled-off little nature reserve untouched by man where he could be alone, satisfied that no-one else could enjoy such a privilege.
  • invoked Missing Episode: The narrator at the beginning tells us that he has translated all of the stories, with the exception of five or six that he deemed "too repulsive". Considering that he published such chapters as Ben-Chusai's store, we can only speculate as to what was too repulsive to be published.
  • Mysterious Past: Not much is known about Gog's poverty-stricken childhood. Even his initial business pursuits are a mystery.
  • The Namesake: Gog (from Goggins) is the main character of the novel.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gog is very aware of the nature of his name; that's why he preferred it to his real "Goggins". The book even opens with Revelation 20:7-8:
    ...Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
    And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog...
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Benrubi from Benrubi's ideas, who responded to Gog's ad for a secretary, is quite capable and nice. He explains to Gog that all of the advances in science and philosophy from Jews were a from of revenge through toppling previously accepted paradigms.
  • No Name Given: Our narrator and his friend at the beginning, though he seems to be quite similar to the author and share many of his beliefs.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: What Gog wishes to be. In the Difficult cleaning chapter he has a detailed plan on how to kill everyone on Earth, and explains why it would not work (namely, too many people would need to cooperate and not divulge anything).
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: In The ghost trust, industrialist Leon Blandamour, founder of the "International Society of Applied Metaphysics" explains that ghosts are very much real, mentioning ectoplasm and telepathy. He wishes to create a company that sells spectres for personal use, essentially enslaving them, quipping that industry holds a monopoly over every aspect of nature, except the soul. Gog doesn't care.
    • Ben-Chusai claims to have a spectre in a small metal house inside his store.
    • Siao-Sin claims he can conjure spirits very easily.
  • Painting the Medium: The Chinese philosophy chapter begins with a paragraph where Gog says that he found a Chinese book with some great sayings that he wanted to transcribe, to have available later. The rest of the chapter is blank.
  • Pooled Funds: Gog deconstructs this trope himself in the "To swim in gold" chapter. He gets a pool full of gold coins and jewelry, and tries to swim in it. He complains that it was cold, frightening, that he could only immerse himself slightly in the gold and that it felt heavy. He said that it was one of the worst experiences of his life.
  • Population Control: Two examples appear in the novel:
    • Explorer Pat Cairness tells Gog of an island in the Pacific untouched by colonizers where the elders determined that the island can only have enough food for 770 people at a given time. Every year enough people are killed to maintain this number. Most (but not all) people who are selected to die for maintaining this limit do it willingly after three days of saying goodbye, committing suicide, while those that don't are thrown in a bag into the sea.
    • What the Malthusian "Friends of Mankind" wish to do, by ridding the world of those deemed "inferior".
  • Precrime Arrest: Lawyer Francis Malgaz in The judgement of the innocent hates Roman Law and believes crimes to be irreparable. He thinks that, instead of an expensive court system, there should be councils of psychologists and moralists who should punish those who might commit a crime and that those who already did should get massive fines. Gog likes this idea.
  • Purity Personified: The eponymous girl from the final chapter, The bread of the girl. Gog, living like a poor man in Italy, was helped by a sweet girl who gave him some bread, showing him true happiness.
  • Rags to Riches: Gog was very poor. Through unspecified means he managed to become one of the wealthiest persons on Earth.
  • Random Events Plot: Each chapter is disconnected from the rest. The only "story" chapters are the first and the last. The novel is, in essence, a succession of interviews with people with very silly ideas, or Gog's own.
  • Reincarnation: The man from Pythagora's return claims to be a reincarnation of Pythagoras. He is very happy that the world is ruled by numbers. Gog and the professor he was with laugh all the way home after they leave him.
  • Rich Boredom: Gog feels this way. None of the drugs are to his liking, all other hedonistic pursuits he sees as vile, and he hates humanity too much to want to spend time with it. This is probably the reason why he constantly comes into contact and listens to charlatans and weird intellectuals.
  • Rich Recluse's Realm: Gog bought a large tract of land in the middle of a city, razed it to the ground, then built a walled-off nature reserve to which only he has access. He did this both because he hates humanity and wishes to separate himself from it as much as possible, and also to feel smug in the knowledge that no one else in the world could enjoy such a privilege.
  • Riches to Rags: In the last chapter, Gog willingly becomes poor, seeing it as his only escape. He feels the kindness of strangers who don't even speak the same language as him and, after meeting a girl who gave him some bread, discovers the meaning of life.
  • Scam Religion: Everyone in the Miracle at home chapter claims to be able to do magic based on their spiritual religion, but, in truth, they are all conmen who want to take advantage of Gog and his vast amount of money.
  • Science Is Bad: Thomas Edison seems to think so. He is sad that he wasted his life on something ultimately meaningless. He refers to his inventions as "toys" and believes that they have not improved the lives of people at all.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Gog explains that he had to bribe basically everyone involved in getting to speak to an old, senile Lenin.
  • Self-Made Man: One of Gog's few positive traits. He did build his business and acquired his massive wealth all by himself.
  • Shapeshifting: Thormon the soteriologist claims that people shapeshift all the time and that is why he wants money: to make animals return to their real, human selves. Gog outright calls him a charlatan.
  • Slave to PR: Gog likes to complain about having to please other rich people that he despises. The high-life and its associated small-talk and politeness bore him to no end.
  • Slumming It: What Gog decided to do at the end, seeing poverty as his only escape. He gives away all his money and goes to live as a vagrant in rural Italy, despite not knowing Italian. He observes how everyone is so kind to a stranger from a far-away land that may well be an escaped criminal. At the very end, an innocent young girl gives him a loaf of bread, and Gog wonders if that is the true meaning of life.
  • Small Town Boredom: Rather, Big Town Boredom. Gog describes Berlin as a "small town" and is unimpressed with its night-life, having rejected almost all hedonistic pursuits there are.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only notable woman in the entire novel is the Amerindian giant from Gog's colony. She is courted by most of the other 16 men in the colony, and none of them are happy.
  • The Social Darwinist: The "Friends of Mankind" organization is full of them. Their goals are Malthusian and eugenics-based. Gog does not respond to them.
  • Straw Nihilist: Gog hates absolutely everything, even the sky. Gets worse as the novel progresses.
  • Taking Advantage of Generosity: Knut Hamsun complains that, if he helps someone, that person will try to take advantage of him and his celebrity status further. That is why he became a bit of a recluse.
  • Teenage Wasteland: The Pedocracy chapter details Gog's thoughts about modern sensibilities, being like those of children. He tears apart literature (the novel's success is likened to people's childish need to be told stories), sports, modern art and records of any kind.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Gog's hatred for everything is occasionally Played for Laughs.
  • Wandering Jew: The Count of St. Germain (or his son) claims to be immortal and says that he wanders the Earth like many of his immortal friends, mentioning the Wandering Jew directly.
  • Weather Manipulation: In Very small Gog complains that man's control over nature is almost nothing and that impressive feats of mankind like the Eiffel Tower don't invoke any reaction in him. He says that only when humans will be able to completely control the weather he will be impressed.
  • You Make Me Sick: Other people's eating induces this in Gog. In the A.A. and W.C. chapter he explains that he has a room in his house full of food, with one chair and a table where his guests can go and eat individually if they wish, as he himself only eats alone, like the ancients.
  • Zombie Advocate: Spanish poet Ramón from Ramón and the metals wants to create a "League for the Rights of Metals", believing them to be living and persecuted.