Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov wakes up one morning and discovers that his nose is missing. At the same time in another part of St. Petersburg, Kovalyov's barber finds the nose in his breakfast roll. However, the barber, desiring to disassociate himself from the strange incident, proceeds to toss the nose into the Neva River. A little later, Kovalyov happens to see his nose riding in an elegant carriage and wearing the uniform of a State Councillor (a higher rank than Collegiate Assessor). He demands that the nose give itself up, but is rudely rebuffed.

At first neither the police nor the newspaper offer any help, but later a police officer, who happened to observe the barber throwing an object into the river, returns the lost nose to Kovalyov. However, a new problem arises. How will he re-attach the nose to his face? For this he consults a doctor, who recommends letting nature take its course, "it's best to stay as you are, otherwise you'll only make it worse." Poor nose-less Kovalyov! He becomes the laughing stock of St. Petersburg, until one morning he wakes up and finds his nose re-attached firmly to his face.


Gogol's first published stories (1831-32), which were based on themes from Ukrainian folklore, achieved instant popular success because of their unique (until then) whimsical and humorous style. Later, he turned his attention to the city and published a group of Petersburg stories (1835-36), including "The Nose," in which he carried his fantastic imagination into the contemporary urban scene.

The doctor who appears in this story is an unhelpful therapeutic nihilist. He has no more compassion for Kovalyov's plight than anyone else does, but he claims to be interested only in his patient's welfare; in fact, the doctor protests that he actually has the skill to re-install the nose, but will not do so because such a procedure would cost a lot of money and only leave the patient in worse shape.


First published: 1836. Translated from the Russian by Ronald Wilks.

Primary Source

The Penguin Book of Russian Short Stories



Place Published

New York




David Richards

Page Count