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Gogol Bordello: The New Gogol on Google?


Published March 25, 2009 at 4:24 p.m.

The March/April issue of Russian Life, a bimonthly magazine based in Montpelier, includes a package of stories commemorating the 200th birthday of 19th-century Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. So why did the magazine's editors decide to write about the contemporary "gypsy punk" band Gogol Bordello?

(In case you didn't know that the only magazine about Russia for Western readers is based in Vermont, see Kirk Kardashian's April 2008 Seven Days story, "The Russo-Files.")

Regarding the Gogol matter: Two quick IDs:

1. Nikolai Gogol is famous for writing the novel Dead Souls, a play called "The Inspector General," and a pair of famous short stories, "The Overcoat" and "The Nose." Gogol's witty, absurdist style has influenced such writers as Dostoevsky, Kafka and Nabokov, and it makes me fall over laughing. Last May, a sculpture monument to Gogol's "Nose" was unveiled in St. Petersburg. The next month, a Vermont theater company put on a "Nose" adaptation at the FlynnSpace.

2. Gogol Bordello is a high-energy New York City-based outfit whose founding members met 11 years ago at a Russian wedding in Vermont. The band's thirtysomething frontman, Eugene Hutz, relocated to Burlington from the Ukraine as a teenager. (The New York Times has noted that Hutz "looks less like a rock star than a crafty street performer or a belligerent intellectual from some revolutionary period of history.") In October 2007, Gogol Bordello staged a concert in Montpelier. The following year, the band performed in Moscow.

Now for details on the apparent Gogol snafu:

According to a short piece in the current Russian Life, Google searches for "Gogol" are turning up as many hits for "Gogol Bordello" as they do for the eponymous 19th-century author. Indeed, when I Googled "Gogol" this afternoon, the absurdist satirist and the gypsy punk band alternated the first six hits. The seventh hit was a book about Gogol. The eighth was Gogol, a site that aims to put a Gogolian twist on the Google search itself: Instead of "I'm feeling lucky," a search button reads, "I'm feeling unlucky with Gogol!"

"Gogol doesn't take ANY care of what you are looking for, but instead will redirect you to a more or less randomly chosen document," the website notes of itself. "If Gogol ever redirected you to a web page related to what you really were searching for, this would be a pure coincidence."