From Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol (1944):
My purpose in jotting these notes on Gogol has, I hope, become perfectly clear. Bluntly speaking it amounts to the following: if you expect to find out something about Russia, if you are eager to know why the blistered Germans bungled their blitz, if you are interested in “ideas” and “facts” and “messages,” keep away from Gogol. The awful trouble of learning Russian in order to read him will not be repaid in your kind of hard cash. Keep away, keep away. He has nothing to tell you. Keep off the tracks. High tension. Closed for the duration. Avoid, refrain, don’t. I would like to have here a full list of all possible interdictions, vetoes and threats. Hardly necessary of course — as the wrong sort of reader will certainly never get as far as this. But I do welcome the right sort — my brothers, my doubles. My brother is playing the organ. My sister is reading. She is my aunt. You will first learn the alphabet, the labials, the linguals, the dentals, the letters that buzz, the drone and the bumblebee, and the Tse-tse Fly. One of the vowels will make you say “Ugh!” You will feel mentally stiff and bruised after your first declension of personal pronouns. I see however no other way of getting to Gogol (or to any other great Russian writer for that matter). His work, as all great literary achievements, is a phenomenon of language and not of ideas. “Gaw-gol,” not “Go-gall.” The final “l” is a soft dissolving “l” which does not exist in English. One cannot hope to understand an author if one cannot even pronounce his name.