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Friedman, P. (1951). The Nose: Some Psychological Reflections. Am. Imago, 8(4):337-350.

(1951). American Imago, 8(4):337-350

The Nose: Some Psychological Reflections

Paul Friedman, M.D., Ph.D.

The enormous popularity which rhinoplasty enjoys today brings to mind Gogol's short story, “The Nose”, (1) and also the familiar reflection that the literary imagination is sometimes a healthy complement to professional learning. Indeed, it would appear that the world we live in is not as different as we might like to think from that which Gogol inhabited.

His story is about the typical, self-important and functionless bureaucrat who plays so prominent a part in the nightmare universe of Russian fiction. This time it is the “collegiate assessor”, Kovalev, who wakes up one morning to discover that his familiar, pimpled nose has disappeared. He is appalled — in a curiously matter-of-fact way. Without a nose, how is he to stroll along the boulevard all day (which is his only occupation), greeting friends, intimidating beggars, and flirting with young women? How is he to acquire the pretty, handsomely dowered girl he seeks, or the coveted appointment as Vice-Governor? For a man of his position and potentialities, this is a clearly intolerable state of affairs. But more intolerable, even, is the sight that soon meets him in the street. His own nose, brilliantly attired in a gold-braided uniform, wearing stiff collar, suede breeches and plumed hat, and with a sword hanging at its side, descends from a handsome coach. Kovalev is astounded: “How could the nose, which was yesterday on his face and could neither ride nor walk, wear a uniform?” It is not so easy to approach one's own nose which has somehow, to judge by the uniform, acquired the exalted position of a State Councillor.

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