Guide Dead Souls

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I promise to keep you updated January 6th Page When I turned over page , I didn't know that it marked the beginning of an interlude that would last thirty pages. Yes, Gogol left Chichikov sleeping in his travelling carriage with the curtains closed for a considerable time during which he obligingly agreed to fill me on on Chichikov's origins. Now I'd been very curious about events in Chichikov's life before his carriage rolled into the inn on page 1, so I got comfortable and listened carefully to the back story — which didn't come without many digressions.

Speaking of digressions, I'd been thinking about the author of Tristram Shandy from the early pages, but in this section, even more so. It's the games Gogol plays with the reader that remind me of Laurence Sterne apart from the frequent mention of Chichikov's nose. By games, I mean not only the obvious humour that is part of character and plot but the fun that is embedded in anodyne words, linking phrases, and even punctuation ellipses are often used in a comical way, especially when it comes to describing women So, what I'm coming to is that the reader might be tempted to keep turning the pages of this book, interested only in where the plot takes the characters, but Gogol, like Sterne, challenges us to slow down and watch, as it were, the sideshows in the writing itself.

January 7th Page One of the sideshows I was thinking about yesterday, and it is a very elaborate type of sideshow, is 'The Tale of Captain Kopeykin' which begins on page It's a long story told by a minor character about an army officer who becomes a brigand in order to get rich. The telling allows Gogol to demonstrate with much humour the kind of 'larded' language used by many people at the time such a contrast to his own as can be seen in the p update quote below , and which he's been making fun of from the early pages.

It's the kind of language that includes a lot of unnecessary trimmings, for example: you know… in a certain sense But the really interesting thing about this sideshow tale is that it gives us some insight into Chichikov, but we don't realise this until we get to the backstory interlude on page where we learn about Chichikov's life-long obsession with saving his kopecks cents , and then we suddenly remember the Tale of Captain Kopeykin The other interesting thing about the Kopeykin tale, told after all in such a different style, was that it reminded me of inserted stories in Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, as well as Ovid's Metamorphoses which I'm currently reading, specifically Book Four where Ovid allows a couple of his characters to tell stories in their own voices using their own verse style.

Unlike Narcissus, I'm always on the lookout for echoes January 8th Page When I mentioned sideshows two days ago, I had no idea just what a funfair I was about to experience. The second part of this book introduces a series of characters, each more bizarre than the previous one.

And as I'm still travelling with Chichikov, I've been able to step inside their strange houses and eat at their overloaded tables there's a lot of eating in this book. Chichikov's carriage needed some repairs after he woke up so we had to knock at the door of a very lovelorn land owner who, after wining and dining us thoroughly, sent us on a mission to the fearsome father of the object of his affections.

From there, having been reasonably successful, we set out to visit a relative of the fearsome father on another mission, but took the wrong road and ended up at the estate of a fisherman farmer where we ate our way through a monstrous sturgeon before making our escape to a model estate run by a very billious man who, on hearing that Chichikov might like to turn landowner, sent us off to the complete opposite kind of estate run by a most cheerfully incompetent man who needed to sell up.

Dead Souls

Oh, and in between we visited a crazy ex-general, obsessed with administration January 9th Concluding chapter As I was saying three days ago, before I got distracted by the many sideshows in this fun-fair of a book, Gogol's announcement on page of his intention to reveal Chichikov's back story was exactly what I wanted to hear. And I listened carefully to everything in the thirty pages that followed.

But for all my assiduity, I still didn't learn much about the small mahogany box. And I learned even less about the list of dead souls Chichikov keeps inside it, or about his plans for those souls. There was an explanation on page but it wouldn't seem to lodge in my brain no matter how many times I reread it. It was as if a spell had been cast over the words by a magician, and I had to conclude that Gogol himself was the biggest sideshow in the fun-fair.

Isn't that a neat trick? Gogol just pushes all the responsibility for the dead souls plot onto Chichikov's shoulders and walks away. In the concluding chapter, I had a similar bamboozling experience. This time, the explanation about the dead souls came directly from Chichikov but even while I was reading it, the meaning just wafted away from me like wisps of smoke, impossible to grasp. Around about then, my comprehension faced an even bigger challenge because bracketed ellipses […] began to appear on every page. But instead of being humourous avoidance strategies such as Gogol used earlier in the book, now they seemed to signify genuine gaps in the text as if someone had removed entire sections.

I couldn't help wondering if Chichikov himself was somehow responsible, because, in the meantime, he seemed to have acquired a mysterious fortune and was suddenly spending lots of money which he was very reluctant to do before and getting himself a new suit the colour of smoke and flame. What the devil! And believe it or not, the little wooden box reentered the story in a significant though rather unholy way—and Chichikov was so happy to recover it that I wondered if, along with those mysterious lists of dead souls, it might not have contained the missing sections of this book The End.

View all 28 comments. There was no logic whatsoever in dead souls. Why buy dead souls? Where would such a fool be found? What worn-out money would one pay for them? To what end, to what business, could these dead souls be tacked? If he wanted to carry her off, why buy dead souls for that? Did he want to make her a gift of these dead souls, or what? What is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov up to? Where does he come from? He is insinuating himself into a community and going around to the local landowners and offering to buy up their dead peasants?

What is the going rate for dead souls? If Chichikov showed up on my doorstep with a ridiculous request to buy my, obviously worthless or are they? Being either or both can lead one to ruin or, quite possibly, to wealth and riches. The much lauded translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky give us a clue to what Chichikov is up to in the introduction by explaining the system of serf ownership. He was responsible for turning in the tax money for as many souls as has been counted in the latest census The action of Dead Souls is set in the period between the seventh official census of and the eighth, taken in During that time a number of peasants would die, but the master remained responsible for the tax on them until they were stricken from the rolls at the next census.

It was possible for a landowner to obtain money from the government by mortgaging some or all of the peasants of whom he was the certified owner. It is a tragedy on many levels. Setting aside the fact that these are human beings and not just line items in a ledger book, families are devastated. The time for grief and the pairing of new couples from the remains of the old will slow reproduction. Think of the time it takes a bairn to become a full grown useful laborer. It is enough to leave a landowner gripping his hair in agitation. It is a very Russian, very nonsensical system.

Nikolai Gogol was living abroad for most of the time he was writing this novel. He had to come back to Russia to usher the first of three parts of the novel through the census board.

Dead Souls

Golokhvastov, the acting chairman of the census committee, was disconcerted by the title of the book. No, never will I allow that--the soul is immortal, there can be no such thing as a dead soul; the author is taking up arms against immortality! That means it is against serfdom. Gogol the man was battling Gogol the writer. His expectations for himself were so high that feelings of failure were inevitable. He burned the manuscript of part two in and Cathartic in the moment, but what a hangover that must have left him with the next morning.

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It begins with Gogol buying up books of his published poetry, getting very drunk, and burning them in a fireplace. As I was reading, looking for hints of his past, I kept speculating about who he is. I kept thinking if I know more about him, maybe I can discover what he is up to. Is he even a man?

Dead Souls | novel by Gogol |

Is he a demon stealing these souls? Con man? An escapee from a mental institution? Gogol, as the narrator, does worry about his hero. At several points, Gogol speculates about whether readers will even like him at all. Even then, he understands the fickleness of readers.

If he thought readers were harsh on books during his time, imagine what he would think of the readers on Goodreads today. It seems to be an arbitrary number, certainly negotiable, and believe me, these suspicious landowners are worried about being hoodwinked. To have a going rate, one must have buyers, certainly more than one seemingly crazy one. There are certainly comedic elements to the book. After all, it is a farce of Russian culture and a condemnation of the owning of serfs.

Any criticism offered by a Russian writer of the system had to be hidden beneath a veneer of humor. The book does have a cobbled together feel to it. I would say that Gogol wrote thousands of words, maybe hundreds of thousands, that never made it into the final manuscript. It did take me a bit of time to settle into the novel, but I was driven by a burning curiosity to know exactly what Chichikov was up to. I did fear that our hero would find himself being carried out of town on a rail.

This Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is highly recommended. View 2 comments. The purpose of the novel was to demonstrate the flaws and faults of the Russian mentality and character.

DEAD SOULS - Teaser Trailer

These people are typical of the Russian middle-class of the time. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose", and within the book as a "novel in verse". Despite supposedly completing the trilogy's second part, Gogol destroyed it shortly before his death. Although the novel ends in mid-sentence like Sterne's Sentimental Journey , it is usually regarded as complete in the extant form.

The original title, as shown on the illustration cover page , was "The Wanderings of Chichikov, or Dead Souls. Poema", which contracted to merely "Dead Souls". View all 3 comments. From the day he saw it, when he began to realize it, to think of himself, his vision of the world and the conception of his own life revolve around this pole; the work becomes the symbol of man, his message.

It's about a crook, Pavel Ivanovich Tchitchikov. The latter has an extraordinary idea to make a fortune: he will redeem dead souls. In ancient Russia the peasants dead souls, as they were called , were considered to be a security: they were sold, bought, and the owner paid a tax per male and adult male head. The census was every ten years, so that in the meantime he continued to pay tax on all deceased serfs on his property. The clever and brilliant idea of Tchitchikov was to buy in good and due form dead souls since the last census: the owner would be happy to give a fictitious good and to free oneself of a real tax and everyone will find his account: nothing illegal in this transaction; and when the purchaser possessed a few thousand serfs, he carried his contracts to a bank in Moscow or St.

Petersburg and borrowed a large sum on these securities. He would be rich and able to buy peasants of flesh and bones! In conclusion, this book by Gogol is a satire of human mediocrity and a virulent and ruthless criticism of Tsarist Russia. View all 6 comments. Shelves: 19th-century , read-in-translation , novel , russia-and-soviet-union. What is this book? I can't remember any more if Gogol described it as a Poem or an Epic, maybe it doesn't matter what he called it since he had great chunks of the manuscript fed into the fire on the advice of his religious advisor.

So we are left with part one, some bits of part two and an outline of the three part whole of the work, the rest having gone up in smoke. What there is of the first part is generally read as a comedy. It is funny, but bear in mind that the first part is about a young ma What is this book? It is funny, but bear in mind that the first part is about a young man travelling around in rural Russia in the s buying the souls of dead peasants from their masters. This isn't that kind of a supernatural book though, buying dead souls the title was originally censored because as the Church teaches souls are immortal and can't be dead was a reasonable financial undertaking at the time.

Serfs could be mortgaged by their owners. Censuses in Imperial Russia were only undertaken once every twenty-five years and peasants who had died since the last one enjoyed a strange half-life in which they could still be mortgaged even though as assets they were completely non-liquid at least financially speaking since they were securely lodged in the graveyard. So we find our hero, or "hero", travelling about, meeting various members of the nobility and attempting to buy their dead souls from them.

If you've read some of Gogol's short stories you'll have some idea of what to expect when a man meets various members of the nobility and attempts to acquire legal title to their dead serfs. If you haven't read some of his short stories - that's probably the best place to start In the three part scheme there would have been a return to moral grace, but since this was burnt, with in the background as Nabokov describes the still youngish but dying Gogol with leeches hanging off his long nose, we're left instead with the tale of a wheeler dealer coaching round the bizarre and comical landowners that populated the imagined Ukraine of Gogol's pen.

View all 14 comments. Dec 28, Vanja Antonijevic rated it it was amazing. Gogol's "Dead Souls" is a true masterpiece. The novel is satirical, intellectual, political, and also entertaining. The intriguing plot is sketched as follows: A somewhat mysterious middle class man, named Chichikov, comes to a town and attempts to build prestige by impressing minor officials of the place. The man spends beyond his means in order to impress, and tries to befriend t Gogol's "Dead Souls" is a true masterpiece.

The man spends beyond his means in order to impress, and tries to befriend the townspeople in order to execute a curious little plan regarding the selling of "dead souls". The idea is that the Russian state taxes these landowners pay are based on the number of serfs or "souls" on record. The problem is that many of these landowners must also pay for the serfs that have already died. It is these "dead souls" that Chichikov wants to buy from the landowners.

He does not tell the owners why he wants the souls, but one can imagine that his plans are somewhat twisted The novel is ultimately a social and political commentary involving exaggerated characters. View 1 comment. An absurd and brilliant satire. To think I avoided reading this novel for years because I thought it was going to be depressing. Gogol captures the absurdity of the midth century Russia.

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Anyway, An absurd and brilliant satire. Anyway, the writing was amazing and the Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation was fantastic. Jun 25, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-to-read-before-you-die. What did you think, Goodreads politely asks me.

Well, dear Goodreads, it has been a while since I read Dead Souls, and I think I remember the melancholy humour best, but as for what I THINK, this is what keeps haunting my mind: There are so many things going on in the world right now that are more bizarre than wandering around buying dead serfs' names from their owners in order to make a profit Sometimes I think of Dead Souls when I read the news and wonder whether our world of , with all t What did you think, Goodreads politely asks me.

Sometimes I think of Dead Souls when I read the news and wonder whether our world of , with all this democratically-elected madness, is proof that Gogol got it all right and saw it coming? My nose is scratching me and my coat walks off frowning, but I stand by my theory: someone has bought the dead souls to make a profit, and it's scarier than reading Gogol! View all 4 comments. Jun 08, Daniela rated it really liked it. After several attempts to grow rich and live a life of comfort Chichikov comes up with a scheme of buying non-existent peasants in order to get a state loan on them and, thus, making easy money out of nothing.

They are those serfs who have already die 4. They are those serfs who have already died but are counted as alive in the official lists since new census have not yet been made. The macabre use of these dead serfs is brilliant as it underlines the inhumanity of feudal Russia. The way I see it, Dead Souls is much more than a biting satire of a corrupted society. It is a criticism of a whole System of power in which corruption is only one of the many nefarious side-effects. And as it usually happens in such societies it corrupts even industrious, hard working men.

The fact that he chooses to be dishonest and apply his qualities to shady schemes says much more of the environment that surrounded him rather than an inborn bad faith. View all 10 comments. Debits and credits would flit in and out of his trading book as ephemeral as any Dead Soul. Mexican immigrants working in hundred degree restaurant kitchens would prepare Fabulous Chichikov Michelin-starred molecular gastronomy while bartending Humanities MAs mix his Negronis.

Sobakevich is the subtle hedge fund manager, promising his regulator that every loan he sold to Fabulous Chichikov was good. Manilov is inherited wealth, inviting Fabulous Chichikov to his Upper East side apartment to dine with his trophy wife. Nozdrev is the the coked-out dealer looking for his last big trade.

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A new administration is asking questions. Senators are meeting with their lawyers. The only potential survivor is the Fabulous Chichikov, standing in the middle of all the complex highly leveraged exotic trades I created without necessarily understanding all of the implications He can board his private jet all Americans who can afford one love to ride in private jets and slumber at thirty thousand feet, dreaming the great American Dream. Shelves: Here's a Russian douchebag.

This is called poshlust, an untranslatable word referring to a kind of banal tackiness special to Russia. Here's another Russian douchebag: The stereotype goes all the way back to and Gogol's great antihero dandy grifter Chichikov, with his Navarino smoke-and-flame silk frock coat and his violet-scented snuffbox, and according to Nabokov poshlust is the great theme of this book, a definition of an essential theme of Russian character.

Chichikov That's not what Gogol Here's a Russian douchebag. Chichikov That's not what Gogol thought Dead Souls was about. He thought he was recreating the Divine Comedy; a morality tale, with three books corresponding to Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. He only finished the first one: in one of the great tantrums of literature, he burned most of his draft for the rest and then starved himself to death. Lucky for us, Inferno is always the good part. This is the thing about tales of redemption: the redemption is definitely not the fun part.

But it's the first great Russian novel, and you can see prototypes here for Raskolnikov and Tolstoy's great conflicted landowner Levin. Book One of Dead Souls, which is about two thirds of what we have, is awesome. Vivid, surreal, funny, almost silly, as Gogol is. He's dead serious under that, of course, as they always are. Here's close enough to a mission statement: Some wondrous power has doomed me for a long time to walk hand in hand with my strange heroes, to survey in its entirety life that rushes along so massively, to survey it through laughter that is visible to the world and through tears which the world cannot see and does not know.

Unfinished books are always frustrating, and I didn't enjoy the fragments after Book One. But that first bit is one of my favorite reading experiences this year. This is the great epic of Russian douchebaggery. Unbutton the top four buttons of your silk shirt and get psyched. The weather was hot and humid and conducive for only one thing, sleeping. However, the pull towards another Russian, a Russian that D admired and a book and its characters that D referred to consistently in his book was just too much of a temptation to me.

I had to read the book and understand why D, one of my favourite authors, felt so moved and inspired The weather was hot and humid and conducive for only one thing, sleeping. I had to read the book and understand why D, one of my favourite authors, felt so moved and inspired by it. Like a moth to a flame, almost sensuously attracted, without a thought of my own in my mind, I just knew that I had to read this one.

Dead Souls Summary

Without feeling any guilt or any kind of remorse for not continuing the books that I had already started, I started my journey with Gogol and his topic of Dead Souls. Every author at some point in his life wants to write a book or does write one where he puts in his heart and soul and talks about everything that he has always wanted to talk about but refrained from doing so in his earlier works. And it is a good thing that he did write this one for it is truly a brilliant book and its brilliance lies not only in the thoughts that he has shared but also in the approach he took while sharing them.

Gogol introduces us to hero, describing his entrance in the town, which remains unnamed and the other characters of the town in this poem, as he calls it, with a satirical tone that makes for many a laugh as you progress. Our hero, Chichikov, enters the town with very little splash but soon makes up for it when he goes around paying his respect to the various key members of the town. The town and its people embrace him heartily and welcome him with love and affection, little do they know of the devious nature of our hero.

Chichikov becomes one of theirs and he slowly reveals his real intention to visiting their town, which was to purchase dead souls. In old Russia, peasants were treated as souls who could be bought and sold and even mortgaged along with the land. This practice I believe, has been long abolished, but was still prevalent when Gogol wrote this book. What follows once our hero attempts to acquire these dead souls is a tale that reveals at once the fallacies of humans along with their naivete, the depths to which some would fall in their greed for making money, the ambiguous nature of laws prevalent in those days, the politics of the country and finally the vivacity of the Russian society.

Every character, irrespective of how big or small his or her role is, is perfectly rounded and reflects the diverse types of people you would encounter if you were to travel around Russia. And for that matter, why only Russia, am sure you would encounter such people everywhere in the world, except for the fact that instead of vodka and zakuskis you would find something else that binds them together.

The second part, which unfortunately has many pages missing, is written quite differently by Gogol. Where satire marked the entire first part, this one is less satirical and more honest and rich in its descriptions of the Russian countryside. Majestically they soared above the endless stretches of plains, now in escarpments, sheer walls of lime and clay fretted by gullies and cavities, now in gracefully rounded green swellings cloaked in lambskin like young brushwood springing from the felled trees, now, finally in dark thickets of woodland, so far spared the axe by some miracle.

A river, true to its banks, now followed them in turns and twists, now left them for the meadows, then, bending itself into several bends, flashed fire like in the sun, hid itself in groves of birch, aspen and alder, and ran forth from them in triumph, attended by bridges, mills and weirs, which seemed to chase after it at every turn. Chichikov, as is his due, meets with a variety of landowners in this part as well.

His character gets more rounded as we go through the story and we can see his thoughts getting more definition and his acts becoming more brazen. The book this was typed from contains a complete Part I, and a partial Part II, as it seems only part of Part II survived the adventures described in the introduction.

Where the text notes that pages are missing from the "original", this refers to the Russian original, not the translation. All the foreign words were italicised in the original, a style not preserved here. Accents and diphthongs have also been left out. Dead Souls, first published in , is the great prose classic of Russia. That amazing institution, "the Russian novel," not only began its career with this unfinished masterpiece by Nikolai Vasil'evich Gogol, but practically all the Russian masterpieces that have come since have grown out of it, like the limbs of a single tree.

Dostoieffsky goes so far as to bestow this tribute upon an earlier work by the same author, a short story entitled The Cloak; this idea has been wittily expressed by another compatriot, who says: "We have all issued out of Gogol's Cloak. Dead Souls, which bears the word "Poem" upon the title page of the original, has been generally compared to Don Quixote and to the Pickwick Papers, while E. Vogue places its author somewhere between Cervantes and Le Sage. However considerable the influences of Cervantes and Dickens may have been--the first in the matter of structure, the other in background, humour, and detail of characterisation--the predominating and distinguishing quality of the work is undeniably something foreign to both and quite peculiar to itself; something which, for want of a better term, might be called the quality of the Russian soul.

The English reader familiar with the works of Dostoieffsky, Turgenev, and Tolstoi, need hardly be told what this implies; it might be defined in the words of the French critic just named as "a tendency to pity. But pity and tolerance are rare in satire, even in clash with it, producing in the result a deep sense of tragic humour. It is this that makes of Dead Souls a unique work, peculiarly Gogolian, peculiarly Russian, and distinct from its author's Spanish and English masters.

Still more profound are the contradictions to be seen in the author's personal character; and unfortunately they prevented him from completing his work. The trouble is that he made his art out of life, and when in his final years he carried his struggle, as Tolstoi did later, back into life, he repented of all he had written, and in the frenzy of a wakeful night burned all his manuscripts, including the second part of Dead Souls, only fragments of which were saved. There was yet a third part to be written. Indeed, the second part had been written and burned twice.

Accounts differ as to why he had burned it finally. Religious remorse, fury at adverse criticism, and despair at not reaching ideal perfection are among the reasons given. Again it is said that he had destroyed the manuscript with the others inadvertently. The poet Pushkin, who said of Gogol that "behind his laughter you feel the unseen tears," was his chief friend and inspirer. It was he who suggested the plot of Dead Souls as well as the plot of the earlier work The Revisor, which is almost the only comedy in Russian.

The importance of both is their introduction of the social element in Russian literature, as Prince Kropotkin points out. Both hold up the mirror to Russian officialdom and the effects it has produced on the national character. The plot of Dead Souls is simple enough, and is said to have been suggested by an actual episode. It was the day of serfdom in Russia, and a man's standing was often judged by the numbers of "souls" he possessed.

There was a periodical census of serfs, say once every ten or twenty years. This being the case, an owner had to pay a tax on every "soul" registered at the last census, though some of the serfs might have died in the meantime. Nevertheless, the system had its material advantages, inasmuch as an owner might borrow money from a bank on the "dead souls" no less than on the living ones.

The plan of Chichikov, Gogol's hero-villain, was therefore to make a journey through Russia and buy up the "dead souls," at reduced rates of course, saving their owners the government tax, and acquiring for himself a list of fictitious serfs, which he meant to mortgage to a bank for a considerable sum. With this money he would buy an estate and some real life serfs, and make the beginning of a fortune. Obviously, this plot, which is really no plot at all but merely a ruse to enable Chichikov to go across Russia in a troika, with Selifan the coachman as a sort of Russian Sancho Panza, gives Gogol a magnificent opportunity to reveal his genius as a painter of Russian panorama, peopled with characteristic native types commonplace enough but drawn in comic relief.

Let us see how Pushkin, who loved to laugh, regarded the work. As Gogol read it aloud to him from the manuscript the poet grew more and more gloomy and at last cried out: "God! What a sad country Russia is! The work on one hand was received as nothing less than an exposure of all Russia--what would foreigners think of it? The liberal elements, however, the critical Belinsky among them, welcomed it as a revelation, as an omen of a freer future.

Gogol, who had meant to do a service to Russia and not to heap ridicule upon her, took the criticisms of the Slavophiles to heart; and he palliated his critics by promising to bring about in the succeeding parts of his novel the redemption of Chichikov and the other "knaves and blockheads. It was about this time that Gogol published his Correspondence with Friends, and aroused a literary controversy that is alive to this day.

Tolstoi is to be found among his apologists. Opinions as to the actual significance of Gogol's masterpiece differ. Some consider the author a realist who has drawn with meticulous detail a picture of Russia; others, Merejkovsky among them, see in him a great symbolist; the very title Dead Souls is taken to describe the living of Russia as well as its dead. Chichikov himself is now generally regarded as a universal character.

We find an American professor, William Lyon Phelps [1] , of Yale, holding the opinion that "no one can travel far in America without meeting scores of Chichikovs; indeed, he is an accurate portrait of the American promoter, of the successful commercial traveller whose success depends entirely not on the real value and usefulness of his stock-in-trade, but on his knowledge of human nature and of the persuasive power of his tongue.

Again, the work bears an interesting relation to Gogol himself. This is a tour de force of art and scholarship—and the most authoritative, accurate, and readable edition of Dead Souls available in English. Hardcover —. About Dead Souls Since its publication in , Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp. About Dead Souls An NYRB Classics Original The first of the great Russian novels and one of the indisputable masterpieces of world literature, Dead Souls is the tale of Chichikov, an affably cunning con man who causes consternation in a small Russian town when he shows up out of nowhere proposing to buy title to serfs who, though dead as doornails, are still property on paper.

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