Dead Souls

Dead Souls

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A stranger arrives in a Russian backwater community with a bizarre proposition for the local landowners: cash for their 'dead souls,' the serfs who have died in their service. A comic masterpiece. Dead Souls is eloquent on some occasions, lyrical on others, and pious and reverent elsewhere. Nicolai Gogol was a master of the spoof. The American students of today are not the only readers who have been confused by him. Russian literary history records more divergent interpretations of Gogol than perhaps of any other classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451523082
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/01/1961
Series: Airmont Classics
Pages: 1
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), Russian short-story writer, novelist, and playwright, is best known for his novel Dead Souls, his play The Inspector-General, and stories such as "The Nose" and "The Overcoat." Bernard Guilbert Guerney (1894-1979) was a bookstore owner, fiction writer, and translator of Russian literature. Susanne Fusso is associate professor of Russian at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Designing Dead Souls: An Anatomy of Disorder in Gogol.

Read an Excerpt

Dead Souls

By Nikolai Gogol, D. J. Hogarth


Copyright © 2016 Open Road Integrated Media
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3542-2


TO THE DOOR OF AN INN in the provincial town of N. there drew up a smart britchka — a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. In the britchka was seated such a gentleman — a man who, though not handsome, was not ill-favoured, not over-fat, and not over-thin. Also, though not over-elderly, he was not over-young. His arrival produced no stir in the town, and was accompanied by no particular incident, beyond that a couple of peasants who happened to be standing at the door of a dramshop exchanged a few comments with reference to the equipage rather than to the individual who was seated in it. "Look at that carriage," one of them said to the other. "Think you it will be going as far as Moscow?" "I think it will," replied his companion. "But not as far as Kazan, eh?" "No, not as far as Kazan." With that the conversation ended. Presently, as the britchka was approaching the inn, it was met by a young man in a pair of very short, very tight breeches of white dimity, a quasi-fashionable frockcoat, and a dickey fastened with a pistol-shaped bronze tie-pin. The young man turned his head as he passed the britchka and eyed it attentively; after which he clapped his hand to his cap (which was in danger of being removed by the wind) and resumed his way. On the vehicle reaching the inn door, its occupant found standing there to welcome him the polevoi, or waiter, of the establishment — an individual of such nimble and brisk movement that even to distinguish the character of his face was impossible. Running out with a napkin in one hand and his lanky form clad in a tailcoat, reaching almost to the nape of his neck, he tossed back his locks, and escorted the gentleman upstairs, along a wooden gallery, and so to the bedchamber which God had prepared for the gentleman's reception. The said bedchamber was of quite ordinary appearance, since the inn belonged to the species to be found in all provincial towns — the species wherein, for two roubles a day, travellers may obtain a room swarming with black-beetles, and communicating by a doorway with the apartment adjoining. True, the doorway may be blocked up with a wardrobe; yet behind it, in all probability, there will be standing a silent, motionless neighbour whose ears are burning to learn every possible detail concerning the latest arrival. The inn's exterior corresponded with its interior. Long, and consisting only of two storeys, the building had its lower half destitute of stucco; with the result that the dark-red bricks, originally more or less dingy, had grown yet dingier under the influence of atmospheric changes. As for the upper half of the building, it was, of course, painted the usual tint of unfading yellow. Within, on the ground floor, there stood a number of benches heaped with horse-collars, rope, and sheepskins; while the window-seat accommodated a sbitentshik, cheek by jowl with a samovar — the latter so closely resembling the former in appearance that, but for the fact of the samovar possessing a pitch-black lip, the samovar and the sbitentshik might have been two of a pair.

During the traveller's inspection of his room his luggage was brought into the apartment. First came a portmanteau of white leather whose raggedness indicated that the receptacle had made several previous journeys. The bearers of the same were the gentleman's coachman, Selifan (a little man in a large overcoat), and the gentleman's valet, Petrushka — the latter a fellow of about thirty, clad in a worn, over-ample jacket which formerly had graced his master's shoulders, and possessed of a nose and a pair of lips whose coarseness communicated to his face rather a sullen expression. Behind the portmanteau came a small dispatch-box of redwood, lined with birch bark, a boot-case, and (wrapped in blue paper) a roast fowl; all of which having been deposited, the coachman departed to look after his horses, and the valet to establish himself in the little dark anteroom or kennel where already he had stored a cloak, a bagful of livery, and his own peculiar smell. Pressing the narrow bedstead back against the wall, he covered it with the tiny remnant of mattress — a remnant as thin and flat (perhaps also as greasy) as a pancake — which he had managed to beg of the landlord of the establishment.

While the attendants had been thus setting things straight the gentleman had repaired to the common parlour. The appearance of common parlours of the kind is known to every one who travels. Always they have varnished walls which, grown black in their upper portions with tobacco smoke, are, in their lower, grown shiny with the friction of customers' backs — more especially with that of the backs of such local tradesmen as, on market-days, make it their regular practice to resort to the local hostelry for a glass of tea. Also, parlours of this kind invariably contain smutty ceilings, an equally smutty chandelier, a number of pendent shades which jump and rattle whenever the waiter scurries across the shabby oilcloth with a trayful of glasses (the glasses looking like a flock of birds roosting by the seashore), and a selection of oil paintings. In short, there are certain objects which one sees in every inn. In the present case the only outstanding feature of the room was the fact that in one of the paintings a nymph was portrayed as possessing breasts of a size such as the reader can never in his life have beheld. A similar caricaturing of nature is to be noted in the historical pictures (of unknown origin, period, and creation) which reach us — sometimes through the instrumentality of Russian magnates who profess to be connoisseurs of art — from Italy; owing to the said magnates having made such purchases solely on the advice of the couriers who have escorted them.

To resume, however — our traveller removed his cap, and divested his neck of a parti-coloured woollen scarf of the kind which a wife makes for her husband with her own hands, while accompanying the gift with interminable injunctions as to how best such a garment ought to be folded. True, bachelors also wear similar gauds, but, in their case, God alone knows who may have manufactured the articles! For my part, I cannot endure them. Having unfolded the scarf, the gentleman ordered dinner, and whilst the various dishes were being got ready — cabbage soup, a pie several weeks old, a dish of marrow and peas, a dish of sausages and cabbage, a roast fowl, some salted cucumber, and the sweet tart which stands perpetually ready for use in such establishments; whilst, I say, these things were either being warmed up or brought in cold, the gentleman induced the waiter to retail certain fragments of tittle-tattle concerning the late landlord of the hostelry, the amount of income which the hostelry produced, and the character of its present proprietor. To the last-mentioned inquiry the waiter returned the answer invariably given in such cases — namely, "My master is a terribly hard man, sir." Curious that in enlightened Russia so many people cannot even take a meal at an inn without chattering to the attendant and making free with him! Nevertheless not all the questions which the gentleman asked were aimless ones, for he inquired who was Governor of the town, who President of the Local Council, and who Public Prosecutor. In short, he omitted no single official of note, while asking also (though with an air of detachment) the most exact particulars concerning the landowners of the neighbourhood. Which of them, he inquired, possessed serfs, and how many of them? How far from the town did those landowners reside? What was the character of each landowner, and was he in the habit of paying frequent visits to the town? The gentleman also made searching inquiries concerning the hygienic condition of the countryside. Was there, he asked, much sickness about — whether sporadic fever, fatal forms of ague, smallpox, or what not? Yet, though his solicitude concerning these matters showed more than ordinary curiosity, his bearing retained its gravity unimpaired, and from time to time he blew his nose with portentous fervour. Indeed, the manner in which he accomplished this latter feat was marvellous in the extreme, for, though that member emitted sounds equal to those of a trumpet in intensity, he could yet, with his accompanying air of guileless dignity, evoke the waiter's undivided respect — so much so that, whenever the sounds of the nose reached that menial's ears, he would shake back his locks, straighten himself into a posture of marked solicitude, and inquire afresh, with head slightly inclined, whether the gentleman happened to require anything further. After dinner the guest consumed a cup of coffee, and then, seating himself upon the sofa, with, behind him, one of those wool-covered cushions which, in Russian taverns, resemble nothing so much as a cobblestone or a brick, fell to snoring; whereafter, returning with a start to consciousness, he ordered himself to be conducted to his room, flung himself at full length upon the bed, and once more slept soundly for a couple of hours. Aroused, eventually, by the waiter, he, at the latter's request, inscribed a fragment of paper with his name, his surname, and his rank (for communication, in accordance with the law, to the police): and on that paper the waiter, leaning forward from the corridor, read, syllable by syllable: "Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov, Collegiate Councillor — Landowner — Travelling on Private Affairs." The waiter had just time to accomplish this feat before Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov set forth to inspect the town. Apparently the place succeeded in satisfying him, and, to tell the truth, it was at least up to the usual standard of our provincial capitals. Where the staring yellow of stone edifices did not greet his eye he found himself confronted with the more modest grey of wooden ones; which, consisting, for the most part, of one or two storeys (added to the range of attics which provincial architects love so well), looked almost lost amid the expanses of street and intervening medleys of broken or half-finished partition-walls. At other points evidence of more life and movement was to be seen, and here the houses stood crowded together and displayed dilapidated, rain-blurred signboards whereon boots of cakes or pairs of blue breeches inscribed "Arshavski, Tailor," and so forth, were depicted. Over a shop containing hats and caps was written "Vassili Thedorov, Foreigner"; while, at another spot, a signboard portrayed a billiard table and two players — the latter clad in frockcoats of the kind usually affected by actors whose part it is to enter the stage during the closing act of a piece, even though, with arms sharply crooked and legs slightly bent, the said billiard players were taking the most careful aim, but succeeding only in making abortive strokes in the air. Each emporium of the sort had written over it: "This is the best establishment of its kind in the town." Also, al fresco in the streets there stood tables heaped with nuts, soap, and gingerbread (the latter but little distinguishable from the soap), and at an eating-house there was displayed the sign of a plump fish transfixed with a gaff. But the sign most frequently to be discerned was the insignia of the State, the double-headed eagle (now replaced, in this connection, with the laconic inscription "Dramshop"). As for the paving of the town, it was uniformly bad.

The gentleman peered also into the municipal gardens, which contained only a few sorry trees that were poorly selected, requiring to be propped with oil-painted, triangular green supports, and able to boast of a height no greater than that of an ordinary walking-stick. Yet recently the local paper had said (apropos of a gala) that, "Thanks to the efforts of our Civil Governor, the town has become enriched with a pleasaunce full of umbrageous, spaciously-branching trees. Even on the most sultry day they afford agreeable shade, and indeed gratifying was it to see the hearts of our citizens panting with an impulse of gratitude as their eyes shed tears in recognition of all that their Governor has done for them!"

Next, after inquiring of a gendarme as to the best ways and means of finding the local council, the local law-courts, and the local Governor, should he (Chichikov) have need of them, the gentleman went on to inspect the river which ran through the town. En route he tore off a notice affixed to a post, in order that he might the more conveniently read it after his return to the inn. Also, he bestowed upon a lady of pleasant exterior who, escorted by a footman laden with a bundle, happened to be passing along a wooden sidewalk a prolonged stare. Lastly, he threw around him a comprehensive glance (as though to fix in his mind the general topography of the place) and betook himself home. There, gently aided by the waiter, he ascended the stairs to his bedroom, drank a glass of tea, and, seating himself at the table, called for a candle; which having been brought him, he produced from his pocket the notice, held it close to the flame, and conned its tenour — slightly contracting his right eye as he did so. Yet there was little in the notice to call for remark. All that it said was that shortly one of Kotzebue's plays would be given, and that one of the parts in the play was to be taken by a certain Monsieur Poplevin, and another by a certain Mademoiselle Ziablova, while the remaining parts were to be filled by a number of less important personages. Nevertheless the gentleman perused the notice with careful attention, and even jotted down the prices to be asked for seats for the performance. Also, he remarked that the bill had been printed in the press of the Provincial Government. Next, he turned over the paper, in order to see if anything further was to be read on the reverse side; but, finding nothing there, he refolded the document, placed it in the box which served him as a receptacle for odds and ends, and brought the day to a close with a portion of cold veal, a bottle of pickles, and a sound sleep.

The following day he devoted to paying calls upon the various municipal officials — a first, and a very respectful, visit being paid to the Governor. This personage turned out to resemble Chichikov himself in that he was neither fat nor thin. Also, he wore the riband of the order of Saint Anna about his neck, and was reported to have been recommended also for the star. For the rest, he was large and good-natured, and had a habit of amusing himself with occasional spells of knitting. Next, Chichikov repaired to the Vice-Governor's, and thence to the house of the Public Prosecutor, to that of the President of the Local Council, to that of the Chief of Police, to that of the Commissioner of Taxes, and to that of the local Director of State Factories. True, the task of remembering every big-wig in this world of ours is not a very easy one; but at least our visitor displayed the greatest activity in his work of paying calls, seeing that he went so far as to pay his respects also to the Inspector of the Municipal Department of Medicine and to the City Architect. Thereafter he sat thoughtfully in his britchka — plunged in meditation on the subject of whom else it might be well to visit. However, not a single magnate had been neglected, and in conversation with his hosts he had contrived to flatter each separate one. For instance to the Governor he had hinted that a stranger, on arriving in his, the Governor's province, would conceive that he had reached Paradise, so velvety were the roads. "Governors who appoint capable subordinates," had said Chichikov, "are deserving of the most ample meed of praise." Again, to the Chief of Police our hero had passed a most gratifying remark on the subject of the local gendarmery; while in his conversation with the Vice-Governor and the President of the Local Council (neither of whom had, as yet, risen above the rank of State Councillor) he had twice been guilty of the gaucherie of addressing his interlocutors with the title of "Your Excellency" — a blunder which had not failed to delight them. In the result the Governor had invited him to a reception the same evening, and certain other officials had followed suit by inviting him, one of them to dinner, a second to a tea-party, and so forth, and so forth.


Excerpted from Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, D. J. Hogarth. Copyright © 2016 Open Road Integrated Media. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents




Dead Souls







One of the Last Chapters


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Admired not only for its enduring comic portraits but also for its sense of moral purpose." —-Meriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature


Where else has one met such a group of brawling men, all of them straining, pleading, expostulating - bellowing to be released from the printed page? In Homer, in Shakespeare, in Rabelais, but not in many other places. Here are characters who veritably fly at the reader's throat.

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Dead Souls (Russian edition) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Avid_ReaderPA More than 1 year ago
This was a book club selection and only one person, out of 5, finished the book. To be fair, I only made it half way through. Although supposedly a newer, more engaging translation, I had a copy translated by Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear, it still read like dry Russian literature. The characters are all caricatures and blatantly so (note that this is the point of the book). The excessive detail is interesting if you are studying the period, but otherwise tedious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the finest works of Russian literature, Gogol¿s DEAD SOUL epitomizes Russian soul at its purest, funniest, finest, richest, dreaririest, most charming and most hopeless state. Gogol utterly ridicules the Russian gentry in the middle of the 19th century in this story, centering on some dreadfully banal people who are trying to pull off a fraud. Exemplified by Chichikov who may be dividedly considered a scoundrel and a hero, Gogol portrayed to what length people can go to secure interests or benefits against over fellow humans considered to be of a lesser class. It is unfortunate that Gogol never finished this story. Overall, this amazingly entertaining classical novel deserves the highest of respects. In addition to UNION MOUJIK, TARAS BULBA, I also recommend classic Russian Stories like DEMONS, FATHERS AND SONS, and THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Once you get into Russian literature, you get to appreciate its supremacy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book gave me an insight into 19th century Russian life and how serfs were treated by the nobility. The author also points out personality characteristics which are present in most people even now. I just wish that more info was given about the citizens of the town of N later in the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a funny, touching novel. I picked it up as a lark because I have enjoyed the Pevear/Volkhonsky translations of Dostoyevsky works. Dead Souls is a deeply human story that speaks to our desire for social status even when we lack the means. Chichikov's insane plans seem to make more sense against the modern background of dime-a-dozen 'Internet Millionaires' and get-rich-quick schemes. This translation manages somehow to be laugh-out-loud funny, gut-wrenchingly tragic, and surprisingly fresh. A must-read for any Dostoyevsky fan.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The parts I loved I really loved, it was very funny and insightful. But then it goes on and on in excrutiating detail and the end of the book is just fragments (it's unfinished or the manuscript was lost or something). It's kind of a frustrating read. You should read it not for the story, but for the little snippets or sketches of character that seem true and funny sprinkled throughout. I liked it overall but would not really recommend it. The first 150 pages or so are the best.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A rollicking, farcical road tale set in Russia in the first half of the 19th Century. Follows Chichikov, a petty bourgeois con man¿ a man who is ¿not too fat, and not too thin¿ in the words of the author, on a trip around the country to buy up ¿dead souls,¿ which are peasants who have died but are still counted as living until the next census happens. Chichikov hopes to make his fortune by charming lots of landowners into giving them away for nothing, and then mortaging them under new regulations that allow Russian landowners to mortage their estates to the treasury at roubles-to-the-soul. Gogol uses the misadventures of our antihero to paint a humorous and loving picture of Russian life in the first half of the 1800s. Kind of reminds me of Tristram Shandy.
jennyo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When you think of Russian novels, you probably think of doorstop weight ones like War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. Dead Souls feels downright slim compared to those. And considerably more lighthearted as well. It took me a long time to read the book, but that's not Gogol's fault; I've just had my mind on something else lately and have found it hard to concentrate on much of anything. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this story of Pavlov Chichikov and his quest to buy dead souls from local landowners.The characters in this book and the situations in which Chichikov finds himself are a hoot. I think my favorite was Nozdrev, the compulsive gambler and liar, who ends up being the one to expose the truth about Chichikov to the community.I'd definitely read Gogol again, but I may save him until the future when I can pay a little closer attention to his work.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started off last year reading another Russian novel, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevesky which ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year. (Dakota enjoyed the book as well. She ate it last July.) I had very little experience with Russian novels, other than the first two thirds of Anna Karinina I'd not read anything. Besides being an excellent pyschological thriller, Crime and Punishment is a very funny book. I was surprised by how funny it was. I'd always been led to believe that Russian novels were difficult stuff.Look at the cover of Dead Souls. Does it look funny to you? Dead souls? How could that be funny?Nicholai Gogol wrote one of my all-time favorite short stories, "The Nose", about a man whose nose runs out on him one day to lead a life that is much more exciting and glamorous than the life it led while a part of the man's face. It's difficult to get your nose back once it's found out how much fun it can have without you. It's a very funny story.Dead Souls is a very funny novel. The hero, Tchitchikov, is a "gentleman of the middling" sort without significant money or land. He develops a plan to become wealthy by buying up dead serfs. Serfdom in Russia was a form of slavery that lasted throughout much of the 19th century. When Gogol wrote Dead Souls the Russian government taxed landowners based on how many serfs they owned at the time of the most recent census. Since the census was only done once every ten years, if a serf died before the next census, the owner had to continue paying taxes on the 'dead soul' until it could be officially counted as dead. Tchitchikov intends to acquire as many dead souls as he can by taking them off the hands of their owners as a gracious act of kindness and then use them as collateral for a large bank loan. He'll then use the loan to purchase an estate with actual serfs on it. Unfortunately, everyone Tchitchikov encounters is immediately suspicious of his plan. They cannot figure out why he wants dead serfs but they suspect he is up to something and they all want in on it. No one will give him their dead serfs, some refuse to sell them outright, others force him to pay high prices for them. The pattern repeats in various forms as Tchitchikov travels from town to town, estate to estate, trying to explain how much money can be saved by avoiding the tax on dead serfs if only he can have them. Gogol intended to make Dead Souls the first part of a trilogy of books reflecting Dante's Divine Comedy. He burned all but five chapters of the second book before he died. Dead Souls is his only completed novel.The more you understand the subject matter, the better satire works, so I imagine that my lack of knowledge about Russian history kept me from getting all of the jokes in Dead Souls, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly none-the-less. Gogol's sense of humor is probably not for everyone, but it's right up my alley. He manages to point out the absurdity of his society without letting on how completely he is undermining it. Of course this is a man who wrote a story about a nose cutting out on a face just to spite it. And the next time someone mentions Russian novels, don't think depressing, don't thing dreary, think funny.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dead Souls raises the fundamental puzzling problem of literary theory: the question of an author's personal involvement in his work, meaning, of how far, Gogol's outlook on life can impinge on the lives of his protagonists (or heroes) without leading, as in Gogol's own case, to insanity and suicide. Dead Souls is a fragmented work that upon finishing the second volume of which Gogol fell under the influence of a priest who advised him to burn it. He regarded Gogol's literary work as an abomination to the eyes of God and admonished Gogol to lead a sequestered life at the monastery to atone for his sin. There Gogol suicidally took to his bed, refused all provisions and died nine days later. The remaining manuscripts of Dead Souls are rather fragmented as the four chapters of the second volume are recalled and put together through the word of mouth. The first volume affords the whole scaffold and theme of Gogol's ambitious work. As Gogol's work on the novel proceeded, its theme took on more and more grandiose proportions in his mind. At first he wrote without forming any concrete plan in his head but the beginning of the first volume already contains hints of how Gogol hopes to fulfill his mission of saving Russia, which was looking up to him with eyes full of expectation. But quite soon the fact that the whole of Russia would appear in his novel (in fact the skein of characters the hero encounters does represent the whole of Russia, in their skepticism, greed, fear, paranoia) was no longer enough to satiate him. Gogol was getting all the more convinced of his messiah-like mission to save Russia and he began to regard Dead Souls as the means God had given him to intercede for his fellow comrades. Brooding over the fate of mankind in general and of his countrymen in particular, Gogol was puzzled by man's perverse habit of straying from the road which lay wide open before and which, if he followed it, would lead him to some magnificent "palace fit for an emperor to live in", and of preferring instead to follow and chase after all sorts of will-o'-the-wisps to the abyss and then asking in horror what the right road was. But Gogol's own pursuit (to the truth and meaning of existence), was unfortunately, a will-o'-the-wisps which brought him to the abyss into which he finally precipitated himself. It was through the numerous characters, with whom Gogol intended to represent all of Russia, that all the stupidities and absurdities of all the "clever fellows" were caricatured and reflected and therefore became more apparent to us. The work is therefore highly satirical of the senselessness of the noisy contemporary world, and the deceitfulness of the illusions that led mankind astray. Notwithstanding all that remains of the second volume of Dead Souls is a number of various fragments of four chapters and one fragment of what appears to be the final chapter, the plot deduced from the context is nothing but discernible. But no final judgment of the complete second volume (and maybe another volume that was utterly lost) of Dead Souls can be based on what has been crudely recovered. Simple and uneventful the plot might have been, the essence of the book simmers on the ground that injustice cannot be rooted out by punishment and that the only way of restoring the reign of justice in Russia was to appeal to the inbred sense of honor that resided in every Russia's heart. The plot is simple. Collegiate Councilor Pavel Ivanovich Chichiknov arrived in the town N. to buy up all the peasants who died before a new census was taken for the landowners were obligated to pay taxes for these dead serfs. With a subtle resourcefulness and perspicacity, he purchased these dead serfs for resettlement in land that was distributed for free. Was he to acquire them at a considerably lower price than what the Trustee Council would give him, a great fortune would be in store for him. Under the pretext of looking for a place to settle and under all sorts of other pr
Diotima12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first book of "Dead Souls" is picaresque and wonderful, but the remnants of the second book are just outstanding. The depth displayed in the fragments of Book 2 elevate Gogol from a cheeky, vicious satirist to a real humanitarian artist.
cammykitty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely cynical romp through serf-filled Russia, especially if you enjoy portraits of despicable people.
ctpress on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here we are presented with the russian people - and russian temperament - in all its variety. All the different people our main character visits and presents his remarkable idea. To buy dead souls. We are left to guess what's going on here. I liked the beginning of the tale - but the revelation in the end and it's conclusion is not very surprising or rewarding. Not a book I will read again.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some have compared this book to the Divine Comedy. The main characters journey through early 19th century Russia. Dead Souls refers to serfs (slaves) that have died. In Russia, landowners had slaves that were counted decennial for the cenus. The landowners were taxed for these slaves, also referred to as souls, every year, even if they were dead. Chichikov, our "hero", develops a scheme to purchase these dead souls as if they were living. Therefore, relieving the burden from the landowners who can then reduce their tax load. The secret is the main character can cash in on these souls by mortgaging them to buy land, although he only wants to appear as a good citizen who is relieving the tax load from landownders. The plot is only to display Russia during this time period, very much like Huckleberry Finn does for late 19th century. more to come.//..
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was recommended this book by a friend, and I'm very glad she did. It's a marvellous, though unfinished, study of Russian country society in the nineteenth century - their characters, their characteristics, their foibles and their concerns. Running through it all is the quest by the protagonist to purchase the so-called dead souls of each estate he passes through, so as to claim for a mortgage based on how many people he reports as his. It's all very clever, and twisted too, in that typically Russian way.
tzelman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pt. I good; Pt. II in fragments, unrewarding, pointless--perhaps worth another try since it's been 25 years since I read it
xtien on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine your a Russion nobleman but you're poor, you can't afford to own people. But you must own people in order to "count". So what you do is buy the papers of dead farmers, promising the previous owner to properly take care of the paperwork. At one point, a lady gets suspicious, suspecting that he makes money from these dead farmers, so she refuses to sell him her absolutely worthless dead farmers papers.The plot is brilliant, the writing is entertaining like most older Russion novels.
miketroll on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel affords fascinating insights into life in rural Russia in the 19th Century. The plot is amusing but even to outline it would be to give away too much.
Clurb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dead Souls suffers from being so incomplete and disjointed but the first half at least offers an amusing plot and some wonderfully crafted characters which together give an insight into Russian society at the time.
john257hopper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Despite its gloomy sounding title, this is actually quite funny on many levels, in terms of the verbal approaches Chichikov uses in order to deceive various landowners and make them give him money for the serfs who have died on their estates. At the same time, it is quite chilling in the casual assumptions of ownership over the lives and bodies of these serfs, treating them as so many possessions. I thought this book dragged slightly in the middle, but was mostly quite an easy read.
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