A socially adept newcomer fluidly inserts himself into an unnamed Russian town, conquering first the drinkers, then the dignitaries. All find him amiable, estimable, agreeable. But what exactly is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov up to?--something that will soon throw the town "into utter perplexity."
After more than a week of entertainment and "passing the time, as they say, very pleasantly," he gets down to business--heading off to call on some landowners. More pleasantries ensue before Chichikov reveals his bizarre plan. He'd like to buy the souls of peasants who have died since the last census. The first landowner looks carefully to see if he's mad, but spots no outward signs. In fact, the scheme is innovative but by no means bonkers. Even though Chichikov will be taxed on the supposed serfs, he will be able to count them as his property and gain the reputation of a gentleman owner. His first victim is happy to give up his souls for free--less tax burden for him. The second, however, knows Chichikov must be up to something, and the third has his servants rough him up. Nonetheless, he prospers.
Dead Souls is a feverish anatomy of Russian society (the book was first published in 1842) and human wiles. Its author tosses off thousands of sublime epigrams--including, "However stupid a fool's words may be, they are sometimes enough to confound an intelligent man," and is equally adept at yearning satire: "Where is he," Gogol interrupts the action, "who, in the native tongue of our Russian soul, could speak to us this all-powerful word: forward? who, knowing all the forces and qualities, and all the depths of our nature, could, by one magic gesture, point the Russian man towards a lofty life?" Flannery O'Connor, another writer of dark genius, declared Gogol "necessary along with the light." Though he was hardly the first to envision property as theft, his blend of comic, fantastic moralism is sui generis.--Kerry Fried
Praise for previous translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, winners of the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize
The Brothers Karamazov
“One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevsky’s original.” –New York Times Book Review
“It may well be that Dostoevsky’s [world], with all its resourceful energies of life and language, is only now–and through the medium of [this] new translation–beginning to come home to the English-speaking reader.” –New York Review of Books
Crime and Punishment
“The best [translation] currently available…An especially faithful re-creation…with a coiled-spring kinetic energy… Don’t miss it.” –Washington Post Book World
“Reaches as close to Dostoevsky’s Russian as is possible in English…The original’s force and frightening immediacy is captured…The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation will become the standard version.” –Chicago Tribune
“The merit in this edition of Demons resides in the technical virtuosity of the translators…They capture the feverishly intense, personal explosions of activity and emotion that manifest themselves in Russian life.” –New York Times Book Review
“[Pevear and Volokhonsky] have managed to capture and differentiate the characters’ many voices…They come into their own when faced with Dostoevsky’s wonderfully quirky use of varied speech patterns…A capital job of restoration.” –Los Angeles Times
With an Introduction by Richard Pevear
unfinished -yes! masterpiece-no!
i didn't like this book. you can read the other reviews to get the flavor of the plot. Read more
An ambitious man in 19th century rural Russia attempts to increase his wealth and societal rank by purchasing dead peasants who, due to lengthy delays between census-takings, are... Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by Matthew Krichman
Gogol is the master of imagery; in _Dead Souls_ he also shows his skills at hyperbole and satire, showing the vanity and ridiculousness of the Russian gentry in the middle of the... Read morePublished on Dec 8 2003 by doc peterson
this is a very funny story of philistinism, of dreadfully banal people trying to pull of a perfectly dreadful crime. gogol rivals dickens for creating hilarious characters. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2003
Nobody captured black hearted greed better than N. Gogol in this book. The characters and the events resonate just as strongly in 21st century America. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2002 by Bill M
Dead Souls is Gogol's first and only full length novel, ironically written in Rome rather than the Russian countryside it was set in. Read morePublished on July 29 2002 by Virgil
This is my grandpa's Bible. He is Russian and claims that only other like-minded Russians could ever compute the pitter patter of Mother Russia's beating drum that resonates... Read morePublished on June 11 2002 by James Huckabone
Nikolai Gogol has a very creative mind as well as a unique style of writing. While reading Dead Souls, one is more likely to view the world from Gogol's point of view than his own. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2002
I need to say that I did't read English translation - I was reading the original. But those of you who do not know Russian, should read the translation - it is funny, dark and... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2002 by Audrius Alkauskas