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Dead Souls: A Novel Paperback – Mar 25 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 25 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776444
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #57,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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

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Format: Paperback
After failing as an actor and a poet, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809-52) turned to writing short stories. Only in 1834, however, after his dismal failure as professor of history at the Univ. of St. Petersburg, did he decide that his real career lay in fictional literature. He thereafter lived for a dozen years in Western Europe and visited Russia only occasionally.

Meanwhile he worked at his masterpiece Dead Souls (Mërtvye dushi, 1842). The novel met with acclaim, for the public readership saw it as an attack on the cruel institution of serfdom. Gogol hoped to carry the novel further --to take the second part a picture of all Russia, and to effect the country''s spiritual rebirth. Sadly, while working on this continuation, he began manifesting signs of religious obsession. In 1848, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he felt confirmed in his belief that he was eternally damned! Convinced of the thorough sinfulness of his creative work, he destroyed the manuscripts for the second part of Dead Souls.

This great novel is a minutely detailed narrative bearing a humorous, satirical account of a huge hoax. Ironically, one cannot be sure whether Gogol saw his literary creation as basically comic or tragic. The chief character, Tchitchikov, navigates about the country buying up serfs who have died since the last census, but who must be carried on the tax lists until the next census survey. Mystified owners are willing to part with the useless tax burdens for virtually nothing. Tchitchikov''s motive is to raise money by mortgaging his post- mortem holdings as living property! At first, Tchitchikov appears shrewdly consistent in purpose.
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Format: Paperback
Dead Souls is an interesting selection for several reasons. Above and beyond its commentary on the topical issues of Gogol's days (serfdom and the slow reforms thereof), sociopolitical satire, and uncommonly maladroit and unsympathetic hero, the book is an important exhibit in the evolution of the Russian language and the solidification of Russian literature.
Chichikov, a Russian customs civil servant, rides his troika into N., an unnamed provincial anytown. His intentions unknown, Chichikov effortlessly wins the hearts of the seemingly superficial officials and landowners, whose hospitality and good cheer seem boundless. Chichikov, though, is courting the kind citizens with a purpose. Soon, he is traveling from house to manor, offering to buy deeds to dead peasants for reasons unknown.
With Chichikov's travels through the Russian countryside, Gogol unleashes his comic insight into Russian society, especially (and unlike many of his shorter stories), rural Russia. Soon, the good hosts are exposed as guileful misers and the munificent oficials as venal and depraved. The sharpest comic exchanges come in Chichikov's haggles with the more incredulous targets - notably, a woman who preposterously suspects a hidden value in dead souls, and Sobakevich - a man bearing more than physical resemblance to a bear.
At the same time, Dead Souls paints for us an unorthodox hero in Chichikov - a morally unscupulous bureaucrat whose only ambition is financial aggrandizement. Relegated to mediocrity since childhood, Chichikov pursues the crass goals set out by his dysfunctional father. Yet Chichikov is not a man, he is a state of mind - one that Gogol saw afflicting much of his beloved Russia. Through Chichikov, and with great humor, Gogol illuminates the decay of human relations and decency in a country and people he loved so dearly.
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By A Customer on Oct. 22 2002
Format: Paperback
Dead souls is a book which starts of amusing you and leads you to believe that it must have an intricate plot and Chichikov, the protagonist, leaves you wondering about his devilish motives. Chichikov is here in this town to purchase serfs who have died since the last government census. The landowners therefore, must still pay taxes on these 'dead souls' until the next census. Chichikov, in possession of these cheaply purchased dead souls would appear to be a rich and prosperous landowner to those ignorant of his scheme.
Gogol describes how Chichikov ingratiates himself with the town's most powerful and respected officials. There are vivid descriptions of his various excursions to meet different landowners. The first meeting between Chichikov and landowner Manilov was absolutely hilarious in its description of how two absolutely disparate and removed people can feign such affection and friendliness, one out of greed, and the other simply from a naïve sense of propriety. As the story progresses, you tend to realize that the book doesn't really attempt to maintain a plot, but Gogol's criticism of the depicted Russian society is much more apparent and seems much sharper and more incisive. The story unfolds in such as a way so as to create the most opportunity for observation and comment on all the characters and situations rather than a story that drives itself towards a particular climax. Gogol's style of writing soon pulls you out of the main story- the reader first being an observer of the general happenings around the various characters is soon put into a different position from where he witnesses how Gogol's subtle humour and sharp criticism blend to create a clear picture of Russian society. Gogol's masterly creation of humor in this book is the essence of its brilliance.
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