Dead Souls

Dead Souls

Book - 1961
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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 and for whom they must continue to pay taxes until the next census. The landowner receives a payment and a relief of his tax burden, and the stranger receives -- what ? Gogol's comic masterpiece offers the answer in a vast and satirical painting of the Russian panorama, as it traces the path and encounters of its mysterious protagonist, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, in pursuit of his dubious scheme.
The plot of Dead Souls is reputed to have been inspired by an actual episode related to the author by his friend, the poet Pushkin. Although intended as a three-part novel, only the first part and a few fragments of a draft of the second part exist; Gogol completed and destroyed the second part, and died in the course of his ascetic preparations for writing the third. Some readers consider his novel a realistic portrait of nineteenth-century Russia; others regard it as a work of great symbolism, proclaiming the trickster Chichikov an accurate image of commercial travelers the world over, whose success rests less upon their actual wares than on their grasp of human nature and powers of persuasion. Among the greatest nineteenth-century Russian novels, Dead Souls continues to inspire twenty-first century authors and readers.
Publisher: Mattituck, NY : Amereon House, 1961
ISBN: 9780486426822
Branch Call Number: GOGOL
Characteristics: 278 p
Alternative Title: Nikolai Gogol's Dead souls


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Sep 06, 2012

Very interesting Russian novel, Gogol's narration is quite characteristic. He reminds the reader of his presence throughout the tale of Chichikov, interjecting praises of Russia and troikas, the open road, and plenty of insightful musings on social relations. Reminded me mostly of Sterne's "Tristram Shandy," though the well-written translator's introduction rules out Sterne's influence. Also reminded me of Rabelais in humor and the long lists.
I think I had a tough time getting into the book, but I know it really picked up and hooked me with a great passage in the 7th chapter on the fate of writers who pander to mass opinion vs. those who try to speak truthfully about their society, warts and all. From there on out, I felt for the man, and enjoyed his perspective. We had quite a few laughs. A really good work.

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