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Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Part I of Dead Souls was published in 1842. Part II of Dead Souls exists only in fragments. The novel belongs to the great unfinished works of world literature (such as The Aeneid) whose incompletion bothers us very little.
A few factual points ought to be explained to the reader, even though the novel itself eventually suffices to clarify some of them. First, the title of the book. Among Russian serf-owning gentry, the idiomatic way to assess someone’s wealth was to express it in terms of the number of “souls” he owned—that is, male, adult serfs. Taxes on serfs had to be paid by the owner until the next census or registration date even if they may have died in the meantime. Gogol’s “dead souls,” in addition to this literal reference to serfs who had died since the last registration date for serfs, are also a metaphor for the dead moral and spiritual sensibilities of the many inhabitants of Gogol’s zoo. This title ran into trouble with Gogol’s censors, who held the ridiculous suspicion that the title might be a blasphemous attack on the immortality of the human soul. Gogol therefore added the title “Chichikov’s Adventures.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393006001
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/17/1971
Series: Norton Library Series
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852) was a novelist and political satirist. The author of Dead Souls and The Overcoat, he was one of Russia’s greatest writers.

George Gibian was Goldwin Smith Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. His honors include Fulbright, Guggenheim, American Philosophical Society, and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships. He was the author of The Man in the Black Coat: Russia’s Lost Literature of the Absurd, The Interval of Freedom: Russian Literature During the Thaw, and Tolstoj and Shakespeare. He was the editor of the Norton Critical Editions of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace, and Gogol’s Dead Souls, and of the Viking Penguin Portable Nineteenth-Century Russian Reader. Professor Gibian’s articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, the Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday, among others.

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Dead Souls (Russian edition) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A little more than halfway through this book, there's a line so funny, I gaurantee you'll laugh aloud when you come across it. I'm also sure you'll enjoy the entire book. You might think it's a serious book by reading the title 'Dead Souls,' but really it's not--it's funny. It's not all laughs though either. Near the end Gogol does get serious, and I wanted so much to hear him through, but his book is cut short! The most important part is taken away! But despite not having an ending, I still feel 'Dead Souls' is great and more than worth your while.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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