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Dead Souls
     

Dead Souls

4.1 14
by Nikolai Gogol, Donald Rayfield (Introduction)
 

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An NYRB Classics Original

The first of the great Russian novels and one of the indisputable masterpieces of world literature, Dead Souls is the tale of Chichikov, an affably cunning con man who causes consternation in a small Russian town when he shows up out of nowhere proposing to buy title to serfs who, though dead as doornails, are still property on

Overview

An NYRB Classics Original

The first of the great Russian novels and one of the indisputable masterpieces of world literature, Dead Souls is the tale of Chichikov, an affably cunning con man who causes consternation in a small Russian town when he shows up out of nowhere proposing to buy title to serfs who, though dead as doornails, are still property on paper. What can he have up his sleeve, the local landowners wonder, even as some rush to unload what isn’t of any use to them anyway, while others seek to negotiate the best deal possible, and others yet hold on to their dead for dear life, since if somebody wants what you have then no matter what don’t give it away. Chichikov’s scheme soon encounters obstacles, but he is never without resource, and as he stumbles forward as best he can, Gogol paints a wonderfully comic picture of Russian life that also serves as a biting satire of a society as corrupt as it is cynical and silly. At once a wild phantasmagoria and a work of exacting realism, Dead Souls is a supremely living work of art that spills over with humor and passion and absurdity.
       Donald Rayfield’s vigorous new translation corrects the mistakes and omissions of earlier versions while capturing the vivid speech rhythms of the original. It also offers a fuller text of the unfinished second part of the book by combining material from Gogol’s two surviving drafts into a single compelling narrative. This is a tour de force of art and scholarship—and the most authoritative, accurate, and readable edition of Dead Souls available in English.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Gogol's Dead Souls, has achieved a magnificent re-birth. . . . Rayfield's translation is one that Vladimir Nabokov would unreservedly admire. . . . A big, beautiful book and a mould-breaking classic reinvigorated.”

-William Boyd, The Guardian 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590173763
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
07/17/2012
Series:
NYRB Classics Series
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
1,312,178
Product dimensions:
4.99(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.91(d)

What People are Saying About This

Clifford Odets
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.

Meet the Author

Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852), the son of a gentleman farmer who was the author of Ukrainian folk comedies, was born in the Ukraine and grew up on his mother’s family estate. He attended a variety of boarding schools, where he proved an indifferent student and made few friends but was admired for his gifts as a comic actor. In 1828 he moved to St. Petersburg and began to publish stories, and by the mid-1830s he had established himself in the literary world and been warmly praised by Pushkin. In 1836, his play The Inspector-General was attacked as immoral, and Gogol went abroad, where he remained for most of the next twelve years. During this time he wrote two of his best-known stories, “The Nose” and “The Overcoat,” and in 1842 he published the first part of his masterpiece Dead Souls. Gogol became ever more religious as the years passed, and in 1847 he fell under the sway of an Orthodox priest on whose advice he burned much of the second part of Dead Souls and soon gave up writing altogether. After undertaking a fast to purify his soul, he died at the age of forty-two.

Donald Rayfield is emeritus professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary, University of London.

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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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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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