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Dead Souls Paperback – December 28, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Gogol was a strange creature, but then genius is always strange. (Vladimir Nabokov)"

From the Inside Flap

Since its publication in 1842, Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp. As Gogol's wily antihero, Chichikov, combs the back country wheeling and dealing for "dead souls"--deceased serfs who still represent money to anyone sharp enough to trade in them--we are introduced to a Dickensian cast of peasants, landowners, and conniving petty officials, few of whom can resist the seductive illogic of Chichikov's proposition. This lively, idiomatic English version by the award-winning translator Robert A Maguire makes accessible the full extent of the novel's lyricism, sulphurous humor, and delight in human oddity and error.

"From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140448071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140448078
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Robert Maguire's translation of _Dead Souls_ is the best one out on the market right now. It is even superior to that of the superstar Russian novel translation-duo Pevear & Volkhonsky (their translation, however, is also worth purchasing, as well as all of their other ones). Robert Maguire was a Gogol specialist and had an intimate understanding of this particular work.
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Format: Paperback
This is considered one of the great works of Russian Literature. The ambitious Chichikov schemes to buy up the 'dead souls'( The names of serfs who have died since the last census and are not listed officially as dead) from their previous owners. In doing so he hopes to establish himself as the owner of many ' souls' and by pawning the souls become a wealthy man.

In doing this he travels through Russia meeting a variety of odd and interesting characters. One character,Manilov gives his souls free of charge. Another the greedy Korobotchka makes a bargain of fifteen rubles per soul. Sobakevitch demands a hundred rubles but his rudeness gets him only two- and - one half rubles per soul.

Chichikov pulls it off for a time, is recognized as wealthy, has many ladies running after him, but is last exposed by a character, Nozdrev, who has refused to make a bargain with him.

Gogol's fiercely satirical humor has made this work a Russian reader's delight.

I am not sure however that the humor and the delight translate very well to English.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found "Dead Souls" through the Amazon search and clicked on the hardbound Maguire translation. The 6 customer reviews extoled the Maguire version as one of the better ones. The webpage also mentioned a Kindle version and included a link. I clicked the link. The same customer reviews appeared as for the hardbound version. There was no contradicting information about the translator, so I bought expecting the Kindle version of the Maguire translations. When I opened the Kindle version, I was surprised to see credits for translation by D.J. Hogarth. This difference should be made clear, especially when the reviews on the same page extol the Maguire version and you don't get that translation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The reason this is the best translation is that Maguire is an authority on Gogol and this work. He provides the most thorough footnotes for a work I have come across and explains all the Russian nuances. We read this for an IB class in which several native Russian speakers were included. They commented on how Maguire was able to maintain the quality and nuances of the language and satire in translation -- a very difficult task. Our local (Kyiv, Ukraine) book group of mostly American adults used the same translation and also loved it. The book makes for interesting discussion. Also read The Inspector General if you get a chance!
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Among all humans, the sub-set of famous writers surely has a disproportionate share of strange birds, and one of the oddest was Nicolai Gogol. Born in the Ukraine in 1809, as a young man he re-located to Petersburg, intent on making a name for himself. When he discovered that the civil service was closed to him, he sought to make his fame as a writer - and he did. Today, his works, collectively, are generally regarded to be a brilliant critique of czarist Russia, exposing the inefficiencies and injustices of the czarist bureaucracy, the decadence and hypocrisy of the aristocracy and landowners, and the misery of all other Russians. Yet, curiously, Gogol was a political conservative who endorsed the existing order, including serfdom. By his lights, improvement in the average person's quality of life was primarily the responsibility of the individual, through education and religion. Gogol himself became consumed with a sort of religious mania. He became increasingly ascetic and he died in a state of delirium, just shy of 43 years of age; the immediate cause probably was self-starvation. The general consensus is that he also died a virgin; in the recesses of academia there is persistent speculation that he was a repressed homosexual. And it is generally accepted that he was a lifelong manic-depressive.

Gogol's greatest works are his short stories - including "Nevsky Prospect", "The Overcoat", and "Diary of a Madman". DEAD SOULS is his one novel of note, and for some it is on a par with the best of his short stories. For various reasons, I don't regard DEAD SOULS quite that highly.

First, it is unfinished. Part I (280 pages in this edition) was published in 1842. Gogol reportedly likened it to "Inferno" of Dante's "Divine Comedy".
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Format: Paperback
Having worked my way slowly through a handful of Russian classics (Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Gorky, Nabokov), I naively based my expectations of Gogol on a stereotype aggregated from these literary giants- profound insight into human nature amplified by the trials of an oppressed society. There's certainly no lack of keen insight into human nature in this satire about an ambitious but landless citizen's ambition to marry the governor's daughter by playing a loophole in the system to build his status. Gogol captures both the mundane swirl of gossip and speculation surrounding the first rumors that the protagonist is buying dead souls at low cost, as well as the profound sense that mankind has "succeeded again and again in losing themselves in back alleys in broad daylight... trudging wearily after a mirage." What distinguishes Gogol is his comic genius in the absurd details of his descriptions and dialogue. Character traits are surely exaggerated, but strangely convincing. One prospective seller tries to include a German barrel organ or hounds in the deal for dead souls ("Barrel ribs beyond imagination, paws so padded that they don't even leave a mark on the ground!"). Another mocks his persistence ("Like a parrot, you keep answering the same thing to whatever you're told- two rubles- two rubles..."). Two characters are deadlocked at a doorway for a good ten minutes, each trying to be deferential to let the other pass first. Even the importance of food is never overlooked ("the pie was very good in its own right, and now, after all the trouble he had with the old woman, it tasted even better"). Great book.
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