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
If you haven't read Gogol, you definitely need to pick him next.
This novel is inhabited by an unforgettable cast of eccentrics and scoundrels, and Gogol makes them all dance and glitter.
By the way, the financial scheme Chichikov is running is very clever, even by today's standards of financial wizardry.
Vladimir Nabokov said this is the best translation of Dead Souls and the rest should be sent to the fire. I agree it is stillPublished 24 days ago by Janet Chambless
Who am I to argue with Vladimir Nabokov, he loved this translation and so do I. A lot of fun to read and a view of a lost society.Published 11 months ago by JoeD
The title has scard me away but we have a local russian prof who occasionallyi comes to our book club and he recommended this edition. Read morePublished on December 21, 2011 by radiator
Dead Souls is a classic 19th century Russian comic novel, considered a masterpiece so long that why it's considered a masterpiece has changed from generation to generation, so... Read morePublished on November 6, 2010 by LeeAnn Heringer
Nikolai Gogol's Dead Soul launches the 'great Russian novel form' with a satire, so apt and so funny, that the novel remains as one of the most popular Russian text ever. Read morePublished on May 8, 2007 by Vivek Sharma
I will spare a synopsis, and stick to my opinion of the book. This book is not a quick read and requires close focus due to the abundance of difficult, yet descriptive Russian... Read morePublished on February 3, 2007 by Chad Fuller
In 19th century Russia landowners estimated their wealth not only by the acres they owned, but also by the number of their surfs. Read morePublished on October 6, 2000 by Adam