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Dead Souls Paperback – March 25, 1997
"Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It"
Read the new book by bestselling author Grace Helbig. More by Grace Helbig.
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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
The Brothers Karamazov
“One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevsky’s original.” –New York Times Book Review
“It may well be that Dostoevsky’s [world], with all its resourceful energies of life and language, is only now–and through the medium of [this] new translation–beginning to come home to the English-speaking reader.” –New York Review of Books
Crime and Punishment
“The best [translation] currently available…An especially faithful re-creation…with a coiled-spring kinetic energy… Don’t miss it.” –Washington Post Book World
“Reaches as close to Dostoevsky’s Russian as is possible in English…The original’s force and frightening immediacy is captured…The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation will become the standard version.” –Chicago Tribune
“The merit in this edition of Demons resides in the technical virtuosity of the translators…They capture the feverishly intense, personal explosions of activity and emotion that manifest themselves in Russian life.” –New York Times Book Review
“[Pevear and Volokhonsky] have managed to capture and differentiate the characters’ many voices…They come into their own when faced with Dostoevsky’s wonderfully quirky use of varied speech patterns…A capital job of restoration.” –Los Angeles Times
With an Introduction by Richard Pevear
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Top Customer Reviews
But as Vladimir Nabokov pointed out in his lectures of "Dead Souls", the greatest of all translations was by Bernard Gilbert Guerney. This version of Dead Souls was recently revised by Susanne Fusso for Yale University Press and I recommend it highly.
So why does translation matter? Because as Nabokov points out in Lectures on Russian Literature, "Dead Souls" is more poem than novel. The plot to "Dead Souls" is almost entirely beside the point ... it all pretty much goes in a circle (by the way, The Wire - The Complete Third Season" was modeled on this style.) Where this novel shines is in its haunting and evocative language. Nabokov points out several mind-blowing techniques that Gogol employs ... one is to take an object, create a metaphor about that object to explain it's importance, introduce another object in that metaphor, then compare the second object to a person ... this being a new character, introduced via a highly elegant segue.Read more ›
The plot of the story revolves around a newcomer to an unnamed Russian village (immeadiately under susupicion being an "outsider"), who manages to charm his way into the local scene as a "harmless fellow." Yet soon his plans are revealed: he wishes to purchase the "souls" of dead serfs, the better to establish himself as a member of the landed gentry.
Gogol's masterpiece is almost Dickensian in its character development (and in the personalities of some of the characters), but on a deeper level comments on the superfulousness of appearance. It is a wonderful, witty and thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
On a deeper level, this is an absolutely timeless examination of human failings and the narcissism of the truly mediocre -- but never with any real venom. Gogol was a Christian afterall and it is with Christian love that he puts the screws to his fellow man, pointing out all the foibles as a means of enlightening people rather than out of spite, all with a comic brilliance that makes Dostoevsky's moralizing feel ponderous.
In fact, why are you still reading this review? Go out and get the bloody book already!
Having said that, the first volume was an absolute pleasure to read. Spend time savoring the delicious descriptive flourishes of Gogol as he follows his protagonist, Chichikov, on his journey through rural Russia buying the legal rights to Russian serfs who have passed away. You can only imagine what he's up to.
You can almost hear Gogol chucking as he spins one short tale after another. There is not much action in the 250 page first volume. All the genius and all the pure reading pleasure comes in Gogol's writing style, attitude, and wry humor. It just overwhelms you.
I had a hard time figuring out if Gogol was trying to comment on the larger issue of the state of Russian serfdom in 1840, when he wrote this novel. There are definitely short sections where he stands up for the dignity of these poor souls. He definitely sees the serfs as human beings and not mere chattel. Read the book carefully, but it seems like Gogol may have been trying to slip this theme under the radar screens of the censors who initially made Gogol revise certain portions of his book.
I have no idea how others have translated this text, but I gather that Gogol is one of the more difficult Russian authors to translate.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gogol is a great writer but my wife loves these translators, and that can make or destroy a story too.Published 4 months ago by Philip Cornett
I find that some books grow on you after you read them. I noticed it with Dostoevsky, who was highly influenced by the writings of Gogol. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Allan Ostermann
I don't know what it is about Russian literature but there's something in 19th century Russian novels that really appeals to me. Read morePublished 6 months ago by MechPebbles
I’ve read several novels by Russian authors, including Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Grossman, so I am familiar with the genre and have even been comfortable with the style and culture... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Steven M. Anthony
Dead Souls is a series of homes and hosts, but one failing I have in comparing the book favorably with The Brothers Karamazov or Crime and Punishment is that the setting are left... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Cabin Dweller
Gogol was no Dante. He could not legislate in his novels. But he pinned sinners more lethally than most and the wild scheme to buy and sell the dead, today looks a lot like... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Peter Jakobsen