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Dead Souls (1842)

by Nikolai Gogol

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,413117838 (3.95)1 / 336
Few literary works have been so variously interpreted as Nikolai Gogol's enduring comic masterpiece, Dead Souls.
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English (89)  Italian (6)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (1)  Finnish (1)  Esperanto (1)  All languages (112)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
Extremely repetitive and laborious. It is like hearing the same joke told over and over until the person says "knock, knock" and you just want to say "go to hell." ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dead Souls
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Nikolai Gogol
Translator: CJ Hogarth
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 570
Words: 155K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Book One

The story follows the exploits of Chichikov, a middle-aged gentleman of middling social class and means. Chichikov arrives in a small town and turns on the charm to woo key local officials and landowners. He reveals little about his past, or his purpose, as he sets about carrying out his bizarre and mysterious plan to acquire "dead souls."

The government would tax the landowners based on how many serfs (or "souls") the landowner owned, determined by the census. Censuses in this period were infrequent, so landowners would often be paying taxes on serfs that were no longer living, thus the "dead souls." It is these dead souls, existing on paper only, that Chichikov seeks to purchase from the landlords in the villages he visits; he merely tells the prospective sellers that he has a use for them, and that the sellers would be better off anyway, since selling them would relieve the present owners of a needless tax burden.

Although the townspeople Chichikov comes across are gross caricatures, they are not flat stereotypes by any means. Instead, each is neurotically individual, combining the official failings that Gogol typically satirizes (greed, corruption, paranoia) with a curious set of personal quirks.

Setting off for the surrounding estates, Chichikov at first assumes that the ignorant provincials will be more than eager to give their dead souls up in exchange for a token payment. The task of collecting the rights to dead people proves difficult, however, due to the persistent greed, suspicion, and general distrust of the landowners. He still manages to acquire some 400 souls, swears the sellers to secrecy, and returns to the town to have the transactions recorded legally.

Back in the town, Chichikov continues to be treated like a prince amongst the petty officials, and a celebration is thrown in honour of his purchases. Very suddenly, however, rumours flare up that the serfs he bought are all dead, and that he was planning to elope with the Governor's daughter. In the confusion that ensues, the backwardness of the irrational, gossip-hungry townspeople is most delicately conveyed. Absurd suggestions come to light, such as the possibility that Chichikov is Napoleon in disguise or the notorious vigilante 'Captain Kopeikin'. The now disgraced traveller is immediately ostracized from the company he had been enjoying and has no choice but to flee the town.

Chichikov is revealed by the author to be a former mid-level government official fired for corruption and narrowly avoiding jail. His macabre mission to acquire "dead souls" is actually just another one of his "get rich quick" schemes. Once he acquires enough dead souls, he will take out an enormous loan against them and pocket the money.

Book Two

In the novel's second part, Chichikov flees to another part of Russia and attempts to continue his venture. He tries to help the idle landowner Tentetnikov gain favor with General Betrishchev so that Tentetnikov may marry the general's daughter, Ulinka. To do this, Chichikov agrees to visit many of Betrishchev's relatives, beginning with Colonel Koshkaryov. From there Chichikov begins again to go from estate to estate, encountering eccentric and absurd characters all along the way. Eventually he purchases an estate from the destitute Khlobuyev but is arrested when he attempts to forge the will of Khlobuyev's rich aunt. He is pardoned thanks to the intervention of the kindly Mourazov but is forced to flee the village. The novel ends mid-sentence with the prince who arranged Chichikov's arrest giving a grand speech that rails against corruption in the Russian government.

My Thoughts:

Book One was amusing and was almost a 4star read. Book Two wasn't the complete text and from what I understand, was never fully finished. It was fragmented and disjointed and Gogol let his characters speechify for pages and pages.

★★☆☆☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Jun 11, 2022 |
A true classic. Classic enough for people to seek it out knowing that major sections of the full text were destroyed in a psychotic breakdown by the author. I was truly enjoying it. Unfortunately it got old for me. It's the story of a con man but the con became more and more obvious as he repeated it over and over. The target was normally a rich landowner who owned many serfs. The basic pitch was sell me the serfs who had died since the last census since the landowner was being taxed on those serfs until the next census. He even offered to pay for these useless "assets". Quietly we learn he wanted to accumulate enough of these to get a mortgage from the state. While the marks were often people we were ready to see someone taking advantage of them sympathetically sometimes our sympathies went in the other direction. Eventually I tired of hearing the same play over and over. Not sure why but the most I could ever read in a single session was ten pages. Not a good recommendation. One of the features I liked most was the occassional interruption of the narrative for the author to talk directly to the reader and give us insight that helped us understand the situation. We've seen other con men treated sympathetically , think Jimmie McGill in Better Call Saul as he pulls the wool over his target's eyes. This story needed more work and perhaps a good editor. Still worth the read. It was good enough to make the reader ignore the slavery that this was all taking advantage of. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Jun 5, 2022 |
É o conto de Chichikov, um vigarista afável que causa consternação em uma pequena cidade russa quando ele aparece do nada, propondo comprar título a servos que, embora mortos, ainda são propriedade no papel. O que ele pode ter na manga, perguntam os proprietários de terras locais, mesmo que alguns se apressem em descarregar o que de nada lhes serve, enquanto outros tentam negociar, e outros ainda se apegam aos seus mortos por amor vida. O esquema de Chichikov logo encontra obstáculos, mas ele nunca fica sem recursos e, à medida que avança Gogol pinta uma imagem cômica da vida russa que também serve como uma sátira cortante de uma sociedade tão corrupta quanto cínica. Ao mesmo tempo uma fantasmagoria selvagem e uma obra de realismo exigente, Dead Souls é uma obra que transborda de humor, paixão e absurdo ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Sep 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (114 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gogol, Nikolaiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andreyev, NikolayIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conrad, BarbaraAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliasberg, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Güell, Josep MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hapgood, Isabel FlorenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, D.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalima, JaloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laín Entralgo, JoséEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacAndrew, Andrew R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maguire, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matic, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noordzij, GerritCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Connor, FrankForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odets, CliffordIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ottow, FredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praag, S. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prina, SerenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prins, AaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rayfield, DonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rayfield, DonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Röhl, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skott, StaffanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tchernova, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timmer, Charles B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wal, Theo J. van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A small, rather smart, well-sprung four-wheeled carriage with a folding top drove through the gates of an inn of the provincial town of N.; it was the sort of carriage bachelors usually drive in: retired lieutenant-colonels, majors, and landowners with about a hundred serfs - in short, all those who are described as gentlemen of the 'middling' station of life.
Quotations
Frac neri spuntavano e vagolavano isolati e a gruppetti qua e là, come vagolano le mosche su un bianco, brillante pan di zucchero al tempo dell'ardente solleone, quando la vecchia dispensiera lo spezza e lo spartisce in tanti blocchetti, che scintillano davanti alla finestra spalancata: i bambini stanno tutti a guardare, raggruppati intorno, seguendo curiosi i movimenti di quelle mani dure, che sollevano il martello; e intanto gli aerei squadroni delle mosche, innalzandosi sulla lieve brezza, entrano a volo sicuri, da padroni assoluti, e approfittando della vista corta della vecchia e del sole che la abbaglia, si spandono sui ghiotti bocconi, dove alla spicciolata, dove in folti gruppi. Ben satollate dalla ricca estate, che ad ogni passo ammannisce loro cibi altrettanto ghiotti, esse son volate qui dentro non già per mangiare, ma soltanto per far bella mostra di sé, per passeggiarsela avanti e indietro in quella massa zuccherina, strofinarsi una coll'altra le gambette davanti o quelle di dietro, o grattarsi sotto le alucce, o protendendo bene tutt'e due le zampette davanti, strofinarsele sopra la testa, e rigirarsi indietro, e di nuovo volar via, e di nuovo tornare a volo con altri petulanti squadroni.
È noto che vi sono al mondo molti di codesti visi, per rifinire i quali la natura non è andata tanto pel sottile, non ha adoprato nessuno strumento delicato, come sarebbero lime, succhielli e via dicendo: ha, semplicemente, menato giù colpi di tutta forza: ha dato giù coll'accetta una volta – ecco fatto il naso; ha dato giù un'altra volta – ecco fatte le labbra; con una trivella grossa s'è sbrigata degli occhi: e, senza piallare il suo lavoro, l'ha mandato pel mondo, dicendo: «Vivrà!»
Tante cose vengono in mente, così passeggiando, all'uomo, cose che tanto spesso strappano l'uomo al noioso minuto attuale, e pizzicano, irritano, smuovono la fantasia, e gli riescono care anche quando è convinto lui stesso che non si avvereranno mai!
Ciascuno di noi, vedete, approfitta di qualche cosa: questo d'un bosco demaniale, quello dei denari dell'ufficio, quell'altro sottrae ai propri figli per non so quale attrice di passaggio, quell'altro ai contadini per i mobili di Hambs o per una carrozza. Che ci volete fare, se hanno inventato tante tentazioni a questo mondo? Ristoranti di lusso con prezzi folli, e veglioni, e gite, e danze colle zigane. È difficile, sapete, resistere, mentre tutti, dovunque ti guardi attorno, fanno appunto così, eppoi è la moda che lo comanda: provati un po' a resistere!
… è venuto per noi il momento di salvare il nostro paese; che perirà, il paese nostro, non più per l'irruzione di venti popoli stranieri, ma per opera di noi stessi; che ormai, accanto alla legale amministrazione della cosa pubblica, è venuta a formarsi una seconda amministrazione, assai più potente di quella legale. È venuto a stabilirvisi un regolamento proprio, tutto ha la sua tariffa, e i prezzi sono portati a conoscenza del pubblico. E nessun reggitore di stato, fosse pure il più sapiente di tutti i legislatori e reggitori, non avrà il potere di correggere il male, per quanto si affanni a limitarne l'esplicazione da parte dei cattivi impiegati, imponendo a costoro la sorveglianza d'altri impiegati. Tutto sarà vano, finché ciascuno di noi non avrà sentito che allo stesso modo in cui all'epoca dell'insurrezione dei popoli afferrò le armi contro…, così ha il dovere d'insorgere contro la disonestà.
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Few literary works have been so variously interpreted as Nikolai Gogol's enduring comic masterpiece, Dead Souls.

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Penguin Australia

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