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Dead Souls (1842)

by Nikolai Gogol

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,959107833 (3.95)1 / 332
Few literary works have been so variously interpreted as Nikolai Gogol's enduring comic masterpiece, Dead Souls.

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English (86)  Italian (6)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (107)
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
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 |
Great start, and then......
Presumably the original concept of this book was too ambitious. A marvelous writer, as shown in his short stories, embarks on a long voyage through then contemporary Russia, outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow. He deploys outstanding satire to describe various archetypes and stereotypes of the Russian gentyr, and appears to be wrapping it up in a plot about an ingenious scheme to mortgage (because they were property) serfs to the Russian government, in spite of the mild problem of the fact that they were dead.
So it sounds like an intriguing story. But in the second and partially unfinished second volume, the plot goes nowhere. More strange rural characters who are interested by random rather than by narrative drive, and I began to feel that I was swirling around in a tepid pond. ( )
  scunliffe | Jul 17, 2021 |
Matt Taibbi, as a journalist one of the few Good Ones, sometimes quotes from this book whenever he wants to make a point about corruption, celebrity culture, or how cringing Americans are towards their economic overlords. His point is that we are in many ways not so far advanced beyond medieval Russian peasants in our willingness, even eagerness, to bow and scrape before our own equivalent of the aristocracy in order to raise ourselves that all-important fraction of a grade above our fellows. In fact, from the social hypocrisy point of view we might even be worse, since groveling to your betters was actually the law in Russia. What's so depressing about the American equivalent of tugging your forelock is how little it takes to get someone to show up on CNBC and start toe-sucking the Job Creators in the hopes that the virtues of that superior class (which must surely be plentiful given their abundant status) will come trickling down. Someone should write a novel about the American version of this "poshlost" syndrome.

In the meantime, this excellent novel will do very well. It was written in 1842 and doesn't feel dated at all. Likewise, even though it's very Russian, with plenty of asides on the Russian soul and character and nature and whatnot, Gogol has an amazing ability to make this tale of a con man trying to scam the inhabitants of a tiny provincial town feel universal. There's a great bit right at the beginning of chapter 7 where Gogol says as much directly to the reader: "For the judgment of the writer's own times does not recognize that equally marvelous are the lenses that are used for contemplating suns and those for revealing the motions of insects imperceptible to the naked eye; for the judgment of the writer's own times does not recognize that a great deal of spiritual depth is required to throw light upon a picture taken from a despised stratum of life and to exalt it into a pearl of creative art...." It's a lot of work to bring out the drama in ordinary life and make it art! I think most great cultural novels do the same thing, concentrating very intently on traits so widespread they're not even noticeable until you get enough distance or have the keen enough eye to see them.

I haven't even talked about how funny the book is though. The main character Chichikov is visiting an isolated provincial town, trying to game the system by going around to local landowners and buying the rights to the labor of serfs who are dead but haven't been reported as dead to the authorities yet. Once he's able to get a bunch of serfs ("souls", in the parlance of the times), he's going to take out a mortgage on them and abscond with the money. The humor in the book relies on how ridiculous all of the people in the town are, from the various eccentric local nobles to the wacky peasantry, and how that interacts with Chichikov's single-minded greed. Despite some complications, Chichikov manages to buy up a decent amount of souls (the scene where Sobakevich tries to sell his dead souls for 100 rubles is one of the book's best) because the town is so star-struck by this dashing and mysterious stranger that they will accept all sorts of absurdities in order to fit him into their worldview.

This is conveyed best in the party scene in chapter 8, where Chichikov, the fresh meat, is swarmed by all the local ladies, yet he has eyes only for the Governor's daughter, who doesn't care at all for him. The growing clouds of gossip are hilarious, as is his sudden fall from grace as insane rumors of his true nature pile up and force him to leave town in a hurry. It reminds me a lot of celebrity culture where people are built up and torn down ceaselessly, virtues and flaws projected upon them in an endless cycle to reinforce whatever small-minded prejudices they have. Gogol has a great meta-point late in the book about this, about how his main character, whom he's made to seem like a swindler, is only so to the reader, who has the privilege of a greater point of view, and how your reactions to his escapades reflect on you yourself as well. A lot of Gogol's thumbnail sketches are both hilarious and sobering, as you start to see those personality types in yourself and others around you.

All in all Taibbi was absolutely right that this is a classic novel; definitely worth its place in the Russian literary pantheon, and ours too. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Although I looked at the rating here on Gooreads, I did not read reviews of this book before reading it so had no idea what to expect. First, I was pleasantly surprised at the humor. I am not a fan of Russian writers, so I'm not sure why I was compelled to read this. Second, I had no idea it was unfinished, so was disappointed that so much was missing. Nevertheless, I was glad to have read it and will probably try more of his stuff. ( )
  GiGiGo | Feb 5, 2021 |
Not what I was expecting but that's more than okay. Knowing nothing of Dead Souls or Gogol, stepping into the book was somewhat of a shock. Not at all what I was expecting. I think I expected something in the vein of Dostoevsky, serious and cerebral. Dead Souls is not that, but remains an excellent novel. The prose is superb and the characters are presented rich in detail and fascinating to meet.
My edition of the book included the never-finished second part. In many respects that made the read both more confusing and more thought provoking. We don't get a full presentation of the themes and characters. Yet, as a result, the book thus begs discussion and analysis.
Entertaining and well written. Not something to be missed for those who enjoy fine literary craftsmanship. ( )
  colligan | Feb 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (115 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gogol, Nikolaiprimary authorall 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, DonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rayfield, DonaldTranslatorsecondary 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.
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

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173767, 1590176553

Urban Romantics

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