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Dead Souls

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Book Overview

One of the most unusual works of nineteenth-century fiction and a devastating satire on social hypocrisy Chichikov, a mysterious stranger, arrives in a provincial town and visits a succession of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

The Best Translation of this work

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!

sublime, witty and entertaining

Gogol is the master of imagery; in _Dead Souls_ he also shows his skills at hyperbole and satire, showing the vanity and ridiculousness of the Russian gentry in the middle of the 19th century. 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.

One of the World's Funniest Novels

First of all, Guerney's is the only translation worth getting.It was hailed as the finest in 1942. It is still the finest in 2002.(Kudos to Yale University Press for printing it.)Second, if you love the madcap humor of The Brothers Karamazov, in particular the lunacy of the father Fyodor Pavlovich, you will love Dead Souls.Dead Souls.Doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs does it? Doesn't sound a comic masterpiece, does it?It is.11 chapters full of cheats, liers, swindlers, fawners, rogues, sycophants, and above all (or below all) -- human beings.

Hilarious social humor, with dark undercurrents

While I was reading this, I couldn't help but compare it to Laurence Sterne's "Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy." I later found out that Gogol was a fan of that book, so perhaps the parallels are intentional.The protagonist, Chichikov, is a shaggy dog of sorts an average guy from a below-average background, who manages to use his schmoozing skills to get ahead in life, but is ultimately a bit of an insecure charlatan. (Lots of parallels to Jay Gatsby as well.) But, as in Sterne's book, we don't find out much about Chichikov until the very end of the novel -- otherwise, we only see small glimpses of Chichikov in action, and hear the mostly untrue things said about him by those he encounters. (Are these falsehoods of his own making, or of his observers' making? Or of ours, the readers' own making? Not an easy question.) The novel takes us through various parts of Russian society, with many bits of the author's mockery obviously being things Gogol had wanted to get off his chest for quite a while. There are some excellent observations about "the Russian character," human nature, personality types, what different languages are good for, and many, many other bits of Gogolian brilliance. By the way, the financial scheme Chichikov is running is very clever, even by today's standards of financial wizardry.The narrator does a lot of Sterne-like "stepping out of character"; in one of the more hilarious passages, he complains that his pen has suddenly become too heavy to write anything more about a certain character, and that he will take a rest. There are many comments to the effect of "So what kind of a novel were you expecting this to be, dear reader?" perhaps playing upon the shock with which the book was initially received. Also lots of teasing the reader, with back-and-forth to the effect of "should I reveal any more to you, or shouldn't I?"Ultimately, the big question in the book becomes exactly who the "dead souls" are -- and the astute reader will realize that paradoxically, the dead serfs that are being bought and sold are the least dead of all the souls in the book.This book is hilariously funny, and is rewarding even if read for humor alone. However, the literary and narrative experiments it undertakes, as well as its subtle social criticisms, make it even more worthwhile.
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