Chichikov, a mysterious stranger, arrives in a provincial town and visits a succession of landowners to make each a strange offer. He proposes to buy the names of dead serfs still registered on the census, saving their owners from paying tax on them, and to use these "souls" as collateral to reinvent himself as a gentleman. In this ebullient masterpiece, Nikolai Gogol created a grotesque gallery of human types, from the bear-like Sobakevich to the insubstantial fool Manilov, and, above all, the devilish con man Chichikov.
Dead Souls, Russia's first major novel, is one of the most unusual works of nineteenth-century fiction and a devastating satire on social hypocrisy. This version of Dead Souls is the translation by C. J. Hogarth.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
"Admired not only for its enduring comic portraits but also for its sense of moral purpose." (Encyclopedia of Literature)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
An absurd and brilliant satire. To think I avoided reading this novel for years because I thought it was going to be depressing. Ha! Dead Souls reminded me in many ways of the Odyssey + Don Quixote written by Mark Twain in a Russian prose poem. Gogol captures the absurdity of the mid-19th century Russia. Included in Gogol's satire/farce is an absurd and brilliant look at the corruption of the government, the stratification of society, the pretentiousness of the Russian middle-class, etc.
Anyway, the writing was amazing and D.J. Hogarth's translation seems to have held up very well. Arthur Morey narrates this text with both clarity and humor.
Word loving college student with a 2+ hour daily commute, who sadly had to learn to accept that reading and driving are plainly incompatible
Gogol, in his tragically uncompleted magnum opus, tells a wonderful episodic tale of a man on the prowl for souls. While the character of Chichikov is more than a little under-developed, he is not the man of interest to Gogol, the interest to him, and to use is the myriad of people that inhabit the worlds of Russia. While the may often come across as stereotyped somehow, they are no less vivid and no less delightful to watch as Chichikov attempts to gather his dead souls.
Morey does an admirable job bringing life to this admittedly dated translation. He breathes life into each of Chichikov's encounters. Sobakevich was a personal favorite, but one cannot go wrong with any of them.
The parts of the second book, while interesting, are missing so many large chunks, to my mind, unless you are looking to find the bits of inspiration that found Dostoevsky in his final, and arguably greatest work Brothers Karamazov, can be skipped without any real loss. There is a desperation to it. It was as if he realized that the first part had struck a chord and that expectation had made whatever he produced somehow perpetually unacceptable.
Gogol is a delight to read, I heartily recommend people start here for Gogol. It may be his longest world, but it wonderful and paints a wonderful, almost ethereal portrait of grand Mother Russia in the 19th century.
former nuclear scientist
This book is quite famous, and for the first six hours I can see why. Part 1 of the book follows Chichikov, a charming but suspicious man going about a region of feudal Russia purchasing the rights to dead serfs - or "dead souls." This part is a series of amusing vignettes of Chichikov's successes and frustrations staffed with caricatures of feudal Russian society, and I'm sure gave contemporaries great fun in trying to guess his motivations.
Part 2 is missing large and frequent chunks of manuscript, which the narrator will slip in without a change of tone - so I was frequently confused. "Two pages here are lost" would suddenly be inserted in the middle of a woman's dialogue, only to resume, with barely a pause, in raised voice the angry arguments of a gentleman in what is apparently a different scene. After setting the new place awhile, the author continues with the saga of Chichikov, but I had trouble keeping track of what is going on.
The translation is somewhat labored. It felt a lot like a senior thesis from a Russian literature major at, say, Wesleyan or Oberlin; imperatives are given as "do you pour the tea" instead of the vernacular "please pour the tea." I looked up the information later, and it's a public domain translation from 1842. That partly explains the verbiage. It's also pretty annoying to realize that Audible just charged me $14 for something I could read online for free. You think they could at least spring for the rights to a more modern translation.
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