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Dead Souls

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Dead Souls is eloquent on some occasions, lyrical on others, and pious and reverent elsewhere. Nicolai Gogol was a master of the spoof. The American students of today are not the only readers who have been confused by him. Russian literary history records more divergent interpretations of Gogol than perhaps of any other classic.

In a new translation of the comic classic of Russian literature, Chichikov, an enigmatic stranger and conniving schemer, buys deceased serfs' names from their landlords' poll tax lists hoping to mortgage them for profit and to reinvent himself as a likeable gentleman.

464 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1842

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About the author

Nikolai Gogol

1,103 books4,639 followers
People consider that Russian writer Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (Николай Васильевич Гоголь) founded realism in Russian literature. His works include The Overcoat (1842) and Dead Souls (1842).

Ukrainian birth, heritage, and upbringing of Gogol influenced many of his written works among the most beloved in the tradition of Russian-language literature. Most critics see Gogol as the first Russian realist. His biting satire, comic realism, and descriptions of Russian provincials and petty bureaucrats influenced later Russian masters Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and especially Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Gogol wittily said many later Russian maxims.

Gogol first used the techniques of surrealism and the grotesque in his works The Nose , Viy , The Overcoat , and Nevsky Prospekt . Ukrainian upbringing, culture, and folklore influenced his early works, such as Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka .
His later writing satirized political corruption in the Russian empire in Dead Souls .

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,751 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,100 reviews7,192 followers
June 15, 2019
The book goes way back to 1842, before Russian serfs were emancipated in 1861. It’s considered a picaresque novel; Don Quixote-ish – a journey with a lot of satire and absurd situations with a rascal as a main character, a man who always has a get-rich-quick scheme going. He’s kind of happy-go-lucky - a drinker, gambler, liar. There are more than 2,000 reviews on GR so I’ll be brief.


In this story the main character is buying “dead souls” – papers from other property owners whose serfs died (ownership of serfs went with the property). The point was to reduce his tax burden, since serfs were taxed unless he had papers showing they had died.

In the process we learn about life in Russia at the time: masters and peasants He travels by coach with two servants and goes to a lot of taverns gambling. Each negotiation to buy serfs is different. We attend high society balls. The author comments a lot on language – Russian and French; the provinces vs. the cities and “we Russians” vs. French, British, Germans and English. There’s humor but ultimately hopelessness of ever changing the conditions of serfdom.


A Russian classic.

Painting: A Peasant Leaving His Landlord on Yuriev Day, by Sergei V. Ivanov, 1908.
Russian stamp honoring the author from previews.123rf.com/images/artnana/art...
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
September 2, 2021
Мёртвые ду́ши = Myórtvyjye dúshi = Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol

Dead Souls is a novel by Nikolai Gogol, first published in 1842, and widely regarded as an exemplar of 19th-century Russian literature.

The purpose of the novel was to demonstrate the flaws and faults of the Russian mentality and character. Gogol portrayed those defects through Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov and the people whom he encounters in his endeavors. These people are typical of the Russian middle-class of the time.

Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose", and within the book as a "novel in verse". Despite supposedly completing the trilogy's second part, Gogol destroyed it shortly before his death.

Although the novel ends in mid-sentence (like Sterne's Sentimental Journey), it is usually regarded as complete in the extant form. The original title, as shown on the illustration (cover page), was "The Wanderings of Chichikov, or Dead Souls. Poema", which contracted to merely "Dead Souls". ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «مردگان زرخرید - رعایای مرده (بردگان مرده)»؛ «نفوس مرده»؛ اثر نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز هفدهم ماه نوامبر سال 1991میلادی

عنوان: مردگان زرخرید - بردگان مرده؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ مترجم فریدون مجلسی، مشخصات نشر، تهران، رسانه، 1370، در357ص؛ با عنوان: مردگان زرخرید - رعایای مرده، تهران، نیلوفر، چاپ دوم 1387، در 352ص، شابک 9789644483844؛ با عنوان: مردگان زرخرید - نفوس مرده، تهران، نیلوفر، 1393، در 352ص؛ کتاب از متن انگلیسی برگردانده شده، چاپ نخست انتشارات رسانه در سال 1379؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 19م

عنوان: نفوس مرده؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ مترجم: کاظم انصاری، تهران، کتابخانه ایران، چاپ اول 1332؛ در 454ص؛ چاپ دیگر، تهران، نشر اندیشه، چاپ سوم 1369، در 348ص؛ چاپ دیگر فرهنگ معاصر، در 566ص؛ شابک 9786001050398؛

عنوان: نفوس مرده؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ مترجم: پرویز شهدی در نشر به سخن، مجید، در سال 1395 و در 528ص، ترجمه از متن فرانسه؛

گوگول بیشتر عمر خویش را صرف «نفوس مرده» كردند، از نظرگاه ایشان میبایست نوعی «کمدی الهی» مدرن باشد، که در آن قهرمان «پس از گذر از دوزخ»، به «برزخ» میرسد، توبه میکند، و راه راست را برمیگزیند، و سرانجام اگر نه به بهشتی زمینی، دستکم به زندگی معنیدار و اخلاقی، دست مییابد؛ در دهه ی پنجم سده نوزده میلادی، سلامتی «گوگول» به خطر افتاد؛ هنگامی که یقین کرد رو به مرگ است، رویایی رازورانه بر او ظاهر شد، که هرگز آن را بر دیگران فاش نکرد؛ ایمانی رازگونه به مذهب «اورتودوکس روسی» پیدا كرد، و بر این باور شد، که برای تعلیم «حقيقت» به ابنای بشر برگزيده شده است؛ نشانه های بارز این گرايش، در مقالاتی تحت عنوان «گزیده ای از مکاتبات با دوستان» مشهود است؛

نقل از آغاز برگردان جناب «انصاری»: (یک کالسکه کوچک فنری نسبتاً قشنگ از درِ مهمانخانه یکی از شهرهای استان وارد شد؛ با این کالسکه ها معمولاً افراد مجرد، مانند سرگردهای بازنشسته، سروانهای ستاد، ملّاکانی که در حدود چند سر رعیت دارند و روی هم رفته همه کسانی که در زمره مردمان متوسط به شمار میروند مسافرت میکنند؛ مسافر این کالسکه مردی بود میانه حال، نه زشت و نه زیبا و نه چاق و نه لاغر؛ هرچند پیر به نظر نمیآمد، جوان هم محسوب نمیشد؛ ورود او به شهر سروصدایی راه نینداخت و با هیچ پیشامد خاص و نامنتظری همراه نشد؛ تنها دونفر روستایی روسی که جنبِ درِ میخانه ای روبروی این مهمانخانه ایستاده بودند، چند کلمه ای در این باب با هم رد و بدل کردند که باز سخنانشان بیشتر درباره درشکه بود)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 15/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 10/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,618 followers
March 5, 2023
Dead Souls is a pied vernissage of grotesque and colourful characters… Unlike the dead souls of the novel they are quite quick and kicking…
A new praiseworthy persona came to town…
In the britzka sat a gentleman, not handsome, but also not bad-looking, neither too fat nor too thin; you could not have said he was old, yet neither was he all that young.

His arrival caused a real furore in the local high society… He managed to charm everyone…
The governor opined of him that he was a right-minded man; the prosecutor that he was a sensible man; the colonel of the gendarmes said he was a learned man; the head magistrate that he was a knowledgeable and estimable man; the police chief that he was an estimable and amiable man; the police chief’s wife that he was a most amiable and mannerly man.

Despite being nothing but a vulgar swindler the newcomer was so sweet and unctuous that he turned out to be practically irresistible… Sycophancy is an indispensable quality of any fraud…
And pursuing his clandestine aims he started making visits to the neighbouring estates… And his purposes were pretty weird and peculiar…
“You ask, for what reasons? These are the reasons: I would like to buy peasants…” Chichikov said, faltered, and did not finish his speech.
“But allow me to ask you,” said Manilov, “how do you wish to buy them: with land, or simply to have them resettled – that is, without land?”
“No, it’s not quite peasants,” said Chichikov, “I would like to have dead…”
“How’s that, sir? Excuse me… I’m somewhat hard of hearing, I thought I heard a most strange word…”
“I propose to acquire dead ones, who would, however, be counted in the census as living,” said Chichikov.

As long as there are those who are prone to be deceived there will be deceivers.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
March 23, 2011
2.0 stars. As much as I hate to say this about a book that is both a classic of Russian literature and considered one of the best satires ever written, THIS BOOK BORED ME TO DEATH!!! Okay, not quite "coffin ready" dead, but certainly bored to the point of suffering intermittent bouts of narcolepsy. I can certainly say without hyperbole that this is not a book I would recommend as an “enjoyable” experience, no matter how much Vodka you have standing by.

My assessment of the book arises DESPITE the fact that the novel is very well written and gives an excellent description of “old” Russia (cold, dreary and depressing but otherwise a great place to visit). The historical detail is both precise and very broad as Gogol includes in the narrative detailed discussions of many aspects of Russian life from the economy to social life to politics to the very unique mindset of the Russian people. Thus, as a historical overview of a not very well known period of Russian history the novel is very good.

In addition, the basic plot itself (or at least the idea of the plot) was very interesting. The “dead souls” of the title refers to the measuring unit (i.e., souls) used by the Russian census takers to count the numbers of serfs that landowners owned. Serfs, while not exactly the same as slaves, are similar enough for purposes of this review as they were considered property and had very few rights. The taxes that Russian landowners paid during this time were based on the number of serfs they owned. Anyway, the main character of the novel, Pavel Ivanovitch Chichikov, devises a plan to “purchase” from various landowners those serfs who have died since the last census but are still listed as alive for purposes of the taxes paid (at least until the next census which is only done every 5 to 10 years). Why he wants to do this, I will not spoil but it is very clever and I thought an excellent basis for a good story.

So we have a book that is very well written, full of superb historical detail and an original and potentially interesting plot. So what was the problem? Well, first off...NO VODKA!! No, in all seriousness, I found the book to be simply way too dull and plodding. The satirical elements were UNDERWHELMING (and that is being kind) and the story was just incredibly slow to unfold. I kept trying to give this the benefit of the doubt, it is a classic after all, but it was just determined to remian not very interesting or enjoyable. The various characters Chichikov encounters were intended to portray various types of Russians and I guess I was not familiar enough with the period to understand the nuances (and thus the intended caricature) that Gogal was trying to highlight. Therefore, the various encounters just sort of bled into one another and left me anxious for the end.

In sum, this was a book that I could appreciate on many levels (the quality of the writing, the historical detail, the cleverness of the plot) and there were certainly moments of the story that I truly liked. However, at the end of the day, from the standpoint of my enjoyment of the novel as literature, I can not rate it higher than two stars.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
November 20, 2019
”What was the riddle, indeed, what was the riddle of the dead souls? There was no logic whatsoever in dead souls. Why buy dead souls? Where would such a fool be found? What worn-out money would one pay for them? To what end, to what business, could these dead souls be tacked? And why was the governor’s daughter mixed up in it? If he wanted to carry her off, why buy dead souls for that? And if he was buying dead souls, why carry off the governor’s daughter? Did he want to make her a gift of these dead souls, or what?”

 photo Nikolai Gogol_zpsogiduclt.jpg
The madness of Dead Souls. Is it Gogol’s madness or is it the insanity of Russian society?

What is Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov up to? Where does he come from?

He is insinuating himself into a community and going around to the local landowners and offering to buy up their dead peasants? What is the going rate for dead souls? One of the rules that I’ve always followed in making business deals is that I must understand the motivations of the people I’m negotiating with and the end game for all parties involved. If Chichikov showed up on my doorstep with a ridiculous request to buy my, obviously worthless or are they?, dead peasants, I would have many questions and would have to determine if he were brilliant or quite mad.

Being either or both can lead one to ruin or, quite possibly, to wealth and riches.

The much lauded translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky give us a clue to what Chichikov is up to in the introduction by explaining the system of serf ownership.

”Landowners were not required to pay taxes, but their peasants were, and it was up to the landowner to collect them. He was responsible for turning in the tax money for as many souls as has been counted in the latest census (The action of Dead Souls is set in the period between the seventh official census of 1815 and the eighth, taken in 1833). During that time a number of peasants would die, but the master remained responsible for the tax on them until they were stricken from the rolls at the next census. It was possible for a landowner to obtain money from the government by mortgaging some or all of the peasants of whom he was the certified owner.”

So a plague sweeps through that takes a large number of your serfs all at once. It is a tragedy on many levels. Setting aside the fact that these are human beings and not just line items in a ledger book, families are devastated. The time for grief and the pairing of new couples from the remains of the old will slow reproduction. Think of the time it takes a bairn to become a full grown useful laborer. It is enough to leave a landowner gripping his hair in agitation. Not only do you lose the use of the dead serf’s labor, but you also have to keep paying tax on those dead souls, possibly for a number of years, until the next census. It is a very Russian, very nonsensical system.

Nikolai Gogol was living abroad for most of the time he was writing this novel. He had to come back to Russia to usher the first of three parts of the novel through the census board. Golokhvastov, the acting chairman of the census committee, was disconcerted by the title of the book. ”Dead Souls! No, never will I allow that--the soul is immortal, there can be no such thing as a dead soul; the author is taking up arms against immortality!” When the idea of the novel was explained further to the chairman, he was even more offended. ”Even worse!...That means it is against serfdom.”

I can see the struggle that Gogol had with this book, but it isn’t just about struggling with plots or wrestling with characters. Gogol the man was battling Gogol the writer. His expectations for himself were so high that feelings of failure were inevitable. He burned the manuscript of part two in 1845 and 1852. Cathartic in the moment, but what a hangover that must have left him with the next morning. I’ve been enjoying the Russian Amazon Prime series Gogol, which has been a real pleasure to watch. It begins with Gogol buying up books of his published poetry, getting very drunk, and burning them in a fireplace. There have been numerous writers over the decades who, I’m sure, have had similar reactions to their published work.

So Gogol keeps the reader in the dark as to Chichikov’s true motivations for most of the novel. As I was reading, looking for hints of his past, I kept speculating about who he is. I kept thinking if I know more about him, maybe I can discover what he is up to. Is he even a man? Is he a demon stealing these souls? Con man? An escapee from a mental institution? Gogol, as the narrator, does worry about his hero. At several points, Gogol speculates about whether readers will even like him at all. Even then, he understands the fickleness of readers. One black smudge on his character that they don’t approve of, and his book goes from a five star to a one star. If he thought readers were harsh on books during his time, imagine what he would think of the readers on Goodreads today.

What is the going rate for dead souls? It seems to be an arbitrary number, certainly negotiable, and believe me, these suspicious landowners are worried about being hoodwinked. One widow says to him, ”I will check on the prices.” As if there is a stock market price for dead souls. To have a going rate, one must have buyers, certainly more than one seemingly crazy one.

There are certainly comedic elements to the book. After all, it is a farce of Russian culture and a condemnation of the owning of serfs. Any criticism offered by a Russian writer of the system had to be hidden beneath a veneer of humor. The book does have a cobbled together feel to it. The censoring committee did demand some changes, though according to Pevear they were minor, so it wasn’t censorship that created this disjointed feeling. I would say that Gogol wrote thousands of words, maybe hundreds of thousands, that never made it into the final manuscript. It did take me a bit of time to settle into the novel, but I was driven by a burning curiosity to know exactly what Chichikov was up to. I also took pleasure in smiling at Gogol’s caricatures of Russian people and the speculations they shared with one another that upon the retelling went from baseless fiction to fact. I did fear that our hero would find himself being carried out of town on a rail.

This Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is highly recommended.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,442 followers
February 17, 2023
„Era o femeie aspră în purtări, deși se dădea în vînt după stafide”.

Ori de cîte ori deschid Suflete moarte, mă opresc la un paragraf cunoscut. De altfel, cartea însăși se deschide automat la paragraful cu pricina, nu mai trebuie să caut paginile. Am citit fragmentul de zeci de ori dintr-o cauză simplă: am găsit aici portretul cititorului ideal...

Dar mai întîi să spun două vorbe despre „poemul” lui Gogol. Despre Pavel Ivanovici Cicikov toată lumea știe că e un individ pe cît de misterios, tot pe atîta de ocupat: cumpără nume de iobagi care au murit de mult, dar au rămas consemnați în scripte (la atîta s-a redus ființa lor, la un nume) și produc foștilor proprietari numai bătăi de cap. Prin cumpărarea numelor (sufletelor moarte), Cicicov vrea să-i ușureze de povară: proprietarii nu vor mai fi obligați să completeze hîrtii, cereri, petiții. Gestul lui bizar dovedește că protagonistul e un anti-birocrat. Își asumă el hîrțogăria. Sfîrșitul cărții (deși Gogol a lăsat romanul neterminat) e cunoscut de toți: comerțul lui Cicicov sfîrșește prost și negustorul ajunge la închisoare. Nu înainte de a stîrni în consiliul orașului ipotezele cele mai fanteziste cu privire la identitatea lui: dirigintele poștei crede că e vestitul tîlhar Kopeikin, alții bănuiesc că au de a face cu împăratul Napoleon, aflat incognito în gubernia NN...

Mă întorc la pasajul preferat. Pavel Ivanovici Cicicov dispune de un vizitiu (Selifan) și de un lacheu ilustru: Petrușka. Cei doi nu sînt foarte ocupați, au mult timp liber la dispoziție. Selifan preferă să doarmă. În schimb, Petrușka e unul dintre noi, unul ca noi. El ar trebui să fie sfîntul patron al cititorilor de pretutindeni. Căci Petrușka are nobilul nărav de a citi. Și citește cu înverșunare, orice, nu contează titlul, nu contează autorul, carte să fie. În portretul lui, eu, unul, m-am recunoscut dintotdeauna. Transcriu cîteva rînduri:
„[Petrușka] era mai curînd taciturn decît vorbăreţ din fire; avea chiar o nobilă pornire spre cultură, adică spre cititul cărţilor, dar nu se ostenea să aleagă: îi era cu totul indiferent dacă citea aventurile unui erou îndrăgostit, un abecedar sau o carte de rugăciuni – tuturora le acorda aceeaşi atenţie; dacă i s ar fi băgat sub nas o carte de chimie, ar fi citit-o negreşit. Nu-i plăcea ceea ce citea, ci însuşi cititul sau, mai bine zis, însuşi procesul lecturii”.

Exact așa fac și eu. Nu-mi plac cărțile, dar sînt posedat de obiceiul de a citi. Petrușka c'est moi...
Profile Image for Luís.
1,943 reviews608 followers
July 21, 2023
Every writer carries an essential book, the work he has to "tell everything." From the day he saw it, when he began to realize it, to think of himself, his vision of the world and the conception of his own life revolve around this pole; the work becomes the symbol of man, his message.
It's about a crook, Pavel Ivanovich Tchitchikov. The latter has an extraordinary idea to make a fortune: he will redeem dead souls.
In ancient Russia, the peasants (dead souls, as they called them) were considered security: they sold, bought, and the owner paid a tax per male and adult male head. The census was each ten years, so in the meantime, he continued to pay a fee to deceased serfs on his property. The bright and brilliant idea of Tchitchikov was to buy in goods and due from dead souls since the last census: the owner would be happy to give a fictitious interest and free oneself of a real tax, and everyone would find his account. Nothing illegal in this transaction, and when the purchaser possessed a few thousand serfs, he carried his contracts to a bank in Moscow or St. Petersburg and borrowed a large sum on these securities. Thus, he would be productive and able to buy peasants of flesh and bones!
In conclusion, this book by Gogol is a satire of human mediocrity and virulent and ruthless criticism of Tsarist Russia.
Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,128 followers
September 5, 2023
"-Dice usted que ¿por qué deseo saberlo? Es por esto: quisiera comprar los campesinos… -pronunció Chichikov, vacilando y dejando la frase sin terminar.
-Pero permítame preguntarle –dijo Manilof-, ¿cómo desea usted comprarlos, con tierras o sencillamente para llevárselos, sin tierras?
-No; no son precisamente los campesinos. Replicó Chichikov. –Quiero los muertos…"

Nikólai Gógol es considerado uno de los padres de la literatura rusa junto con el eterno Alexandr Pushkin. Es gracias a ellos que Rusia fue conocida a nivel literario en toda Europa. Gógol, originario de la “pequeña Rusia” como se denominaba a Ucrania en los tiempos de los zares fue el pionero de la literatura moderna, además de perfeccionar junto con Pushkin la manera de escribir, así también como dar a conocer a Rusia al lector común, además de los estratos literarios más sofisticados. Luego de período ucraniano, Gógol se traslada a San Petersburgo a vivir, razón por la cual su obra de desdobla en estos dos lugares.

La obra de Gógol no es tan extensa como la de otros autores rusos, pero marcó a fuego con su talento narrativo a todas las generaciones subsiguientes en su país y destaco entre todos ellos a Fiódor Dostoievski quien ya había acuñado su frase "Todos descendemos del capote de Gógol" y a Lev Tolstoi, quien seguramente se haya inspirado en esta extensa novela para escribir uno de sus cuentos más geniales, me refiero a "Cuánta tierra necesita un hombre" en donde emparenta el afán de conseguir tierras del personaje principal, Pajom con la obsesión de Chichikov por comprar almas muertas.
En su obra encontramos sus cuentos más inmortales como "El Capote", "La Naríz", "Viy", "Diario de un Loco", esta novela, "Tarás Bulba" y obras de teatro "El Inspector", las cuales son pruebas inequívocas de su maestría literaria.
"El Quijote ruso" es como se denomina a Almas Muertas. Ni más ni menos. De hecho Gógol reconoce su inspiración en la obra cumbre de Cervantes, madre de toda la novela moderna puesto que el viaje de Chichikov traza un paralelismo con el de Don Quijote aunque sus finales son totalmente distintos.

La concepción de esta obra por parte del autor le llevó mucho tiempo para lograr su publicación allá por 1842 y fue ampliamente aclamada por crítica y lectores. Su proceso fue largo y arduo, como lo cuenta Dostoievski en una carta a su hermano Mijaíl en mayo de 1858 cuando le dice "¿De dónde sacas tú que al primer intento se pueda pintar un cuadro? ¿Cuándo has adquirido esa convicción? Créeme a mí; para todo se requiere trabajo, una labor gigantesca. Ten la seguridad de que cualquier poema gracioso y ligero de Pushkin nos parece ahora a nosotros tan gracioso y ligero precisamente por lo mucho que lo trabajó y corrigió el poeta. Esa es la verdad. Gógol tardó ocho años en escribir su Almas Muertas. Todo lo que sale de un tirón está todavía verde. Dicen que en los manuscritos de Shakespeare no se advierten tachaduras. Pues por eso, precisamente, presenta tales monstruosidades y pruebas de mal gusto; si hubiera trabajado más, le habría salido mejor.”

Almas Muertas, por consiguiente es un libro largo, de apretadas y densas líneas, pero que son necesarias para desplegar toda la historia de Chichikov, este hombre tan particular que fatiga las estepas rusas en busca de hacendados que le vendan las almas, es decir los campesinos, que tienen en su poder y que han muerto pero que todavía aparecen en el Censo como vivos que realizaba el Estado ruso entre los terratenientes.
Era normal designar con el mote de "alma" al campesino que trabajaba para ellos y de esa manera, sus propietarios podían tener trabajando veinte, cien o quinientas almas en sus tierras. El proyecto de Chichikov es comprar esas almas haciendo un contrato de traspaso para después hacerlos figurar como propios en unas tierras que tiene pensado comprar en la ciudad de Kherson, un remoto pueblo perdido dentro del vasto suelo ruso.
Chichikov es un hombre refinado, pero taimado, tiene una avaricia por la compra de almas que lo transforma en un comprador lisonjero y astuto y es capaz de hacer cualquier cosa con tal de conseguir lo que quiere. Él va atravesando ciudades (aunque gran parte de la novela sucede en la ciudad de N.), en su calesín acompañado de su lacayo Petrushka y su cochero Selifan que ofician como dos Sancho Panza de menor injerencia que el famoso personaje español.

El talento de Gógol en esta novela es el que precisamente también caracterizó a Pushkin y me refiero a que era un conocedor total de todos los estratos sociales de Rusia. Y los conocía como la palma de su mano. Este autor podía describir con lujo de detalle a todas las clases sociales rusas, de hecho, aparecen en sus novelas campesinos, generales, terratenientes, sirvientes, policías, gobernadores, funcionarios burocráticos, doctores, comerciantes, lacayos, damas de la alta sociedad y muchos tipos de personajes más. Para redondear el concepto, Gógol nos muestra magistralmente a Rusia de una manera total.

El libro se compone de dos partes bien diferenciadas, siendo la primera mucho más extensa que la segunda y también muy distinta en cuanto al aspecto narrativo. La primera, obviamente nos introduce de lleno en la vida de este particular personaje y nos cuenta todo lo que le sucede, pero la segunda es un tanto confusa. Constantemente aparecen frases entre paréntesis que dicen "(falta una hoja en el manuscrito original)" o "(en este punto se interrumpe el manuscrito)", con lo que no queda claro si el manuscrito al que se refiere es al del narrador o al del propio autor. Hasta da la sensación que el libro está inconcluso, aunque queda muy claro como termina la historia de Chichikov, algo que no voy a develar para todo aquel valiente lector que desee atravesar las cuatrocientas o quinientas páginas de las que se compone esta novela según la edición que se lea.

Lamentablemente, la vida de Gógol tuvo un giro radical casi hacia el final de su vida, ya que luego de un viaje a Palestina en busca de sosiego espiritual, su salud se deteriora rápidamente y comienza a tener serios problemas de insania, fanatismo religioso y delirio místico, lo que lo lleva a auto infligirse de una gran culpa, despreciando todo lo hecho en su obra artística. Abrumado por sus propios demonios, Gógol quema el manuscrito de la segunda parte de Almas Muertas, imposibilitándonos de saber que hubiera sucedido en la posterior vida viajera de Pavel Ivánovich Chichikov.
Almas Muertas es uno de los cinco libros rusos fundamentales para todo lector que quiera acercarse a la de literatura clásica rusa, asi como queda claro que Nikólai Gógol es uno de los padres de la literatura rusa.
Y eso, no se discute.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
5,101 reviews722 followers
November 1, 2022
Another 'classic bucket list' book. As he buys dead souls in an attempt to help increase his social standing Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov represents the all too common association that is made between power, ethics and the law. The dead on the list are treated (by the law) better than they ever were when they were living. Should be required reading to get an MBA.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews490 followers
October 8, 2022
Dead Souls is a work of pure satire. There is no section of Russian society that this work doesn't touch. It scorns the Russian bureaucracy, gentry, and society at large. Many of Gogol's works are known for their satire, but I think none would equal this.

Using a simple story with an antihero, Gogol exposes the corruption, bribery, and despotism of the Russian officials. A major part of the story is devoted to this exercise. Gogol brings to light how a "government" within the government operates hindering the established laws and regulations of the land. He shows how this "government' within the government corrupts the whole system of governing to the social and economic detriment of Russia. Gogol's pen doesn't rest there. It extends to the gentry as well. He shows how the idleness, mismanagement, and greed of the landowners have considerably contributed to the poor living conditions of the peasants and the surfs. Gogol goes even further. He wields his pen against society, in general, to show how the dominating prejudice and vanity have helped to cultivate an ignorant and uncultured populace.

Gogol's message is very strong. He sees that with the present state affairs, Russia cannot progress further. He doesn't hesitate to point out the issues boldly so that people would begin to think that a change is necessary if they are to secure a better future for the generations to come. With a story bordering between reality and absurdity, this is the message that Gogol wants to convey through his Dead Souls.

But even though the message is powerful, Gogol wouldn't have accomplished much had it not been for his writing. Gogol called Dead Souls an epic poem in verse. True to his description the poetic beauty, the adventure, and even the absurdity are interlaced to produce a light but clever and super satirical work. While the message holds your attention the writing absorbs you in it. I've read some of his works before but never was I captivated more. It is not a light and interesting story as such, the content is quite bleak, but I had such fun reading it which says a lot about his writing.

This is not a complete work, so my review is mostly formulated on the completed first part, but I don't think there would be any lesser understanding or enjoyment of the book because it is incomplete. For me, this work is the best of Gogol, where he truly comes out as one of the most remarkable Russian authors.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
791 reviews
June 20, 2023
Dead Souls Reading Diary

January 4th, 2019

I've just reached page 249 where finally the hero, to the waving of the cap of the houseman, who was standing there in the same fustian frock-coat, and in the presence of the inn-servants and someone else’s lackeys and coachmen, who had gathered to gape at the departure of someone else’s master, and amid all the other circumstances that accompany a departure, took his seat in the vehicle, and the britska, which was of the sort in which bachelors ride, and which has been standing so long in the town and thus has perhaps even become boring to the reader, finally drove out of the gate of the hostelry...

If I've felt the need to post this long passage, therefore beginning this review though I've not finished reading the book yet, it's because I'm struck by the mirror effect of the scene which occurs half-way through the book. Gogol, who is a slippery devil, has just made his main character take the reverse journey he took on page 1, when, through the gate of a hostelry in a provincial capital that will remain nameless rolled a small, rather handsome britska on springs, of the kind in which bachelors travel: retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, landowners possessing a hundred or so peasant souls – in a word, all those who are known as gentlemen of the middling sort.

Of course, the travelling carriage has rolled in and out of the same gate many times during the 247 intervening pages as the mysterious 'gentleman of the middling sort', who owns it, visited the landowners of the surrounding countryside, but only on page 1 and page 249 did the carriage have all his luggage onboard.

The luggage was as odd and mysterious as the gentleman himself, and I might even say as odd and mysterious as the book inside of which he, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, his carriage and his servants, are confined. The luggage comprises a leather trunk that takes two men to lift, a small mahogany box inlaid with Karelian birch, and sundry other items, including shoe-trees. But I'm refusing to be distracted by the shoe-trees because I suspect that it is the small mahogany box that will prove to be the most interesting item. Chichikov keeps putting pieces of paper into it, theatre bills, letters, but most mysteriously, long lists of dead souls...

So now the small mahogany box is inside the carriage, and the carriage is on the road leading out of the nameless provincial capital, and I'm turning over page 249 in hopes of discovering the mystery that's inside the box that's inside the carriage that's inside this book. I don't know how well my investigation will proceed as I'm completely in the dark at present (the leather curtains are drawn in the carriage because Chichikov is sleeping) but I'm curious to know where I'm going.
I promise to keep you updated...if I can see my way to doing it.

January 6th
Page 280
When I turned over page 249, I didn't know that it marked the beginning of an interlude that would last thirty pages. Yes, Gogol left Chichikov sleeping in his travelling carriage with the curtains closed for a considerable time during which he obligingly agreed to fill me on on Chichikov's origins. You see, I'd been very curious about events in Chichikov's life before his carriage rolled into the inn on page 1, so I got comfortable and listened carefully to the back story—which didn't come without many digressions.
Speaking of digressions, I'd been thinking about the author of Tristram Shandy from the early pages, but in this section, even more so. It's the games Gogol plays with the reader that remind me of Laurence Sterne (apart from the frequent mention of Chichikov's nose). By games, I mean not only the obvious humour that is part of character and plot but the fun that is embedded in anodyne words, linking phrases, and even punctuation (ellipses are often used in a comical way, especially when it comes to describing women...).
So, what I'm getting to is that the reader might be tempted to keep turning the pages of this book, interested only in where the plot takes the characters, but Gogol, like Sterne, challenges us to slow down and watch, as it were, the sideshows in the writing itself.

January 7th
Page 304
One of the sideshows I was thinking about yesterday, and it is a very elaborate type of sideshow, is 'The Tale of Captain Kopeykin' which begins on page 226. It's a long story told by a minor character about an army officer who becomes a brigand in order to get rich. The telling allows Gogol to demonstrate with much humour the kind of 'larded' language used by many people at the time (such a contrast to his own as can be seen in the p 304 update quote below), and which he's been making fun of from the early pages. It's the kind of language that includes a lot of unnecessary trimmings, for example: you know… in a certain sense... you can just picture it… so to speak… in a word… you understand….
But the really interesting thing about this sideshow tale is that it gives us some insight into Chichikov, but we don't realise this until we get to the backstory interlude on page 250 where we learn about Chichikov's life-long obsession with saving his kopecks (cents), and then we suddenly remember the Tale of Captain Kopeykin...
The other interesting thing about the Kopeykin tale, told after all in such a different style, was that it reminded me of inserted stories in Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, as well as Ovid's Metamorphoses which I'm currently reading, specifically Book Four where Ovid allows a couple of his characters to tell stories in their own voices using their own verse style. Unlike Narcissus, I'm always on the lookout for echoes...

January 8th
Page 380
When I mentioned sideshows two days ago, I had no idea just what a funfair I was about to experience. The second part of this book introduces a series of characters, each more bizarre than the previous one. And as I'm still travelling with Chichikov, I've been able to step inside their strange houses and eat at their overloaded tables (there's a lot of eating in this book). Chichikov's carriage needed some repairs after he woke up so we had to knock at the door of a very lovelorn land owner who, after wining and dining us thoroughly, sent us on a mission to the fearsome father of the object of his affections. From there, having been reasonably successful, we set out to visit a relative of the fearsome father on another mission, but took the wrong road and ended up at the estate of a fisherman farmer where we ate our way through a monstrous sturgeon before making our escape to a model estate run by a very billious man who, on hearing that Chichikov might like to turn landowner, sent us off to the complete opposite kind of estate run by a most cheerfully incompetent man who needed to sell up.
Oh, and in between we visited a crazy ex-general, obsessed with administration...

January 9th
Concluding chapter

As I was saying three days ago, before I got distracted by the many sideshows in this fun-fair of a book, Gogol's announcement on page 250 of his intention to reveal Chichikov's back story was exactly what I wanted to hear. And I listened carefully to everything in the thirty pages that followed. But for all my assiduity, I still didn't learn much about the small mahogany box. And I learned even less about the list of dead souls Chichikov keeps inside it, or about his plans for those souls. There was an explanation on page 274 but it wouldn't seem to lodge in my brain no matter how many times I reread it. It was as if a spell had been cast over the words by a magician, and I had to conclude that Gogol himself was the biggest sideshow in the fun-fair. He'd bamboozled me completely; on page 275, he just moved on from the subject of the dead souls as if no further explanation was needed, saying: So it was that this strange plot took shape in our hero’s head. Whether readers will be grateful to him for it, I don’t know. As for how grateful the author is, that’s really hard to put into words. For, say what you will, if this idea hadn’t entered Chichikov’s head, this long poem would never have seen the light of day.
Isn't that a neat trick? Gogol just pushes all the responsibility for the dead souls plot onto Chichikov's shoulders and walks away.

In the concluding chapter, I had a similar bamboozling experience. This time, the explanation about the dead souls came directly from Chichikov but even while I was reading it, the meaning just wafted away from me like wisps of smoke, impossible to grasp.

Around about then, my comprehension faced an even bigger challenge because bracketed ellipses […] began to appear on every page. But instead of being humourous avoidance strategies such as Gogol used earlier in the book, now they seemed to signify genuine gaps in the text as if someone had removed entire sections. I couldn't help wondering if Chichikov himself was somehow responsible, because, in the meantime, he seemed to have acquired a mysterious fortune and was suddenly spending lots of money (which he was very reluctant to do before) and getting himself a new suit the colour of smoke and flame. What the devil!

And believe it or not, the little wooden box reentered the story in a significant though rather unholy way—and Chichikov was so happy to recover it that I wondered if, along with those mysterious lists of dead souls, it might not have contained the missing sections of this book...

The End.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
October 26, 2012
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 the Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation was fantastic.
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,745 followers
February 2, 2020
Una obra divertida en el mismo sentido que podemos decir que es divertido El Quijote, aunque no alcanza la universalidad ni la grandeza de la obra del español.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews927 followers
January 10, 2022
“However stupid a fool's words may be, they are sometimes enough to confound an intelligent man.”

Publication of Dead Souls with illustrations and autograph by Chagall put on auction

Ostensibly a story about a man traveling the Russian countryside inexplicably buying the souls of dead serfs, Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is part commentary on middle class morality, part picaresque account of the main character's travels and part satire. It is actually a fun read and the humor comes here and there in moments when characters recognize the absurdity of what is happening. Dead Souls had been on my to-read list for quite some time, and I'm glad to have finally read it. 4.25 stars

"The ardent youth of today would start back in horror if you could show him his portrait in old age. As you pass from the soft years of youth into harsh, hardening manhood, be sure you take with you on the way all the humane emotions, do not leave them on the road: you will not pick them up again afterwards!”
Profile Image for Dalia Nourelden.
542 reviews760 followers
March 14, 2023
خلينا نبتدي الرفيو بإتفاق مهم ان الاشخاص اللى مبيحبوش التفاصيل والوصف الكتير ممكن يكرهوا الرواية دى .
لكن الشخصيات اللى زى حالاتي ممكن رأيهم يختلف . برغم التفاصيل الكتير انا كنت مستمتعة ، ممكن بالأسلوب رغم صعوبته التى تزداد أحياناً ، ممكن بأسلوب السخريه التى كانت تضحكني ( نقد لاذع باسلوب ساخر ممتع) ، ممكن لانى عارفة من قبل ماابدأ ومستعدة لكمية تفاصيل رهيبة فكنت مهيأة نفسيا. و ممكن كمان لانى مش من الشخصيات اللى لازم تفهم كل رمزية للكاتب وكل كلمة بيقولها يقصد بيها ايه المهم استمتع بالرحلة نفسها مع الكاتب .( عارفين كان فى سؤال ايه اللى استفدته من الدرس او القصة ، عارفين السؤال ده ؟؟ انا كنت بكرهه ولحد دلوقتى بكرهه برضه 😁 فمحدش يتوقع منى إجابة عن السؤال ده في اي رواية) وممكن كمان لانى من الناس اللى بتغفر للكاتب كثرة التفاصيل اذا اعجبني الاسلوب وأندمجت معه وهذا ماحدث هنا

كان الكاتب والشاعر الروسي أندريه بيلي يقول ان المحتوي الغوغولي غارق في التفاصيل. وهذا بالطبع ينطبق بالدرجة الأولى على ( الانفس الميتة ) أعقد أعمال غوغول. والطريق الى الطبقات العميقة لمحتوى هذا العمل يمتد أيضا خلال ادق التفاصيل والدقائق

يجب ان يقرأ غوغول في غاية الإهتمام دون التوقف عند الموضوع والحدث نافذين الى اصغر الدقائق والتفاصيل


فانا حبيت الرواية بكل تفاصيلها المهمة واللى مش مهمة وحبيت سخرية غوغول . سخريته من الشخصيات والأحوال والأحاديث بينقد كل شئ بأسلوب ساخر ممتع ❤


كم تساوى قيمة الإنسان وهو على قيد الحياة ؟؟ وخاصة اذا لم يكن من اصحاب الاموال والنفوذ ؟؟ وكم تساوي قيمته بعد وفاته ؟؟
حين تكون نفس الانسان سلعة تباع وتشترى وهو على قيد الحياة فلما لاتعامل نفسه بعد وفاته بنفس المنطق ؟؟
بطلنا هنا يمر على الملاك ليشترى منهم شيئا غريبا لم يسبق لأحد شرائه ، يشتري الأنفس الميتة .
إن الذي أريد هو أن اشتري الأقنان الموتي الذين ورد اسمهم في لوائح الإحصاءالأخيرة على أنهم أحياء

الفلاحين الذين فارقوا الحياة تبقى أسماؤهم مسجلة حتي وقت الإحصاء الجديد في اللوائح الجديدة كما لو كانوا أحياء ، وهذا يضمن إراحة المكاتب الحكومية من هذه التفاهات فهي تعقد ميكانيكية الدولة التي فيها الكفاية من التعقيد .قال تشيتشيكوف بأن هذا القانون مهما حاولنا ان نعزو العدالة له ، فإنه مجحف بالملاكين فعلا لأنه يضطرهم الى دفع الضريبة عن الأنفس التي لاوجود لها كما يدفعونها عن الأنفس الحية الأخري

وصف غوغول طباع كثير من البشر وخاصة من أصحاب الأملاك والنفوذ من خلال الشخصيات التى ألتقاها فكل مالك قابله تشيتشيكوف قام بوصفه وصفا شاملا من حيث شكله وطباعه حتى لتشعر انك تراه امامك ولم ينسى ابدا السخرية المبطنة اثناء وصفه .
إن مظهره المميز كان في ملابسه فقط . فلم تكن هناك من وسيل فية لمعرفة نوع القماش الذي صنع منه معطفه لان اطراف المعطف وأكمامه كانت متمزقة متسخة على صورة تتحدى كل وصفة.

وحول عنقه يلتف شئ قد يكون جوربا أو لفافة ساق أو لفافة بطن ولكنه ليس ربطة عنق بكل تأكيد


فنجد المالك الساذج الذي لا يهتم ولا يبالى بشئ ولايعرف شيئا سوى ما يقوله له مأمور ملاكه . و المالك المعاكس له تماما الذى يعرف كل شئ يمتلكه معرفة جيدة ويستغل كل شئ لصالحه الى اقصى درجة . ومابين المالك المسرف والذى لايهتم سوى بإرضاء هفواته ونزواته والقمار والغش . والبخيل الذي يبخل حتى على نفسه وتموت الانفس التى يمتلكها جوعا كلما التهم أكثر صار لايشبع.

وبعدها جلس تشيتشيكوف ليسجل اسماء النفوس التى اشتراها بما كتبه الملاك بجانبها من وظيفته و اوصافه واخذ يتخيل حياتهم و كيف ماتوا ؟

ما لغز هذه النفوس الميتة ؟ لا يوجد أى منطق في النفوس الميتة ، تباع وتشترى . و أى أحمق سيشتريها ؟ وبأى نقود ممسوخة سيشتريها؟ ولأى غرض وفي أى عمل يمكن ان يحشر هذه النفوس الميتة ؟

لكن من هو تشيتشيكوف حقا !! و ما قصته ؟؟ ولماذا كان يشتري الأنفس الميتة ؟

ورغم ان الفصل الاخير كان أثقل الفصول فى القراءة لكنه أوضح فيه الكثير وتعرفنا فيه بالفعل على أفكار تشيتشيكوف وأهدافه. الفصل الذي تحدث به غوغول

ليس فيكم من يكترث عن صدق لرؤية البشرية وهى تتعري .وتقولون( ولم نفعل ذلك ؟ ومافائدته ؟ الا نعرف من قبل ان في البشرية كثيرا مما هو ثقيل محتقر ؟ ألا يكفي ان نري بأعيننا الكثير من المزعجات ؟ كان من الافضل لو وضعت لنا قصة لطيفة جذابة ننسي بها أنفسنا قليلا

‏من ذاك الذي سيرفع الصوت عاليا لإظهار الحقيقة ان لم يكن المؤلف نفسه ؟

من يرغب في قراءةالرواية يؤجل المقدمة لانها فى الجزء الاخير منها تحرق الهدف وهذا شئ من الافضل تأجيل معرفته للنهاية .

كان من المفترض ان يكون هناك مجلد ثاني لكن للاسف لم يرضى عنه غوغول واحرقه قبل وفاته

٢٣ / ١١ / ٢٠٢٠
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,890 followers
February 10, 2019
What is this book?

I can't remember any more if Gogol described it as a Poem or an Epic, maybe it doesn't matter what he called it since he had great chunks of the manuscript fed into the fire on the advice of his religious advisor.

So we are left with part one, some bits of part two and an outline of the three part whole of the work, the rest having gone up in smoke.

What there is of the first part is generally read as a comedy. It is funny, but bear in mind that the first part is about a young man travelling around in rural Russia in the 1820s buying the souls of dead peasants from their masters.

This isn't that kind of a supernatural book though, buying dead souls (the title was originally censored because as the Church teaches souls are immortal and can't be dead) was a reasonable financial undertaking at the time. Serfs could be mortgaged by their owners. Censuses in Imperial Russia were only undertaken once every twenty-five years and peasants who had died since the last one enjoyed a strange half-life in which they could still be mortgaged even though as assets they were completely non-liquid (at least financially speaking) since they were securely lodged in the graveyard. So we find our hero, or "hero", travelling about, meeting various members of the nobility and attempting to buy their dead souls from them.

If you've read some of Gogol's short stories you'll have some idea of what to expect when a man meets various members of the nobility and attempts to acquire legal title to their dead serfs. If you haven't read some of his short stories - that's probably the best place to start...

In the three part scheme there would have been a return to moral grace, but since this was burnt, with in the background as Nabokov describes the still youngish but dying Gogol with leeches hanging off his long nose, we're left instead with the tale of a wheeler dealer coaching round the bizarre and comical landowners that populated the imagined Ukraine of Gogol's pen.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
August 6, 2019
What did you think, Goodreads politely asks me.

Well, dear Goodreads, it has been a while since I read Dead Souls, and I think I remember the melancholy humour best, but as for what I THINK, this is what keeps haunting my mind:

There are so many things going on in the world right now that are more bizarre than wandering around buying dead serfs' names from their owners in order to make a profit...

Sometimes I think of Dead Souls when I read the news and wonder whether our world of 2019, with all this democratically-elected madness, is proof that Gogol got it all right and saw it coming? My nose is scratching me and my coat walks off frowning, but I stand by my theory: someone has bought the dead souls to make a profit, and it's scarier than reading Gogol!
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,429 reviews694 followers
October 16, 2018
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این داستان که یکی از آثارِ بینظیر در ادبیاتِ کلاسیک و ادبیاتِ روس به شمار می آید، از دو جلد و 348 صفحه تشکیل شده است که جلد اول شاملِ 11 فصل و جلدِ دوم شاملِ 5 فصل میباشد
‎داستان در موردِ مردی به نامِ «ایوان ایوانوییچ چیچیکوف» است که به صورتِ مسافر و مهمان به سراغِ مالکان و زمین دارانِ بزرگ رفته و پس از ورودش با چاپلوسی و تملق خودش را در دلِ زمین داران و اشخاصِ مشهور و مقاماتِ دولتی، جا میکند و سپس پیشنهاد جالبِ توجه و عجیبی به آنها میدهد... این پیشنهاد از این قرار است: تقریباً هر ده سال به ده سال، دولت از کارگران و کشاورزانی که برای زمین داران، مالکین و اربابانِ روستایی مشغول به کار هستند، سرشماری به عمل می آورد و به ازایِ این کارگران، از مالکان و اربابانِ آنها مالیات دریافت میکند... حال در این مدت ممکن است چندین تن از این کارگرانِ روستایی بمیرند، که حتی در این صورت نیز مالک باید مالیاتِ کارگر و یا کشاورزِ مرده را پرداخت نماید..... و امّا در این بین «چیچیکوف» از مالکانِ ثروتمند، کارگرانِ مرده و یا همان "نفوسِ مُرده" را با قیمتی بسیار پایین خریداری میکند و مالیاتِ آنها را متقبل میشود، ولی از طریقِ نامِ این کشاورزان یا همان "نفوسِ مرده" که دولت آنها را طبقِ سرشماری انجام شده، زنده به حساب می آورد، وامِ بانکی دریافت میکند
‎در این داستان، «گوگول» با زبانی طنزگونه و البته نیشدار از نوعِ رفتار مردم در اجتماع و همچنین رشوه گرفتن و پارتی بازی و دروغ گویی و چاپلوسی و کلاه برداری و فساد و قانون شکنی هایِ مسئولین دولتی و سیاسیون انتقادهایِ بسیار جالب انجام داده است و به معنایِ واقعیِ کلمه، مسئولینِ دولتیِ روس را با قلمِ آتشینِ خویش، له کرده است
‎درست است که شخصیتِ اصلی داستان یعنی «چیچیکوف» ممکن است کارهایش زشت به نظر برسد، امّا «گوگول» او را قهرمان داستان میداند و البته به نوعی حق دارد، چراکه شما با دقت کردن به روابط و معامله هایی که «چیچیکوف» در طولِ داستان با زمینداران و ارباب هایِ پولدار و شخصیت هایِ بزرگ انجام میدهد، متوجه بسیاری از کردارها و گفتارهایِ زشت و ناپسند میشوید و شما را بدین اندیشه فرو میبرد که انسان تا چه اندازه میتواند پست و زشت خو باشد!! و جاه طلبی و اشتیاقِ به سود جویی چشمِ خردِ انسانیش را کور سازد
‎این مردِ تیزهوش و زبان باز یعنی «چیچیکوف» از بلندبالاترین مسئولینِ دولتی و سیاسی همچون شهردار و استاندار و رئیسِ ژاندارمری گرفته، تا کارگران و مستخدمینِ ارگانهایِ دولتی را با رشوه هایی که میدهد در کارهایش شریک میکند... همه و همه زنجیره وار مُشتی موجوداتِ بی شرافت و بدکردار هستند
‎جالب است که در دلِ داستان بارها و بارها «گوگول» نصیحت ها و حتی هشدارهایی را به دولت روسیه و پادشاهیِ تزار و البته شاهزاده میدهد، و سالها بعد میبینیم که حق با «گوگول» بوده است. چراکه روسیه با انقلابِ بزرگش، تا مرزِ نابودی پیش رفت و روسیهٔ تزاری در باتلاقِ خودساخته ای فرو رفت و غرق شد.... از آنجا که سرزمینِ پاکمان ایران، امروزه اسیرِ حاکمانِ غیرِ ایرانی و فاسد شده است، بهتر میتوانیم سخنانِ ارزشمندِ گوگول را در این داستان درک کنیم

‎در پایان به انتخاب بخش هایی از نوشته هایِ «گوگول» دراین کتاب، که به نظرم بسیار تأمل برانگیز بود را برایِ شما عزیزان در زیر مینویسم
‎بشر تا وقتی آنچه سببِ مناقشه و جدال و خونریزی است، رها نسازد و در راه صفایِ دل و روحِ خود نکوشد، هرگز ثروت و زندگانیِ این جهان را نمیتواند بر پایه ای رضایتبخش استوار سازد... همچنانکه گهگاه فقر و گرسنگی به سراغِ کشوری می آید، ممکن است به سراغِ تک تکِ افرادِ آن ملت نیز برود
‎من میدانم که به هیچ وسیله و با هیچ تهدید و با هیچ نوع مجازاتی نمیتوان اعمالِ خلافِ قانون را ریشه کن کرد.. زیرا در میانِ ما بسیار عمیق ریشه دوانیده است... امروزه عملِ ناشرافتمندانهٔ رشوه خواری، حتی برایِ مردمی هم که برایِ بی شرافتی خلق نشده اند، امری واجب و ضروری شده است
‎امیدوارم از خواندنِ این داستانِ زیبا، لذت ببرید
‎«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,341 reviews316 followers
June 24, 2023
"Умом Россию не понять..." - Тютчев, 1866 година. Толкова е достатъчно да се каже по този въпрос!

И тъй, България си има бай Ганьо, а Русия - Чичиков!

Никой, никъде и никога не е бил обичан, за извадената наяве нелицеприятна истина…

"Мъртви души" е симптоматичен и реален роман, режещ дълбоко и точно, право през средата на неуловимата и превъзнасяната и до днес без особена причина "дълбока руска душевност". Ако не си способен да се похвалиш с плодовете на своите знания и успехи, на помощ винаги са готови да ти се притекат патриотарството, шовинизмът и водката/препарат за чистене на вани! Тази тенденция подължава с пълна сила да е водеща в руското общество и днес, два века след излизането на Гоголевия роман. Мъртвите души са навсякъде там. :(

Неочаквано, книгата всъщност доста ме забавляваше - добре е написана и прощавам с лекота няколкото скучновати и пространни отклонения на автора в нея. Жалко, не е завършена и няма как да узнаем, до къде щеше стигне нашият Павел Иванович.

Любим изрод от менажерията на Гогол - помешчика Ноздрев!

Ненавременната смърт на този писател е огромна загуба за световната литература!

P.S. Сюжетът е подарен на автора от Пушкин, който го е сметнал за по-подходящ за развитие от Гогол. Писателят успява да му прочете първата редакция на началните глави и поетът, който отначало доста се е смял, е започнал да става все по-мрачен и когато прочитът свършил, казал със скръбен глас: "Боже, колко е тъжна нашата Русия!".

Пушкин не успява да узнае продължението на историята, съвсем скоро след това загива трагично, жертва на епохата и идеалите си.

Виждам, че "Мъртви души" има много негативни ревюта в Goodreads, вероятно си трябват опит и познания за Русия, за да ѝ се насладиш напълно - а голяма част от читателите ѝ вероятно ги нямат, по обективни причини предимно. Вероятно и на мен би ми досадила, ако бях сега на 15 и трябваше да я чета по задъжение.

Намирам превода на Димитър Подвързачов за леко овехтял, може би е време за нов, по-съвременен поглед към тази величава книга?

P.S. Много ми се иска да преведа това ревю на руски, но как само ме мързи. ;)
Profile Image for Vanja Antonijevic.
35 reviews40 followers
January 8, 2008
Gogol's "Dead Souls" is a true masterpiece. It is the only Russian novel that I have read that brings me as much deep satisfaction as Dostoevsky’s great novels. The novel is satirical, intellectual, political, and also entertaining.

The intriguing plot is sketched as follows:

A somewhat mysterious middle class man, named Chichikov, comes to a town and attempts to build prestige by impressing minor officials of the place. The man spends beyond his means in order to impress, and tries to befriend the townspeople in order to execute a curious little plan regarding the selling of "dead souls".

The idea is that the Russian state taxes these landowners pay are based on the number of serfs (or "souls") on record. The problem is that many of these landowners must also pay for the serfs that have already died. It is these "dead souls" that Chichikov wants to buy from the landowners. He does not tell the owners why he wants the souls, but one can imagine that his plans are somewhat twisted...

The novel is ultimately a social and political commentary involving exaggerated characters.

August 27, 2020
Η Wall Street των νεκρών ψυχών στην τσαρική Ρωσία του 19ου αιώνα.

Σε ένα βαθύτερο επίπεδο το βιβλίο αυτό είναι μια διαχρονική μελέτη των ανθρωπίνων αδυναμιών, της χρυσής μετριότητας ως ιδιότητα των κοσμικών παθών.

Μπροστά στο κέρδος και την κοινωνική καταξίωση, έστω κι αν τεκμαίρεται απο την εδραίωση της ιδιοκτησίας πολλών, πάρα πολλών, αμέτρητων, νεκρών ψυχών, όλο το θεσμικό και αξιακό σύστημα με τα πολλά γρανάζια, «λαδώνεται» και λειτουργεί άψογα, μα κυρίως νόμιμα.
Όλα πωλούνται, όλα αγοράζονται. Όσο μεγαλύτερη ζήτηση έχει η αγορά νεκρών ψυχών τόσο περισσότεροι δουλοπάροικοι πεθαίνουν ανεβάζοντας την αγοραστική τους αξία.
Εξαργυρώνονται τα ομόλογα των νεκρών, αποφέρουν πλούτη και δόξα, παρ’όλο που είναι μια νόμιμα ακατανόητη αγοροπωλησία ως προς την χρεωστική και πιστωτική της έκβαση.

Το άγριο σατιρικό χιούμορ του Γκόγκολ διαχέεται ορμητικά μέσα στο αιματηρό αυτό βιβλίο όπου οι ανθρώπινες ψυχές κοστολογούνται απο δωρεάν, δυο και ενάμιση ρούβλι ανα ψυχή ή πολλά περισσότερα. Εξαρτάται πάντα απο τον ιδιοκτήτη των ψυχών και την απληστία ή την ανάγκη του που θα καθορίσει την τελική τιμή.

Ένας φιλόδοξος και αδίστακτος άνδρας, στην αγροτική Ρωσία του 19ου αιώνα φωτίζεται απο μια λαμπρή ιδέα που θα τον καταξιώσει κοινωνικά και οικονομικά.

Φυσικά έχουμε ως βασικό δεδομένο πως το να φαίνεσαι πλούσιος �� το να είσαι στην πραγματικότητα είναι εξίσου σημαντικά. Επικρατούσα αβεβαιότητα που επιμένει να αξιολογεί τη ρωσική κοινωνία.
Εμφάνιση πλούτου εξίσου σημαντική με τον ίδιο τον πλούτο.

Ο ήρωας μας αγοράζει νεκρούς χωρικούς, οι οποίοι λόγω καθυστερημένων απογραφών των δουλοπάροικων εξακολουθούν να φαίνονται στα λογιστικά βιβλία ως ζώντες, εργαζόμενοι και αμειβόμενοι.
Μια λαμπρή προϋπόθεση για καταξίωση κοινωνική, αποδοχή και ανερχόμενη θητεία μεταξύ ευχαριστημένων - καλολαδωμένων γραφειοκρατικών παραγόντων σε κάθε κλάδο.

Στο πλαίσιο αυτό αντικατοπτρίζεται η ρωσική διαφθορά του δημόσιου τομέα και η ακριβέστατη εικόνα της συνειδητής ασχήμιας και της ηθικής αλλοτρίωσης.

Το ύφος και το γράψιμο του Γκόγκολ είναι πυκνό, ιδιότροπο, ακατέργαστο και ελαφρώς κουραστικό.

Ως κοινωνική κριτική με διαχρονική αξία και προφητική χροιά είναι μια σπουδαία και εξαιρετική δουλειά.

Ως λογοτεχνικό έργο υποστηρίζεται απο την δική μου αξιολόγηση με ελάχιστο ενθουσιασμό.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Praveen.
179 reviews292 followers
January 21, 2020
"The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes."
— Nikolai Gogol

Before saying anything else, I think I must begin with my association with this novel. It was that period of my age, years and years ago when I had read only a few books, most of them incomplete, yet I used to impress my friends with that precocious intelligence I gathered from those books devoured by me in such scanty doses.
And what about my knowledge of Russian literature then?... That was extraordinarily abundant even at that time.
Was that a joke?... Indeed... it was!
If you had asked me to name any two authors of Russia then, I would have said the first name in a very confident tone... 'Tolstoy'... and second name, after a pause of a few seconds, I could have uttered aforementioned in full, with little more dignity... 'The Leo Tolstoy'.

Yes! That is true. I was not aware of any other name. What a pity! No. I was like an infant still swinging in my cradle of innocent ignorance as long as the book reading was concerned. I was a newbie. After some time when I started reading contemporary authors. I was reading a book by Jhumpa Lahiri. There, for the first time, I encountered this unique name... GOGOL...Jhumpa had created a fictitious character there in her plot whose name was Gogol. I thought then that she might have been inspired by the modern-day 'Google'. However somewhere in between, she described the Gogol as someone like this as far as I remember, "an eccentric genius, an intelligent queer and sickly creature, a hypochondriac and a deeply paranoid, morbidly melancholic... one among Russian literary greats"

So, Jhumpa was decidedly the one who introduced me to the second name from the Russian Literary world many years back...GOGOL... Since then I wanted to read this fellow. I had notified Gogol and his Dead Souls in excitement then. It seems a silly association but it is quite true. Before turning to Dead souls finally, I had already read him three years back in his short tales, The Nose and The Overcoat. I loved both of them.

Now coming back to the Book, you can instantly see that I was reading this book with very high expectations and enthusiasm.
Did this book meet my expectations?
I’ll first say YES. And then I’ll say NO as well.

Actually this book had two parts. In the first part, I loved everything whatsoever was written by Gogol there. But in the second part, I’ll say my excitement just perished in a very unusual way. It ended flat from the point of view of the story, leaving me disconcerting and a little disappointed as well. So this book just fell short of a five star read for me.

The storyline is rather simple. A clever man is trying to make wealth through trick and hoax. He is using the officials. Corruption practices among those officeholders made his fraud of buying and selling those dead souls quite convenient. Dead souls were those serfs who were dead but they were still shown as living ones in the census there on paper. So this guy used all his brain to acquire a huge sum of money through the deed of sale of such dead souls.

Our hero, the hero of this novel, as is defined in the beginning, is peripatetic rouge and is very solicitous about his descendants. Our hero is a traveler but his travel is of a different sort. One day our hero CHICHIKOV enters in a provincial city of N. Gogol has constantly used this term ‘our hero’ everywhere in the narration, whenever he had a strong intent to peep out in between the storyline and wanted to talk to the reader directly, this ‘our hero’ of Gogol, though acts throughout the book villainously. He entered in style on a pretty brichka (a type of horse-drawn carriage) and entered the gate of a hostelry in this city…And thus began his journey in this novel Dead souls.

Every chapter of this book brings to the reader a unique character and an entirely new backdrop from Russian society. A scene changes every time a chapter finishes. Chichikov either deliberately reaches there or lands up there accidentally. And here in every chapter of this novel especially in the first part, Gogol has shown the class of his penmanship in framing such humorous circumstances and very sharp observations of Russian people and their behavior. And I really liked all the characters created by Gogol in this book. The humor content is at its best and the conversations and Gogol's delibrations on various issues of Russia can be seen in a new light.

"But wise is the man who disdains no character, but with searching glance explores him to the root and cause of all."

These FOUR things I noticed throughout the book. You will find here DIVERSITY of Russian classes and characters, then you will witness the DRAMA among the characters in the satirical language of Gogol, the dialogues and narration will fill you with unstoppable jest in that classic Gogolian HUMOR, and finally, a big-time SUSPENSE will linger on every time there.

So, Diversity, Drama, Humor, and Suspense are my four takeaways from this novel.

This is for sure a great classic book and is quite strange and queer in its approach and scope both, and one must read it if one is interested in peeking into the Russian ways of the 19th century through the eyes and style of Gogol. Nabokov had once described Gogol as "the strangest prose-poet Russia ever produced" and I too have felt this strangeness of his craft in this novel.
Profile Image for Maru Kun.
216 reviews495 followers
April 29, 2015
The hero of Dead Souls, Chichikov, these days would be Fabulous Chichikov.

Sitting at his 40th floor, 200 West Street dealing desk Fabulous Chichikov’s eye would travel from screen to screen searching out deals in NINJA loans, distressed debt and CDOs squared. Debits and credits would flit in and out of his trading book as ephemeral as any Dead Soul.

Instead of a “troika suitable for bachelors”, Fabulous Chichikov would travel by Uber limousine. He would move from Manhattan steakhouse to members only night-club to hotel suite where he would “execute transactions” with “counterparties”, each deal bigger and more grotesque than the last.

Mexican immigrants working in hundred degree restaurant kitchens would prepare Fabulous Chichikov Michelin-starred molecular gastronomy while bartending Humanities MAs mix his Negronis. But these attendants to Fabulous Chichikov’s whims are as irrelevant to this story as any of Gogol’s muzhiks to the original Chichikov.

Sobakevich is the subtle hedge fund manager, promising his regulator that every loan he sold to Fabulous Chichikov was good. Manilov is inherited wealth, inviting Fabulous Chichikov to his Upper East side apartment to dine with his trophy wife. The Widow Korobochka is the dim-witted insurance company executive, unsure whether or not to buy into one of Fabulous Chichikov’s deals. Nozdrev is the the coked-out dealer looking for his last big trade.

But the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is on our hero’s tail. A new administration is asking questions. Senators are meeting with their lawyers.

Fabulous Chichikov e-mails his girlfriend: “As more and more leverage enters the system the whole building is about to collapse! The only potential survivor is the Fabulous Chichikov, standing in the middle of all the complex highly leveraged exotic trades I created without necessarily understanding all of the implications...”.

It’s time for our hero to take a limousine to Teterboro airport. He can board his private jet (all Americans who can afford one love to ride in private jets) and slumber at thirty thousand feet, dreaming the great American Dream.
Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews330 followers
January 4, 2021
Когато бях в гимназията (преди около половин живот), близък за мен човек се опитваше да развие вкуса ми към театъра. Малко помня от спектаклите, на които сме били тогава. Например за „Марат/Сад“ единствената ми реминисценция е, че Марат беше гола жена, която имаше главозамайващо дълъг монолог в началото. От „Гоголиада“ пък се сещам за една сцена, на която с удоволствие попаднах в „Мъртви души“. В нея просто приятната дама разяснява на дамата приятна във всяко отношение за една „веселичка басма“, в която „фонът [е] ясносин и пред всяка ивичка се редуват все очички и лапички, очички и лапички, очички и лапички… С една дума, безподобно!“. Преди гореспоменатия половин живот това ми се струваше доста нелепа и излишна ситуация. Сега, четейки, се подхилвах под мустак и се чудех защо 14-15-годишното ми аз не е могло да оцени хумора.

Гоголевата поема, както той самият я нарича, е изстрадала. Недовършена, с персонажи, ненамерили своето изкупление, на няколко пъти изгаряна, на висящи парцали и цели липсващи части. Може би видът, в който е достигнала до нас, е доста добра метафора за живота. Едва ли има душà, чийто жизнен път не е осеян с кръпки и почвания отначало, с мирова скръб и оттласкване по посока на някаква смътна надежда. А той, животът, не пита достигнал ли си до там, закъдето си тръгнал, когато му дойде времето да свършва.

Винаги се чудя дали някой се разпознава в такива типажи, като описаните от Гогол. Всеизвестно е, че хората виждат това, което им се иска или за което имат познание. Като се има предвид колко много не знаят дори най-ерудираните сред нас, се лутаме из света, без обърканите ни сонари да долавят толкова неща. Ако тези хора, които изобличава поемата, не се разпознават и не се замислят, тогава не отива ли напусто Гоголевият гений? А ако се разпознаят, дали просто няма да изпръхтят с пренебрежение и да си рекат, че това са драсканиците на един невротичен безделник, което ги лишава от достоверност? И така да е, за осъзнатата истина трябва да се говори, а не да се мълчи. Все някой някога може да я чуе.

Цялото действие на поемата се върти около купуването на мъртви душѝ, но Гогол не оставя съмнение чии души отдавна са спрели да конвулсират с последните тръпки на живота. С полунасмешка, полуосъждане повечето имена на персонажите са опредметени. Малката кутийка Коробочка, ноздрата Ноздрев и кучето Собакевич са сатиричният опит на Гогол да покаже липсата на живец на своите действащи лица. „Плюшкин“ пък баща ми използва откак се помня като нарицателно за стипца. ��амият Чичиков именно като кихавица минава през живота на дворяните, съмнително имотни на умрели крепостни. У помешчиците първо се заражда едно особено чувство, нито приятно, нито неприятно, после следва малка кулминация в отношенията им с нашия изпечен протагонист и накрая той изчезва, като оставя единствено леката слуз от прежното си присъствие и облекчението, че вече го няма.

Кривото огледало на Гогол боли и жегва тогавашна Русия. Дори самото заглавие на поемата било счетено за еретично и се наложило да бъде преименувана на „Приключенията на Чичиков: мъртви души“, което, съгласете си, си е двусмислено откъдето и да го гледаш. Обществото в никоя епоха не се радва, когато някой му посочи язвите. То обича да ги си прикрива с вонящи мехлеми и рядко прощава на някого, който се опитва да ги лекува. Във фарса Гогол плува в свои води, като проявява и завиден талант на комедиен актьор, но в поемата примесва смешното и с доста трагедия. Трагедията на малкия човек, на приспособенеца, който не знае своята истинска форма, а заема най-удобната му в момента, трагедията на изгнилата духовност и материалистичния уклон.

Гогол не назидава, той разкрива, смее се и плаче заедно със своята Русия. Тъжи за настоящето ѝ и се опитва да вярва в бъдещето ѝ. Така както не успява да завърши творбата си обаче, не доживява и да види сбъднати надеждите си. А бъдещето е крехко равновесие между „искам“ и „все някога си“. Може би някога, много някога, някой ще може да го живее такова, каквото Гогол не го дописва.
Profile Image for Daniela.
175 reviews91 followers
June 11, 2021

In Dead Souls, a novel about Russia and what it means to be Russian, we follow the adventures of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, literature's most endearingly dishonest character. After several attempts to grow rich and live a life of comfort, Chichikov comes up with a scheme of buying non-existent peasants in order to get a state loan on them and, thus, making easy money out of nothing. The non-existent peasants are the title’s Dead Souls . They were those serfs who had already died but were counted as alive in the official lists since new census had not yet been made.

The macabre use of these dead serfs is brilliant, underlining the inhumanity of feudal Russia. Dead Souls is much more than a biting satire of a corrupted society. It is a criticism of a whole System of power in which corruption is only one of the many nefarious side-effects. As it usually happens in such societies, it corrupts even industrious, hard working men. It’s difficult to argue that Chichikov was a n’er-do-well. That’s the whole point: he was intelligent, charming and dynamic. The fact that he chooses to be dishonest and apply his qualities to shady schemes says much more about the environment that surrounded him than an inborn bad faith.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books375 followers
November 14, 2022
the wonderful dark irony of Russian humor....

According to the story line, a trickster, "not too fat and not too thin," i.e. a rather average person named Chichikov, is trying to enroll the names of dead peasants (muzhiks) to increase his paper wealth and raise his stature. These are the nominal dead souls.

Chichikov knows that serfs have value, even if it's just on paper. Most landowners jump at Chichikov's offer to buy them, because it means the landowners will no longer have to pay taxes on serfs who aren’t there anymore to work the fields. And what's in it for Chichikov? He's buying up all these non-existent people in order to use them as collateral for a huge loan and then flee with the money.

I submit that the title "Dead Souls" is a double entendre because mixed in with the truly banal and silly characters Chichikov encounters on his quest, there are those who may have pumping hearts, but for all intents and purposes are like ghosts---dead souls---such as this person Chichikov encounters at table in a house....

"...It was hard to say definitely who she was, a married lady or a spinster, a relative, the housekeeper or a woman simply living in the house - something without a cap, about 30, and wearing a multicoloured shawl. There are people that exist on this earth not as objects in themselves, but as extraneous specks or tiny spots on objects. They sit in the same place, they hold their heads in the same way and you are almost ready to take them for a piece of furniture..."

And Gogol offers how someone becomes a living ghost....

"Everything undergoes a rapid transformation in man. Before you know it, a dreadful worm has grown within him, and tyrannically sucked off all the vital juices for itself."

Chichikov himself is going through this process. I suppose one could call it the evil of banality. Such a banal man (poshlyak) is utterly empty, there's no inner life. A dead soul in the making.

Some of these souls, such as the character Mamilov, attempt a pretense at substance, but it's extrinsic only. Mamilov has a gazebo on his property with a flat green cupola, blue wooden columns, and an inscription: THE TEMPLE OF SOLITARY REFLECTION, but no ability to reflect on anything in a coherent fashion. He also lacks focus, a very modern problem. For example, "in his study there's always some book lying about, with a bookmark at the fourteenth page, which he had been reading constantly for the past two years."

Nozdryov is another landowner from whom Chichikov is trying to buy dead peasant souls. Nozdryov is a widower, left with two kids he has no interest in so leaves them to the nanny. He's a frivolous party animal who loves cards and is always getting into fights and getting tossed from social gatherings. He's also a pathological liar. Though he seems brisk and energetic, he's glib, has no ideas and plans nothing. He's just passing through like another dead soul.

Landowner and client, Sobakevich, could not be more different than Nozdryov. He's a cynic, conspiracy theorist, glutton and miser. Gripped by greed, he insists on discussing the fine personal qualities of the dead souls he wants to overcharge Chichikov for.

And finally there's Plyushkin, who has suffered about as much travail as Job. Needless to say, he's eager to sell his dead souls to Chichikov.

And like many in our world of Facebook, these living ghosts are obsessed with nonsense...

“but mortal man— truly, it is hard to understand how your mortal man is made: however banal the news may be, as long as it is news, he will not fail to pass it on to some other mortal, even if it is precisely with the purpose of saying: “See what a lie they’re spreading!” and the other mortal will gladly incline his ear, though afterwards he himself will say: “Yes, that is a a perfectly banal lie, not worthy of any attention!” and thereupon he will set out at once to look for a third mortal, so that, having told him, they can both exclaim with noble indignation: “What a banal lie!” And it will not fail to make the rounds of the whole town, and all mortals, however many there are, will have their fill of talking and will then admit that it is unworthy of attention and not worth talking about.”

Returning to town with his four hundred dead souls, Chichikov is ecstatic. But he soon becomes the object of nasty gossip. Chichikov had bought these souls to raise his social standing and his net worth. But he is now seen as a grifter and must flee for his life.


A favorite of Mel Brooks....

“Dead Souls,” by the magnificent genius Nikolai Gogol was a revelation. I’d never read anything like it. It was hysterically funny and incredibly moving at the same time. It’s like Gogol stuck a pen in his heart, and it didn’t even go through his mind on its way to the page. It truly raised the bar of what I considered to be important writing. It was a life-changing gift, and I still read it once a year to remind myself of what great comic writing can be."
Profile Image for Tahani Shihab.
592 reviews870 followers
April 1, 2022
"إن من شأن الشاب في هذه الأيام أن يثب رعبًا إذا ما عرضت عليه صورته وهو في سن الكهولة".

"خذو معكم إذن وأنتم تتنقلون من سنوات شبابكم الناعم إلى سنوات الرجولة القاسية، خذو معكم كل المشاعر الإنسانية. ولا تتركوها خلفكم على قارعة الطريق، وإلا فلن تلتقطوها لاحقاً. فإن الشيخوخة المخيفة التي تهددكم في المستقبل، لن تعيد لكم شيئاً مما اكتسبتوه، إن القبر أرحم وأكثر رأفة منها، فهم يكتبون عليه:”هذا قبر إنسان” ولكن لا يمكن أن تقرأ في الملامح الباردة، الخالية من العاطفة للشيخوخة غير الإنسانية شيئاً.

“وإني لأتساءل ما هي حياتنا؟ إنها ليست إلا وادٍ، استوطنته الأحزان. وأتساءل أيضاً ما هو العالم؟ إنه ليس إلا جمهور من البشر خالٍ من التفكير”.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,486 followers
May 1, 2017
Here's a Russian douchebag.

This is called poshlust, an untranslatable word referring to a kind of banal tackiness special to Russia. Here's another Russian douchebag:

The stereotype goes all the way back to 1842 and Gogol's great antihero dandy grifter Chichikov, with his Navarino smoke-and-flame silk frock coat and his violet-scented snuffbox, and according to Nabokov poshlust is the great theme of this book, a definition of an essential theme of Russian character.


That's not what Gogol thought Dead Souls was about. He thought he was recreating the Divine Comedy; a morality tale, with three books corresponding to Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. He only finished the first one: in one of the great tantrums of literature, he burned most of his draft for the rest and then starved himself to death. Lucky for us, Inferno is always the good part.

Gogol with his emo face on

The fragments that survive of the rest of Dead Souls, like the ending of Crime & Punishment, get a lot less fun in a hurry. This is the thing about tales of redemption: the redemption is definitely not the fun part. But it's the first great Russian novel, and you can see prototypes here for Raskolnikov and Tolstoy's great conflicted landowner Levin.

Book One of Dead Souls, which is about two thirds of what we have, is awesome. Vivid, surreal, funny, almost silly, as Gogol is. He's dead serious under that, of course, as they always are. Here's close enough to a mission statement:
Some wondrous power has doomed me for a long time to walk hand in hand with my strange heroes, to survey in its entirety life that rushes along so massively, to survey it through laughter that is visible to the world and through tears which the world cannot see and does not know.
Unfinished books are always frustrating, and I didn't enjoy the fragments after Book One. But that first bit is one of my favorite reading experiences this year. This is the great epic of Russian douchebaggery. Unbutton the top four buttons of your silk shirt and get psyched.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,973 reviews1,983 followers
March 26, 2020
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Dead Souls is eloquent on some occasions, lyrical on others, and pious and reverent elsewhere. Nikolai Gogol was a master of the spoof. The American students of today are not the only readers who have been confused by him. Russian literary history records more divergent interpretations of Gogol than perhaps of any other classic.

In a new translation of the comic classic of Russian literature, Chichikov, an enigmatic stranger and schemer, buys deceased serfs' names from their landlords' poll tax lists hoping to mortgage them for profit and to reinvent himself as a gentleman.

My Review: No one seems to have pinned this work down as of yet. 172 years on, Gogol still eludes the butterfly net of scholarship. No one seems to argue that the book is not wryly amusing. That seems not to be enough, for some reason, to the literati.

Is it a satire? Hell, who cares!
“You can't imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays. The things these scribblers write!"
“However stupid a fool's words may be, they are sometimes enough to confound an intelligent man.”
“But wise is the man who disdains no character, but with searching glance explores him to the root and cause of all.”

Satire? Maybe. Funny and snarky and ironic? Oh yes. I've read that some scholars compare the, to be kind, circularity of the plot to The Odyssey. Ummm, okay. Some offer Christian subtexts to the idea of buying and selling souls as a commentary on the...yech, whatever, the book is a fun and funny way to wile away a few hours.

Gogol himself considered this a prose poem, and I suspect he called it that so he'd be free of the shackles of novelistic convention. Let him loose, don't lard in your expectations of what a text must or must not do, and smile:
“The current generation now sees everything clearly, it marvels at the errors, it laughs at the folly of its ancestors, not seeing that this chronicle is all overscored by divine fire, that every letter of it cries out, that from everywhere the piercing finger is pointed at it, at this current generation; but the current generation laughs and presumptuously, proudly begins a series of new errors, at which their descendants will also laugh afterwards.”

Yes, lawd, you sing it Brother Nikolai!
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 6 books302 followers
January 27, 2020
I have read only fifty pages of Gogol in Russian, enough to know how hilarious he is, and to regret his conversion and attempt to destroy this great book.
"Sobakavich" alone rewards the reader with the Russian patronymic, "Son of" applied to "Sobaka," a bitch. Yet Sobakavich is the most genial of men, who refuses to sell even those of his employ who have died. His sentimental valuing of the mere memory of his dead worker is a triumph over materialism. Lovely stuff. Viva Gogol! Sobakievich is even more relevant today where tax evasion by the 1% is an industry supporting accountants and lawyers, supposed "business" experts who are really experts at short-changing the public.
And American tax laws may now surpass those of 19th C Czarist Russia--in the loopholes provided for the rich--though in fact the loophole Chichikov exploits has not reemerged.
Here it is: In Czarist Russia, wealth was not calculated by land. Anyone might own tens of thousands of hectares, or hundreds of square versts. You were not rich enough to marry unless you possessed the workers to till the land, the мужик. Of course, you owned them, but also, they had a right to till the land--not exactly like American slavery. Chichikov discovers a loophole in the tax law, so he plans to amass souls for his land, in order to marry well. The big house. The BMW, the коляска, the fancy carriage.

Back when I was reading Russian under the tutelage of a Bolshoi violinist, I decided to purchase Gogol for my shelves, and drove the hour and a half to Harvard Square, to Shoenhof's Books. They had no Мертвые души, but they had a later work, hardbound in green. I vaguely knew Gogol had repented his best writing, but I didn't think of the implication. A later work...hmmm. When I got home and started reading it, it turned out to be a kind of spiritual autobiography, the title roughly, Meditations on the Divine Legacy. I do not object to religion, though I think the 28,000 years light takes to arrive from the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy a humbling even of, say, Judaism's 5,000 year, and certainly Christianity's 2,000. I do not object, I just prefer not to read such personal submersion. Give me Rousseau, or Gogol before his conversion.
In brief, we have outgrown Gogol on tax evasion and on slavery--NOT. I have always told my classes about Chaucer's attitude toward the alchemist who briefly joins the pilgrims, before he is "outed" as a fraud.
Here 'tis: Mankind is not bright enough to muck around with chemistry and atoms. Why, we might blow ourselves up! I would add, Of course, Chaucer was Wrong--NOT.
Now nobody reads Gogol's conversion rhetoric, but they read his great lit, IF they learn "Dead Souls" is a comedy, the worst-titled comedy. Viva Gogol! Viva lit!
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