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Jiwa-Jiwa Mati

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Ini adalah gunjingan hebat buat pejabat bejat yang mengaku mewakili rakyat. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang muak dengan birokrasi. Ini adalah gudang karakter manusia. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang benci tapi suka manusia. Ini bukan buku motivasi picisan. Agaknya cukup bagus buat mereka yang selalu melihat setitik bayangan saat menghadap ma Ini adalah gunjingan hebat buat pejabat bejat yang mengaku mewakili rakyat. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang muak dengan birokrasi. Ini adalah gudang karakter manusia. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang benci tapi suka manusia. Ini bukan buku motivasi picisan. Agaknya cukup bagus buat mereka yang selalu melihat setitik bayangan saat menghadap matahari. Buku ini mengambil latar Rusia. Disebut-sebut sebagai salah satu puncak pemikiran satiris Rusia abad sembilan belas, Nikolai Gogol, yang mati di usia yang belum terlalu tua tapi juga sudah tidak terlalu muda. Gogol lahir di daerah Ukraina pada 1809. Pada tahun-tahun terakhir hidupnya, ia menjadi pemeluk suatu aliran mistik yang fanatik dan suka berpuasa, yang mengakibatkan kelemahan jasmaninya. Dia meninggal di Moskow pada 1852. Nada satir terdengar nyaring dalam Jiwa-jiwa Mati. Buku ini seakan ingin menyindir para pelaku birokrasi yang cerdik memanfaatkan kesempatan untuk keuntungan mereka sendiri. “Sindiran yang terbungkus rapi dalam humor,” kata sampul belakang buku ini. Jelas menggundang senyum bahkan tawa bagi mereka yang berselera humor tinggi.


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Ini adalah gunjingan hebat buat pejabat bejat yang mengaku mewakili rakyat. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang muak dengan birokrasi. Ini adalah gudang karakter manusia. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang benci tapi suka manusia. Ini bukan buku motivasi picisan. Agaknya cukup bagus buat mereka yang selalu melihat setitik bayangan saat menghadap ma Ini adalah gunjingan hebat buat pejabat bejat yang mengaku mewakili rakyat. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang muak dengan birokrasi. Ini adalah gudang karakter manusia. Oleh sebab itu, buku ini cocok bagi mereka yang benci tapi suka manusia. Ini bukan buku motivasi picisan. Agaknya cukup bagus buat mereka yang selalu melihat setitik bayangan saat menghadap matahari. Buku ini mengambil latar Rusia. Disebut-sebut sebagai salah satu puncak pemikiran satiris Rusia abad sembilan belas, Nikolai Gogol, yang mati di usia yang belum terlalu tua tapi juga sudah tidak terlalu muda. Gogol lahir di daerah Ukraina pada 1809. Pada tahun-tahun terakhir hidupnya, ia menjadi pemeluk suatu aliran mistik yang fanatik dan suka berpuasa, yang mengakibatkan kelemahan jasmaninya. Dia meninggal di Moskow pada 1852. Nada satir terdengar nyaring dalam Jiwa-jiwa Mati. Buku ini seakan ingin menyindir para pelaku birokrasi yang cerdik memanfaatkan kesempatan untuk keuntungan mereka sendiri. “Sindiran yang terbungkus rapi dalam humor,” kata sampul belakang buku ini. Jelas menggundang senyum bahkan tawa bagi mereka yang berselera humor tinggi.

30 review for Jiwa-Jiwa Mati

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    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 (own 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...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    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 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”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 ”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?” 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 I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    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 bachelor 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 here, therefore beginning on 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. Now 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 coming 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    DEAD SOULS by Nikolai Gogol Every writer carries with him an essential book, the work in which 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 (dea DEAD SOULS by Nikolai Gogol Every writer carries with him an essential book, the work in which 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 were called), were considered to be a security: they were sold, bought, and the owner paid a tax per male and adult male head. The census was every ten years, so that in the meantime he continued to pay tax on all deceased serfs on his property. The clever and brilliant idea of Tchitchikov was to buy in good and due form dead souls since the last census: the owner would be happy to give a fictitious good and to free oneself of a real tax and everyone will 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. He would be rich and able to buy peasants of flesh and bones! In conclusion, this book by Gogol is a satire of human mediocrity and a virulent and ruthless criticism of Tsarist Russia.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Myórtvyjye dúshi = Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (1809 - 1852) Dead Souls (Russian: Мёртвые души, Myórtvyjye dúshi) 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 (Russian: Павел Иванович Чичиков) and the people whom he encounters in his endeavours. Th Myórtvyjye dúshi = Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (1809 - 1852) Dead Souls (Russian: Мёртвые ду́ши, Myórtvyjye dúshi) 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 (Russian: Павел Иванович Чичиков) and the people whom he encounters in his endeavours. 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". ... عنوانها: مردگان زرخرید - رعایای مرده (بردگان مرده)؛ نفوس مرده؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفدهم ماه نوامبر سال 1991 میلادی عنوان: مردگان زرخرید - رعایای مرده (بردگان مرده)؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ مترجم: فریدون مجلسی، مشخصات نشر: تهران، نیلوفر، چاپ دوم 1387، در 352 ص، شابک: 9789644483844؛ کتاب از متن انگلیسی برگردانده شده، ، چاپ نخست انتشارات رسانه در سال 1379؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 19 م عنوان: نفوس مرده؛ اثر: نیکولای گوگول (نیکولای واسیلیویچ)؛ مترجم: کاظم انصاری، مشخصات نشر: ویرایش 2، تهران، نشر اندیشه، چاپ دوم 1369، در 348 ص؛ گوگول بیشتر عمر خود را صرف «نفوس مرده» كرد، 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 برمیگزیند، و سرانجام اگرنه 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 اعتقاد 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. ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    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 tha 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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    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, 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vanja Antonijevic

    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 t 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    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 w 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!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniela

    4.5* In Dead Souls , a novel about Russia and what it means to be Russian we follow the adventures of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov who is probably 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 are those serfs who have 4.5* In Dead Souls , a novel about Russia and what it means to be Russian we follow the adventures of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov who is probably 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 are those serfs who have already died but are counted as alive in the official lists since new census have not yet been made. The macabre use of these dead serfs is brilliant as it underlines the inhumanity of feudal Russia. The way I see it, 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. And as it usually happens in such societies it corrupts even industrious, hard working men. I think 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 of the environment that surrounded him rather than an inborn bad faith.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    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 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    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 co 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. Chichikov 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Srividya

    The weather was hot and humid and conducive for only one thing, sleeping. I had finished Dostoevksy’s The House of the Dead and was looking forward to relaxing and thinking about how to write a review for that book. However, the pull towards another Russian, a Russian that D admired and a book and its characters that D referred to consistently in his book was just too much of a temptation to me. I had to read the book and understand why D, one of my favourite authors, felt so moved and inspired by The weather was hot and humid and conducive for only one thing, sleeping. I had finished Dostoevksy’s The House of the Dead and was looking forward to relaxing and thinking about how to write a review for that book. However, the pull towards another Russian, a Russian that D admired and a book and its characters that D referred to consistently in his book was just too much of a temptation to me. I had to read the book and understand why D, one of my favourite authors, felt so moved and inspired by it. Needless to say, he wasn’t the only one, as there have been a whole host of writers who have been inspired by this author and this book. The author is Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol; and the book is Dead Souls. Like a moth to a flame, almost sensuously attracted, without a thought of my own in my mind, I just knew that I had to read this one. I didn’t think about the heat or the need to sleep or even the fact that I hadn’t written a review. Without feeling any guilt or any kind of remorse for not continuing the books that I had already started, I started my journey with Gogol and his topic of Dead Souls. Fool that I was, I didn’t realise how much I would have changed by the end of this adventure, I just jumped in and swam without a thought. Every author at some point in his life wants to write a book or does write one where he puts in his heart and soul and talks about everything that he has always wanted to talk about but refrained from doing so in his earlier works. Dead Souls is Gogol’s that book where we can see every nuance of his thoughts, his deepest fears, his outlook on life, about Russia and her people and just about everything that he wanted to share with his readers. And he does share it all, at least most of it, almost as if he knew that it was time to say everything, and he just couldn’t restrict himself any more. And it is a good thing that he did write this one for it is truly a brilliant book and its brilliance lies not only in the thoughts that he has shared but also in the approach he took while sharing them. Our hero in this book, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, isn’t your usual quintessential hero who is filled with virtue and good looks and just about everything that is usually found in a hero that you find in most books. No, he isn’t that at all and yet he isn’t an anti-hero either. Gogol describes him as “ a gentleman – not good looking but not uncomely in appearance either, not overly fat, nor overly thin. You couldn’t say he was old, yet you could not say he was overly young either.” In other words, he is just a normal human being with his virtues and flaws, both in looks as well as in personality, and Gogol deliberately makes him the hero of this book. Gogol introduces us to hero, describing his entrance in the town, which remains unnamed and the other characters of the town in this poem, as he calls it, with a satirical tone that makes for many a laugh as you progress. Our hero, Chichikov, enters the town with very little splash but soon makes up for it when he goes around paying his respect to the various key members of the town. The town and its people embrace him heartily and welcome him with love and affection, little do they know of the devious nature of our hero. Chichikov becomes one of theirs and he slowly reveals his real intention to visiting their town, which was to purchase dead souls. In old Russia, peasants were treated as souls who could be bought and sold and even mortgaged along with the land. This practice I believe, has been long abolished, but was still prevalent when Gogol wrote this book. What follows once our hero attempts to acquire these dead souls is a tale that reveals at once the fallacies of humans along with their naivete, the depths to which some would fall in their greed for making money, the ambiguous nature of laws prevalent in those days, the politics of the country and finally the vivacity of the Russian society. Under Gogol’s dexterous hands we are immediately drawn into the plot, which is tragi-comical in nature and which does not let go even at the end. Gogol’s wit is exquisite throughout this part, where he describes Russian society and the quirks of small town Russia. Every character, irrespective of how big or small his or her role is, is perfectly rounded and reflects the diverse types of people you would encounter if you were to travel around Russia. And for that matter, why only Russia, am sure you would encounter such people everywhere in the world, except for the fact that instead of vodka and zakuskis you would find something else that binds them together. The entire first part of this book is definitely a laugh riot, where you travel throughout this unnamed town and meet its various characters through the eyes of our hero whilst also being witness to their reaction once they learn about the real intentions of our hero’s visit to their town. The second part, which unfortunately has many pages missing, is written quite differently by Gogol. Where satire marked the entire first part, this one is less satirical and more honest and rich in its descriptions of the Russian countryside. Gogol, in this part, has tried to create a vivid picture, “Like the gigantic rampart of some endless fortress, with angle towers and embrasures, the hill heights ran their winding way for a thousand versts and more. Majestically they soared above the endless stretches of plains, now in escarpments, sheer walls of lime and clay fretted by gullies and cavities, now in gracefully rounded green swellings cloaked in lambskin like young brushwood springing from the felled trees, now, finally in dark thickets of woodland, so far spared the axe by some miracle. A river, true to its banks, now followed them in turns and twists, now left them for the meadows, then, bending itself into several bends, flashed fire like in the sun, hid itself in groves of birch, aspen and alder, and ran forth from them in triumph, attended by bridges, mills and weirs, which seemed to chase after it at every turn.” And the pictures don’t end there but go on to describing the lands of the various landowners whilst also describing the landowners themselves, all vying with each other to present a picture that is at once radiant and beautiful. Chichikov, as is his due, meets with a variety of landowners in this part as well. His character gets more rounded as we go through the story and we can see his thoughts getting more definition and his acts becoming more brazen. However, before we can truly sink into this, we are abruptly asked to move onto the third part. The third part is more of a concluding chapter that was written based on the guidelines that were found for taking the story forward. Therefore, while this part can be called a part where the hero seeks redemption for all his sins, it is too jumpy a text for us to truly make out whether the hero truly sought redemption or does his behavior change momentarily because of the circumstances that he found himself in. However, even though it is mere points and guidelines, you still see the strength of Gogol’s vision for his hero, for humanity and the beauty of his words stand strong. The turn of mind towards Christianity that was forged during the years when he wrote, burned, rewrote the second and third part can be seen strongly through his language, ideas and choice of words. It was a different Gogol who wrote it. Was he a better Gogol? One cannot say as one doesn’t have the full facts to look at but what one cannot do is ignore it. What you cannot do is deny the intelligence of that mind and his far reaching, often visionary thoughts. In short, irrespective of whether the book has a full second and third part or not, its brilliance is such that you cannot deny it. This book contains all that you can ever encounter, whether it is the depths of their depravity or the heights of their innocence, their insouciance and laissez faire attitude in some areas or their involvement and their propensity for gossip in other areas; you come across all this and more when reading this poem. No subject is taboo for Gogol, be it religion, philosophy, government practices, politics, crime and just about anything is present here and is available in a form that hits hard, even when you don’t want it to and you cannot deny its relevance even in today's world. The overt and subtle sarcasm that fills this book makes you think and feel all those things that are usually left best swept under the carpet, to be looked at some other day, a day which hopefully never arrives. You feel honour bound to hate Chichikov and ridicule most of the characters in this book and feel like telling the author that he has created something that doesn’t exist, and yet you cannot do that for the author presupposes this reaction of yours and deals with it in such a manner that doing so would make you look ridiculous, especially when the author forces you to ask yourself, “And isn’t there something of Chichikov in me too?” Chichikov and his travels around Russia, in his britska, stay with you even after you finish the book, and you can’t help but raise a silent toast to the master writer and acknowledge the truth, concerning humanity, concerning yourself, even if it is only silently and in your mind, for you have not the strength yet to speak out loud.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    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'fiveThe 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!" --and-- “However stupid a fool's words may be, they are sometimes enough to confound an intelligent man.” --and-- “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! This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Max

    An entertaining satire published in 1842 but with flippant style that seems much more modern. Bureaucratic inept government and pompous neurotic gentry get scathing treatment. For example after a huge dinner at a noble’s estate, “…the master of the house had settled himself into his…armchair that would have held four, he dropped asleep. His corpulent person was transformed into a blacksmith’s bellows; from his open mouth and from his nose he began to emit sounds as are not found in even the newe An entertaining satire published in 1842 but with flippant style that seems much more modern. Bureaucratic inept government and pompous neurotic gentry get scathing treatment. For example after a huge dinner at a noble’s estate, “…the master of the house had settled himself into his…armchair that would have held four, he dropped asleep. His corpulent person was transformed into a blacksmith’s bellows; from his open mouth and from his nose he began to emit sounds as are not found in even the newest music. All instruments were represented, the drum, the flute, and a strange abrupt note, like the yap of a dog.” From a historical perspective, Gogol’s depiction of the Russian countryside, the people, their relationships and living conditions is fascinating. You feel like you are there, seeing everything contemporaneously with the characters. Recommended for a light and enjoyable journey into mid-19th century Russia with an amiable huckster.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    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 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. Viva Gogol! Viva lit!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tej

    Almost, one and a three quarters of a century ago, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol-Yanovsky or simply, Gogol, himself lend words to the cries of dissent against the likes of him, “Don’t we ourselves know that there’s much in life that’s contemptible and stupid? As it is, we often have occasion to see things that are far from comforting. Better that you show us what’s beautiful and distracting. Better that we should forget ourselves!” That very arrogance and contempt has rocketed far beyond, eulogizing/>“Don’t Almost, one and a three quarters of a century ago, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol-Yanovsky or simply, Gogol, himself lend words to the cries of dissent against the likes of him, “Don’t we ourselves know that there’s much in life that’s contemptible and stupid? As it is, we often have occasion to see things that are far from comforting. Better that you show us what’s beautiful and distracting. Better that we should forget ourselves!” That very arrogance and contempt has rocketed far beyond, eulogizing all that is trash and sadly, maybe for the very reason that it is trash. The measure of cinema, at least here in my part of the world is by the millions that it rakes in irrespective of the nature of content, millions are proportional to the trash really or there is that noise which must be called music, not to mention the TV. We all are a part of that and beyond a point not willful perpetrators but just so hard pressed by life that there is little or no time to bother. It struck me the most, Gogol’s desire to produce something of significance, with a potential inclination towards inculcating the seeds of change among the individuals, indirectly goading and exhorting them and to somehow impact positively their lives and times. His self-assessed inability to achieve that coveted goal in writing, to an extent, led him to inflict self-damage by starvation and ultimate demise not to mention the burnings he carried out of his manuscript more than once. The first part of ‘Dead Souls’ leaves you most pleasantly dumbfounded and marveling at the precocious genius of this artist who paints human beings in prose, smiling and even positively laughing alone along with him and then, the second part of the same, incomplete and inconclusive, concluded his life journey quite literally. You wonder, why not just to continue writing with the kind of talent you were bestowed with? But then that is you talking in 2013 where ‘callings’ and ‘inner-voices’ are the last things to determine what and when you do what. Sadly I got to read Gogol saying this, “God had taken away ‘for a long time my ability to create’, as a result of which ‘I have tormented myself, forced myself to write, suffered painfully at the spectacle of my impotence, and several times have made myself ill with the strain and have been unable to accomplish anything, and everything has come out forced and bad.’ ” Pavel Ivanovich ‘Chichikov’, our heroic anti-hero cajoles us to accompany him, on pretty much aimless travels he has undertaken only driven by a supposedly ingenious yet untested and unproven idea of taking advantage of a loophole in the system, which putatively shall translate into real capital and a consequent plum life for his self. He is in fact on the mission to swindle bounty out of the system, keeping low and warding of the reach of law till he attains an un-approachable respectability in the society. He has the gumption to enshroud this trickery in a veil of un-burdening the prospective clients of the burden of ‘dead souls’ or the dead serfs, the tax one is obliged to pay because these serfs are counted as alive on the rolls with no chance of them being ticked of as dead until the subsequent census. He offers to even pay for them, peanuts that is, an item that exists only in thin air and aspires to mortgage them as real serfs while becoming a land-owner himself. Armed with an utterly ingratiating and ‘toady’ character, he ventures thus on his endeavours, “My life can be likened, as it were, to a barque amid the waves, Your Excellency. I was swaddled, and one could say, wrapped in forbearance, myself being, so to speak, forbearance itself.” ………. “Somehow the new arrival was never at a loss for anything, and he came across as an experienced man of the world. Whatever the topic of conversation, he always knew how to hold up his end: if the talk was of stud farm, he too would talk of stud farms; if people were chatting of fine dogs, here too he would venture some very sensible observations; if the matter under consideration touched upon an investigation being conducted by the fiscal chamber, he showed that he was not ignorant of judicial hanky-panky; if the discussion turned to billiards, he didn’t let his end down when it came to billiards either; if people were talking about virtue, then he could discourse on virtue very well too, and even with tears in his eyes; if about the distilling of spirits, then he knew a lot about spirits as well; if about custom inspectors and officials, then he could also expiate on them as if he himself had been both an official and an inspector.” The rustic humor of the plot, in the dexterous hands of Gogol, is plied into a tragi-comic satire, one that embraces tightly, ingrained with a power to land hard blows with laughter. Gogol himself appears during the course of narration, monologues and casual talks flow, all of which happens in the ‘meanwhile’ in real time that is, which makes the text delightful. So much so, that even the carriage horses have their say at times. “With us it’s different: we have men so wise that with a landowner who has two hundred souls they will speak in an altogether different way than with one who has three hundred, and with one who has three hundred they will, again, speak otherwise than with one who has five hundred, and with one who has five hundred, again it will be otherwise than with one who has eight hundred; in a word, you can get upto a million, and shadings will still be found.” And then there is this landowner Chichikov meets in his quest to secure ‘dead souls’ whom he ends up describing thus, “His smile was alluring, his hair blond and his eyes light blue. In the first moment of conversation with him, you could not help but say, ‘What a pleasant and kind hearted man!’ The second moment you would say nothing, and the third you would say, ‘The devil only knows what sort of man he is!’ and you would move as far away from him as you could; if you didn’t move away, you would experience a feeling of deadly boredom.” Observing another lady in one of the landowner’s house, he goes ahead with, “And in boarding schools, as we know, three main subjects constitute the foundation of human virtues: the French language, which is indispensable for a happy family life; the piano, for affording one’s spouse some pleasant moments; and finally, in the specifically homemaking skills, the knitting of purses and other surprises.” Oscar Wilde famously said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you” and Gogol epitomized that perfectly in trying to use comedy as a means towards perfecting individuals, one at a time with an ultimate aim to let that percolate and spread inside the entrails of the country, hopefully enlightening it as a whole. This contrasted starkly with the radicals trying to improve through systemic changes in social structures and government systems. So glaringly, this is the way to go even today and the need all the more acute. Flowing descriptions of the pulchritude of Russian countryside, adorn the second part where Gogol wields a different quill albeit without giving up his knack of humor a wee bit. At times the brilliance is much more vivid and writing candid here than the first part even but only to be rudely reminded of its incompleteness and then it strikes as a disjointed piece on the whole. Perhaps to achieve perspicacity, he forays into the uncharted and flounders, dabbling with morality here and sermons there which do not quite gel with the tone and tenor hitherto attained and that is tragic. “Like a tsar on the day of his solemn coronation, he was all aglow and it seemed as if rays of light were streaming from his face. Why, nowhere in the whole world will you find a delight to equal that. It’s precisely here that man imitates God. God reserved to himself the business of creation, as a delight second to none, and he demands of man that he too, in like measure, be the creator of prosperity all around him. And they call this boring work!” ...... “Yes, nature loves patience, and this is a law given it by God himself, who smiles on those who are patient.” (Reminds of Tolstoy) In the final sections, which happen so strangely suddenly, if one is not aware of the fate of this text and its creator, one, to say the least can be left utterly dumbfounded. “….. Why such a fate? Why such blows? Was my life not like a barque amid the waves even without all that? Where is the justice of the heavens? Where is the reward for patience, for exemplary perseverance?” ……. “I can see, I can sense….. That the life I’m leading is not right, but I fell no great revulsion towards vice; my nature has grown coarse. I have no love for the good, for that beautiful inclination for doing deeds that are pleasing to God, which becomes second nature, habit.” ……. “The dishonest business of taking bribes has become a necessity and a need even for those who were certainly not born to be dishonest. I know by now it is almost impossible for many people to swim against the current.” My own naiveté as regards this work receded only gradually after the reading culminated and shoved me into an earnest quest to know the man himself. My only claims as to the knowledge of this work were cursory references of Dostoevsky and the likes, and I somehow expected it to be miles away from humour let alone comedy forming heart of the matter. I did not know what to expect and that was quite good actually. Gogol’s life and times are enshrouded in dense fog with only his prolific letter writing providing a glimpse into the man and the artist that he was. Pushkin, evidently regarded as a mentor of had a famous falling apart and the two did not talk until Pushkin died in a duel. According to Gogol, it was Pushkin who visualized the ‘plot’ of Dead Souls and decided not to use it himself, encouraging him to amplify and deepen it. And Pushkin argued and coaxed him saying that it was just sinful not to do so, given the ability of Gogol to put his finger on a person and represent him fully as a human being in just a few strokes . Moreover he pushed him to emulate Cervantes, to rise above the scope of smaller works which he was currently writing and produce a work of the character and stature of Don Quixote while overcoming the shortcomings that his frail and capricious health represented. Later Gogol is believed to have said, “ ‘Service’ to Russia, he said, was his abiding concern, and to that end he ‘wanted to present in my work primarily those higher qualities of the Russian nature, which have not yet been justly appreciated by all, and primarily those lower qualities which have not yet been sufficiently ridiculed and dispelled by all’.” Gogol, right from the time of his first writings had a difficult time with criticism, burning text after text even only at slightest behest. His eccentricity and quirkiness culminated with his own life but it can be safely construed that in the present day and age, when goals are secondary, his prodigious precocity as a tragi-comic painter of realities of existence would have levitated him to precipitous heights. Even without that, his role and place in the echelons of Russian or even world writing traditions is incontrovertible, the evidences are replete in Tolstoy, Gorky or Dostoevsky and even Chekhov, who became who they did because he had been…..

  19. 4 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    All stories, even those painted with the broadest strokes of realism are fairy tales. Some, however, are more fantastical than others and none more so than the phantasmagoria of Gogol’s fiction; characters with pumpkin shaped heads and preposterous dialogues, all of this is part of the magic of Gogol’s fiction, of his unique, surreal style. Gogol should not be read to gain an insight of human psychology; his weird and wonderful cast of characters are cardboard cut-outs, unintentional caricatures All stories, even those painted with the broadest strokes of realism are fairy tales. Some, however, are more fantastical than others and none more so than the phantasmagoria of Gogol’s fiction; characters with pumpkin shaped heads and preposterous dialogues, all of this is part of the magic of Gogol’s fiction, of his unique, surreal style. Gogol should not be read to gain an insight of human psychology; his weird and wonderful cast of characters are cardboard cut-outs, unintentional caricatures of Gogol’s neurotic social interactions. Instead Gogol should be read for the originality of his style, the long, fantastical metaphors and non-sequiturs, the random occurrences and divergences which constantly crop up. As Nabokov writes, Gogol was one of the first writers to rescue Russian literature from collective purblindness and along with the rambling metaphors, the colourful portraits of the Russian countryside with punctuate the novel are some of it’s most delightful passages, however Gogol’s most poetic descriptions are punctuated with a macabre beauty” ; “The united tops of trees that had grown wide in liberty spread above the skyline in masses of green clouds and irregular domes of tremulous leafage. The colossal white trunk of a birch-tree deprived of its top, which had been broken off by some gale or thunderbolt, rose out of these dense green masses and disclosed its rotund smoothness in midair, like a well proportioned column of sparkling marble; the oblique, sharply pointed fracture in which, instead of a capital, it terminated above, showed black against its snowy whiteness like some kind of headpiece or a dark bird…here and there the green thicket broke asunder in a blaze of sunshine and showed a deep unlighted recess in between, similarto dark gaping jaws; this vista was all shrouded in shadow and all one could discern in its black depth was: the course of a narrow footpath, a crumbling balustrade, a toppling summer-house, the hollow trunk of a decrepit willow, a thick growth of hoary sedge bristling out from behind it, an intercrossment and tangle of twigs and leaves that had lost their sap in this impenetrable wildwood…” Dead Souls follows the story of the garrulous philistine Chichikov and his inane-and ultimately banal-quest to purchase dead peasants from land-owners in order to become rich. Chichikov is a unique combination of superciliousness and ineptness; he constantly bumbles and fumbles his way through life, committing blunder after blunder, both social and financial, he is like a ghoulish version of the hapless failures who populate Chekhov’s novels, or the neurotic of Dostoevsky. However, the reader should reflect that both Chichikov and the secondary characters who populate the novel are fundamentally different facets of Gogol’s neurotic personality, they are not ‘people’ in the traditional sense, but more ghouls who haunt Gogol’s nightmarish world, delighting the reader with their weird and wonderful behaviours.

  20. 4 out of 5

    [P]

    For my review of Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet I asked you to imagine that someone has given you a beautiful old watch, a gift with a catch, which is that it unfortunately does not work, is not, somehow, whole. Would you, in this situation, feel aggrieved, because the watch is not all that it could have been? Or are you happy to have it as it is, opining that you have gained something, rather than lost out, because you cannot lose something that never was [the watch had never and could For my review of Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet I asked you to imagine that someone has given you a beautiful old watch, a gift with a catch, which is that it unfortunately does not work, is not, somehow, whole. Would you, in this situation, feel aggrieved, because the watch is not all that it could have been? Or are you happy to have it as it is, opining that you have gained something, rather than lost out, because you cannot lose something that never was [the watch had never and could never work]? The answer to this question would, I thought, not only tell you about your approach to watches but also reflect how you would feel about unfinished novels. I often see, as I meander around the internet, reviews and articles bemoaning the incomplete, the not-fully-unrealised. Books like The Castle, for example, or The Man Without Qualities, or The Good Soldier Svejk, or Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls. For a certain type of reader, these books are frustrating, unacceptably flawed; some even claim that they ought to be avoided altogether. Obviously, this is not an opinion I share. To return to my watch analogy, I am of the latter sort; I am happy to have these novels in their imperfect state, to take them on face value. A beautiful watch is still a beautiful watch even if it cannot tell the time. Indeed, I tend to find these incomplete, sometimes unedited, narratives charming, like a beautiful girl with a lisp. In terms of Dead Souls, what we have available to us is one complete volume and some bits and pieces of volume two. It is said that Gogol intended to write three volumes in all, but burned much of what he wrote after the publication of the first and then upped and died before he could put anything together that he was satisfied with. However, what is unusual about the book under review here is that volume one was finished, and is able to stand alone, so that if you were to read it without any knowledge of the intention to compose further volumes you would not feel as though you had been short-changed. In fact, I am not sure why publishers have taken to including volume two at all. It has, in my opinion, done much to compromise the reputation of the book, not because it is bad per se, in fact I like it rather more than most do, but because it feels tacked on. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the author had become a pious, ascetic man, and, as a result, his work was increasingly dogmatic and didactic; and so much of the zany playfulness and charm [which Gogol thought sinful] had been sucked out of the narrative. I should point out, then, before we continue, that this review is, in the main, only concerned with volume one. [Gogol Burning the Manuscript of the Second Part of Dead Souls by Ilya Repin] As the book begins, a britzka rolls into town, carrying within it a stranger, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, and his two lackeys. Gogol is keen to stress Chichikov’s ordinariness; he is, he writes, neither fat nor thin, neither attractive nor ugly. He is, then, on the surface, a middling sort, who, moreover, appears to have no discernible personality of his own. For example, when he has dinner with the landowner Manilov, who is emotional and over-friendly, Chichikov attempts to fall in with him, to mimic his behaviour and attitudes. One could, of course, interpret this ingratiating approach as a desire to be liked, but it quickly becomes apparent that our hero has a different aim in mind. This aim, this plan, is what gives the novel that evocative title [and what a title it is, by the way!], for Chichikov is intent on buying up, or being made a gift of, all the town’s dead souls or serfs. It is not until the end of volume one that it is revealed why he wants, or what he intends to do with the rights to the deceased serfs. He tells Nozdryov, another landowner, that he desires them in order to give the impression of wealth, and so to elevate his status in society, but he indicates, in his thoughts, that this was a lie. In any case, there is no doubt that he is up to no good [variations on the exclamation ‘what the Devil’ are frequently uttered throughout the text, which is clearly significant, for only the Devil ought to trade in souls] and that, far from being an ordinary man, Chichikov is actually an arch manipulator, who disdains the people who he is attempting to deal with. In light of this, it might be tempting to view Dead Souls as a kind of morality tale, wherein a bunch of unfortunate people are duped out of their property, or as a warning along the lines of: Be careful, good people, of strangers! Yet this would be a rather simplistic, or superficial, interpretation, because none of the landowners or townspeople are particularly sympathetic figures [except perhaps Manilov]; indeed, they are far less sympathetic than Chichikov himself. The more characters that are introduced the clearer it becomes that Gogol is poking fun at various Russian types and sections of society. Each of the people Chichikov encounters on his quest to buy up dead souls is a one-dimensional satirical portrait; for example, Plyushkin is a miser, Manilov a sentimental fool, Nozdryov a hedonist and bounder, the women are gossips, and so on. However, if this is all the book had to offer it would be funny, certainly, but would not be the great masterpiece that I believe it to be. What gives Dead Souls its depth, and the satire more of a sting, is how it engages with questions and issues concerning masters and slaves, poverty and wealth, power and corruption. To get to the heart of all this one must return to Chichikov’s scam: he is buying up souls from wealthy landowners; they are dead, of course, but still the two parties are engaged in a kind of slave trade. In Russia at the time, muzhiks, deceased or otherwise, were available for purchase and resettlement; souls or serfs were, therefore, in bondage, they were not free. If you are not free, you have, in a way, ceased to be human, or you are at least not being treated as such. I cannot say myself whether is was the case, but I have read that Gogol was not necessarily against serfdom, and certainly volume two [which speaks about responsibility towards one’s serfs] appears to back that up; and so one must be careful not to proclaim Dead Souls as being a total condemnation, but it is unarguable that its author was in sympathy with the poor. For example, there is a important, almost moving, passage in the novel when Chichikov is studying the names of the people he has acquired, and for the first time he starts to wonder who they were, how they lived and how they died; they are in this moment humanised. “When he looked at those sheets of paper, at the muzhiks who had in fact once been muzhiks, who had worked, ploughed, got drunk, driven wagons, deceived their masters, or maybe had simply been good muzhiks, he was possessed by a strange feeling that he himself did not understand.” Then there is the story of Captain Kopeykin, a wounded military man who seeks a pension from the government, but is repeatedly turned away despite his dire straits and the services he rendered to his country. We are also told stories, or anecdotes, about cover-ups, and references are made to bribes amongst officials. The poor, it is only fair to point out, aren’t left completely alone, do not totally escape the author’s critical eye, for they drink and are sometimes violent, but all that is dealt with almost in passing; most of the novel is concerned with the greed and idiocy of landowners, officials and, in general, those with money and in powerful positions. You might also want to consider what Chichikov’s negotiations say about capitalism, or specifically the principle that everything has a price, that something is worth what a certain person is prepared to pay for it. More than once the hero finds himself haggling, even arguing, with landowners who do not want to part with their dead souls [even though they are costing them money] because they believe that if he wants them, then they must be worth something. For instance, when Chichikov says to Sobakevich that a dead soul is something that is not needed by anyone, he replies that, au contraire, you need them! And so attempts to squeeze as much money out of him as possible. Depending on your sense of humour, you will find the negotiations either hilarious or repetitive and tedious. I am one of the former. There is something, for me, extremely amusing about a man trying to buy an apparently useless object, something that doesn’t even truly exist [or exists only on paper]; his frustration when faced with the seller’s inability to grasp that he is not only giving them money, but relieving them of a financial burden [tax must be paid on the souls until the next census is completed], is particularly entertaining. “Manilov was pleased by these final words, but he still couldn’t make sense of the deal itself, and for want of an answer, he began sucking his clay pipe so hard that it started to wheeze like a bassoon. He seemed to be trying to extract from it an opinion about this unprecedented business; but the clay pipe only wheezed and said nothing.” While the idea behind the work is clever and satisfying, and one can make much of the social-political elements, the most appealing aspect of Dead Souls is the style with which Gogol pulls the whole thing off. It has become a kind of cliché that Russian novels are all narrated by idiotic, slightly mad, almost feverish, men. It is not true of course, but there are notable examples of this sort in the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky [Notes from Underground, Demons], Andrei Bely [Petersburg], and others. In any case, Nikolai Gogol could be said to have invented this archetype, or, even if he didn’t, he was certainly one of the first and most famous to make use of it, and one could argue that he did it better than anyone else. His authorial voice is giddy, highly strung, unpredictable, and frequently absurd. He often speaks to his reader, winks at him, plays up to him, resembling a kind of circus ringmaster who has had one or two vodkas too many. Like a runaway britzka, Gogol’s narrative is constantly veering off in unexpected directions. He will be discussing, say, Chichikov’s attempts to buy souls from Nozdryov, will compare the stance of Nozdryov to a certain kind of military man, and then spend a good few paragraphs describing the personality and behaviour of this imaginary military man, well beyond the original point of comparison; or Gogol will describe a certain type of face and then give a kind of backstory to the people who have this type of face. It really is magical the way that he does this; it gives the book an even more impressive depth, makes it feel as though it is teeming with personalities. Furthermore, his imagery, his metaphors are some of the finest in all literature, even in translation. Cockroaches are described as being like prunes; a row of cups are like a line of birds along a shore; and, one of my favourites, some people are said to be not objects themselves, but like the specks on objects. It is worth noting that the novel is subtitled A Poem, and this might seem like false advertising at first, for it is certainly written in prose. However, there are undeniably poetic elements, so much so, in fact, that the book reminded me most of all of Homer or Dante’s The Divine Comedy. There are […] [Here the review breaks off]

  21. 4 out of 5

    Parthiban Sekar

    What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:25) DEAD SOULS: A Poem This is not a new story which Gogol tries to say through his not good looking, but not uncomely in appearance either, not overly fat, not overly thin Hero Chichikov whose desire takes him in pursuit of buying dead souls from landowners affected by sickness, famine, and other misfortunes which may befall any man. But, the same old story being told time and again, only in different forms and What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:25) DEAD SOULS: A Poem This is not a new story which Gogol tries to say through his not good looking, but not uncomely in appearance either, not overly fat, not overly thin Hero Chichikov whose desire takes him in pursuit of buying dead souls from landowners affected by sickness, famine, and other misfortunes which may befall any man. But, the same old story being told time and again, only in different forms and with different faces and names, which tells about the fall of man who is predisposed to desire for more wealth by any means, direct or indirect. But, Our Hero’s (as Gogol calls him) intentions slightly unconventional… “Everything resembles the truth, everything can happen to a man.” Gogol put us in a bedraggled britzka along with our hero to see the serene beauty of Rus’ country side, ruined in some places because of lethargic landowners, drunken serfs, and embittered women. As the poplar trees gleefully wave, birch trees stubbornly stand and the rain occasionally interrupts the itinerary, his diminutive coachman takes us on the business of our hero to the secluded lands of various landowners who may be ennobled or corrupted or lackadaisical or reprehensible or rarely widowed. Their lands and serfs are as good as their owners are. The lands in the hands of the corrupted owner was so ruined that there was no hint of anything alive and everything was at a pitiful state which makes the ennobled owners bite their lips. While our hero is busy about his business, it is hard for someone not to fall in love with the vivid and eloquent, sometimes flowery, narrations of Gogol. Well, the legitimacy of our hero’s business is not indisputable, as it is mentioned already as unconventional. It cannot be refuted that there is a growing desire to acquire wealth behind his business visits. And at the same time, it can not be ignored that what our hero possesses is just as good as the dreams which any gentleman of his age might have: a flourishing land and a beautiful young wife. Can only the misfortunes make the man learn the lesson of abdicating frivolous dispositions in the hard way? When the very life of our hero was threatened and fortunately, somehow, saved, thanks to a virtuous liquor franchise, the desires he damned and disposed came back to him even before he was completely out of his misery. Such is the unfathomable nature of man. Yes! This great work of Gogol is incomplete. But, there is a beauty in it, and clarity. The very nature of country people thinking about leaving their homelands and vacuously dreaming about a lucrative life in the cities, without knowing that the real treasure is right under their feet and before their eyes, is vividly conveyed through his zany characters who would throw a dinner party even when his serfs are hungry for days. And this is where the story ends abruptly leaving us in such a surprising disappointment without knowing what the new interesting and virtuous characters would have to say and whether the brother of the new acquaintance would allow his brother on a trip with our hero and whether our hero would be freed from his unquenchable desire for lands and souls. If I am to summarize my understanding of the story so far in a line, it would be: “Keep not money, but keep good people's company.”

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Way ahead of its time, Dead Souls turned out to be everything I'd hoped, but still caught me a little by surprise as to just how funny it actually turned out to be. Blending realism and the picaresque, I read this when I went through a bit of an obsession for Russian literature. One could even argue Russian literature is the best literature, at least the older stuff anyway. The anti-hero Chichikov was a most memorable character, who simply travels around the Russian countryside buying up the dea Way ahead of its time, Dead Souls turned out to be everything I'd hoped, but still caught me a little by surprise as to just how funny it actually turned out to be. Blending realism and the picaresque, I read this when I went through a bit of an obsession for Russian literature. One could even argue Russian literature is the best literature, at least the older stuff anyway. The anti-hero Chichikov was a most memorable character, who simply travels around the Russian countryside buying up the dead souls of luckless peasants who were registered as alive at the last census but who have subsequently entered into the land of the dead. Chichikov, the naughty little schemer, plans to make tons of money out of this scam by defrauding the central government. He is charming, sociable, and very persuasive and bumps into all kinds of odd and eccentric landowners. Gogol's novel takes on a satirical element on the middle classes of the time, whilst his characterisation on human nature works a treat. Chichikov always seems to manage to get away with his outrageous antics by a hair's breadth, escaping just in time. Disappointingly It finishes mid sentence, which is a crying shame, and the final chapters are a tad anti climatic, after the interesting story appeared to be leading to a grand conclusion. Dead Souls is still a marvellous classic novel. A playful romp that exceeded my expectations.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    As precedent#1 goes around shouting "I see dead people", it seems a great time to re-engage with this. This is an unfinished novel, however do not let that put you off, nosiree! This visit is via Librivox/youtube Wiki description: Dead Souls (Russian: Мёртвые души, Myórtvyjye dúshi) 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 masterfully As precedent#1 goes around shouting "I see dead people", it seems a great time to re-engage with this. This is an unfinished novel, however do not let that put you off, nosiree! This visit is via Librivox/youtube Wiki description: Dead Souls (Russian: Мёртвые ду́ши, Myórtvyjye dúshi) 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 masterfully portrayed those defects through Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov (the main character) and the people whom he encounters in his endeavours. 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. 5* Dead Souls 4* The Overcoat 4* The Nose 4* Diary of a Madman 4* The Inspector General 3* Taras Bulba 3* The Night Before Christmas

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tarun

    I read 'Dead Souls' more than a decade ago. This book is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of World Literature. Nothing I write here will ever do justice to this sublime work and its creator the inimitable Gogol.

  25. 5 out of 5

    James

    We can thank our lucky stars for writer's block, as we'd likely have set fire to the Dead Souls manuscript ourselves if Nikolai Gogol hadn't. Had he, overcome with religious fervor, forged ahead with his plan and complete this three-parter, separated into volumes each of crime, punishment, and redemption, and not starve himself to death, we might've had on our hands a literary misfire it seemed like he, previously so promising, wanted to unleash upon us expectant and unsuspecting masses. Fortuna We can thank our lucky stars for writer's block, as we'd likely have set fire to the Dead Souls manuscript ourselves if Nikolai Gogol hadn't. Had he, overcome with religious fervor, forged ahead with his plan and complete this three-parter, separated into volumes each of crime, punishment, and redemption, and not starve himself to death, we might've had on our hands a literary misfire it seemed like he, previously so promising, wanted to unleash upon us expectant and unsuspecting masses. Fortunate is everyone, then, that the first (and undeniably best) volume, where Dead Souls plays out its main story, can be taken as more or less self-contained. The second one, while still dazzling in places with great writing, sparkles less so than its predecessor not only because of disjointed chapters, missing words, and lost pages, but also because hints of a crazier and preachier Gogol, already exasperating his friends and fans in real life, start to emerge then in the text. In his later years, he had at one point consoled a critic who had recently lost his wife by this bit of classiness: "Jesus Christ will help you to become a gentleman, which you are neither by education or inclination—she is speaking through me." Another instance: Gogol advised in letters to his readers that "[t]he peasant must not even know that there exist other books besides the Bible." Village priests, he recommended, should accompany them everywhere, and even be made their estate managers. Lovely! It's all a little odd and, considering the incense-smoky shrine to him I'd constructed in my mind after his short stories had so brain-tinglingly won me over, thoroughly disappointing. For all that, on the bright side, what Gogol lit on fire was at least none of the first volume, leading even Vladimir Nabokov to conclude, in his chapter of Lectures on Russian Literature on the author, that "[Gogol] was destroying the labor of long years" not to cleanse himself of the sins he thought his books were, but "because he finally realized that the completed book was untrue to his genius." After that, it's hard to be mad at the guy. Dead Souls is, give or take a few chapters, two-thirds finished. The occasional paragraph, as the pages dwindle nearer to the last, starts trailing off, ellipses replacing periods, with footnotes explaining that that part of the manuscript had been either torn off, burned away, or simply neglected because inspiration for Gogol had then not been forthcoming. The book wraps up in the middle of a character's speech. In the back of my mind did hover that suspicion, which later must've been totally forgotten because the abrupt ending startled me more than any ice-bucket challenge could have. What point could there be for anyone to invest their time in an unfinished work? That strange, self-flagellating class of completists, into which I was dragged screaming and crying from the womb, may answer that question with scandalized looks and resharpened pitchforks. Here's where that forgetfulness so habitual in me came in super-handy: by the time the wispy feeling that things were amiss gained solid form, I was already nose-deep in the thing and left no choice but to, as was already in my nature, push on and knock out the remaining percentages. At that point, whatever the book was, be it a satirical piece, historical-fictional work, or philosophical reflection, I was already thirsty for more. Gogol had me hook, line, and sinker, and all it took was the right combination of unpredictability and creativity to reel me in. "[Gogol], where are you racing to? Give answer! [He] gives no answer... the air rumbles, shattered to pieces, and turns to wind; everything on earth flies by, and, looking askance, other [readers] and [writers] step aside to make way." (Replace the subject, and re-adjust the subsequent changed words accordingly, with Russia, and you'll get part of the gist of what Gogol hoped to say with Dead Souls: that Russia is great, for one, or that it could be. Rather than overbearing, the dedication slots in so naturally alongside the story that both strengthen each other.) In yet another knock-out translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (the last time I'll mention them, honestly, as it should be apparent by now that, where Russian literature matters, my policy is Pevear-Volokhonsky or bust), Gogol puts together a tale of corruption, greed, paranoia, and whatnot—the usual suspects. Chichikov, fat, middle-aged, and charismatic, rides into a town in a britzka one day looking to buy up what are called "dead souls," that is, dead servants who are still taxed as if they were alive because the census hasn't been updated yet. Landowners, Chichikov assumes, would eagerly get rid of such tax burdens, though there's an uphill battle ahead of him: they soon enough sign away their dead weights, but because Chichikov prefers the real reason for his wanting dead souls be kept secret, and because the practice is unprecedented, most of the landowners, each more scene-stealing and absurd than the last, doesn't make the task easy for our "hero." If superstition doesn't stymie his efforts, then either cutthroat business sense or good, old-fashioned suspicion would step in and upset his plans, causing me no end of schadenfreude. Yes, Chichikov has place of honor here as Dead Souls' protagonist, but it's shortly revealed that, really, he's a rainbow of jerk, brought up with dubious morals and self-serving in ways few would expect protagonists of books written in Gogol's time and place to be. The man himself, in one of his many pop-in appearances inside the text, acknowledges that because "the virtuous man has been so worn out that there is not even the ghost of any virtue left in him," it is high "time finally to hitch up a scoundrel" for us readers who "fear the deeply penetrating gaze" and "would prefer not to see human poverty revealed." But speak for yourself, Gogol, as in this day and age, bring on the gloomy truth and color none of it with bright, cheery paints. Ours is a happily cynical generation whose skin crackles and pops, like vampires' in the sun and bacon in the pan, when in proximity with disingenuously optimistic books and their sugary characters. Here, Gogol's characters, Chichikov most of all, are spared none of the harsh spotlight the author indiscriminately aims at them to reveal the ugly pockmarks of their worst traits and truest intentions. The landowners and town officials, from brownnosing Manilov, paranoid Korobochka, and lying Nozdryov to disillusioned Tentetnikov, incompetent Khlobuev, and bureaucratic Koshkarev—not to mention still more characters thrown at you from the myriad and tortuous metaphors only to be snatched away, their purpose served, in the next instant—are lightnings Gogol coaxes towards Dead Souls to electrify it into dancing, buzzing life. And in the center of all that stands Chichikov, whose picaresque antics had me cheering when he got stonewalled and impressed when he outdid himself yet again when it comes to lack of tact—the proper thing to do, dude, when a landowner has suffered a misfortune and lost their serfs is, as opposed to your knee-jerk reaction, not to look so happy about it in front of them. Dead Souls is not immune to slow spots, to be frank, especially where Gogol panders to his dendrological demographic and describes trees in exhaustive detail, though they can be forgiven because they're also brain candy for those who are equally aroused by well-done writing. Even without that, the giant question mark blocking from view the answer to what the dealio was up with Chichikov and his purchased nothings served well enough as the carrot dangling in front of me and powering my progress. "What was this riddle, indeed, what was this riddle of the dead souls? There was no logic whatsoever in dead souls. Why buy dead souls?" Cue petulant foot-stomping. So follows about fifty more questions from the various irritated town inhabitants expressing the same frustrated confusion readers at that point would be feeling. The mystery is fun to poke at and theorize about, but its significance feels tangential: Gogol appears more concerned with capturing that quintessential Russian spirit, not excluding even the pussy zits and bulby warts, encompassing everything from the natural beauty of the countryside and the cool hustle-bustle of industrial living to the quick and piercing wit of its people and their casual and unthinking prejudices. Sexism, ageism, and anti-Semitism are worn on everyone's sleeves. On the country itself, the book points out what we're all thinking: it's "poor, scattered, and comfortless," and "there['s] nothing to seduce or enchant the eye." Look at the majesty of London, the splendor of Paris, and the art of Rome, and what is there in Russia that can be submitted for consideration? Before anyone gives themselves a brain sprain in straining for an answer, Gogol presents his own as a series of striking questions: "But what inconceivable, mysterious force draws one to you?" "What calls, and weeps, and grips the heart?" "Is it not here that the mighty man is to be, where there is room for him to show himself and walk about?" Russia is self-explanatory. Like in his short stories, Gogol can't resist joining in on the action, dispersing writing advice and lamenting about his writerly lot in life on this page, raging against man's idiocy and championing the truth on that page. A lot of the times, it breaks up what could've been monotonous reading, and is all sorts of enlightening and entertaining to read besides. Then, before the page number started drawing my interest more than the book did, a timely sentence of the most pleasing creation and translation jumped out and hooked me back in anew. Dead Souls is even richer in comedy. Chichikov's interactions with the assorted landowners, plus his general shamelessness and amorality, are just up my alley which dead-baby and too-soon jokes, properly executed, have filled it with unexpected snorts. Running gags, too, fall under Gogol's area of easy expertise: "five or six pieces of soap for preserving the freshness of [Chichikov's] cheeks" and "his tailcoat of the flames and smoke of Navarino" are phrases I can't read anymore without breaking out into a grin. A joke that at first seems otherwise would run on for half a dozen pages before someone else interrupts it with the most brilliant of punchlines. A character who's a lawyer gives out legal advice that's illegal to implement. A game of checkers with a cheat goes pear-shaped. Hemorrhoids, for some reason, are constantly mentioned, sending me every time into a state of amused bafflement ("There's that word again.") Multiple times does Gogol emphasize the importance of truth that justifies the hardships writers are sure to face if they "[haven't] clouded people's eye... flattered them wondrously, concealing what is mournful in life, showing them a beautiful man," but boldly do the opposite and take a sledgehammer to their comfortable illusions. A shame he couldn't follow his own advice to the end.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    3.5 stars. I had my reservations about reading Dead Souls for years - the synopsis never had me sold really, but I know a couple of people who profess that this is one of their favourite books of all time, if not their number one favourite. So I finally picked this up on a buddy read, and I'm really glad I did! The story follows Chichikov, the anti-hero of the story, who attempts to cheat the system by buying up important landowner's 'dead souls', in order to make money off the government. And o 3.5 stars. I had my reservations about reading Dead Souls for years - the synopsis never had me sold really, but I know a couple of people who profess that this is one of their favourite books of all time, if not their number one favourite. So I finally picked this up on a buddy read, and I'm really glad I did! The story follows Chichikov, the anti-hero of the story, who attempts to cheat the system by buying up important landowner's 'dead souls', in order to make money off the government. And of course, things start to go awry with his crazy plan. I do sometimes struggle with the style of writing in Russian literature - from my experiences so far of reading various Russian authors, I always find that the author is very much present in the book, drawing attention to himself, and although that's amusing at times it does start to grate on me after a while. Sadly, this was the case with Dead Souls, and I can't say I'm a massive fan of Gogol's writing overall. However, there was a lot of humour to be found in the story - Chichikov's interactions with the various landowners he meets (all very different personalities) were genuinely surreal at times and laughable, and the dialogue was fun and full of personality. I also liked how you could begin to see Chichikov's inevitable downwards spiral, and it was mad to read. However, another main issue I had with this book was that it was unfinished. In the second section (which was the part that I enjoyed the most), much more frequently there would be sentences, pages, even whole chapters missing (as indicated by the translators), and it frustrated me. I wanted to know more, and I felt like I was missing out on massive parts of the plot, which ended up making the resolution of the story wrap up far too quickly for my liking. I kept feeling like I was missing some really stellar parts. Now this might not be an issue for most people, but it was an issue for me, so I couldn't for that reason rate it any more highly than I have. However, it was definitely worth a read, and I'm glad I finally decided to get to it because it was a fun experience and definitely not boring in the way I thought it would be!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Soycd

    “Countless as the sands of sea are human passions, and not all of them are alike, and all of them, base and noble alike, are at first obedient to man and only later on become his terrible masters.” Dead Souls follows the story of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, an ambitious and seemingly unscrupulous man who travels across Russia's countryside to buy dead serfs from landowners to relieve them from tax payment, making himself a wealthy man in the process. This novel has a slow start, with Chichikov re “Countless as the sands of sea are human passions, and not all of them are alike, and all of them, base and noble alike, are at first obedient to man and only later on become his terrible masters.” Dead Souls follows the story of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, an ambitious and seemingly unscrupulous man who travels across Russia's countryside to buy dead serfs from landowners to relieve them from tax payment, making himself a wealthy man in the process. This novel has a slow start, with Chichikov repeatedly visiting landowners and displaying his cunning ploy to achieve his goal, but soon the reader becomes witness of this book's greatest accomplishment: Gogol's vivid depiction of the daily life of Russian middle and lower classes of the time. The idiosyncrasy and yearnings of Russian men are masterfully portrayed in these pages. I came into this novel expecting a bleak and serious account of 19th-century Russia but instead I found a very creative and comical story. Gogol's humorous side really shines through at times. What transforms this story into a masterpiece is the perfect mix of those funny moments with the more serious digressions of the author where Gogol's love for Russia is made clear. Dead Souls is also a novel that warns about the dangers of living in greed and selfishness and a critique of bureaucracy. This book is a landmark of Russian literature and is usually regarded as Gogol's greatest artistic achievement. He was a great influence on other Russian writers like Nabokov and Dostoevsky. I can definitely see a little of him the latter, though not as humorous or lighthearted, Dostoevsky has taken a lot after him and you can appreciate a lot of similarities in their work. Gogol had a religious conversion in the last years of his life which led him to have a personal crisis during which he burned a part of the manuscript of this novel. This book remains unfinished and the second part is a little disjointed as a result but it is nevertheless a rewarding experience. It is my second book by Gogol after the short story The Overcoat and I think lovers of Russian literature will find something to appreciate in here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Simon A.

    I didn't enjoy this novel nearly as much as I enjoyed Gogol's short stories. A couple of things... 1. Several times throughout, the text breaks off and a line is inserted that reads something like, "and here there are many pages missing..." and then the story picks back up in the middle of nowhere again. I didn't know that going in and it was a little confusing. 2. The first 100 pages are very funny and highly engrossing. Starting on about 150 there begins the most monotono I didn't enjoy this novel nearly as much as I enjoyed Gogol's short stories. A couple of things... 1. Several times throughout, the text breaks off and a line is inserted that reads something like, "and here there are many pages missing..." and then the story picks back up in the middle of nowhere again. I didn't know that going in and it was a little confusing. 2. The first 100 pages are very funny and highly engrossing. Starting on about 150 there begins the most monotonous passages. All the background comes here. The next 100 pages are essentially one continuous paragraph (and quite nearly one continuous sentence.) I literally felt short of breath, trying to wade my way through. In these 100 pages you'll be lucky to find two small bits of fragmented dialogue and perhaps 10 paragraph indentations... aside from that, you're staring down the barrel at extremely dense blocks of text without any letup. The last 50 pages are great, but I nearly suffocated under the weight of the middle. I suggest reading his short stories. "The Nose," "The Overcoat" and "Diary of a Madman" are some of the most brilliant short stories I've ever read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I think this is one of the first truly existential books ever written. The protagonist literally combs the Russian countryside purchasing dead souls. It is eerie and yet deeply philosophical with a deep dark humour. You can imagine Gogol in a small izba drinking shot after shot of vodka as he pens this book in the dead of the frozen steppes night after night. It is a work of incredible imagination and power and an inspiration to a whole generation of Russian authors - not the least of which was I think this is one of the first truly existential books ever written. The protagonist literally combs the Russian countryside purchasing dead souls. It is eerie and yet deeply philosophical with a deep dark humour. You can imagine Gogol in a small izba drinking shot after shot of vodka as he pens this book in the dead of the frozen steppes night after night. It is a work of incredible imagination and power and an inspiration to a whole generation of Russian authors - not the least of which was Dostoyevsky.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    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.

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