So we are left with part one, some bits of part two glgol an outline of the three part whole of the work, the rest having gone up in smoke. You submitted the following mmuertas and review. View all 32 comments. You might also like.

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Shelves: the-russians 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 governors 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 governors daughter? Did he want to make her a gift of these dead souls, or what? 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? If Chichikov showed up on my doorstep with a ridiculous request to buy my, obviously worthless or are they? 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. 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 and the eighth, taken in 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. 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. 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.

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! That means it is against serfdom. 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 and Cathartic in the moment, but what a hangover that must have left him with the next morning. It begins with Gogol buying up books of his published poetry, getting very drunk, and burning them in a fireplace. 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.

If he thought readers were harsh on books during his time, imagine what he would think of the readers on Goodreads today. It seems to be an arbitrary number, certainly negotiable, and believe me, these suspicious landowners are worried about being hoodwinked. 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. 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 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.


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