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Dead Souls (Wordsworth Classics) [Paperback]

Nikolai Gogol
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Jun 2010 Wordsworth Classics

Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood

This Wordsworth Edition includes an exclusive Introduction by Anthony Briggs.

Russia in the 1840s. There is a stranger in town, and he is behaving oddly. The unctuous Pavel Chichikov goes around the local estates buying up 'dead souls'.

These are the papers relating to serfs who have died since the last census, but who remain on the record and still attract a tax demand. Chichikov is willing to relieve their owners of the tax burden by buying the titles for a song. What he does not say is that he then proposes to take out a huge mortgage against these fictitious citizens and buy himself a nice estate in Eastern Russia. Will he get away with it? Who will rumble him? Does this narrative contain a deeper message about Russia itself or the spiritual health of humanity? There is much interest and some suspense in considering these issues, but the real pleasure of this story lies elsewhere. It is an enjoyable comic romp through a retarded part of a backward country, a picaresque series of grotesque portraits, situations and conversations described with Gogolian humour based mainly on hyperbole. This is, quite simply, the funniest book in the Russian language before the twentieth century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (15 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840226374
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840226379
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible translation. 26 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the other reviewer stated its so unbelievably badly translated that I can't get past page 5!

Don't buy this version. I find normally Russian_English translation is best done by Penguin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable picareque novel 22 Feb 2014
For many years, the idea of reading Dead Souls seemed like a forbidding prospect. I expected tom rather grim expose of Russian melancholy.

I finally got round to reading it because the subject matter, a man purchasing the identities of deceased serfs who are still recorded as being alive in order to obtain a huge mortgage, chimed with something I was dealing with at work.

The book is a comedy and there is no melancholy or tragedy. It is a picaresque comedy in which the hero, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov travels around rural Russia buying souls from various eccentric landowners. The pleasure of reading this is meeting these bizarre characters and also the hyperbolic use of language.

Gogol did not finish the novel and in in some ways it didn't quite hang together. There are many disparate characters and I confess that I was a bit confused at times. However, it remains an entertaining and often thoughtful read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius 7 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
First read this genuinely funny novel when my mam thrust it into my hands 45 years ago. Gogol's exploration of small minded people and the absurdity of of how open to manipulation we can all be is if anything more prescient today than when it was written. It is genuinely laugh out loud read: and I certainly didn't think 45 years ago that would apply to Russian novels.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very poor translation 18 May 2012
By Lubylu
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been really looking forward to reading this book, but the translation is so ungainly and written in such bad English (aren't translations supposed to be written by native speakers? This one doesn't seem to have been...) that I am going to buy the Penguin version instead. Here is an example of a particularly bad paragraph:
'As he drove into the courtyard, Chichikov perceived the host himself standing on the veranda, in a green shalloon coat, with his hand pressed to his brow, to form a screen for his eyes, in order that he might the better survey the approaching equipage. In proportion as the brichka approached the veranda, his eyes grew merrier, and his smile grew broader and broader.'
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