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A bizarre and fascinating journey across Russia,
This review is from: Dead Souls (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is a tale like no other, told in a funny and witty manner. It tells of a Russian man by the name of Chichikov (referred to by Gogol as "our hero"), who travels from place to place in Russia on the hunt of 'dead souls', meaning peasants who are dead but still on the census list. Superficially it is about Chichikov wanting to sell these and make a killing through this con, but there is so much hidden beneath this.
This book is ultimately about the diversity of human character and nature. As Chichikov journeys from estate to estate meeting a wide array of different people, you will come across the overwhelmingly eccentric, to the righteous and honest, to the lawless and deceiving. I like the way that Gogol finds it necessary to explain the background of many of the characters in some detail, in order for us to understand them better. I also like the way that he goes off on a tangent whenever he sees fit, and philosophizes about human nature and its absurdities.
There is much to learn about Russian culture of the time when it was set (19th century?), but there is also a huge amount which can be related to the way that we are today across the world. I found 'Dead Souls' to be a subtle masterpiece, that although was not a gripping book that could not be put down, was a pleasure to read.
** Note: I read the David Magarshack 60s translation which may have differed slightly to this.