Dead Souls

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Dead Souls

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1Sandydog1
kesäkuu 5, 2008, 10:30pm

I'm reading Gogol right now and am interested in hearing what others have to say about Dead Souls. Also, does anyone have sources of good blogs, literary criticism, etc?.

2twacorbies
kesäkuu 6, 2008, 12:17am

One of my favorite books. Nabokov had a lot to say about it, and his Lectures on Russian Literature is worth picking up for his comments on Gogol.

For now, here is a NYT article on Nabokov and Dead Souls.

3john257hopper
kesäkuu 6, 2008, 7:47am

I read Dead Souls very recently and enjoyed it, apart from a bit of a boring part about two thirds of the way through. Much of the dialogue with Chichikov trying to persuade the landowners to part with their dead serfs was very humorous, though of course a tragic comment on the attitude towards serfs at the time.

If someone brand new to 19th century Russian literature asked me for a starter recommendation, I would propose this and Tolstoy's short stories as tasters.

4shawnd
kesäkuu 11, 2008, 7:14am

I am a huge fan of Gogol. I am not a particular fan of Dead Souls, and I know I am not alone after having talks with others on this topic. It's a wonderful book, but in my opinion is one of the lesser works of Gogol.

5Sandydog1
kesäkuu 12, 2008, 9:19pm

Shawnd,

I'm fairly new to classics in general and Russian Lit in particular (I've read some Tolstoy and Dostoevsky). Anywhoo, what other works of Gogol can you recommend? My TBR pile is hovering around 200, but I'll ask anyway!

6shawnd
kesäkuu 19, 2008, 8:52am

Dear Sandydog1,
Thanks for asking. Unfortunately perhaps most of Gogol's work is short stories. I'd recommend reading as many of these as you can. Taras Bulba in my mind is indispensable, I am sure others would recommend other stories. One good long book with multiple stories would be good.

7Sandydog1
kesäkuu 25, 2008, 10:09pm

I just finished Dead Souls. It was ok, but clearly unfinished.

I enjoyed the background on the protagonist, provided at the end of the book.

Thanks so much for the suggestions.

8brian_james
lokakuu 1, 2008, 1:29pm

Dead Souls is hilarious and I love it. It's one of the best and funniest novels I've ever read, especially towards the end. Also, I somewhat disagree that it's "clearly unfinished..." for me the book peaked when Chichikov was just about to lose it all, started repenting, but when he got off the hook he just went back to business as usual (the scene with him putting his suit back on and looking in the mirror at himself). What an awesome book.

9brian_james
lokakuu 1, 2008, 1:30pm

Wait, I should recommend some other Gogol, shouldn't I?

Well, see if you can pick up a collection of his short stories. The Nose and The Overcoat are his strongest, in my opinion, and in that order.

10Steven_VI
lokakuu 2, 2008, 5:42pm

I can second #9 : I read The Nose and The Overcoat a few years ago and still think about them from time to time. This mostly means I'm still digesting the weirdness and the surprise (which is a good thing!) I read Dead Souls more recently, during my last Great Russians period, but even though I liked it it didn't grip me as much as I had expected. I read Lermontov's A hero of our time after that, which I liked more.

11Rubbah
marraskuu 9, 2008, 3:41pm

I really enjoyed dead souls, though there were sections that lost my interest. I've heard good things about the nose and so will try and read that when my TBR pile is smaller:)

12mark
marraskuu 9, 2008, 5:08pm

11 - The Nose is very good. I liked the first part of Dead Souls very much, but the second part not so much...

13kelt65
toukokuu 13, 2009, 1:32pm

Dead Souls is nice, but as far as Gogol goes, inferior. It is very funny in parts, but he was at his best writing very short pieces, not novels. His style is so florid and decorous it just doesn't work for anything over five thousand words. I recommend the short stories, and his masterpiece of a play, Revizor.

His earlier works demonstrate remarkable descriptive powers (Taras Bulba, The Sorcerer) but don't hold a candle to his later output.

14Ortolan
toukokuu 13, 2009, 5:50pm

Anyone familiar with the Shostkavich opera of "The Nose"? The Met's putting it on next season. I'd probably go, and will try to read the story first, if I can. Also any strong opinions about Gogol translators?

15almigwin
toukokuu 26, 2010, 8:41pm

Bernard Gilbert Guerney translated Dead Souls, and called it Chichikov's Journey. It was recommended to me by someone who knew Russian. I liked the translation, but not really better than the others.

Nabokov wrote a wonderful short biography of Gogol. It is worth looking for.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have translated some of the stories: some Ukrainian tales, and some of the city tales like the overcoat and the nose. It is called collected stories but it is not the complete set of stories. There is a paperback set of those in two volumes.

16dabbdc
syyskuu 13, 2010, 3:49am

Dead Souls stumbles around the point where the towns people turn against Chichikov. After we understand the basic premise of the book, at least in translation, the first few chapters suffice to give us the T-shirt.

For me, his story "Ivan Shponka and his Aunt" is among the best. It throws us off balance from the beginning and we never regain it. The conceit of the unfinished story adds to its appeal, as does the unreliable narrator. It is sublimely humorous without his usual mordant strain.

17LisaStens
syyskuu 13, 2010, 4:53pm

Taras Bulba is my favorite of his short stories, although there are several that I could recommend. I'll mention a couple that haven't been mentioned yet, The Diary of a Madman is quite entertaining and one I just read recently, The Squabble, was really fun. I agree with those that say Dead Souls wasn't his greatest work, there were parts of it I really loved and enjoyed but there were also sections where I just kind of zoned out, very uneven and then not much of a pay off at the end, you know, being incomplete and all.

18rocketjk
syyskuu 16, 2010, 11:23am

#9> "The Nose and The Overcoat are his strongest, in my opinion, and in that order."

Seconded with enthusiasm.

19languagehat
syyskuu 17, 2016, 10:36am

"Nabokov wrote a wonderful short biography of Gogol. It is worth looking for."

Yes indeed: Nikolai Gogol. Nabokov single-handedly created the critical climate in which Gogol could be appreciated properly in the English-speaking world (ironically, more so than in the Russian world, which was in thrall to the idiotic "realist" view of Gogol promoted by Belinsky and his successors).

"Dead Souls is nice, but as far as Gogol goes, inferior." "Dead Souls stumbles..."

Dead Souls does not stumble, and it is not in any sense inferior! People who feel that way do not understand what they are reading (hint: it is *not* a discussion of serfdom and Russian society!), and should read the Nabokov bio cited above. It is one of the great novels of all time.

"Taras Bulba in my mind is indispensable" "Taras Bulba is my favorite of his short stories"

Not this again! See my comments in this thread:
http://www.librarything.com/topic/58681
(Presumably LisaStens read an abridged version, since the original is far too long to be described as a "short story.")

20kaggsy
syyskuu 18, 2016, 12:58pm

Agree that the Nabokov book is excellent, as is Dead Souls - re-read it fairly recently and it has to be one of my favourite Russian books. Still not going to read Taras Bulba though..... :)

21vanjr
maaliskuu 5, 2019, 2:31pm

I recommend the 2 volume set of The Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol by University of Chicago Press, 1985

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