Synopses & Reviews
Dead Souls is one of the most unusual works of nineteenth-century fiction and a devastating satire on social hypocrisy. Chichikov, a mysterious stranger, arrives in a provincial town and visits a succession of landowners to make each a strange offer. He proposes to buy the names of dead serfs still registered on the census, saving their owners from paying tax on them, and to use these "souls" as collateral to reinvent himself as a gentleman. In this ebullient masterpiece, Gogol created a grotesque gallery of human types, from the bear-like Sobakevich to the insubstantial fool Manilov, and, above all, the devilish con man Chichikov.
'Gogol was a strange creature, but then genius is always strange. (Vladimir Nabokov) '
Although largely composed by Gogol during self-imposed exile in Italy in the late 1830s, this work remains perhaps the most essentially "Russian" of novels. The reader follows Chichikov, a dismissed civil servant turned confidence man, through the countryside in pursuit of his shady enterprise.
About the Author
Nikolai Gogol (1809 &1852) was born in Ukraine and left for St. Petersburg at the age of nineteen. From 1836 to 1848 he lived mainly in Rome, where he wrote Dead Souls. Robert A. Maguire is professor emeritus of Russian studies at Columbia University. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and several other awards for his studies and published works.