Dead Souls, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


With an Introduction by Anthony Briggs. Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood. 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Fiction in translation
  • ISBN: 9781840226379

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I very much enjoyed this book. Gogol made me laugh out loud several times, and smile and chuckle on quite a few more occasions. His writing clearly demonstrates how intelligent and observant he was, along with his sharp wit. Gogol's style is very much his own, and I am eager to read more of his work.For some reason though, I had a very hard time getting sucked into this, even though I enjoyed it and never once thought anything truly negative about it. Hence my essentially leaving it aside for several months somewhat past the middle, before finally picking it back up and reading the last couple hundred pages. I really couldn't say why. I didn't find the pacing too slow, or really any fault with it. It just didn't grab me.That said, I would still highly recommend it to those who love a good classic. Even though it didn't grab me, it was surely an enjoyable read.