Reviews

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

vishers's review

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lighthearted slow-paced

3.75

fab72's review against another edition

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adventurous funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.25

crickets's review

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2.0

Another Gogol novel, as part of this year's attempt at reading more Russian literature (note that Gogol was a Ukranian-born Russian writer, though, so I am sure those influences are there as well).

Lots of satire, but far too long for me. Especially considering that Chichikov's plan
Spoiler, to buy dead serf's names from landlords and falsely inflate his own worth that way,
was clear from the beginning. Once that corruption becomes obvious, it is an exercise in watching this stranger trick various individuals with different stories, while knowing that it probably won't turn out the way Chichikov thinks it will.

binstonbirchill's review against another edition

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4.0

If you read books about Russia you come across the name Gogol quite frequently. With a name like Gogol, a title of Dead Souls and that exquisite mustache on the cover, I was always going to read this novel so I made a point of not finding out (or at least not remembering) anything at all about the plot or style of the book. That turned out to be an excellent decision, because when the plot was revealed I was completely taken by surprise. To anyone who feels like they might want to stop reading this review now so as to copy my method I highly recommend doing so. If you feel otherwise, carry on. Now, I don't do spoilers or even talk about the plot in my reviews at all but what I can say is that Gogol is a describer, he's also quite hilarious. He presents us with a huge cast like Dickens and also loves long sentences. He especially loves long paragraphs. I did tell you he was a describer. I tend to not be a big fan of the over descriptive authors but this was one that worked for me, partially because I am rather partial to Russian literature, and also because, as I said before, Gogol is quite hilarious. I have a feeling my co-workers are going to be called Korobochka relentlessly in the next few weeks, you have to read it to understand that one. I found the first half better than the second half, partially, possibly mostly because of the missing parts and well, the ending... I both hate and understand why authors do that. So in summation, read the book! It's a delight in human oddity and error.

bxlbooks91's review against another edition

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3.0

3,5*

kiriamarin's review against another edition

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Não é meu favorito em literatura russa mas o tom satírico é genial,bem escrito. A Rússia tem tantas semelhanças sociais com o o Brasil,presente e passado, de servos a escravos a burocracia mesquinha, a elite alienada e etc...

asluchevsky's review

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challenging slow-paced

2.0

mariya_ere's review

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medium-paced

4.0

cypherly__'s review against another edition

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mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.0

stoks's review

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adventurous challenging funny informative lighthearted reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

"I hate wasted potential, that stuff crushes your spirit
It really does, it crushes your soul"

This book infuriated me beyond human comprehension.

Written in 1942, it represents Nikolai Gogol's magnum opus, the only full length novel he ever released. The title, "Dead Souls" represents the serfdom in Imperial Russia, a disturbingly-close-to-slavery system, which saw entire villages being named after their owner and individual people being represented as "souls". It follows our protagonist, Chichikov, on a pursuit of obtaining the aforementioned dead souls - people who died in these villages, but are still accounted for taxation until the next census. The premise is absurd but relays the idea of this book perfectly - The absurdity of life in Russia and the system that pertains.  During his travels, he encounters a wide array of different landowners, each one being more farcical than the previous. There are people who greet him like their dearest friend, the ones who think that he’s scamming them and demand more money, ones who put him through unnecessary, corrupted legal process and somehow in all that mix, the ones who genuinely try to help him. I cannot stress how well it portrays the mentality of the people that we all encounter on a daily basis, 180 years later. His description of a corrupted courthouse and the characters who work there, feels like I’m entering any of the government building in my city.
All of this has become a staple for Gogol (Especially through The Government Inspector), but he finally shows why he inspired an entire generation of literary titans - the descriptions. Traveling from village to village, Chichikov witnesses many breathtaking landscapes and colorful characters, that Gogol paints with his pen, grandiose and detailed like no other. Every lonely tree in the field, a butterfly carelessly flying around, the gradient of the skyline over the mountains - They are all given equal care as the rest of the more story important details. The descriptions are so detailed and lengthy that at a certain point they became absurd like the rest of the book; He spends the first 20 pages the second part describing a beautiful mansion overlooking grand mountains and a dashing young man who enjoys the view every single morning, only to completely abandon his story 2 sentences later, and never mention him again. As a singular case, I can’t help but enjoy such a daring decision, but long term it  definitely would be overbearing.
And that’s where the problems begin.
Dead Souls were written in two parts, out of planned three. It was supposedly meant to be a trilogy, with each book referencing a different part of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Unfortunately, he started showing symptoms of schizophrenia late in life; That caused him to burn most of his manuscripts, blaming the devil for it and leaving us with an unfinished novel. The entire second part of this book is comprised out of unfinished sentences, major time skips and missing pages and an entire chapter just being named “Chapter”. That “Chapter” was added at the end of the novel, making absolutely no sense or connection to the former chapters and ending mid sentence, during a well written speech that felt crucial to the story. That whole ordeal leaves such a bad impression on a book that was impressive for the whole first part. I don’t know if this is the fault of a publisher or his personal demand to be released like this, but it’s definitely not the first time this happened (Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt).
In the end, this book was more enjoyable than it wasn’t. I think that his character writing, no matter how ridiculous they sounded, are unlike no other and that that the first part achieved what it meant to. However, the second part is unacceptable for such a great name like Nikolai Gogol. It infuriated me to the point that this review is more of a twitter rant than an actual review and that I probably skipped a lot of important keynotes I had. 
But thinking about it, I feel like it perfectly represents the mental state and the sheer chaos in Gogol’s life towards his untimely demise; A shell of a man, bearing a dead soul.