'Rus! Russ!...Everything within you is open, desolate, and flat; your squat towns barely protrude above the level of your wide plains, marking them like little dots, like specks; here is nothing to entice and fascinate the onlooker's gaze. Yet whence this unfathomable, uncanny force that draws me to you?'
Although Dead Souls (1842) was largely composed by Gogol during self-imposed exile in Italy in the late 1830s, his last work remains to this day the most essentially Russian of all the great novels in Russian literature. As we follow its hero Chichikov, a dismissed civil servant turned unscrupulous confidence man, about the Russian countryside in pursuit of his shady enterprise, there unfolds before us a gallery of characters worthy in comic range of Chaucer, Rabelais, Fielding and
Sterne. With its rich and ebullient language, ironic twists and startling juxtapositions, Dead Souls stands as one of the most dazzling and poetic masterpieces of the nineteenth century. This brilliant new translation by Christopher English is complemented by a superb introductory essay by the pre-eminent
Gogol scholar, Robert Maguire.
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