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July Books 5) Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol

— Я полагаю приобресть мертвых, которые, впрочем, значились бы по ревизии как живые, — сказал Чичиков.
'My intention is to obtain dead serfs, who, however, are indicated as alive in the census list,' said Chichikov.
Dead Souls is presented to the reader in a rather odd way. Supposedly it was intended to be a trilogy, of which the first book is complete and the parts of several chapters of the second were written; like The Castle, it ends in mid-sentence. I guess it's useful for completeness to have that material, but in fact the first book works perfectly well on its own: Chichikov, who is a right chancer, arrives in a small provincial town, and buys himself status by ostentatious expenditure and also by purchasing the "dead souls" of the title. Each of the chapters is an effective sketch of individuals in the town and nearby countryside, and the satirical descriptions of Chichikov's interactions with them. Gogol is puncturing respectable bubbles here, and holding a slightly distorting mirror up to the world. I have to say that, by modern standards of satire, it's all rather gentle, but I still found it pretty entertaining with hints of hidden depths.

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