Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

I finished this book in mid-November, but I'm currently chipping away at a six week lag between time of reading a book and time of blogging about it. Unfortunately, because of this book's location in the murky recesses of the foggy prehistoric past of my memory...I may have forgotten some of my initial impressions.

Dead Souls ends abruptly, Gogol having destroyed part of it shortly before his death. The plot follows the anti-hero Chichikov as he tries to increase his social standing in a cynical and unorthodox way, meeting caricatures of Russian peasant characters along the way. Having read several other Russian authors this year, I would say that Gogol fits comfortably among his peers in terms of style, character development and choice of subjects. In other words, the book's pretty Russian. I read the Constance Garnett translation and enjoyed it, although the choppy ending left me wondering about Gogol's intentions. Was he planning to make more revisions to the work? Gogol is well-loved by Russians as one of their country's best writers, but after taking several weeks to digest this novel, I've come to the conclusion that I need to read some of his other works in order to appreciate him better. Dead Souls alone is not enough to evoke the appreciation that Dostoevsky (my current favorite Russian author) has gained from me.

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