Dead Souls

A Baffling Masterpiece

By Nikolai Gogol
Translated By Bernard Guilbert Guerney
Russian, 1842
Historical Fiction, Existential, Satiric, Dark Comedy

Main Attractions

Bernard Guilbert Guerney Translation1.  Unpredictable events  
2.  Laugh out loud dialogue
3.  Dark humour 
4.  In Depth Portrait of Rural Russia
5.  Raises Many Interesting Questions
6.  Quirky Cast of Characters
7.  Explains so Many Cultural Norms
8.  Touches on Russian Language
9.  Baffling Ending.. But a Good One.
10.  An Unfinished Masterpiece

Video Postcard

Cuisine & Delicacies
Ranked as: Lasagna or Hearty Casserole
This book has more in common with Crime & Punishment than with We.  Meaning that it’s more saucy and thought provoking than it is mysterious and baffling.  Don’t get me wrong, this book has more than it’s share of baffling, confusing content.  But there is just so much good stuff to chew on!  I’m still pondering and chuckling at that chess scene!  I’m left with more stuff to happily mull over than with unanswered questions.    

Why Visit Here

Gogol is one of Russian Lit’s foundational writers.  The coolest feature, he’s not even Russian!  He gives us insight into what a Ukrainian protagonist can offer the Russian literary world.  He inspired Dostoevsky, a pinnacle grandmaster of Russian Lit.  

He also was a hero for Bulgakov, the Satirical King of Russian Lit, whose heritage is disputed between Russia & Ukraine.  Gogol can begin the conversation of what’s the difference between Russian and Ukrainian writers?  Should they be considered more different than similar?  So many traditions and histories are shared between these nations.  That it’s difficult to keep their influences separate from each other. 

Destination Summary

An old wagon pulls up to the countryside house.  He’s on a journey to purchase as many dead souls as he can.  He wants the souls only and barters for them in any way necessary.  In part 2, he returns to the city with his purchased souls.

Off the Beaten Path

30 minute instrumental interpretation of Gogol’s works by Alfred Schnittke Very thematic and bang on!

Travel Advisory

This book is Gogol’s unfinished masterpiece.  The 1st half reads like a well planned out novel.  The 2nd half suddenly changes in the way the story is told.  Dead Souls was a planned modern retelling of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  The Inferno was to be Part 1, Pergatorio was the incomplete part 2 and he never started Paradiso.  Dead Souls isn’t overtly religious in nature, it does have a dark feel to it where even insects play a roll in the narrative.  Finished or not, it’s still a great read for anyone interested in the concept of soul ownership.

Packing List

✓ Some of Gogol’s Short Stories
✓ An Old Horse Drawn Wagon
✓ A Cricket Imprisoned in a Jar

Recommended Resources
Alternate Books
✓ Eugene Onegin By Alexander Pushkin (1833) - The stories seem to compliment each other thematically, Pushkin’s influences can be seen.
Fathers and Sons By Ivan Turgenev (1862) - This deals with the emancipation of the serfs but from a very different tone, is much easier to understand and relate to than Dead Souls
Master & Margarita By Mikhail Bulgakov (1966) - It has the dark, dry and unexpected humour of Gogol but taken to the next level!

Helpful Links
NY Times Review of Guerney’s Translation - This review compares other translations and bit of the history & significance of Dead Souls 
This blog post displays paragraphs of various translations