"As it is so strangely ordained in this world, what is amusing will turn into being gloomy, if you stand too long before it, and then God knows what ideas may not stray into the mind... Why is it that even in moments of unthinking, careless gaiety a different and strange mood comes upon one?"
--from Dead Souls (1842), by Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls is the great comic masterpiece of Russian literature–a satirical and splendidly exaggerated epic of life in the benighted provinces. Gogol hoped to show the world “the untold riches of the Russian soul” in this 1842 novel, which he populated with a Dickensian swarm of characters: rogues and scoundrels, landowners and serfs, conniving petty officials–all of them both utterly lifelike and alarmingly larger than life. Setting everything in motion is the wily antihero, Chichikov, the trafficker in “dead souls”–deceased serfs who still represent profit to those clever enough to trade in them. This lively, idiomatic English version by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky makes accessible the full extent of the novel’s lyricism, sulphurous humor, and delight in human oddity and error.