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An absurd and brilliant satire. To think I avoided reading this novel for years because I thought it was going to be depressing. Ha! Dead Souls reminded me in many ways of the Odyssey + Don Quixote written by Mark Twain in a Russian prose poem. Gogol captures the absurdity of the mid-19th century Russia. Included in Gogol's satire/farce is an absurd and brilliant look at the corruption of the government, the stratification of society, the pretentiousness of the Russian middle-class, etc.
Anyway, the writing was amazing and D.J. Hogarth's translation seems to have held up very well. Arthur Morey narrates this text with both clarity and humor.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
I've read a number of Russian authors over the years but for some reason had never read Gogol till I listened to this audiobook. I've been cheating myself. Gogol draws a sharply satirical and (at times) laugh-out-loud funny picture of the dysfunctional Russian society of the early 19th century. As a long-time fan of Arthur Morey, I found his narration congenial and entertaining.
There *are* some difficulties in the book. Some are the result of the translation: it's by C. J. Hogarth, who was active (some info in Wikipedia notwithstanding) in the early years of the 20th century. It's not old-fashioned so much as it is (sometimes) awkwardly literal. Many Russian terms are untranslated. A barin, for example - pronounced here bah-REEN - is a baron. A koliaska is a carriage. A chinovnik is a minor government official. At one point two characters make "osculatory salutations" - in other words, they kiss. It might be helpful to download one of the free ebook editions of the novel; at least one has footnotes explaining many of these terms and other references in the text.
The other major problem is that the novel is unfinished. The first part is intact and more or less complete in itself, but the second part has a number of significant gaps. As much as I like Morey's narration in general, I think it's a fair criticism, as others have said here, that he jumps over some of the gaps in the text without sufficient pause. (Of course, that may have been dictated by the producer or director rather than Morey himself.) At one point, just before a hiatus, the main character Chichikov is hurrying off to mediate a dispute involving a landowner named Lienitsin; after the hiatus, he and Lienitsin are discussing a possible partnership in Chichikov's scheme to commit massive fraud. It's not incoherent, but it does take some adjustment.
Despite the difficulties of Part Two, I recommend listening to the whole audiobook. The characters are wonderful, the dialogue is sparkling (despite the literalness of the translation), and I really did, on several occasions, laugh out loud.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful