Parisian Literary Salon

creating community through reading and discussing literature

Dead Souls

- by Nikolai Gogol

Jon Ingram, Russian Literature scholar, will co-facilitate this Salon.

I’d be equally keen to speak about some of Gogol’s works.  *Dead Souls* (Everyman, 2004) is his best known work and it’s on occasion just breathtaking, but it also sort of loses its steam toward the end, which is pretty sad.  For me, his most brilliant work is a little story called “Evenings On A Farm Near Dikanka”, which can be found in *The Complete Tales of N.G. Vol I* (Chicago UP, 1985).  In these cases, indeed in all cases of Russian literature, I really only trust Pevear & Volkonsky to translate without draining these wonderful texts of their soul.  I’m not sure it’s a popular choice but in my opinion, Gogol is one of the greatest writers the world has produced.  He writes in prose but with poetic flourishes such as repeated images, sometimes inverted, and wonderful sort of “false paths” that can trick his readers.  His metaphors can drift into half-page digressions, yet he manages to weave this all together without taxing his readers too much.  Wonderful!”

From Jon (I am including his description of *Eugene Onegin*. After Dead Souls, we may try for a Salon double header of *EO* in 2011):

“First things first: there are a few Russian titles I could propose (so much to choose from!)  First of all there’s *Eugene Onegin* by Aleksandr Pushkin.  I insist on using the Nabokov translation (Princeton UP, 1991). As for the wonder of this book.. well, almost too much to summarize in less than a book of my own!  In short, Pushkin is to Russian what Dante, for example, is to Italian: he was the first serious author to write in Russian rather than French, and had to invent much of the written language he used, just as Dante did for the *Divine Comedy*. Otherwise the text itself is one of the most intricately structured works I teach: a verse novel consisting of 8 chapters of roughly 50 sonnets each.  But even that is oversimplifying as Pushkin invented an offshoot of the sonnet known still as the Onegin stanza.  Goodness, makes me breathless even now to consider.”