Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book 33-Dead Souls (47th book)

I have made a tactical error in working on the list of 100 novels. I started at the top of the list (aka the best of the best) and I am working my way down. Theoretically this means that the novels should get worse as the list goes, while still being the best of the best. This has held somewhat true, although there are quite a few of the highest rated novels on this list that I can't stand. I should have started at the bottom and worked my way up. I am starting to feel like a grouchy old reader who is difficult to impress. I WANTED to like book 33 Dead Souls by Nikolay Gogol because it is Russian, and Russian literature is my thing, but I just couldn't do it. It can't hold a candle to any of the other Russian novels that have charmed my fancy. Sigh.

Dead Souls IS rather Russian in that if follows a flawed character around on a scheme to buy up Russian souls. Unlike most other Russian characters though this one is not overly loveable in his flaws. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the book is supposed to be a farce. I have discovered that despite loving to laugh I am definitely not a fan of farcical literature. (see my reviews on Tristram Shandy and Gravity's Rainbow). I like my literature to give me food for thought and put me into a contemplative mood where I analyze life. This book doesn't do that for me. I DID laugh several times at the oddity of buying up dead people.

Here are some quotes along those lines.

"But, sir, I have never in my life sold dead folk"

"The question is:what is a dead soul worth, and is it of any use to anyone"

"No matter what may be said to the contrary, the body can never dispense with the soul"

Despite being comical the book does pose some interesting philosophical questions that made me stop and think. I just wished there were more of them and that I CARED what happened to Chichikov as a flawed character moving about in the world. Most of the time I found him unbelievable and flat as a character.

"Take any man you like of the persons you term rascals. That man none the less remains a human being"

"Each of us commits faults with every step that we take; each of us entails unhappiness upon others with every breath that we draw"

"Human problems are difficult to solve"

So conclusion? Although being a fan of MOST Russian literature I am not a fan of ALL Russian literature. I will continue to read away on this list even though I am bound to find more duds. I am hopeful that that gems will make this little adventure worth it though.

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