EC Rare Books
Home Life in Russia

Home Life in Russia

Home Life in Russia
First Edition in English of "Dead Souls"

GOGOL, Nikolai Vasil'evich. Home Life in Russia. By a Russian Noble. Revised by the editor of "Revelations of Siberia." In two volumes. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1854.

First Edition of "Dead Souls" in English. Two octavo volumes (7 5/8 x 4 13/16 inches; 194 x 122 mm).

[2], iv, 308; [2], 314, [2, publisher's advertisements] pp.

Publisher's original green cloth over boards, covers decoratively stamped in blind, spines decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt. The yellow coated end-papers have been renewed with almost identical paper. There is a 3 1/4 inch clean repaired tear on the last leaf of volume one which just touches a couple of letters on the verso. A few other very minor and repaired marginal tears. The top and bottom of the spine have been expertly repaired and strengthened.
Overall an excellent copy of an extremely rare book. Housed in a fleece-lined full green morocco clamshell case. (one of the original end-papers loosely laid-in to case.

The Russian censors imposed the title The Adventures of Chichikov on this publication in 1842, but the English publisher curiously chose an even more innocuous title having little to do with the subject or theme of the novel. Shortly before his death in 1852, Gogol destroyed the second part of his manuscript.

Home Life in Russia [Dead Souls] is a novel by Nikolai Gogol, first published in 1842, and widely regarded as an exemplar of 19th-century Russian literature. The purpose of the novel was to demonstrate the flaws and faults of the Russian mentality and character. Gogol masterfully portrayed those defects through Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov (the main character) and the people whom he encounters in his endeavours. These people are typical of the Russian middle-class of the time. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose", and within the book as a "novel in verse". Despite supposedly completing the trilogy's second part, Gogol destroyed it shortly before his death. Although the novel ends in mid-sentence (like Sterne's Sentimental Journey), it is usually regarded as complete in the extant form. The original title was "The Wanderings of Chichikov, or Dead Souls. Poema", which contracted to merely "Dead Souls". In the Russian Empire, before the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, landowners had the right to own serfs to farm their land. Serfs were for most purposes considered the property of the landowner, who could buy, sell or mortgage them, as any other chattel. To count serfs (and people in general), the measure word "soul" was used: e.g., "six souls of serfs". The plot of the novel relies on "dead souls" (i.e., "dead serfs") which are still accounted for in property registers. On another level, the title refers to the "dead souls" of Gogol's characters, all of which represent different aspects of poshlost (a Russian noun rendered as "commonplace, vulgarity", moral and spiritual, with overtones of middle-class pretentiousness, fake significance and philistinism).

"The first work of Russian prose fiction published in the United States was published in Philadelphia in 1832. The title was Ivan Vejeeghen (translation of Ivan Vyzbigin, 1829) and its subtitle was Life in Russia. "[The publication of this book] began a tendency to present Russian fiction as a source of information about Russian life rather than as art. This trend continued after the outbreak of the Crimean War, which brought with it an increased English interest in Russian life and culture. A spate of prose translations appeared in the 1850s, which were drastically doctored and presented as factual accounts by unnamed 'Russian noblemen'. Their titles are indicative of the treatment the novels received: Sketches of Russian Life in the Caucasus, 1853 (Lermontov's A Hero of our Time); Home Life in Russia, 1854 (Gogol's Dead Souls); and Russian Life in the Interior, 1855 (Turgenev's Sportsman's Sketches). In spite of the pretense to factuality suggested by the titles, the so-called translators took great liberties with the texts, expunging whole portions, exaggerating caricatures, and adding imaginative flourishes to the author's prose." (Encyclopedia of Literary Translation into English, Classe, 1206).

Sadleir, 985.

12500 USD
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