Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Gogol - Dead Souls

This time around I'll leave the words to an extract from Gogol's Dead Souls – a quirky, eccentric, evocative and eloquent tale of a scheming stranger, Chichikov, that arrives in a provincial Russian town to buy up the souls of dead peasants. This is one of the many fine character descriptions:
“When Chichikov glanced at Sobakevich out of the corner of his eye, he was struck on this occasion by his strong resemblance to a medium-sized bear. To complete the resemblance, his tailcoat was exactly the colour of a bear's coat, the sleeves were long, the pantaloons were long, and when he walked he let his feet fall here, there and everywhere, and was constantly treading on other people's feet. He had a fiery-red complexion, such as you see on a copper five-kopeck piece. It is well known that in this world there are many such faces, over whom nature has not taken any great pains when it comes to the finishing touches, has not employed any fine tools such as files, gimlets, and the like, but has simply hewn them out with full swings from the shoulder: one swing of the axe and there's the nose; another swing and there you have the lips; she gouges out the eyes with a huge auger, and, without any fancy trimming, she pushes the end product out into the world, saying: 'It lives'. It was just such a rugged and marvellously rough-hewn countenance that Sobakevich presented: he held his head more down than up, he did not turn his neck at all, and because he could not turn it, he rarely looked at the person he was talking to, but instead at a corner of the stove, or at the door”.

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