A mysterious stranger named Chichikov arrives in a small provincial Russian town and
proceeds to visit a succession of landowners, making each of them an unusual and
somewhat macabre proposition. He offers to buy the rights to the dead serfs who are
still registered on the landowner 's estate, thus reducing their liability for taxes. It is not
clear what Chichikov 's intentions are with the dead serfs he is purchasing, and despite
his attempts to ingratiate himself, his strange behaviour arouses the suspicions of everyone
in the town.
A biting satire of social pretensions and pomposity, Dead Souls has been revered
since its original publication in 1842 as one of the funniest and most brilliant novels of
nineteenth-century Russia. Its unflinching and remorseless depiction of venality in Russian
society is a lasting tribute to Gogol 's comic genius.