Highlights for Dead Souls

The newcomer was somehow never at a loss and showed himself to be an experienced man of the world. Whatever the conversation, he always knew how to keep up his end: if the talk was of horse breeding, he spoke about horse breeding; if they were speaking of fine dogs, here, too, he made very sensible observations; if the discussion touched upon an investigation conducted by the treasury—he showed that he was not uninformed about legal wiles; if there were some argument about the game of billiards—in the game of billiards, too, he would not go amiss; if they spoke of virtue, on virtue, too, he reasoned very well, tears even came to his eyes; if on the distilling of spirits, then on the distilling of spirits he also knew his stuff; if on customs supervisors and officials, of them, too, he could judge as if he himself had been both an official and a supervisor.
Although, of course, they are not such notable characters, and are what is known as secondary or even tertiary, although the main lines and springs of the poem do not rest on them, and perhaps only occasionally touch and graze them lightly—still, the author is extremely fond of being circumstantial in all things, and in this respect, despite his being a Russian man, he wishes to be as precise as a German.
And in boarding schools, as we know, three main subjects constitute the foundation of human virtue: the French language, indispensable for a happy family life; the pianoforte, to afford a husband agreeable moments; and, finally, the managerial part proper: the crocheting of purses and other surprises.
But Selifan simply could not recall whether he had passed two or three turns. Thinking back and recalling the road somewhat, he realized that there had been many turns, all of which he had skipped. Since a Russian man in a critical moment finds what to do without going into further reasonings, he shouted, after turning right at the next crossroads: “Hup, my honored friends!” and started off at a gallop, thinking little of where the road he had taken would lead him.
A Russian driver has good instinct in place of eyes; as a result, he sometimes goes pumping along at full speed, eyes shut, and always gets somewhere or other.
He is among us everywhere, and is perhaps only wearing a different caftan; but people are light-mindedly unperceptive, and a man in a different caftan seems to them a different man.
Everything is desolate, and the stilled surface of the unresponding element is all the more terrible and deserted after that.
To such worthlessness, pettiness, vileness a man can descend! So changed he can become! Does this resemble the truth? Everything resembles the truth, everything can happen to a man. The now ardent youth would jump back in horror if he were shown his own portrait in old age. So take with you on your way, as you pass from youth’s tender years into stern, hardening manhood, take with you every humane impulse, do not leave them by the wayside, you will not pick them up later! Terrible, dreadful old age looms ahead, and nothing does it give back again!
And so your little shop fell into neglect, and you took to drinking and lying about in the streets, saying all the while: ‘No, it’s a bad world! There’s no life for a Russian man, the Germans keep getting in the way.’
Our ranks and estates are so irritated these days that they take personally whatever appears in printed books: such, evidently, is the mood in the air. It is enough simply to say that there is a stupid man in a certain town, and it already becomes personal; suddenly a gentleman of respectable appearance pops up and shouts: “But I, too, am a man, which means that I, too, am stupid”—in short, he instantly grasps the situation.
a new governor-general had been appointed to the province—an event known to put officials into a state of alarm: there would be reshuffling, reprimanding, lambasting, and all the official belly-wash to which a superior treats his subordinates.
During that time he had the pleasure of experiencing those agreeable moments, familiar to every traveler, when the trunk is all packed and only strings, scraps of paper, and various litter are strewn about the room, when a man belongs neither to the road nor to sitting in place,
but he came out just as the saying goes: ‘Not like mother, not like father, but like Roger the lodger.’
If you please your superior, then even if you don’t succeed in your studies and God has given you no talent, you will still do well and get ahead of everybody.
Don’t keep company with your schoolmates, they won’t teach you any good; but if you do, then keep company with the richer ones, on the chance that they may be useful to you. Do not regale or treat anyone, but rather behave in such a way that they treat you, and above all keep and save your kopeck: it is the most reliable thing in the world. A comrade or companion will cheat you and be the first to betray you in trouble; but a kopeck will never betray you, whatever trouble you get into. You can do everything and break through everything with a kopeck.
without gaining favor beforehand, as we all know, even the simplest document or certificate cannot be obtained; a bottle of Madeira must at least be poured down every gullet
But there are passions that it is not for man to choose. They are born with him at the moment of his birth into this world, and he is not granted the power to refuse them. They are guided by a higher destiny, and they have in them something eternally calling, never ceasing throughout one’s life.
Chichikov just smiled, jouncing slightly on his leather cushion, for he loved fast driving. And what Russian does not love fast driving? How can his soul, which yearns to get into a whirl, to carouse, to say sometimes: “Devil take it all!”—how can his soul not love it? Not love it when something ecstatically wondrous is felt in it?
He began to find myriads of faults in him, and came to hate him for having such a sugary expression when talking to a superior, and straightaway becoming all vinegar when addressing a subordinate.
Where is he who, in the native tongue of our Russian soul, could speak to us this all-powerful word: forward? who, knowing all the forces and qualities, and all the depths of our nature, could, by one magic gesture, point the Russian man towards a lofty life? With what words, with what love the grateful Russian man would repay him! But century follows century, half a million loafers, sluggards, and sloths lie in deep slumber, and rarely is a man born in Russia who is capable of uttering it, this all-powerful word.
Our Pavel Ivanovich showed an extraordinary flexibility in adapting to everything. He approved of the philosophical unhurriedness of his host, saying that it promised a hundred-year life. About solitude he expressed himself rather felicitously—namely, that it nursed great thoughts in a man. Having looked at the library and spoken with great praise of books in general, he observed that they save a man from idleness. In short, he let fall few words, but significant.
“Ah!” the colonel said with a smile, “there’s the benefit of paperwork! It will indeed take longer, but nothing will escape: every little detail will be in view.”
The commission for divers petitions existed only on a signboard. Its chairman, a former valet, had been transferred to the newly formed village construction committee. He had been replaced by the clerk Timoshka, who had been dispatched on an investigation—to sort things out between the drunken steward and the village headman, a crook and a cheat. No official anywhere.
“Now, what could be clearer? You have peasants, so you should foster them in their peasant way of life. What is this way of life? What is the peasant’s occupation? Ploughing? Then see to it that he’s a good ploughman. Clear? No, clever fellows turn up who say: ‘He should be taken out of this condition. The life he leads is too crude and simple: he must be made acquainted with the objects of luxury.’ They themselves, owing to this luxury, have become rags instead of people, and got infested with devil knows what diseases,
I say to the muzhik: ‘Whoever you work for, whether me, or yourself, or a neighbor, just work. If you’re active, I’ll be your first helper. You have no livestock, here’s a horse for you, here’s a cow, here’s a cart … Whatever you need, I’m ready to supply you with, only work. It kills me if your management is not well set up, and I see disorder and poverty there. I won’t suffer idleness. I am set over you so that you should work.’
“He who was born with thousands, who was brought up on thousands, will acquire no more: he already has his whims and whatnot! One ought to begin from the beginning, not from the middle. From below, one ought to begin from below. Only then do you get to know well the people and life amidst which you’ll have to make shift afterwards. Once you’ve suffered this or that on your own hide, and have learned that every kopeck is nailed down with a three-kopeck nail, and have gone through every torment, then you’ll grow so wise and well schooled that you won’t blunder or go amiss in any undertaking.
I often think, in fact: ‘Now, why is so much intelligence given to one head? Now, if only one little drop of it could get into my foolish pate, if only so that I could keep my house! I don’t know how to do anything, I can’t do anything!’ Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, take it into your care! Most of all I pity the poor muzhiks. I feel that I was never able to be …* what do you want me to do, I can’t be exacting and strict. And how could I get them accustomed to order if I myself am disorderly! I’d set them free right now, but the Russian man is somehow so arranged, he somehow can’t do without being prodded … He’ll just fall asleep, he’ll just get moldy.
We were educated, and how do we live? I went to the university and listened to lectures in all fields, yet not only did I not learn the art and order of living, but it seems I learned best the art of spending more money on various new refinements and comforts, and became better acquainted with the objects for which one needs money.
“One needs a supply of reasonableness,” said Chichikov, “one must consult one’s reasonableness every moment, conduct a friendly conversation with it.”
He still did not know that in Russia, in Moscow and other cities, there are such wizards to be found, whose life is an inexplicable riddle. He seems to have spent everything, is up to his ears in debt, has no resources anywhere, and the dinner that is being given promises to be the last; and the diners think that by the next day the host will be dragged off to prison. Ten years pass after that—the wizard is still holding out in the world, is up to his ears in debt more than ever, and still gives a dinner in the same way, and everybody thinks it will be the last, and everybody is sure that the next day the host will be dragged off to prison.

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