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A stranger arrives in a Russian backwater community with a bizarre proposition for the local landowners: cash for their "dead souls," the serfs who have died in their service and for whom they must continue to pay taxes until the next census. The landowner receives a payment and a relief of his tax burden, and the stranger receives — what? Gogol's comic masterpiece offers a vast and satirical painting of the Russian panorama as it traces the path and encounters of its mysterious protagonist in pursuit of his dubious scheme. Dead Souls, regarded as both a realistic portrait of 19th-century Russia and a work of great symbolism, continues to inspire 21st century authors and readers.

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