This new translation by Donald Rayfield aspires to be the fullest, liveliest and most accurate version in English of Gogol's masterpiece. For the first time in English, Gogol's prose is illustrated with reproductions of Marc Chagall's 96 engravings and 12 vignettes, major works by this artist of which only a few are widely reproduced, or even known.
Two authorial comments by Gogol in Dead Souls make it seem as if he foresaw, nearly a century later, Chagall, with his eye for the minute absurd but significant detail, for the poetry of the commonplace, as the perfect illustrator:
"The magnifying glasses which survey suns are equalled by those that show the movements of insects too small to see with the naked eye. These gentlemen, of whom the world is full, look very much like one another, yet when you take a closer look you see a lot of the most subtle peculiarities: they are fearfully difficult sitters. Here you have to focus your attention very hard to force all their fine, almost invisible features to reveal themselves."