Since its publication in 1842, Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp. As Gogol's wily antihero, Chichikov, combs the back country wheeling and dealing for "dead souls"--deceased serfs who still represent money to anyone sharp enough to trade in them--we are introduced to a Dickensian cast of peasants, landowners, and conniving petty officials, few of whom can resist the seductive illogic of Chichikov's proposition. Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (April 1, 1809 - March 4, 1852) was a Russian-language writer of Ukrainian origin. Although his early works were heavily influenced by his Ukrainian heritage and upbringing, he wrote in Russian and his works belong to the tradition of Russian literature. The novel Dead Souls (1842), the play Revizor (1836, 1842), and the short story The Overcoat (1842) count among his masterpieces.