Unfinished Novel

“Nothing could be more pleasant than to live in solitude, enjoy the spectacle of nature and dip into some book now and then.”

The above quote from the book ‘Dead Souls’ is quite relatable. I guess this feeling is mutual among us who adore and adopt books. This book was another marvelous accident, picked as part of the weird reading goal of mine – the goal of reading one book per country around the globe.


Country : Russia

Author : Nikolay Vasilievich Gogol

Pages :  424

Genre : Politics/ Satire

First published : 1842

Translated by : Robert A Maguire

Publishing House : Penguin Classics

About Gogol

Nickolay Vasilievich Gogol is the founder of Russian Realism. Gogol is adapted pen name which means ‘Golden-eye Duck’. He was born at 31st March 1809 in a town of Velliki Sorochinici, Ukraine, which was a part of the great Russian Empire at that time. It is observed that the inspiration for this novel, The Dead Souls, came from his friend Pushkin; originally imagined as trilogy, modeled upon Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’.

The first part represents the hell; the second part after decades of works was destroyed by Gogol himself. It is also learnt that he became a religious fanatic and burnt the second part of the novel influenced by a priest. Nine days later Gogol died (self-imposed starvation), but luckily some pieces of the manuscripts he had been working on survived. This makes the novel an unfinished work.

Dead Souls – A Poem

       Yes, that is what this novel has as a subtitle. This book is the representation of Russian life as a mosaic of strangely intersecting inanities. Gogol mocked, ridiculed and exposed the flaws and foibles of the landowners, mostly rich, stupid and idle, the corrupt bureaucrats who connive with them, the pretty royalties and the hypocrisy of high society and placed them in comic scenes, one after another.

The Plot

       The plot of this book is simple, but the narration and detailing make this work an extravagant reading material. Gogol criticizes the owners of the large estates, their life style and habits. In this novel he attempts to display the bureaucracy and feudal organizations in Russia at his time. The lead character Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov is described as anti-hero similar to a real-life person, unscrupulous and immoral of nature. He tries to buy dead souls as the collateral to obtain a large loan. In pursuit of this mission he travels across provinces, along with his assistant named Selifan (I liked the name a lot) and meets Manilov (The Kind Manner), Plewkshin (Mr. Spitoon), Sobakievich (Mr. Dog), Nozdayor (Mr. Nostril) and Kovobachka (Mrs. Box). Each meeting with the above-mentioned landlords is super engaging and ultra humorous.

Why buying Dead Souls?

       This is exactly where Gogol tightens the rope of sarcasm. It is exposing and a satirical examination of 1800s Russian nobility and society. In post-Napoleonic Russia, land owners owned serfs who worked on lands. A man’s wealth was not only measured by the amount of land he possessed, but also by the number of souls he owned. Chichiko, our proclaimed hero decides to become rich by buying those dead souls. In Russia during those days the census was taken only once in a year of these serfs. Chichikov tries to exploit this by owning souls cheaper and then claims those dead souls as his own. Therefore, it could happen that some of the dead people were still considered to be alive. Chichikov asks the land owners to sell him those dead souls, as they would in return become free of paying the fees for all their dead serfs. The actual intention of Chichikov was to set up an estate in the region where the government was selling cheap land. He needed those dead souls so that he could register them to get a bank loan.

About Translator

       This work is translated by Robert A. Maguire, who was the Boris Bakhmeteff Professor Emeritus of Russian studies at Columbia University. His area of specialization, on which he has written widely were the Soviet period and the early nineteenth century. He also received several awards for published works and services to his field of study.

       I’m so glad that I could read this book as a part of my reading goal. Even though the work is an unfinished one, this book truly takes us back in time and allows us to experience those glorious vintage stuff and life style of 1840s. As an admirer of history and historical fiction, this takes me through its narration into a time zone which otherwise would have remained like the mystery of black hole.

       There is lot of ink left in my pen but I am saving them for another occasion. Happy reading.


Publishing Director


New Year Message from Our Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to 2023! It’s the time for new resolutions, plans and visions for a bright and a lovely future. Going in accordance with the Roman Calendar, marking January as our vision board, I would like to look back at what all we have achieved together at Paperbacks and what we are envisioning going forward, this year looks promising on the publishing front. In the past few years the publishing industry had seen some of the darker moments and setbacks but the 2022 graph shows a slow and steady rise again. 

Paperbacks is all geared up with lots of surprises for its reader and writers slated to be released in the next few months. We have authors interviews, book reviews, and newsletters lined up. 

I would like to take a moment here and appreciate all our writers, readers, reviewers and followers to vest their faith in Paperbacks. I’m grateful for your contributions and interests. You have made 2022 a brilliant year for us and we look forward to the similar support in 2023. 

The new year is not only about beginning a fresh year but also a time for making commitments, keeping promises and a way forward to achieve milestones. We, the paperbacks editorial team, work hard to curate and bring forth the best of the literary world to our readers. 

We wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

Sincerely yours


Santiago and Manolin

The Moon Affects Her, As It Does A Woman!
You can never be satisfied with the emotions that Hemingway creates. I remember mentioning this to a friend that reading his books are like having an interaction with my very close friend. I don’t even realise that I am reading, it’s like him conversing with me. Hemingway is my favourite author and the very next would-be JD Salinger.
Coming back to this book, in the surface (like sea) we get to read a simple plot which includes the following characters, but when you finish this book and as the thoughts starts pouring in you get to see the hidden treasures. 
The Characters
Santiago – The old fisherman was taken at every chance to put down by the community. Even though he was a skilled fisherman in his prime, now with this old age, he was considered to be lost at his skills and unlucky, because he had gone 84 days without a catch.
Manolin – The boy, who learned the skill from Santiago. This kid got a huge respect for Santiago and he believed in the old man. The boy also helps and provides for the old man.
Marlin –  It is a kind of fish, with whom the old man spends several days at the sea to capture it.
The Story
Our old man goes into sea, a solo voyage, to prove his fishermen community that he is still capable of making a big catch and his skills are still upto date like in his prime days. In this endeavour,he succeeds or not?
Before I get into the treasure hidden beneath the sea, I must record the connection Hemingway constructs between the main characters old man and the boy. It is something that will stay with me forever, it provides me a greater venue inrepresenting the examples about certain relationships. Same was the case with the character named Catherine from the book ‘A Farewell To Arms’, even though I read this book years back, I still remember how strong a character she was.
Now about the treasures we can find from this subtle story, let us name it under current themes are the followings.
Pain / Suffering
Nothing comes to us easily (most cases). For a fisherman’s worthwhile catch comes from his painful physical and mental injuries. Enduring pain that is what it’s meant to be a fisherman. The old man’s hands are marred with scars, which depicts us a lifelong struggle with the opponents at the sea. 
Hemingway, with his narrative audacity throws the thoughts that sea is cruel and beautiful.  It gives life and takes it away. Isn’t it similar in case of our lives with ups and downs? The sharks devours marlins, the man catches fish.
Pride & Respect
The old man has pride for his skills and wants recognition for his community (each one of us want it too, right? so don’t just like it, do comment your thoughts too). On his solo voyage he wished that the boy was with him not only to dispel loneliness but also to show the boy that what kind of a man he was and to witness the greatest catch of his life.
I felt it like one of the most inspiring stories that we couldpossibly have come across.
When all other hopes are set comes the book to give you that boost to kick start and keep going, this one is truly an inspiring read.  It is the story of perseverance. Instead defying his streak of bad luck, the old man keeps going out to catch fish, trying even harder than the previous time. No matter what Santiago is not defeated, nor his spirit is broken. Isn’t the shot we all needed to make believe, fall six times rise seven? Indeed, you will also connect once you read this story.
Like Jesus bearing his cross, our old man will carry his mast to and from in his skiff day in & out doing what a fisherman is meant to do, to set sail and catch fish.
Happy reading!

How To Write When Going Through A Writer’s Block

As a writer there are several things that demand your attention even if you are a full time writer, or a part time, if you are a diarist or you simply like journaling your life. Specification, attention to details is demanding nonetheless and most often than not life and mood comes in the way of putting pen to paper, or shall we go with the more modern phenomenon of typing words on screen. Whatever be the case, writing is not just as simple as sitting down to write and scribble or type. And yet, I will say that it is exactly just as simple as that. I have this one and only solution to overcome the writer’s block that you might be going through and at first it might sound irrational and useless but that is what I have found works best for me and for most writers I have interacted with.

So what is exactly writers block? For most of us, it is simply a lack of will to write. This lack of will could have been generated because something went wrong in school or work, or you have been in a fight or you lack the energy, you are tired, you are simply in the wrong mood as compared to the genre that you are currently writing. The list and the reasons go on. You can add as many as you like but it all turns towards the one end of not being able to write- wordlessness.

Now, how does one overcome this block? Surely, it cannot be as easy as to sit down, breathe and write. But what if I told you it is? I promise this is not a self-help post, which will inspire you this second and will turn on you just as soon as you shut down the page. This is a diligent practice that needs patience and reflection. So when you are unable to write because you are angry, or tired or lack the peace of mind, all you have to do is feel your honest feelings and write.

Write the feelings that you feel and see the words unroll.

I am not saying the block is merely a façade, nor am I saying that once you start sorting your feeling out you will be able to sail through your manuscript. What I am saying is when you come face to face with the block and with your own feelings; you overwork your mind and stop analyzing things. Giving up comes easy than perseverance. So when one starts sorting their own feelings, and tries writing them down, it puts words on paper, clearing one’s mind of them. If you are angry write down what you are angry, what is the reason behind it, and the same goes for any other emotion. Write down every aspect of what you are feeling. It doesn’t have to be analytical or a philosophical journaling of Beauvoir, it can be as simple and as childish and as honest as you want to make it. Write down you had tea in the morning and you fought with your boss over unnecessary matter. Write how you feel about the character on the book that you are reading. Write an idea on a plot of the book that you didn’t like and what would you do to them had you been the writer. Write a letter to someone close. Write the making of an easy recipe. Write your hate. Write your love. Write your raw emotions. And once that is out, you can try continuing the process for a few days. Slowly, you might initiate working towards what you want to actually write and even if it does not happen soon, you have already broken the block, by writing down your day-to-day feelings. It is not that simple and yet it is just as simple.

Write Raw. Write Honest.

Writers block is not really a myth but it also does not hold the kind of power that we allow it to hold over us.

Happy Writing.

Moushmi is the Author of POSIES and 03:21 AM: An Ode to Rust & Restlessness, Resignation of an Angel is Moushmi’s third poetry collection. Her works have been published at various online literary magazines and she has also been a contributing writer for anthology collections namely, ‘Mirage’ and ‘The Lockdown Stories’

For updates about her life and works visit her at http://www.aestheticmiradh.com