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A scandal has shaken the literary world. As the unnamed narrator of Dead Souls discovers at a cultural festival in central London, the offender is Solomon Wiese, a poet accused of plagiarism. Later that same evening, at a bar near Waterloo Bridge, our narrator encounters the poet in person, and listens to the story of Wiese's rise and fall, a story that takes the entire night—and the remainder of the novel—to tell.
Wiese reveals his unconventional views on poetry, childhood encounters with "nothingness," a conspiracy involving the manipulation of documents in the public domain, an identity crisis, a retreat to the country, a meeting with an ex-serviceman with an unexpected offer, the death of an old poet, a love affair with a woman carrying a signpost, an entanglement with a secretive poetry cult, and plans for a triumphant return to the capital, through the theft of poems, illegal war profits, and faked social media accounts—plans in which our narrator discovers he is obscurely implicated.
Dead Souls is a metaphysical mystery brilliantly encased in a picaresque romp, a novel that asks a vital question for anyone who makes or engages with art: Is everyone a plagiarist?
The Guardian, 1 of the 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2021
Buzzfeed, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
A New Statesman Most Anticipated Book of the Year
“Riviere . . . artfully blends metaphysics, existentialism, ideas of originality, and plagiarism, plus an enticing dose of history and memoir in this captivating read.” —Reader's Digest, A Best Fiction Book of the Year
"Riviere’s provocative debut novel . . . calls to mind Thomas Bernhard not only for its form but its rhythm and cadence . . . Will appeal to fans of Kate Zambreno’s Drifts." —Publishers Weekly
"Full of clever postmodern flourishes, self-referential winks and riotous set pieces. It’s funny, smart and beautifully written." —Alex Preston, The Guardian
"Dead Souls is a whip smart, razor sharp, wise-funny, highly readable animal of a first novel, and I can't recommend it enthusiastically enough." —Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
“Mordant, torrential, incantatory, Bolano-esque, Perec-ian, and just so explosively written that I had to stop and shake the language-shrapnel from my hair and wipe it off my eyeglasses so I could keep reading.” —Jonathan Lethem
"Dead Souls is elegant, ambitious, very serious and very funny—an enlivening burst of anti-anti-intellectualism." —Katharine Kilalea, author of OK, Mr. Field
"I absolutely adored Dead Souls. Reading it felt like overhearing the most exhilarating, funny, mean conversation imaginable – which is to say it made me extremely happy and I dreaded it ending." —Megan Nolan, author of Acts of Desperation
"Beautiful, intricately humane, and gut-wrenchingly funny; not so much cynical as a ruthless vivisection of cynicism itself. Reading Dead Souls feels like discovering the British Bolaño, and not just for the gleeful dismantling of the cultural ego: the restless, searching sensibility; the precise tuning-in to contradictory voices. I haven’t been so excited by a debut novel in a long time.” —Luke Kennard, author of The Transition
"As Brontë does so disarmingly in Wuthering Heights and Nabokov in Pale Fire, Sam Riviere gives a loquacious and pleasingly unreliable nobody the task of telling the tale of Dead Souls' true protagonist: Solomon Weise, a recently excommunicated poet who seems to have been everywhere and known everyone. In long, sure sentences reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard, Riviere cracks open the administrative heart of the contemporary literary endeavor, finding it full not of hot air but of crowds of characters, a whole shimmering historical ecosystem—in short, the world as we know it, as mesmerizingly real as it is fictional." —Lucy Ives, author of Cosmogony and Loudermilk
"Sublime, legendary, delightfully unhinged. Sam Riviere’s Dead Souls is a rare and brilliant pleasure, a coiling, searing fugue of a book that takes our deranged culture and pulls forth from it a box of stars." —Nicolette Polek, author of Imaginary Museums