back to top

10 Unfinished Classics You Can Read Free Online

On the 162nd anniversary of Gogol destroying his own work, we examine a few of the novels and poems left incomplete by their authors.

Posted on

Today marks the 162nd anniversary of Russian master Nikolai Gogol burning his unfinished pieces as he lay dying. Below, we take a look at 10 of the best incomplete works from titans of literature — novels and poems that were posthumously completed by others, and works which have been published in their draft state. The best part: All of them can be read online for free!

1. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

“Tell me, have you, of late years, lost many of your peasants by death?"

"Yes; no fewer than eighteen," responded the old lady with a sigh. "Such a fine lot, too—all good workers! True, others have since grown up, but of what use are THEY? Mere striplings. When the Assessor last called upon me I could have wept; for, though those workmen of mine are dead, I have to keep on paying for them as though they were still alive!”

Gogol had a keen ear for the ordinary absurdities which made up Russian life. Dead Souls is his grimly funny tale of Chichikov, a rural chancer concocting a macabre plot to purchase deceased serfs from their owners. Released to huge acclaim, Gogol intended the book to be the first part of his reinterpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Ill-equipped to deal with his sudden elevation to literary stardom and suffering from severe depression, Gogol spent his remaining years zig-zagging erratically across Europe and the Middle East. In February of 1852, suffering from what may have been a psychotic episode, he burned the second part of the work, an act he immediately regretted. He died just nine days later.

2. Fasti by Ovid

I’ll speak of divisions of time throughout the Roman year,

Their origins, and the stars that set beneath the earth and rise.

Germanicus Caesar, accept this work, with a calm face,

And direct the voyage of my uncertain vessel:

Not scorning this slight honour, but like a god,

Receiving with favour the homage I pay you.

Ovid had a tortured relationship with the Roman authorities. Like his contemporary Virgil, he was celebrated during Augustus’ reign — until he was exiled by the emperor in 8 AD. History doesn’t record why he was banished, although we do know he associated closely with a clique accused of a treasonous plot around the same time. In his new home of Tomis (modern-day Constanta in Romania), the unlucky poet wrote morose verse lamenting his distance from Roman life and his lack of library access until his death in 18 AD. His Fasti (“Feasts”) are his final unfinished work. Intended to eventually describe all 12 months of the Julian calendar, the surviving portion of Fasticomprises six poems detailing the rituals and religious observances of the first half of the year. Tinged with Ovid’s melancholy for the life he’d never return to, the collection remains an invaluable historical resource on Roman religious practices.

3. Capital by Karl Marx

… a labourer who all his life performs one and the same simple operation, converts his whole body into the automatic, specialised implement of that operation.

There is possibly no other book which is as often referenced and as seldom read.Capital requires a serious investment of time and energy from its reader, and it asked a lot of its author, too. Marx was not even close to finished with his titanic treatise when he died of bronchitis in 1883. Volumes II and III, published posthumously, were pulled together from Marx’s notes by his Communist Manifesto co-author Friedrich Engels and were published in 1885 and 1894 respectively.


This post was created by a member of BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!