Oblomov – Ivan Goncharov

Oblomov was the first Russian classic I’ve read after a very long time. After all the raves about it, I thought I was going to read a great classic. When I read the first part of the book with pleasure, I was excited, thinking that I would love this beautiful classic and that I would praise it whenever I could. After all, Ivan Goncharov had worked on Oblomov for about ten years, from the late 1840s to 1858. He had given the world a distinctive character, an anti-hero. What would I do if I didn’t like it?

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However, things changed a lot after the second episode. Goncharov, perhaps willingly, also likened the novel to Oblomov. Oblomov turned into a book that makes me people sleepy, repeating itself, and the conversation quickly dries up and becomes unpleasant. Even though I was a bit revived with the falling in love of our beloved Oblomov, being like Oblomov was once in my blood. After all, we all knew that neither this love nor Oblomov would go anywhere.

Oblomov - Ivan Goncharov

But how nice it was to be a part of this dream with Oblomov while he was dreaming of the life he wanted! I wish he never got out of bed so we could read his dreams a lot. I was even willing to read his endless fights with Zakhar, which, after a while, caused me to have nervous breakdowns. However, in everyone’s life, there is a Stoltz who says, “It’s now or never!”, of course, he was a must for Oblomov.

As a person who spends half of her day in the dream world with at least as much pleasure as Oblomov, makes detailed plans before acting and likes to delay, I understand Oblomov to the bone, and I really love him. But I’m not on good terms with Goncharov. After half of Oblomov, I lost my enthusiasm and I forced myself to read it.

There were many times that I forgot what I read and wanted to leave the book and forget it in a corner, like Oblomov, among all the talk and details that did not add anything to the overall story. But I returned to it, just because I love Oblomov. Although I often come across it in the comments, I never thought that the book was funny in places. How different are people’s senses of humour! I was also surprised by this.

Oblomov will remain a character I will never forget, but I would never want to reread this book or Goncharov.

Oblomov - Ivan Goncharov

Oblomov

The novel evolved and expanded from an 1849 short story or sketch entitled “Oblomov’s Dream”. The novel focuses on the midlife crisis of the main character, Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, an upper middle class son of a member of Russia’s nineteenth century landed gentry. Oblomov’s distinguishing characteristic is his slothful attitude towards life. While a common negative characteristic, Oblomov raises this trait to an art form, conducting his little daily business apathetically from his bed.

While clearly comedic, the novel also seriously examines many critical issues that faced Russian society in the nineteenth century. Some of these problems included the uselessness of landowners and gentry in a feudal society that did not encourage innovation or reform, the complex relations between members of different classes of society such as Oblomov’s relationship with his servant Zakhar, and courtship and matrimony by the elite.

Ivan Goncharov

Ivan Aleksandrovich Goncharov, (born June 18 [June 6, old style], 1812, Simbirsk [now Ulyanovsk], Russia—died Sept. 27 [Sept. 15, O.S.], 1891, St. Petersburg), Russian novelist and travel writer, whose highly esteemed novels dramatize social change in Russia and contain some of Russian literature’s most vivid and memorable characters.

Goncharov was born into a wealthy merchant family and, after graduating from Moscow University in 1834, served for nearly 30 years as an official, first in the Ministry of Finance and afterward in the Ministry of Censorship. The only unusual event in his uneventful life was his voyage to Japan made in 1852–55 as secretary to a Russian admiral; this was described in Fregat Pallada (1858; “The Frigate Pallas”).

Goncharov’s most notable achievement lies in his three novels, of which the first was Obyknovennaya istoriya (1847; A Common Story, 1917), a novel that immediately made his reputation when it was acclaimed by the influential critic Vissarion Belinsky. Oblomov (1859; Eng. trans., 1954), a more mature work, generally accepted as one of the most important Russian novels, draws a powerful contrast between the aristocratic and capitalistic classes in Russia and attacks the way of life based on serfdom. Its hero, Oblomov, a generous but indecisive young nobleman who loses the woman he loves to a vigorous, pragmatic friend, is a triumph of characterization.

From this character derives the Russian term oblomovshchina, epitomizing the backwardness, inertia, and futility of 19th-century Russian society. Goncharov’s third novel, Obryv (1869; The Precipice, 1915), though a remarkable book, is inferior to Oblomov.

In all three novels Goncharov contrasts an easygoing dreamer with an opposing character who typifies businesslike efficiency; the contrast illumines social conditions in Russia at a time when rising capitalism and industrialization uneasily coexisted with the aristocratic traditions of old Russia.

Of Goncharov’s minor writings, the most influential was an essay on Aleksandr Griboyedov’s play Gore ot uma (Wit Works Woe).

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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