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Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

11 Jul

I don’t know about you, but where I am, it is hot and sweaty and sticky and gross. Not that I’d complain–I love summer and I love a reason to be lazy. All I want to do is sit someplace cool, curl up in a ball, and do absolutely nothing. Apropos of this, today I am profiling Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, the story of the craziest, most tragic couch potato of them all. Perfect for mid-July, or any time of year, really.

Published: 1859

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

Difficulty: Not difficult.

Quick Read?: It’s a thick book, but it moves quickly.

Synopsis: Oblomov is a youthful Russian aristocrat who enjoys the finer things in life–namely, leaving his bed as little as possible. A man of “thought,” he wants to be disturbed as little as possible, whether it be by his devious servant or by his worldly, energy-filled friends that come to visit him. Little inspires Oblomov, and it is unclear if he is truly philosophizing, daydreaming, or just sleeping. The reader learns he was always a pampered, sheltered little boy, and never instilled with all of the energy that playing, travelling, working, and existing could give him. He supposedly runs a country estate and serfdom, but does little to manage it, threatening to send him into financial ruin. After much urging by his doctors and friends, Oblomov does indeed go out into the world and meets the lovely Olga, with whom he falls in love. But when Oblomov cannot pull together the will to marry her, it becomes apparent that destiny may in fact have passed him by.

What makes this book awesome? This book, though sad at times, is actually hilarious as well. The comedy of a man who refuses to do anything is both alarming to our soul, but also comical–the book is thick, and much of it is his insistence on how little he wishes to actually exist, merely because he feels he has that choice. Like any Russian novel, it is a fast-paced read, and is really intellectually stimulating.

Also, Oblomov was used by the Russian Revolution as an example of the corruption and decadence of the Russian aristocracy. For any Russian history buffs, the book is actually cited in socialist speeches during the early 1900’s by socialist leaders. The name “Oblomov” has been integrated into Russian culture very strongly–making this book a really great way to examine Russia and its view of work ethic over time.

Someone got lazy when it came to shaving too, eh Goncharov? Oh wait, he's just Russian, never mind.

Some neat-o facts:

  • OK, so they are sort of already up there with why this book is so great, but I felt like I ought to put them for both. At least, because I think this book is truly fascinating.
  • Take a look at this facial hair. Show’em how it’s done, Goncharov.
If you like this, try:
The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
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