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Oblomov (1859)

by Ivan Goncharov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,762583,612 (4.03)115
The best-known work by the 19th century Russian novelist about a man who lacks willpower and self-confidence.
  1. 21
    How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson (CraigHodges)
    CraigHodges: If the likes of Goncharov's Oblomov is too dense with dialogue, the characters to difficult to grasp, then come down a notch. Yes, take it easy and read a contemporary humorous slacker piece by Hodgkinson.
  2. 12
    The World of Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Oblomov and Bertie Wooster are quite a lot alike and from the same social class, just in different countries.
  3. 02
    Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Shteyngart's protagonist is an updated Oblomov

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English (46)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Italian (2)  German (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Kitabı okurken az daha bende Oblomovluk hastalığına tutunacaktım.Bu yönüyle kitabı çok başarılı buluyorum. ( )
  Tobizume | Jun 9, 2020 |
***** Excellent. These are the books that I carry with me, that make you think or reflect. Usually these are not the easy reads.

It took me some time before being able to write a something on this book, as it did need some digestion. In short, I think Oblomov is an example of the much used adagium 'most people die at 25, but are buried at 75'.


The book takes you through the high and the low of Oblomov's life, which, being honest, isn't all that exciting. His best friend, Andrej Stoltz, is a sharp contrast to the main character, living the busy life. I think a lot of us can relate to both Oblomov as well as Andrej, the only difference being the absence of a TV in Gontsjarov's time.

The book is broken up for the story of Oblomov's dream, which was a short story from which the full novel grew. It was a weird intermezzo at first, but its influence is notable all the way through the rest of the book. In itself it would make a compelling and well-written, though mediocre story. But the way of living described as roots of Oblomov's wishes in life makes it great in hindsight, a beautiful way of describing the influences of nurture in later life.

I just want to say I greatly appreciated Gontsjarov's writing. He does what those Russians do so damn well: the rich choice of words. It makes the read somewhat tough at times, but such a pleasure to do so.

To end it, a quote which illustrates what Oblomov's life constitutes of:
“When you don't know what you're living for, you don't care how you live from one day to the next. You're happy the day has passed and the night has come, and in your sleep you bury the tedious question of what you lived for that day and what you're going to live for tomorrow.” ( )
  friso | Jun 1, 2020 |
I don't think I've ever struggled with what to think about a character as much as I have with Ilya Ilych Oblomov. Ten chapters in, I was his biggest fan. Halfway through the novel, I couldn't stand him. I went to bed last night with an overall positive impression and woke up angry with him all over again. I find myself putting a great deal of effort into a man who seems to want to do as little as possible.

From the start, Oblomov's greatest desire is bound to elude him. Despite his dreams of a pleasant life in the country and his occasional efforts to plan out his estate, what Oblomov wants most is to be left unburdened by responsibility or incident. Unfortunately, he lacks the ability to do pretty much anything (he can't even put his boots on by himself) and is therefore incapable of responding to even the slightest bump on the highway of life.

To just call him lazy would be entirely unfair. One of Oblomov's strengths is Goncharov's detailing of the anxieties brought about by our hero's lifestyle. Most of Oblomov's time is spent doing nothing but thinking about everything. He isn't lounging about in Athens being fed grapes (his landlady feeds him pies, but we'll get to that in a second). While he's thinking, he never questions the fact that someday he really will finish his plans for his estate. He truly believes, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, that these ideas and plans are worth thinking about and will lead him to a brighter future. He also spends plenty of time thinking about people. Throughout the summer that he spends with Olga (a girl with more than a few similarities to Natasha Rostov from War and Peace), Oblomov thinks of very little but her happiness and whether or not their relationship will be a detriment to her long-term well-being. His brightest moment in the novel is the letter he writes to Olga after her declaration of love for him that proves his willingness to sacrifice everything for her.

But, really, nobody needs him to sacrifice everything. Olga says it best:
"No one needs that or is asking for that... this is the ruse of cunning men, to offer sacrifices no one needs and cannot be made in order not to make the sacrifices that are needed."Firstly, this is an allusion to the sociopolitical scene to which Goncharov was attempting to call Russia's attention. Mikhail Shiskin, in his excellent afterword (I disagree with a few of his opinions but the historical context he provides is vital), presents a mid-19th century Russian populace that was having an identity crisis. Russian society since its infancy had been built around service, whether to a Tsar (served by the nobility) or a master (served by the serfs). Russians found their sense of purpose in who they served. But by the mid-19th century, Russia ran under a Germanic template of self-service, and Russian landowners were forced to find some other purpose (The emancipation of serfs came in 1861, two years after Oblomov was published). These people no longer needed to fight in wars for the Tsar and give their lives for their country. The sacrifices that were needed came with much lower stakes, and this was difficult for many to take. Olga's accusation takes aim at those who were struggling in this exact situation. They were willing to give their lives for a Tsar. Would they now be willing to work for their families, or even for themselves?

But Olga isn't standing in front of the entire Russian nobility when she says these words. She's looking into the eyes of Oblomov.

This is a man who, despite caring for people, fails to actually care for them. He loves his best friend, Stoltz, but he burdens him to an extreme. At one point in the novel, Stoltz is running Oblomov's estate, handling Oblomov's legal disputes in St. Petersburg, and managing Oblomov's finances, all while living his own life and managing his own businesses. Stoltz doesn't need Oblomov to sacrifice his life. He just needs him to visit his own estate.

His landlady asks for even less. She enjoys pampering him, taking care of him like a baby, baking him pies all the time, etc. What does she need? She needs Oblomov to walk, so he can live longer and she can bake him more pies! COME ON, MAN, JUST WALK A LITTLE. CHRIST.

But this is Oblomov we're talking about. He's too busy thinking about the big things and worrying about his problems to actually do anything about the little things that are creating said problems.

I see Oblomov as unique in its ability to intelligently depict the consequences of inaction while remaining sympathetic to those who are inactive. The Chapter IX dream sequence is the novel's best scene, while bits and pieces of Part 3 dragged, but overall it's a rich reading experience.

I still don't quite know what to think about our sedentary oddball. No matter how hard you try not to matter, you're going to leave your footprint on someone or something, and Oblomov certainly makes his mark. It isn't an overwhelmingly positive one, to say the least. I don't know if there's a single character that can be said to have benefited from knowing him. But can a man only be summed up by what others take from him? I don't know. Let me think about that for the next 30 years while my estate falls into ruin. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
I know I would have gotten a lot more out of this novel if I had been able to discuss with others.

It doesn‘t feel like a whole lot happens — mainly because, due to his own ideals (and fears), Oblomov decides to spend most of his life doing not much.

I can see why it‘s considered a classic, however.

Read for #1001Books ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Aug 5, 2019 |
I first read this in 2008, after it was strongly recommended to me by multiple friends (who were all of a group that have Russian as a second language, for various divergent reasons). Each of them made the same statement. "You must read Oblomov to truly understand Russians." The Stephen Pearl translation is probably as close as you might come to reading it in the original (he won an award for this in 2008). Oblomov's tale was originally published in 1859, long before the revolution, and yet it's a cautionary tale that still has revelations of the Russian psyche today. ( )
1 vote Lyndatrue | Oct 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
In a world of planners Oblomov plans himself to sleep. In a world of action he discovers the poetry of procrastination. In a world of passion he discovers the delicacies of reluctance. And when we reject his passivity he bears our secret desire for it like a martyr. For us he sleeps, for us he lies in bed daydreaming, for us his mind goes back to the Arcadia of childhood, drinking the opiate of memory. For our sakes who live in clean rooms and who jump out of bed when the alarm clock goes, Oblomov lies among his cobwebs and his fleas, his books unread, his ink dry in the bottle, his letters unanswered. While we prosper, he is cheated...

There is a transcendent gentleness, an ineffable prosaic delicacy, in the book. But we can’t get away from it; the second part, although benign and moral, is dull... The undertone of dream and fairy-tale runs through the book like the murmur of a stream, so that to call Goncharov a realist is misleading. Oblomov himself becomes one of those transfigured characters which have grown over a long period of writing, which exist on several planes, and which go on growing in the mind after the book is put down. Now he seems to symbolise the soul, now he i£ the folly of idleness, now he is the accuser of success. He is an enormous character.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew York Review of Books, V.S. Pritchett

» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Goncharov, Ivanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bukowska, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chagall, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duddington, NatalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ehre, MiltonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huisman, WilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langeveld, ArthurAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langeveld, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearl, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwartz, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wijk, N. vanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ilya Ilyitch Oblomov was lying in bed one morning in his flat in Gorohovy Street, in one of the big houses that had almost as many inhabitants as a whole country town.
“Yesterday one has wished, to-day one attains the madly longed-for object, and to-morrow one will blush to think that one ever desired it.”
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The best-known work by the 19th century Russian novelist about a man who lacks willpower and self-confidence.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

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Seven Stories Press

2 editions of this book were published by Seven Stories Press.

Editions: 1583228403, 1583229868

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