by Ivan Aleksandrovič Gončarov

Other authorsJosef Hahn (Translator)
Paperback, 1991



Call number

KI 3854 O12



München: Dt. Taschenbuch-Verl.


The novel focuses on the midlife crisis of the main character, 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.

Media reviews

New York Review of Books
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
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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.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member deebee1
The novel opens with Oblomov lying in bed one morning. It proceeds to describe the man, the rather squalid room, the furniture, and the exchanges with Zahar, his old, grumbling, lazy, but loyal servant. The day continues, Oblomov has his meals, friends drop in, invitations accepted or rejected --
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all this conducted within the confines of his bed. Between conversations or attempts at plans for the day, he returns to his semi-awakened state, and immerses himself in the fairy tale images of his pampered childhood, especially of the food and preparation of it, around which family life revolved. Life was a tranquil pool. Even his imaginings of the future mirrored the dreamy days of his childhood -- a string of quiet and languid days spent strolling thoughtfully in the gardens with a charming wife... The day would be over before long. This constituted his daily routine. One day, Stoltz, a dear friend arrives, and Oblomov is introduced to a friend, Olga. Young, lovely Olga is drawn to Oblomov who couldn't believe his luck. Despite his love for her, he was ambiguous in how he expressed himself. Oblomov felt she deserved more, and that he was not the right man for her. He knew that she would very shortly mature and realize that there was a world out there, into which he would not be able to accompany her. Because of his rejection, she went away, and it was while she was trying to get over Oblomov that she realized she belonged with Stoltz, progressive, energetic, and a man with plans for the future. The three remain very good friends, the affection between them remaining solid and untarnished until the end. Oblomov never changed, never made that long-promised visit to his neglected estate, never moved away, never took another job in his life, never fell in love again, never changed his daily habits, never lost his love for food, never lifted a finger to do anything so that long years of these left him even softer, fatter, and slower in his middle age, and his death was as quiet as his life uneventful.

Based on the little I knew of this book, I was prepared to dislike Oblomov from page one -- I didn't take to slothful behaviour. But he becomes a dear figure, especially as we see his unselfishness and self-sacrificing nature, his wisdom and strength of character, displayed when he gave up Olga. He couldn't help his nature, it was how he was brought up, what he became, how he viewed the world. Oblomov was not lazy or indolent, rather he was devoid of will. He just did not see the point of effort. He knew the consequences of his inaction, his indecision, but he acted like a doomed man -- accepting of everything, a defeatist. We see not a disintegration of a character, but the continued existence of a half-formed one, and that is what makes Oblomov tragic.

Oblomov meant to symbolize Russia's aristrocratic class, and Olga and Stoltz, the arrival of change, of the new things, of new ways of thinking. Goncharov's writing is engaging, the characters are very well-drawn, and the ideas fully developed. This novel is great in every sense of the word.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Why is this book ‘overlooked’ and less recognized than others from the Golden Age of Russian literature? Hmm, let’s see. Tolstoy painted epics of a grand scale about adultery and Napoleon invading Russia. Turgenev? Nihilism, all-consuming passion, and beautiful slices of life in the country.
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Dostoevsky plumbed the depths of the soul and the meaning of man’s place in the universe. And so on. Now, what does the title character of Goncharov’s book do? Uh. Well, to put it crudely, he lays on his ass. Ok, not for all 552 pages, but for most of them. He resists pleas from his friends to get out and enjoy life, preferring the comforts of his couch instead, and he’s swindled because he’s too lazy and too inept to do anything about it. Somehow a girl falls in love with him, but he creates roadblocks and lets her slip away. What the hell is wrong with this guy, you’ll wonder. Is he severely introverted? A fool or a coward? Does he have some type of anxiety disorder which paralyzes him into inaction? Is he just a 19th century slacker? Or e) all of the above?

In this book Goncharov is actually satirizing a facet of the Russian character which holds it back relative to the West: pure at heart and noble of sentiment, but indolent. Particularly compared to Stolz, his very active German friend, Oblomov is a slug. As Mikhail Shishkin says in the Afterword: “The title of Alexander Herzen’s famous mid-nineteenth century novel, Who Is To Blame? has been the most burning of Russian questions for nearly two centuries. Who is to blame for Russia’s notorious roads? For its graft and embezzlement? For its idiot officials? Who is to blame for its pervasive slave mentality, no matter what the regime or economic structure? Who is to blame for its bloody history and for the way human dignity is trampled at every step? We have people galore to accuse – and just as many accusers. One of the most famous defendants to be put on trial for this is Ilya Ilich Oblomov, caught by Goncharov’s pen in flagrante delicto - on his sofa.”

The strength of devotion in two Russian women in the book offset this negative view, and Oblomov’s devoted but sloppy and lazy servant Zakhar is a source of humor, but I think the book would have been more effective had it been pared down. It’s just too long given the limited plot. The writing feels modern and occasionally there are nice turns of phrase, for example: “He spoke loudly, glibly, and nearly always crossly, and if you heard him at any remove, he sounded like three empty wagons driving over a bridge.” There are aspects of the relationship between men and women which are very outdated, but interestingly so (for example, the idea that it was not proper to be out with a woman without an escort, and the idea that a woman could only love once in life), and there are many more behaviors which seem right out of the present which is also interesting. I liked this one during a lover’s spat: “He made a frightened face. She made one just like it on purpose.”

I don’t know, it may deserve another ½ star, but I was glad to finish it and would hesitate before recommending it, both of which are not great signs.

On change:
“There is no peace in love either, and it is constantly changing, constantly moving forward, forward – ‘like all of life,’ as Stolz used to say.”

On familiarity:
“Living together as they did, they were sick and tired of each other. Brief daily intimacy between two people never leaves either one unscathed. It takes a great deal of life experience, logic, and sincere warmth on both sides to appreciate each other’s merits and not taunt or be taunted by each other’s shortcomings.”

On friendship, or love:
“Isn’t this it, the secret goal of every single person? To find in his friend the unchanging face of serenity, the perpetual and steady flow of emotion? After all, this is love’s standard, and if it deviates slightly, changes, or cools, we suffer. Isn’t my ideal the universal ideal? He thought. Isn’t this the crowning achievement, the very pinnacle of relations between the sexes?”

On men and women, hmm ala the line from When Harry Met Sally:
“There is no such thing as friendship between a man and a woman.”

“Friendship is a fine thing, Olga Sergeyevna, when it is love between a young man and a young woman or the memory of love between old people. But God forbid if it’s friendship on one side and love on the other.”

Finally this one relating to ‘nice guys’:
“Pure, chaste women love them, out of sympathy; corrupt women seek out their friendship in order to purge themselves of spoilage.”

On indecision:
“Without outside help, he could devise no thought or intention, and like a ripe apple he would never fall of his own accord. He had to be plucked.”

“You are prepared to coo in the rafters all your life. But I’m not like that.”

On memories:
“Memories are either the greatest poetry, when they are memories of a vital happiness, or a burning pain, when they touch dried wounds.”

On poets, and the moon:
“God knows whether a poet or dreamer would be content with nature in this peaceful corner. Those gentlemen, as we know, like to gaze at the moon and listen to the trilling of nightingales. They like a flirtatious moon who arrays herself in straw-yellow clouds and pokes mysteriously through the tree branches, or sprinkles sheaves of silver rays into her admirer’s eyes.”

On reading:
“She read a book and the book invariably had lines with sparks from her mind, the fire of her emotions flickered here and there, and words spoken the night before were written down, as if the author had overheard how her heart now beat.”

On sadness:
“In old age, your powers decline and you stop struggling with life. No, your sadness and melancholy – if it is only what I think it is – is more likely a sign of strength. The inquiries of a lively, stimulated mind sometimes burst beyond everyday limits, and, naturally, find no response, so there is a sadness, a temporary dissatisfaction with life. This is the sadness of a soul wondering about life’s mysteries.”

On youth:
“His eyes radiated the fire of life for longer and poured out beams of light, hope, and strength. He worried like everyone else, hoped, rejoiced over trifles, and suffered over minor details.
But all that had been long ago, during that tender period when a man assumes in any other man a sincere friend and falls in love with and is prepared to offer his hand and heart to nearly any woman – something others did indeed accomplish, often to their great regret thereafter and for the rest of their life.”

Lastly I love this bit of ogling; as Oblmov begins to notice a simple housekeeper and falls for her:
“… asked Oblomov, looking through the scarf, which had fallen open, at her high, forever tranquil bosom, as firm as a sofa cushion.”

Oh, and this one towards the end, apparently concerns in 1859 on ‘global freezing’:
“Well, they’re writing that the earth’s globe is getting colder all the time and one day it’s going to freeze completely.”
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LibraryThing member DuneSherban
Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov, has tended to be considered among the 'silent classics' of Russian literary criticism. In a recent study of Goncharov Elena Krasnostchekova has noted that he tends to be forgotten, or brushed aside, even though since the novel's publication in 1859 the word Oblomovschina
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('Oblomovitis') has become known by nearly every Russian speaker.

It is a peculiar, discomforting, and satirical sketch of the life of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, an indolent and 'poetic' aristocrat surviving in the cobwebby ruins of a darkened St Petersburg apartment. In him, the acerbic Dobroluibov saw the portrait of the Russian 'type'; thoughtful, yet unable to act on his thoughts, warm, yet unable to make either himself, or others, happy. Throughout the novel we witness the attempt by Oblomov to, finally, rid himself of his immobility and to give meaning to life; this opportunity is provided by Ol'ga. Their meeting, and the growth of their love, lead Oblomov to the 'ravine' which he encounters once before in the dream of his childhood (occuring in Part I as 'Son oblomova', or 'Oblomov's sleep'). To cross it is to make the final decision to enter the 'hurly burly' of the adult world, to accept its resonsibilities as well as its rewards.

Stylistically, Oblomov is eclectic; and it is in his proto-modernism in Oblomov's dream that this becomes most apparent. It is as uncanny and peculiar as Gogol's 'the old-world landowners', and as ridiculous and satirical as 'Dead Souls'. While reading Oblomov, I found it difficult not to think of Gogol, partly because they both represent the gentry in this 'uncanny' way. Further, because it has dominated the portrait of the gentry that we now have; liberal critics upheld him as a sham; Lenin saw in him the fate of the aristocracy; Freudians, Jungians and structuralists have also freely interpreted this novel. I have held onto the opinion that Oblomov is given sympathy and the opportunity of regeneration; Goncharov was, after all, himself socially awkward, dismissive of salons and balls (as is Oblomov).

It is a shame that Goncharov's work is shadowed by Turgenev, Dostoevskii, Tolstoy; not because he is 'better' or they are 'worse', rather because all of these authors have something important to say, in different ways, about Russian subjectivity and society in the 1840s onwards. Oblomov is a slow burning, extremely unique representation of the literary protagonist in Russia (he is no Pechorin!); for this, he is among the most rewarding.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
A book about a man who doesn't get out of bed...much. This is a brilliant book, but I can't explain why. Well, first it is funny, then it is sad. I think this is just one you have to read for yourself.
LibraryThing member shawnd
This book is, by turns, amusing, disturbing, symbolic, romantic, tragic, and heartrending. it is the story of Ilya Oblomov, a Russian gentry whose childhood of being served and amused by others' activities without any of his own has made a longer-lasting impression on him than others. His main
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pursuit is lying down and contemplating things--including why he doesn't get up. Oblomov's life takes odd turns in no small part because of his schoolmate and devoted friend Stoltz who (almost) never gives up trying to make Oblomov into a normative, active, motivated man. During this process, Oblomov meets a love interest--at which point the book becomes more like Anna Karenina or a light, romantic, tragic novel. Without spoiling the story, the story courses through the challenges and resolution of this life-long crisis of what Oblomov should, could, wants to do with his life.

The book was stark in its change of tone. The first 200 pages or so are delightful and humorous courses of Gogol-like prose. When the love interest is introduced it becomes more like Tolstoy. As the novel progresses, it becomes - for a bit - like some dramatic Maupassant story - then settles into a historic account of the end of Oblomov's life. This trait was perhaps the only thing that kept this from being a perfect book for me. Magnetic, engaging, funny, tragic, perhaps depressing, but most of all the ending is a heartwrenching sorrow.
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LibraryThing member meggyweg
A very early slacker novel -- one of the oldest, and certainly the oldest I've read. What it actually reminded me of was 101 Reykjvajik, only with a little more class. (This is Russian gentry, after all.) Oblomov is a none-too-subtle metaphor for the Russian aristocracy that brought ruin upon
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itself through indolence and self-centeredness.

I really couldn't get into it, myself. I kept thinking: is anything actually going to HAPPEN? It took about 100 pages for Oblomov to even get out of bed. Then when he fell in love with Olga, I expected things to pick up a bit, but they didn't. I've read that in good fiction the protagonist must do something significant or change in some way. But Oblomov did nothing and refused to change -- which I suppose is the point of the story.
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LibraryThing member Lyndatrue
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
A reread from years ago when I was going through a phase of reading Russian literature--just as enthralling as before. A social satire on the "landed gentry" class in 19th century Russia, as concentrated in the sloth Oblomov, a feckless, apathetic protagonist--I couldn't call him a
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"hero"--representing the old order where nothing should be changed and his friend Stolz, the half-German half-Russian, who tries to bring Oblomov from his slough, trying to convince him to go back to his estate from town, even introducing him to a young lady, Olga. The two fall is love but she realizes he'll never change his outlook and consummate laziness, so they part. Stolz represents change and progress. All live their lives and Oblomov finally dies, still in the clutches of his "oblomovitis". A work of great depth of perception. Marvellous character development all through with all characters. Oblomov is one of those archetypes, like, say, Don Quixote; you laugh at him but also he touches your emotions.
I thought this an excellent translation; one would never know it was from decades ago. A masterpiece, most highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Ilya Ilyich Oblomov is not merely indolent. He is virtually inert. He can almost not even wake up, let alone wash or put his clothes on. And as for leaving his apartment, that is out of the question. Everything is too much for him. Thinking is too much. Reading is too much. He can barely muster
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enough energy to eat and drink and breathe. And he is as defenceless as he is inactive. So it may not be surprising that his “friends” are taking advantage of him and kind heart. All that is except for Andrei Stoltz. Oblomov grew up with Stoltz and the latter has an undying appreciation for Oblomov’s pureness of soul and kind heart. He refers to Oblomov’s intelligence as well, though we rarely see evidence of this. It is Stoltz who initiates much of the action in the novel — the offer (declined) to go abroad, the introduction to Olga, the rescue from the fiends bilking Oblomov of the wealth from his estate, and the care for Oblomov’s inheritance. If Stoltz is the figure of action and industry, then Oblomov is his mirror opposite in inaction and passivity. And yet their love and respect for each other binds them together, perhaps against reason and inclination.

There can be little doubt that Goncharov has created a number of vivid and lasting characters, even beyond the titular figure who lends his name to a recognized condition. But it may be his account of love, indeed of different forms of love, that makes this novel more remarkable. The burgeoning of love between Olga and Oblomov is beyond touching. Its consequences are painful. But equally valuable is the more stable love that each arrives at for another. And of course the love of friendship that Stoltz feels towards Oblomov is richly explored.

It might not stand up against some of the well-acknowledged classics of 19th century Russian literature, but Oblomov is still well worth reading. Just don’t get too comfortable on that divan! Gently recommended.
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LibraryThing member chitatel
For the last 40 years, whenever someone has asked me what my favorite Russian novel is, I have invariably said Oblomov. More than any other, this book so well describes the dilemma of the Russian character, the conflicts and enmeshing of the oriental and european influences. It has given me the
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framework for reading and analyzing so much that is russian. On the other hand, it may be that I simply relate to someone who can spend so much time in bed! The movie is hilarious.
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LibraryThing member gofish8
A great novel of lassitude.
LibraryThing member HarryMacDonald
This book and its author deserve a better fate than they have received, at-least outside the Slavic-language world. Goncharov was an immensely prolific writer, but only OBLOMOV is remembered, and it is known mostly as the the novel in which it takes the central character several dozen pages to get
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out of bed. Put that way, it sounds heavy-handed and/or neurotic. Bit it is far more than that, among other things, curiously tender. Who will join me in a revival of interest in ol' Goncharov?
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LibraryThing member hste2011
Although i find the proza quite good, when i got halfway i got tired and skipped to the last chapter. After reading the last chapter i had the feeling i didn't miss anything.
LibraryThing member Tinus67
Great Russian novel. Despite his so called laziness, have sympathy for main character. Sometimes want to shout to him go on do something.
LibraryThing member ErikaHope
There is also a good film adaptation of this book. I like to call my children Oblomov when they are laying around doing nothing. They don't know what it means but seem to understand it's not a complement. I appreciate this book as a critique of apathy and/or priviledge.
LibraryThing member Steve38
What a wonderful book. No wonder that Goncharov produced little work of any significance other than this. It must have been an exhausting process to produce such social comment and such characters. Written in typical langurous style of the period nothing is hurried. Everything is described and
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discussed thoroughly. In the lives of his two main characters Oblomov and Stolz Goncharov explores different approaches to life. One constantly striving for a better life, one contentendly accepting whatever comes. Oblomov is certainly not the lazy idler he is often portrayed to be.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
I find it hard to describe this Russian story. Oblomov struck me as more sad than funny, though there were certainly some humor in this novel.
LibraryThing member roblong
The story of a lazy man - it takes Oblomov 150 pages to get out of bed, and once he makes it he never seems quite sure whether he should have. This is really good, it's funny, sad and romantic, you get on his side and then want to beat him around the head with a cricket bat to make him try and
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engage with the world. It has great characters - his relationship with his equally lazy servant is brilliant fun - and is very readable.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
A book about a man who doesn't get out of bed...much. This is a brilliant book, but I can't explain why. Well, first it is funny, then it is sad. I think this is just one you have to read for yourself.
LibraryThing member lee.ellen1
This is such an amazing book and since I like to re-read my faves on vacation, I now have a paper copy and an e-book of the version by Bunim & Bannigan (like this translation by Stephen Pearl).
LibraryThing member lucybrown
A book about a man who doesn't get out of bed...much. This is a brilliant book, but I can't explain why. Well, first it is funny, then it is sad. I think this is just one you have to read for yourself.
LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
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,
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Read for #1001Books
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LibraryThing member AlanWPowers
A delightful account of the leisured upper class in Czarist Russia, touted by the Communists because it reveals the laziness of the land-owning class: in this case, Oblomov spends the first fifty pages in bed. In Ch.VIII when he finally gets off the sofa, he dramatically puts on both туфли
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(slippers) at once.
As the author of BirdTalk, I love the very first page, when his face is described,"Мысль гулала волной птицей по лицу..." thought plays across his face like a bird...." * When he finally gets out of bed (Ch.IV, pt I) he moves to "a large armchair, sank into it, and sat motionless." Lots of friends visit him, Tarantyev, Alexayev, and several others. All have different characters, one filled with laughter, some not.
Before he gets out of bed, he tells each entrant not to approach him, "вы с холода" you're bringing in the outside cold. One tells him he's his usual daft self.
His servant Zakhar ("Grasping") steals small amounts, kopecks for drinking with his buddies, also whoring, which his master is too lazy to do. In fact, sloth and a big appetite make him innocent and virtuous.
This plump and lazy man does eventually fall in love, just after he gives up his literary pretensions (he's no Proust, writing in bed) and Zakhar has bestowed his master's literry efforts on hidden corners of the house. He wants a life of candid friends, not those who'll satirize you as soon as you leave the hall; if he marries, he wants books, a piano and elegant furniture, мебель. That's the French word, "meubles," movables. So many Russian words come from France, which was to Russia as England was to America--all the upper class in War and Peace speak French. And Russian academic introductions I found fairly easy to translate because all their abstractions (like most of ours) are French...like the word "abstraction" itself.

But back to Oblomov in love. He falls for a lady while listening to her... sing. See Andrew Marvell's, "The Fair Singer," "But how should I avoid to be her Slave,/ Whose subtle art invisibly can weave /My Fetters of the very Air I breath?" Goncharov's singing scene is extensive, his friend Stolz almost ordering Olga to sing, and she deferring to Oblomov, who does not ask, not knowing if she'd sing up to his standards-- and he lacks the skills of meaningless compliment. He says, "I can't want what I don't know," and Stoltz reprimands, "You are rude!" After Stolz leaves, Olga confesses she knows Oblomov to be a "sinner." With a laugh, she says he wears unmatched socks...Stolz had told her. Oblomov is so embarrassed he gets his hat to leave, but she talks him down with her candor. Olga has no affectation, no coquetry, no pretense so common in Russian society women.
She had noticed his tears while she was singing...his embarrassment, "a bad trait in men, ashamed of their feelings. They would do better to be ashamed of their intellect: it more often falls into error"(232). Here's Goncharv's version of LaRochefoucault, "Every man complains of his memory, no man of his judgement."
Olga sits at the piano, plays and sings, several songs, her voice dark, and then "fresh and silvery."
She finishes on a long-drawn-out note, her voice dying away. She, "Why do you look like that? Oh My God! слезы в них!" Tears in them..."You feel the music so deeply." Нет, не музыка, а ... любовь. Not the music, but...Love. (p.180, московский рабочий edtion, 1981).

Czarist wealth, as I observed in my Gogol review, depended not on land, but on the slaves with a right to the land, мужик, the workers. Many owned versts and versts of land, worthless without workers. Here Oblomov says he's too poor to marry. His friend says, "Three hundred souls?" Ob, "That's not enough to live on with a wife"(205).

Especially not enough when the devoted Zaxar nevertheless filches coins (he drinks and whores with kopeks) or leftover food, swearing to his master никакога куска, no piece of cheese left. (p.68, 1981) Oblomov, "There WAS!" Zaxar, "Was not!" Then Zaxar complains, Who ever heard of a lunch right before dinner? Meanwhile, Oblomov dreams of his extensive gardens at his country estate, how he's going to reform them. If only he once decides to go there, make the long trip.

*Read in Ann Dunnigan's translation (Signet. 1963), but also some in Russian, 1981 edition bought at Schoenhof's, Cambridge in 1983.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
I find it hard to describe this Russian story. Oblomov struck me as more sad than funny, though there were certainly some humor in this novel.
LibraryThing member tux78
intersting, not like other russian masterpiece. Lots of detail, took me a while to finish the book.


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