Monday, October 31, 2011

Oblomov - Ivan Goncharov

Our hero is introduced to us in the form of a congenitally lazy man named Oblomov. Our first glimpse finds Oblomov sprawled out on his couch, wrapped in a silk robe wondering whether or not he should get up...maybe he should just plan his day before he gets out of bed officially. It seems nothing could pull him from his torpor. Friends come to visit and blatantly steal his food, money and clothing and yet while he yawns and rubs the sleep out of his eyes, he seems reluctant to act.
Finally a friend persuades him to visit the country, where upon his arrival he is met with an enchanting dream of a young lady with enough faith in him to temporarily pull him from his slumber. He woos her with gusto at first and it seems like our character has been transformed by love!
And yet slowly making love become too laborious. Oblomov writes letters presumptively breaking off the relationship before he's forced to relinquish the right to sleep all day and become a member of society. He prefers rather to sit on the side line and have his business taken care of by others and slowly that is what happens. On the cusp of engagement, he lacks the momentum to summit and instead by his absence - the relationship ands and years later when he has still to leave his room he hears the news of his once lover from passing friends.
At first I thought Oblomov was a sorry excuse for a hero. Goncharov is poking fun at the Russian nobility, whose social and economic function was increasingly in question in mid-nineteenth century. And the end of the book one thin has become increasingly apparent: Oblomov has been clear from the beginning what his intentions and desires for his life were and while most would think these intentions lacking in depth...he fulfills his minimal life goals to the fullest while barely moving. His dearest friend, who happens to be type-A, constantly runs around cleaning up the messes he leaves and putting his life in order. So while this friend can be admired and exhorted for his ability to succeed in the end of the book he must learn to sit still...

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