Oblomov

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Oblomov
Oblomov 1915.jpg
Title page of the 1915 English translation by C. J. Hogarth
Author Ivan Goncharov
Original title Обломов
Translator C. J. Hogarth
Country Russia
Language Russian
Publication date
1859
Media type Print
Preceded by The Frigate Pallada

Oblomov (Russian: Обломов)[1] is a novel by Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, first published in 1859. Oblomov is the central character of the novel, portrayed as the ultimate incarnation of the superfluous man, a symbolic character in 19th-century Russian literature. Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed and just manages to move from his bed to a chair in the first 50 pages.[2] The book was considered a satire of Russian nobility whose social and economic function was increasingly questioned in mid-nineteenth century Russia.

The novel was popular when it came out, and some of its characters and devices have imprinted on Russian culture and language.

Plot[edit]

The novel evolved and expanded from an 1849 short story or sketch entitled "Oblomov's Dream. An Episode from an Unfinished Novel", later incorporated as "Oblomov's Dream" ("Son Oblomova") as Chapter 9 in the completed 1859 novel. 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,[citation needed] 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.

Oblomov spends the first part of the book in bed or lying on his sofa. He receives a letter from the manager of his country estate explaining that the financial situation is deteriorating and that he must visit the estate to make some major decisions, but Oblomov can barely leave his bedroom, much less journey a thousand miles into the country.

A flashback reveals a good deal of why Oblomov is so slothful; the reader sees Oblomov's upbringing in the country village of Oblomovka. He is spoiled rotten and never required to work or perform household duties, and he is constantly pulled from school for vacations and trips or for trivial reasons. In contrast, his friend Andrey Stoltz, born to a German father and a Russian mother, is raised in a strict, disciplined environment, reflecting Goncharov's own view of the European mentality as dedicated and hard-working.

As the story develops, Stoltz introduces Oblomov to a young woman, Olga, and the two fall in love. However, his apathy and fear of moving forward are too great, and she calls off their engagement when it is clear that he will keep delaying their wedding to avoid having to take basic steps like putting his affairs in order.

Oblomov is swindled repeatedly by his "friend" Taranteyev and Ivan Matveyevich, his landlady's brother, and Stoltz has to undo the damage each time. The last time, Oblomov ends up living in penury because Taranteyev and Ivan Matveyevich are blackmailing him out of all of his income from the country estate, which lasts for over a year before Stoltz discovers the situation and reports Ivan Matveyevich to his supervisor.

Olga leaves Russia and visits Paris, where she bumps into Stoltz on the street. The two strike up a romance and end up marrying.

However, not even Oblomov could go through life without at least one moment of self-possession and purpose. When Taranteyev's behavior at last reaches insufferable lows, Oblomov confronts him, slaps him around a bit and finally kicks him out of the house, in a scene in which all the noble traits that his social class was supposed to symbolize shine through his then worn out being. Oblomov has a child with his widowed landlady, Agafia Pshenitsina, whom he marries. They name the child Andrey, after Stoltz, who adopts the boy upon Oblomov's death. Oblomov spends the rest of his life in a second Oblomovka, being taken care of by Agafia Pshenitsina like he used to be as a child. She can prepare many a succulent meal, and makes sure that Oblomov doesn't have a single worrisome thought. Sometime before his death he had been visited by Stoltz, who had promised to his wife a last attempt at bringing Oblomov back to the world, but without success. By then Oblomov had already accepted his fate, and during the conversation he mentions "Oblomovitis" as the real cause of his demise. Oblomov's end is quiet, much like the rest of his life.

Oblomovism[edit]

The words Oblomovism and Oblomovitis (translations of Russian: обломовщина oblomovshchina) refer to the fatalistic slothfulness that Oblomov exhibits.

Nikolai Dobrolyubov, in his 1859 article "What is Oblomovism?",[3] described the word as an integral part of Russian avos'. Stolz suggests that Oblomov's death was the result of "Oblomovism".[citation needed]

A character named "Oblomov" in art patron Peggy Guggenheim's memoir Out of This Century was identified by poet Stephen Spender as Samuel Beckett, her one-time lover.[4]

Adaptations[edit]

Son of Oblomov, a comedy adaptation for the theatre, opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1964 and transferred to the Comedy Theatre in the West End the same year. It starred Spike Milligan, who used less and less of the original script until eventually the entire piece was improvised farce; also in the cast were Joan Greenwood, Bill Owen, and Valentine Dyall.

Oblomov was adapted to the cinema screen in the Soviet Union by Nikita Mikhalkov in 1979, as A Few Days from the Life of I.I. Oblomov (Несколько дней из жизни И. И. Обломова; 145 minutes). The Cast and Crew: Oleg Tabakov as Oblomov, Andrei Popov as Zakhar, Elena Solovei as Olga and Yuri Bogatyrev as Andrei; cinematography by Pavel Lebechev; screenplay by Mikhalkov and Aleksander Adabashyan; music by Eduard Artemyev; produced by Mosfilm Studio (Moscow).

In 1989 BBC TV made an English language dramatisation of the novel, with George Wendt in the title role.

In 2005 BBC Radio 4 made a two-part English language dramatisation, heralding the lead character as a tragic-comic hero for a couch potato generation. It was adapted by Stephen Wyatt, produced and directed by Claire Grove and starred Toby Jones as the lead, supported by Trevor Peacock, Claire Skinner, Clive Swift, Gerard McDermott, Nicholas Boulton, and Richenda Carey. Olga's singing voice was provided by Olivia Robinson, with Helen Crayford on piano.

In 2008 an adaptation was produced for the English service of the Russian national broadcaster, the Voice of Russia.[5]

English translations[edit]

  • C. J. Hogarth (1915)
  • Natalie Duddington (1929)
  • David Magarshack (1954)
  • Ann Dunnigan (1963)
  • Stephen Pearl (2006)
  • Marian Schwartz (2008), reviewed by Elaine Blair in The New York Review of Books, 19 August 2010, pages 54–55.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oblomov is pronounced [ɐˈbloməf], with the stress on the second syllable.
  2. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Ivan (Aleksandrovich) Goncharov (1812–1891)". Authors' Calendar. 
  3. ^ Dobrolyubov, Nikolay (1859). Что такое обломовщина? [What is Oblomovism?]. Отеч. записки (in Russian) (I–IV). Retrieved 9 November 2006. 
  4. ^ Spender, Stephen (12 October 1958). "Lifelong Suffocation". The New York Times. p. BR5. 
  5. ^ Shvetsova, Tatiana (host) (22 August 2011). "Ivan Goncharov. 'Oblomov'". The VOR Treasure-Store. Voice of Russia. http://english.ruvr.ru/radio_broadcast/2248881/2316652/.

External links[edit]