Ivan Goncharov was born in 1812 in the province of Simbirsk, about 800 km east of Moscow. He was the youngest of six children and his father was a wealthy landowner. Goncharov received a good education and graduated from the Imperial Lyceum in St. Petersburg in 1831. After graduation, he worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice and later in the Ministry of Transport. He also traveled extensively throughout Europe, which had a great influence on his writing.
"The Same Old Story" and "Oblomov"
Goncharov began writing in his spare time and his first work, "The Same Old Story" or "A Common Story", was published in 1847. This novel explores themes of love, society, and class but also deals with the theme of identity and self-discovery as the main character (Aleksander Aduev) tries to understand who he is and what he wants in life. However, it was "Oblomov" that brought him real fame and recognition as a writer. The book was published in 1859 and was an instant success. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of Russian society and for its comedic elements. The novel was also widely read and discussed, and it had a significant impact on Russian literature.
My copy of the book "Oblomov" by Ivan Goncharov (Publisher: L.J. Veen Klassiek, Dutch version available at Bol.com, the link opens in a new window)
The character of Oblomov is based on Goncharov's own observations of the people around him. Oblomov is a man who is content to spend his days lying in bed, avoiding any kind of work or responsibility. He is a dreamer and a procrastinator, and he can't seem to find the energy or motivation to do anything. He is often described as a "superfluous man", a term used to describe a person who is not able to fit into society because of their lack of ambition or ability to take action.
At the time Russia was ruled by the Tsars and society was divided into different classes, with the upper-middle-class, the nobility, being the one portrayed in the novel. They were often portrayed as idle, lazy, and decadent, with little interest in working or improving themselves. The novel reflects the social and economic changes of the time, as well as the tensions between the old and the new ways of life, with the character of Oblomov representing the old ways of life and his friend Andrei (Stoltz) representing the new society.
You can not not love the character Ilya Ilyich Oblomov
Despite his laziness, Ilya Ilyich Oblomov is a sympathetic character and while reading I can't help but feel sorry for him as he struggles with his own lack of motivation. The book is filled with humorous moments, such as when Oblomov tries to get out of bed but can't seem to find the energy, or when he spends hours lying in bed, contemplating the meaning of life. Another funny moment of the book is when Oblomov's servant (Zakhar), tries to wake him up and all he gets is a groan, Zakhar's reaction is "I'll wait till tomorrow" and goes back to his room, leaving Oblomov snoring.
The novel features a number of other colorful characters, such as Oblomov's loyal servant Zakhar, and his friend Stoltz, who is the complete opposite of Oblomov – energetic, ambitious and successful. Andrei Stoltz is always pushing Oblomov to get up and do something with his life, but Oblomov is content to "chill out" for hours in his bed.
In the end, Oblomov's health deteriorates and he dies of an unspecified illness. His death should be seen as the result of his indecision and lack of ambition or action.
Main themes of the novel by Goncharov versus the issues of the reader of 'just an old book'
One of the main themes of the story is the conflict between Oblomov's desire for a comfortable, idle life and the societal pressure to be productive and successful. To me, the story in this 'old book', in a way, reflects the experience of someone who may be struggling with depressive thoughts and other mental issues. These concepts are universal and not dependent on an era or setting.
The themes of productivity and societal pressure are still relevant today, and the comedic moments in the book will have you laughing out loud. Not all Russian literature is difficult or slow. Are you a bit “on the low” and do you need some “me-time”, the story of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov is definitely worth it.
The story of “Oblomov” resonated on a personal personal level in such a way that I decided to name this project, the webshop, “Oblomov Art”. How weird this may sound to people who knew me before Oblomov Art started: to me, the name is a reminder to strive for balance and inner peace. To love the things you do most of your days. To keep going. To keep finding cool stuff to use and look at in our homes ;-)
If you want to read more, please check out the article “The start of Oblomov Art” – which provides a more personal and chronological insight in the start of this side business / project / webshop.
If you want to read more about the writer, Ivan Goncharov, please check out the Wikipedia page of Ivan Goncharov (the link opens in a new window). And more information about the story of Oblomov, the book, is to be found on the Wikipedia page about Oblomov (the link opens in a new window).
Thank you for reading.