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on 29 July 2017
Translation into English is not great.
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Ilya Ilich Oblomov is a nobleman with worries, when we first meet him. Firstly, he is being asked to move apartment - when he can scarcely be bothered to leave his couch. Secondly, his baliff has written, asking him to return to the countryside and deal with problems on his family estate. For Oblomov, despite his inertia, is the owner of 350 souls - a landowner and a member of the nobility. However, he has gone from a spoilt and lazy child to a man is simply unable to rouse himself to deal with the smallest problem. Living in dirt and decay with his lazy servant Zakhar, he makes plans, but fails always to carry them out.

During this novel, it is fair to say that not much happens. Oblomov worries a lot, he sleeps more, he argues with his servant and he thinks about the future. His friend, Stolz, tries his best to rouse him from his inertia and other 'friends' use him. However, despite the lack of action, this is an absolutely riveting, and beautifully written, novel. In some ways, of course, Oblomov is an object lesson for the problems with pre-revolutionary Russia; when the nobility were often absent from their estates, which were left in the hands of others to run, and living indolent and frivolous lives. As Stolz tells him, "It all began with your inability to put on your own stockings and ended with your inability to live."

Stolz is the son of Oblomov's teacher, who has known him as a boy and who understands his way of life. Maligned by many characters as the son of a German, he is everything Oblomov is not - industrious, capable and organised. He does his best to help Oblomov get out of his rut of utter inactivity and take control of his life. Through him, Oblomov meets Olga, and the possibility of love, and even marriage, is raised. However, the tragedy of Oblomov is that he cannot truly change his own life, much as he talks about doing so. Of course, this was a time when many nobles considered work beneath them and lived on the income generated by their land. When Oblomov is asked to build a road, even a school on his estate, he is aghast. He sees a way of life that has gone on for generations without a need for improvement.

Despite Oblomov's laziness and procrastination, he is always the centre that binds the other characters in the novel together. Ultimately, he is a gentle soul, who wants only to be left in peace. Although, like Stolz, you may feel exasperated at times, you recognise his innate kindness and that means you retain sympathy with his plight, even if it is self inflicted.
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on 15 February 2013
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov is a fantastic novel, and a must read fof any fan of Russian literature.

However, this edition is NOT it! It seems to be a heavily edited, abridged version.

If you wish to read Oblomov, you can't go wrong with the Penguin Classics edition, which is still available and easy to find, on Zmazon, Ebay and publisher website.
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2010
Oblomov left me sobbing towards its conclusion, a reaction I did not anticipate at the outset. I found that as the story progressed I became more and more engrossed in a character, whose initial chaotic presentation consisted of lying around lazily in his room, mainly sleeping, often shouting at his servant, entertaining uninvited guests, eating and drinking. Oblomov the absent landowner appears broke, on the verge of eviction from his city apartment and hounded by indecision. Then comes the dream, wherein Oblomov's character gently coalesces into that of a child hopelessly romanticising those halcyon days of innocence. Thereafter Oblomov, the man/child, after much prompting from his childhood friend, departs his immediate surroundings, meets Olga and the rest is poetry.
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on 13 July 2005
This is one of my favourite novels, and one of the very finest of the golden age of Russian literature in the nineteenth century, up there with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.
Goncharov only wrote a handful of books (3 novels and a travelogue), and of these Oblomov is by far the best (although his final novel, The Precipice is under-rated and of interest too). Oblomov is the simple story of a nobleman in Tsarist Russia who has plenty of opportunities for success in love and life, but who finds it very difficult to take them - or indeed to do anything decisive at all other than laze around.
Oblomov seems to embody potential unfulfilled and a stubborn to change and take on new ideas, and he has been seen by many as a metaphor for pre-revolution Russia. 'Oblomovism' has apparently become a common term in Russia, meaning, of course, procrastination or inaction.
Amazingly for a book about seemingly so little, Oblomov glides by, perhaps because it is so well written. This is a singular and fascinating novel, with some stunningly detailed and well drawn characters. It may be of a very different style to most modern books, but I wuld strongly recommend it.
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on 21 May 2009
"To be or not to be, that is the question!.."
The famous words, the famous direction of philosophising. Oblomov, just like Hamlet, answers "No", but in a different way. "What is the point in keeping up with the Joneses, improving tyre factory efficiency by 0.5%, producing pointless generic rubbish that many people devote their life to, how does it all relate to the ideal of human nature?" : asks Oblomov. Ultimate honesty rejects vanity of such pursuits, but ... what fills the resulting vacuum?

Sorrow and death. Oblomov gives up his humanistic ideals and lives out his life like an oyster - consuming and displacing, maintaining physical comfortableness/peace of his own environment. Driven to achieve simple animal pleasure "in the moment" (postponing distressing things) he achieves sorrow in his mental "life as a whole".

This sorrow of Oblomov may well be "the truth"- if there is no point of life then what is the point of striving? Shtolz- Oblomov's friend and his complete opposite- does not provide us with an answer; but maybe gives us a hint towards it. The ideal of human nature may not be knowledge of some facts (these are impenetrable), but only in striving towards that knowledge. Striving=human nature=happiness.
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on 12 January 2011
This is a superb novel, do not misunderstand me; but what intrigues me is Penguins strange decision to put a painting of Garshin (an even more superb writer) by Ilya Repin on the cover; a bit like putting an Hank Williams picture on an Elvis Presley album.
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on 12 January 2011
4.5 stars. This is classic Russian literature (nearly) at its best. I didn't notice any typos and the translation (as far as I can tell) is excellent, since there was never any confusion or odd wording. The characters are very well-drawn and the story was never boring, even though there are plenty of long passages with very little going on. I could identify strongly with some of the characters and have a lot of respect for the author's psychological insight into different types of people. The introduction is informative and interesting without giving too much of the book away, as is usually the case. It mentions that the book was written in different stages, over a long period of time, and this can be seen in the writing. There was something I didn't like about the story, towards the end, which is why I have given it a half star less, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it has something to do with inconsistency on the part of one of the main characters, or perhaps only the incomplete portrayal of the same. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this book to lovers of the genre, and to those who like their books with a healthy dose of analytical insight into the human condition.
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on 7 August 2014
I read this years ago, well over three decades ago actually, so not this edition but a good paperback publication. Just had to write a review about the novel itself because it is one of the score or so that have hung around in my consciousness with any degree of clarity. I am sure other reviewers will alert you to the condition/ standard of this version.
Nothing really happens in this novel and it's not short! It's about an extraordinarily disaffected, indolent Russian aristocrat who is a hostage to his own lethargy. Oh how dull, you must be thinking. But I just got drawn in. Oblomov is a character you just have to keep reading; he really is very endearing; he gets under your skin. It's a fascinating study and if you haven't read it, I would encourage you to give it a try. I did have to get around a quarter of the way in before I was fully enchanted but I still remember the reading experience as a truly pleasant and oddly uplifting one. How could it be less than 5 stars?
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on 25 September 2000
This is a wonderful story of an extremely lazy and kind-hearted nobleman who sees his life and only love waste away before his eyes, but cannot bring himself to act to prevent it. It is a delightful evocation of the comical and melancholy life on a Russian estate and a sad and gripping portrait of a good man undone by his own lethargy.
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