Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Ivan Goncharov

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Born in 1812 in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk), Russia, to a prosperous family of grain merchants, Ivan Goncharov was raised by his godfather, an aristocratic liberal who would serve at least in part as the model for Goncharov’s most famous character: the ineffectual dreamer Ilya Ilyich Oblomov. Although he came of age at the height of the height of Russia’s fervor for Romanticism, Goncharov remained aloof from the movement. After a dozen years in government service, he penned a A Common Story, which some have called the first Russian realist novel. But it was with 1859’s Oblomov that the author achieved his widest renown, so much so that “Oblomovism”—defined as a dreamy sort of laziness—entered into the standard Russian lexicon. After the failure of his didactic anti-nihilist novel The Precipice, Goncharov wrote little and lived in seclusion, laboring into his old age at the Russian office of censorship. He died in 1891.

He had dark gray eyes that roamed without care over the walls and ceiling in a vague reverie, showing that nothing interested him and nothing worried him.