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.