Ivan Goncharov (1812-1891) was a renowned Russian novelist known for his masterpiece, Oblomov, which critiqued the Russian nobility and introduced the “superfluous man” archetype. Goncharov also penned down the travelogue, The Frigate Pallada, and the novel, The Precipice. Despite a relatively small literary output, Goncharov’s keen observations on human psychology and social complexities left a lasting impact on Russian literature. Goncharov’s works continue to influence readers and scholars alike. He passed away in 1891, leaving behind a timeless literary legacy.


The protagonist of Ivan Goncharov’s novel, Oblomov, is Ilyich Oblomov, a young and wealthy aristocrat who is paralyzed by uncertainty. He is, therefore, unable to take any action that can have a lasting impact on his life. Set in the nineteenth-century Russia, Oblomov comes across as the prototypical “superfluous man”, a gifted individual who is shunned by the society for failing to adhere to its rules.

The plot revolves around Oblomov’s day-to-day life and his ultimate coming-to-terms with the responsibilities synonymous with maturity. Oblomov spends much of his time in bed or in his room, lacking the motivation to assume any responsibility, even in the face of his country estate’s financial crisis. He loves leading an unruly life and delegates everything to others. He avoids making any decisions that might have serious consequences.

In contrast, Andrey Stolz, who comes from a more traditional, work-oriented family background, plays a pivotal role in trying to shake Oblomov out of his apathy. Stolz introduces Oblomov to many new individuals, including the lovely Olga. However, everything falls apart due to Oblomov’s lack of initiative and indecisiveness.

As Oblomov gets in the company of some dishonest friends, his life quickly goes downhill. Despite Stolz’s best efforts, he is unable to save his friend from getting financially exploited. Oblomov’s life continues to deteriorate until he has no choice but to do something about it. He finally manages to summon the courage to stand up to his manipulative pals and marry his landlady, Agafia.

However, Oblomov’s sluggish attitude persists despite the positive changes in his life. He spends the remainder of his days in Agafia’s care, where he recreates an environment reminiscent of his early life. When he realizes that “Oblomovitis” was what killed him, it becomes a symbolic acknowledgment of the fact that man creates his own destiny. Oblomov eventually dies peacefully in his sleep, and Stolz adopts his child.


Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov is well-known for coining the controversial ideology known as “Oblomovism”. The eponymous protagonist’s gaping indecision became so iconic that his name made its way into the Russian language and became synonymous with someone who is slow to act. The novel’s influence on Russia’s language and culture has been immense, establishing it as one of the classics of Russian literature.


Like all its contemporary classics, Oblomov, too, is a rather lengthy novel.


But what was he to do? Stay where he was or move on? This Oblomovian question was for him of even deeper significance than Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’.

Oblomov’s face was neither reddy nor dull nor pale, but of an indefinite hue. At all events, that was the impression which it gave–possibly because, through insufficiency of exercise, or through want of fresh air, or through a lack of both, he was wrinkled beyond his years. In general, to judge from the extreme whiteness of his bare neck, his small, puffy hands, and his soft shoulders, one would conclude that he possessed an effeminate body. Even when excited, his actions were governed by an unvarying gentleness, added to a lassitude that was not devoid of a certain peculiar grace. On the other hand, should depression of spirits show itself in his face, his glance would grow dull, and his brow furrowed, as doubt, despondency, and apprehension fell to contending with one another. Yet this crisis of emotion seldom crystallized into the form of a definite idea–still less into that of a fixed resolve. Almost always such emotion evaporated in a sigh, and shaded off into a sort of apathetic lethargy.


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Reading Oblomov is a truly fulfilling experience. The book was a turning point in Russian literature and society. As a result, it is a great resource to learn from about the novel’s influence on Russia’s language and literature.

Madhu book review writer at Ameya

A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.