Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Ivan Goncharov

Ivan Goncharov (June 18, 1812 - September 15, 1891) was a Russian novelist best known as the author of Oblomov (1859). He was born in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk); his father was a wealthy grain merchant. After graduating from Moscow University in 1834 Goncharov served for thirty years as a minor government official. 1847 appeared Goncharov's first novel, A Common Story, was published in 1847, it dealt with the conflicts between the decadent Russian nobility and the rising merchant class. It was followed by Ivan Savvich Podzhabrin (1848), a naturalist psychological sketch. Between 1852 and 1855 Goncharov voyaged to England, Africa, Japan, and back to Russia via Siberia as the secretary of Admiral Putyatin. His travelogue, a chronicle of the trip, The Frigate Pallada, was published in 1858. His wildly successful novel Oblomov was published the following year and the main character was compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet who answers 'No!" to the question 'To be or not to be?". Fyodor Dostoyevsky, among others, considered Goncharov as a noteworthy author of high stature.

In 1867 Goncharov retired from his post as a government censor and then published his last novel; The Precipice (1869) is the story of a rivalry between three men who seek the love of a woman of mystery. Goncharov also wrote short stories, critiques, essays and memoirs that were only published posthumously in 1919. He spent the rest of his days travelling in lonely and bitter recriminations because of the negative criticism some of his work received. Goncharov never married. He died in St. Petersburg.