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Oblomov is the name of the novel by Ivan Goncharov. Oblomov is also the central character of the novel, often seen as the ultimate incarnation of the "superfluous man," a stereotypical character in 19th-century Russian literature that was wildly popular when the book was first published in Russia. Oblomov was compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet as answering 'No!' to the question "To be or not to be?". Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed. The book was considered a satire of Russian aristocrats that no longer played a useful part in society in mid-nineteenth century Russia.

Oblomov has also become a Russian word used to describe someone who exhibits the personality traits of sloth or inertia similar to the novel's main character.

Table of contents
1 The Novel
2 Oblomov: the Movie
3 External links

The Novel

Cover drawing from the 1858 Russian edition

Warning: Spoilers follow

The novel centers around a midlife crisis for the main character, an upper middle class son of a member of Russia's nineteenth century merchant class. Oblomov's most distinguishing characteristic is his slothful attitude towards life. While seeming a negative characteristic, Oblomov raises this trait to an art form. While seeming to be the dull and boring life of a government civil servant the caricature painted by Goncharov that takes 150 pages to get out of bed is full of complexity and an examination of many issues that faced Russian society in the nineteenth century. Some of these issues include the uselessness of landowners and gentry in a feudal society that did not encourage innovation or reform, the complex relations between members of different classes of society such as Oblomov's relationship with his servant Zakhar.

An excerpt from Oblomov's morning (from the beginning of the novel):

Therefore he did as he had decided; and when the tea had been consumed he raised himself upon his elbow and arrived within an ace of getting out of bed. In fact, glancing at his slippers, he even began to extend a foot in their direction, but presently withdrew it.

Half-past ten struck, and Oblomov gave himself a shake. "What is the matter?," he said vexedly. "In all conscience 'tis time that I were doing something! Would I could make up my mind to--to--" He broke off with a shout of "Zakhar!" whereupon there entered an elderly man in a grey suit and brass buttons--a man who sported beneath a perfectly bald pate a pair of long, bushy, grizzled whiskers that would have sufficed to fit out three ordinary men with beards. His clothes, it is true, were cut according to a country pattern, but he cherished them as a faint reminder of his former livery, as the one surviving token of the dignity of the house of Oblomov. The house of Oblomov was one which had once been wealthy and distinguished, but which, of late years, had undergone impoverishment and diminution, until finally it had become lost among a crowd of noble houses of more recent creation.

For a few moments Oblomov remained too plunged in thought to notice Zakhar's presence; but at length the valet coughed.

"What do you want?" Oblomov inquired.

"You called me just now, barin?"

"I called you, you say? Well, I cannot remember why I did so. Return to your room until I have remembered."

As the story develops Oblomov falls in love with a young woman, Olga, but his apathy is too great and he cannot surmount his laziness to press his amourous feelings towards the woman to win her heart permanently.

"Shall I tell you what you would have done had we married?" at length she said. "Day by day you would have relapsed farther and farther into your slough. And I? You see what I am--that I am not yet grown old, and that I shall never cease to live. But you would have taken to waiting for Christmas, and then for Shrovetide, and to attending evening parties, and to dancing, and to thinking of nothing at all. You would have retired to rest each night with a sigh of thankfulness that the day had passed so quickly; and each morning you would have awakened with a prayer that to-day might be exactly as yesterday. That would have been our future. Is it not so? Meanwhile I should have been fading away. Do you really think that in such a life you would have been happy?"

He tried to rise and leave the room, but his feet refused their office. He tried to say something, but his throat seemed dry, and no sound would come. All he could do was to stretch out his hand.

"Forgive me!" he murmured.

She too tried to speak, but could not. She too tried to extend her hand, but it fell back. Finally, her face contracted painfully, and, sinking forward upon his shoulder, she burst into a storm of sobbing. It was as though all her weapons had slipped from her grasp, and once more she was just a woman--a woman defenceless in her fight with sorrow.

"Good-bye, good-bye!" she said amid her spasms of weeping. He sat listening painfully to her sobs, but felt as though he could say nothing to check them. Sinking into a chair, and burying her face in her handkerchief, she wept bitter, burning tears, with her head bowed upon the table.

"Olga," at length he said, "why torture yourself in this way? You love me, and could never survive a parting. Take me, therefore, as I am, and love in me just so much as may be worthy of it."

Without raising her head, she made a gesture of refusal.

After he rejects the possibility of marrying her his confidant and old school friend the half German and pragmatic Schtoltz takes her from him. Oblomov ends up marrying Agafia Pshenitsina, a widow. They have a son, and when Oblomov dies, his friend Schtoltz adopts him. Oblomov's life ends as he sinks further into ruin and dies a victim of the disease of Oblomovka.

Oblomov: the Movie

Oblomov was adapted to the cinema screen in the Soviet Union by Nikita Mikhalkov in 1981 (145 minutes). The Cast and Crew: Actors -- Oleg Tabakov as Oblomov, Andrei Popov as Zakhar, Elena Solovei as Olga and Yuri Bogatyrev as Andrei; cinematography by Pavel Lebechev; screenplay by Mikhailkov and Aleksander Adabashyan; music by Eduard Artemyev; produced by Mosfilm Studio (Moscow).

External links