1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Goncharov, Ivan Alexandrovich

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GONCHAROV, IVAN ALEXANDROVICH (1812–1891), Russian novelist, was born 6/18 July 1812, being the son of a rich merchant in the town of Simbirsk. At the age of ten he was placed in one of the gymnasiums at Moscow, from which he passed, though not without some difficulty on account of his ignorance of Greek, into the Moscow University. He read many French works of fiction, and published a translation of one of the novels of Eugène Sue. During his university career he devoted himself to study, taking no interest in the political and Socialistic agitation among his fellow-students. He was first employed as secretary to the governor of Simbirsk, and afterwards in the ministry of finance at St Petersburg. Being absorbed in bureaucratic work, Goncharov paid no attention to the social questions then ardently discussed by such men as Herzen, Aksakov and Bielinski. He began his literary career by publishing translations from Schiller, Goethe and English novelists. His first original work was Obuiknovennaya Istoria, “A Common Story” (1847). In 1856 he sailed to Japan as secretary to Admiral Putiatin for the purpose of negotiating a commercial treaty, and on his return to Russia he published a description of the voyage under the title of “The Frigate Pallada.” His best work is Oblomov (1857), which exposed the laziness and apathy of the smaller landed gentry in Russia anterior to the reforms of Alexander II. Russian critics have pronounced this work to be a faithful characterization of Russia and the Russians. Dobrolubov said of it, “Oblomofka [the country-seat of the Oblomovs] is our fatherland: something of Oblomov is to be found in every one of us.” Peesarev, another celebrated critic, declared that “Oblomovism,” as Goncharov called the sum total of qualities with which he invested the hero of his story, “is an illness fostered by the nature of the Slavonic character and the life of Russian society.” In 1858 Goncharov was appointed a censor, and in 1868 he published another novel called Obreev. He was not a voluminous writer, and during the latter part of his life produced nothing of any importance. His death occurred on 15/27 September 1891.