Monday, October 02, 2006

Oblomov and A Journey in Bed

This is the funniest thing I have read in a long while. An absolute must-read. It's an "essay" on the nineteenth century Russian novel Oblomov, which is a satire about laziness. I recently read a longish excerpt from the novel in a Russian literature anthology and have been meaning to read it ever since. Now I have to absolutely go get it. Lately, I have been feeling more and more like Oblomov too, oppressed by a profound and spiritual kind of laziness. Will it help me understand what is going on?

This is the wiki entry of the book by the way. The wiki article has this horrifying (to me:)) quote by Lenin:

Russia has made three revolutions, and still the Oblomovs have remained ... and he must be washed, cleaned, pulled about, and flogged for a long time before any kind of sense will emerge.

11 comments:

bhupinder said...

Thanks for the links. I did see the NYT article, and had bought the book years ago (the Soviet translation), but somehow Goncharov has been one writer I never got started on. Now I will.

Thanks, too, for Lenin's quote. He was more often than not, a keenly insightful person, and whose comment makes me all the more impatient to read this work.

To Lenin's comment may be added: "three revolutions and one counter- revolution, and still the Oblomovs have remained..."

I would rather keep quiet on the last part of the sentence :-) I am too much in awe of Lenin to question his judgement.

Alok said...

Lenin just appears always in a hurry and impatient. Though I do understand what he is trying to say. Lazy people, that too from the priviledged class, are always the first impediments to any social change!

bhupinder said...

Well, Lenin was in a hurry but his actions were surprisingly well informed by theory and very rarely does he slip. He was amazingly extremely well read.

Alok said...

I haven't read anything by Lenin. But I was always curious about what is to be done? and his book on Imperialism ...

btw, I have started reading Real Life of Alejandro Mayta. In fact I am already half way through and it is great. What is to be done? is mentioned quite a few times in the book!

bhupinder said...

Not sure if you read the novel "What is Do be Done ?" by Chernesvesky, Lenin took the title from that novel.

I grew up reading practically all the pamphlets and some of the books by Lenin, some of them are listed in my 'Books that defined the Sensitivity of an Age". Link.

I look forward to your review of Alejandro Mayta.

Antonia said...

Oblomow is the most loveable person in russian literature...please read it,am sure you will like it, but it is not just merely a satire on laziness, rather about senselessness in life and shows great insights in the relation of friendship, Oblomows friend how tries to 'rescue' Oblomow from his laziness...but one does Oblomow deeply injustice when one speaks of laziness. And at the end of the book one sees that Oblomow is much happier with a life of less privileged classes.

Alok said...

thanks a lot antonia for your comments. I am definitely going to read it now!

thanks Bhupinder for the link too. I was just wondering what I was doing in Class X :))

I haven't read Chernyshevsky's book but have seen its references at so many places. It was, I think, the favourite book of Lenin and the bolsheviks. The underground man in Dostoevsky's novella also rails against Chernyshevsky. Will see if I can get it somewhere. It is not very easily available (I couldn't find it anywhere in India).

jyothsnay said...

Alok
loved this a lot.the NY column is such a rib-tickling struggle interspersed with streams of empty promises to self and moments of blankness...I gleamed over the tonality of the first 6 days ..".. cross myself several times. How in the name of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov did I get myself into this mess?.." hilarious! Oblomov*nism seemed skewed towards a feeling of purposelessness and lack of direction..laziness or a static existence is more a physical depiction, a bit scary though!
overall, a very insightful column...Jyo

Alok said...

Thats true. I think I am already suffering from Oblomovism, or is it Oblomovitis? I don't know what is the cure...

jyothsnay said...

haha, dnot know about the cure...now I found a better sounding and exotic term for the inertia my body exhibits when the morning urges me to go to the gym..now am bit unsettled, what kind of ammunition do I have to gather to battle this pheno out as a long weekend spread self in front of me...

Alok said...

Hey, Diwali is just on the corner... No room for laziness and inertia. Log off, go out and have fun :)