Goncharov, Ivan Alexandrovich

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(18121891), writer.

Born in Simbirsk to a family of wealthy merchants, Ivan Goncharov moved to Moscow for his schooling in 1822 and then moved to St. Petersburg in 1835 where, with a few breaks, he remained until his death. He worked from 1855 to 1867 as government censor, a post that earned the criticism and mistrust of many of his contemporaries. Although his politics as a censor were clearly conservative when it came to reviewing Russian journals, he also used his position to allow many important and liberal works of literature into print, including works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Alexander Herzen. Goncharov's unfounded accusation of plagiarism against the novelist Ivan Turgenev in 1860 caused a scandal in the literary world; Goncharov suffered from bouts of neurosis and paranoia and lived most of his life in sedentary seclusion.

Goncharov is known primarily for three novels A Common Story (1847), Oblomov (1859), and The Precipice (1869)as well as a travel memoir of a government expedition to Japan, The Frigate Pallas (18551857). By far his best-known work is Oblomov, whose hero, an indolent and dreamy Russian nobleman, became emblematic of a Russian social type, the superfluous man. The figure of Oblomov made such a deep impression on readers that the radical critic Nikolai Dobrolyubov popularized the term oblomovshchina (oblomovitis) to describe the ineptitude of the Russian intelligentsia. Goncharov's novels rank him among the best Russian realist writers, yet his university years in Moscow at the height of the Russian romantic movement and his consequent attraction to its ideals places him within the era of the Golden Age of Russian literature.

See also: golden age of russian literature


Ehre, Milton. (1974). Oblomov and His Creator; the Life and Art of Ivan Goncharov. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lyngstad, Alexandra, and Lyngstad, Sverre. (1971). Ivan Goncharov. New York: Twayne Publishers.

Setchkarev, Vsevolod. (1974). Ivan Goncharov: His Life and Works. Wurzburg: Jal-Verlag.

Catherine O'Neil