Oblomov, first published in 1859, is the charming tale of a lazy but lovable aristocrat in 19th-century Russia. The novel’s eponymous hero cannot see the point of doing anything at all, and spends his time lying in bed or wandering around his St Petersburg flat in his beloved oriental dressing gown, bickering about the dusting with his manservant. The newspaper on the desk is a year old; flies buzz from the inkwell. Oblomov broods; he worries; he thinks.
The book’s author, Ivan Goncharov, is perhaps little-known now, but in its time Oblomov was hugely popular in Russia. Tolstoy, that venerable, saintly moralist, was deeply in love with it, writing: ‘Oblomov is a truly great work, the likes of which one has not seen for a long, long time.