The Oblomovization of the Western World

Ilya Ilyich Oblomov is a mid-nineteenth century landowner outside of Saint Petersburg. An honest and decent man, he suffers from a natural tendency towards inertia. He lives less in his home than on his sofa, and less on his sofa than in his capacious dressing gown of Persian fabric, and less in his dressing gown than in his “long, soft, and wide” slippers. His body is flabby, his hands are plump, his movements are all suffused with a graceful languidness. Oblomov lives mostly lying down. Walking and standing are, for him, brief flights between a landing on his bed or his sofa. He is the very definition of the weak-willed, overworked man tortured by the mere idea of what he has to do. “As soon as he rose from bed in the morning… he would lie right back down on his sofa, prop his head on his hand and ponder, until, at last, his head was weary from hard work and his conscience told him enough had been done today for the common weal.” Something as simple as writing a letter takes him weeks, months even, and entails a complex ritual. Each decision comes at enormous psychological cost. His falsely obedient valet Zakhar shirks his duties and lets the house sink into an unspeakable state of disorder. There are days when Oblomov forgets to get up, only opening an eye around four in the afternoon, and tells himself that anyone else in his position would have already gotten through piles of work. Feeling overburdened by that mere prospect, he goes back to sleep. When his friend Stolz introduces him to a young woman, Oblomov panics. He is terrified at the very idea of sharing his life with a wife, going out into the world, reading the papers, living in society.

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