Monday, 1 September 2014

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

One morning, in a flat in one of the great buildings in Gorokhovaia Street, the population of which was sufficient to constitute that of a provincial town, there was lying in bed a gentleman named Ilya Ilyitch Oblomov.

This gets the bed setting opening. The thing that will save this is if something else is happening in the bed, like it's on fire, or he's sharing it with a dead body who's hogging all the blankets.

The next line:

He was a fellow of a little over thirty, of medium height, and of pleasant exterior.

And there is much more character description, mostly of the physical nature that you see in police reports.

A little later we learn why he's in bed:

With Oblomov, lying in bed was neither a necessity (as in the case of an invalid or of a man who stands badly in need of sleep) nor an accident (as in the case of a man who is feeling worn out) nor a gratification (as in the case of a man who is purely lazy). Rather, it represented his normal condition. Whenever he was at home--and almost always he was at home-- he would spend his time in lying on his back.

This is a little out of the ordinary but not really a hook. The conflict that follows is this guy is struggling to get out of bed. It is really the ultimate in the bed setting opening and of course there is more happening in bed other than someone just waking up to greet a plot. The fact this guy is in bed and can't get up is the plot. So this gets a pass.

First thing said:

"What is the matter?"

Verdict: Pass (barely)

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. Oblomov is the 82nd greatest novel of all time.

Theodore Moracht

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