Books: Hamlet in Bed

OBLOMOV (485 pp.)—Ivan Goncharov—Penguin (paperback; 85/).

A writer may vaccinate his age with a masterpiece but decades sometimes pass before it takes. In 1859 Iyan Goncharov.

a dandified bachelor bureaucrat from St.

Petersburg, needled Russia with a masterly seriocomic study of a chronic lazybones whom he called Oblomov. The book was largely ignored by readers rushing to buy the latest novel—A Nest of Gentlefolk—by Turgenev. Literate Russians eventually recognized Goncharov's genius, but after nearly a century, his major work is still little known in the West. Probably no finer introduction exists than the supple, perceptive new English translation (the first in 25 years) by...

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