Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov (guhn-chuh-RAHF) was born into a well-to-do merchant family living the manorial life of Russian gentry. In 1822 Goncharov went to Moscow to study at the School of Commerce, where he became seriously interested in literature. He left the school in 1830 and entered the philological department of Moscow University, graduated in 1834, and began to work as a secretary to the governor of Simbirsk. In 1835 Goncharov left for St. Petersburg to work as a translator in the ministry of finance. Although he was, according to Leo Tolstoy, a thorough townsman, Goncharov demonstrated in his novels a profound concern for the disintegration of gentry traditions. His first novel, A Common Story, published when Goncharov was thirty-five years old, traces the disillusioning sentimental education of an idealist who makes the transition from an idyllic country estate to St. Petersburg and becomes a smug opportunist.
Between 1852 and 1854 Goncharov took part in an expedition to Japan on the military frigate Pallas. The cycle of essays The Voyage of the Frigate Pallada gives a brilliant, realistic account of this trip. On his return from the expedition Goncharov worked as a censor, an editor, and a member of the Council of the Press Affairs. In 1859 his second novel, Oblomov, was published. The hero, who gives the novel its title, is a cultured, intelligent man of generous impulses who is nevertheless hopelessly...
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