A Terminal Case of Oblomovitis.

Hello! I am flying to Russia tomorrow, so I wanted to post another little book review before I leave! The copy of the novel referenced can be found here.


“I wish I could lie down and go to sleep – for ever!” (384).

Throughout the novel of Oblomov, its main character, Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, suffers from a major life-impacting disease. This so-called affliction has many names: Oblomovitis, Oblomovshchina, Oblomovism, and Oblomovness. No matter the name, it is a disease that preys upon Oblomov– making him a weak, disenchanted man with no taste for living. His symptoms are: laziness, excessive sleeping, immobilization, melancholia, cynicism, and nihilism. From Oblomov once partaking in life’s never-ending scene, he has now resorted to never leaving his apartment and scarcely making it out of bed. There is no clinical diagnosis of Oblomov’s symptoms, but a self-diagnosis that takes his own apathetic nature into account. This is Oblomov’s own self-proclaimed tragedy that blights his existence and reduces his abilities. But Oblomovitis is both nonexistent and not medically demonstrable, leading one to wonder what is real affliction could have been.

Through the novel and real-world criticism, Oblomov is mocked and demeaned through his excessive laziness– especially in part 1 of the novel. He never gets out of bed, has a loss of interest, is easily irritated, etc. In the modern era, a psychologist would explore the possibility that Oblomov suffers from the disability that is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). MDD is a life-impacting disability that can make both its victim and others believe that the person, Oblomov in this case, is merely acting childish or lazy. Oblomov fits in nearly every criteria: anxiety (about the outside world and dampness/coldness), apathy, general discontent, guilt (towards his relationship’s ending with Olga), hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities (writing, reading), mood swings, excess sleepiness, insomnia, fatigue, restlessness, agitation, irritability, social isolation, lack of concentration, slowness in activity, and weight gain.

Oblomov’s life is weighed down by all of these symptoms, making his existence an actual chore for him to endure. If he had lived in a time that emphasizes the importance of clinical psychology, Oblomov could have seen a therapist, taken medication, or spoken to his loved ones about his condition. Of all the novel’s tragedies, perhaps the fact that Oblomov is treated like a lesser-being for something he cannot help is the gravest occurrence of all. He was a man of great ability, but unfortunate in almost every aspect of his existence. Oblomov’s life is to be neither revered nor envied, but instead deserving of compassion.

Advertisements

The Worth of Akaky Akakievich.

Hi, again. The exact pages referenced from “The Overcoat” can be found here.


Known of course for his epic “Dead Souls,” Nikolai Gogol’s short stories are also prominent in the Russian literary world. A mix of realism, surrealism, beauty, and grotesquenessGogol’s work basks in the knowledge of how rare and intriguing it is. “The Overcoat” is perhaps his most famous short story, due to the enigma that is Akaky Akakievich.

The name Akaky Akakievich holds intense significance. The phonetics of the name remind a Russian speaker of the verbs “обкакать” “окакать” or “покакать”which all have to do with the notion of pooping or poop in general. Overall, a very unfortunate namebut one that holds a possibility for further understanding exactly what Gogol meant for Akaky Akakievich to signify. Over the course of the tale, the reader is constantly reminded of how low Akaky Akakievich’s peers believe him to be. They make fun of him, insult him with jokes, and poke at his character in general. As seen on page 106, “The young clerks snickered and cracked jokes about him with all the wit office clerks can muster”. But perhaps worst of all, combined with the paradox of being amusing, is the treatment Akaky Akakievich received from the significant personage. As evident, Akaky Akakievich was quite thoroughly roasted until, “Akaky Akakievich felt faint, staggered, trembled all over, and was quite unable to stand up” (127).

While this encounter was described most amusingly by Gogol, the purpose of it is to drive home the point that Akaky Akakievich is a subservient type of human being. This is what people think of him as, treat him like, and view him to be. His name itself, the first marker given of his character, reminds one of poop. The clerk Poop, son of Poop.

But there may be another layer of this, intentional or not by Gogol, that deserves inspection. The name Akaky sounds quite similar to the Greek word Ἀκάκιος (Akakios), Latinized as Acacius. Akakios can mean “not evil” “guileless” or “innocent”. The Greek word κακός (kakos) means evilso akakos (transliterated) means “not evil”.

With his name alone, there are two different narratives. 1) Akaky Akakievich is a man worth nothing, noteless entirely, and pitiable for his sad existence. He was born as nothing, accomplishes nothing, and dies as nothing. His death serves only to make the people who knew him reflect on themselves for a very short amount of time. Or 2) Akaky Akakievich was born innocent, guileless, and not evil. Though he was looked-down upon his entire life, he found pleasure and meaning in his own way. Whether or not copying documents sounds exciting, it held meaning for Akaky Akakievich.

Taking these perspectives into account, which view did Gogol hold? That question may never be answered by Gogolbut ourselves. Perhaps it was his intention to make the reader consider if just for a minute, Akaky Akakievich was a man that held worth. He was deep where he was considered shallow, beautiful when mistaken for plain. Again there is no definite answeras his worth is dependent on each particular reader’s definition of worth.

So, what do you think?

The Beauty of the Caucasus.


Hello! This is the first of several short pieces I wrote about various works of Russian literature for class. I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I thought I’d share! The edition of the novel is the 2001 Penguin Classics edition, found here.


From Yekaterinograd to Taman, Lermontov excels with his explanation of the Caucasus. A Hero of Our Time, or Герой нашего времени, is not only remarkable for its Byronic characters or intricate narratives but also rises to prominence for its romantic detailing of the Caucasus region. A region under constant change and strain, its people were the target of many disputes with the Russian Empire. Even in modern times, Chechnya (which lies near the Caspian Sea and in the Northern region of the Caucasus) has consistently come to arms with the Russian Federation. The rugged landscape is usually one of the most overlooked detailings of the Caucasus but remains a focal point in A Hero of Our Time.

Lermontov’s prose is extremely interesting and influential. He wrote during a time in which the Russian national literature was only beginning to mold itself around the greatness and likes of its literary hero, Pushkin. While there are facets of Lermontov’s writing that echo Pushkin’s work, (settings away from the center of Russian culture, protagonists that despise modern society and think themselves better see the contrast and similarities between the characters of Onegin and Pechorin and the origin of their namesake) Lermontov was an extremely influential man of his time in the Russian national literary movement. As discussed frequently with the topic of Russian literature, there was an intense struggle to form a set of works that represented the Russianculturally and symbolically as a whole. This is why Pushkin is so revered, yes, but Lermontov had a major hand in inspiring the later writers of Turgenev, Goncharov, and Herzen. Especially Turgenev, one of the most Romantic Russian writers of all time.

Along with Turgenev, Lermontov heavily indulged in imagery. Especially evident on page 57, “A full moon shone on the thatched roof and white walls of my new abode. The yard had a rubble wall around it, and in the yard was another tumbledown shack, smaller and more ancient than the first. Almost at the foot of the walls there was a sheer drop to the sea, with dark blue waves splashing and murmuring unceasingly below. The moon looked calmly down on the turbulent element it ruled. Some way off shore I could make out two ships in the moonlight, their black rigging motionless, silhouetted like a spider’s web against the pale outline of the horizon.” This passage alone, and of course others, is rife in Romantic imagery. On page 25, “In the west a pale moon was about to sink into the black clouds that hung like tattered shreds of curtain on the distant peaks.” Stunning, obviously, and in contrast with the stark morality of Lermontov’s characters. While the imagery is described with meticulous effort and eloquence, the words of the people that define A Hero of Our Time lack such beauty. As with the star Pechorin and his marriage to Bela, he remarks, “I’m still in love with her. I’m grateful to her for a few moments of relative bliss. I’d give my life for her. But she bores me” (35).

Perhaps it is this contrast of dialogue to narrative that is the key to enticing and wooing readers, making Lermontov remain a prominent Russian author.

The Brothers Karamazov.

By: Fyodor Dostoevsky


I am currently reading this novel for a class, and it is very interesting. Set in 1870s Russia, one that just emancipated the serfs, it is full of very human characters. The writing of Dostoevsky is unlike any that I have ever come across before, and it speaks a lot about his own personal character.

From Fyodor Pavlovich to Alyosha Karamazov, each character is so unique. They are all so complex. I have just finished book 3 of 12 of The Bros. Karamazov. If you are looking for a novel to trudge through but enjoy, this might suit you.

The Brothers Karamazov evolves around the key questions in Russia at the time. Pro and Contra (For and Against) and the discussion of God are continually discussed. The base characters, though despicable, sometimes have the most enlightening conversations.

The painting at the very bottom is The Contemplator by Ivan Kramskoy (1876). It was just described by Dmitri Pavlovich in the novel, and boy does he have a lot to contemplate! I thought I would include the image to give you some perspective of what the novel features.

Though the The Brothers Karamazov is a difficult and mature read, it is rewarding after every page. I recommend it so far, and give it a shot if you’re interested!

All the best,

Jamie.

a-kramsk_sozer_103

UPDATE 5/18/2017: So, I’ve finished my second year of college now! My brother just graduated as well, we go (now went) to the same university ❤

But, I finished The Brothers Karamazov along with my Dostoevsky class. It was amazing, and I really loved it. My class put on a trial of Ivan Karamazov, and I was the lead prosecutor. My professor told me she was really proud of me, and I worked so hard on it (about three weeks total in preparation). Dostoevsky has become one of my favorite authors, but Anna Karenina remains my favorite novel to this day. Overall, really loved the ingeniousness of this book! That’s all!