The Same Old Story

Ivan Goncharov

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ISBN: 9781933480404

The Same Old Story

  Author:   Ivan Goncharov    
  Publisher:  Bunim & Bannigan

Stephen Pearl’s new translation of Goncharov’s Obyknovennaya istoriya, will introduce English speakers to a Russian classic just as amusing and fascinating as the author’s better known Oblomov, which probably owes its greater fame to the fact that the self-indulgence of the eponymous Oblomov became part of the Russian vocabulary. The same psychological insight that makes Oblomov so compelling permeates The Same Old Story with its contrast between Alexander, a young nobleman fresh from the simplicity of country life, and the older uncle, Pyotr, he settles in with in St. Petersburg. Readers of whatever age and from every milieu will recognize in themselves Alexander’s unreal ambitions and expectations and the sadder but wiser responses of Uncle Pyotr. As Nicholas Lezard said, in reviewing this new translation in the British Guardian, when “we first meet Pyotr he is reading a fawning, wheedling letter from someone who claims to have had a long friendship with his late parents. There is about a page of this before Pyotr “slowly tore the letter into four pieces, and threw them into the waste-paper basket under the desk.” When I read this I thought: I’m going to enjoy Uncle Pyotr’s company.”I was not proved wrong. His nephew is completely hopeless: a romantic idiot who believes in greatness of soul and the imperishability of true love. Uncle Pyotr’s job, as he sees it, is to drive all this rubbish from Alexander’s head, and from the start we are very much on his side.”Goncharov’s genius resides in the way he makes us root for Uncle Pyotr who, as a hard-headed factory owner concerned only with the bottom line, is the kind of character Dickens might have turned into a villain. Here we applaud him, especially when he lights his cigar with a sheet of paper that has one of Alexander’s recently composed poems on it. But Goncharov makes us root, too, for Alexander, even when we’ve read some of that poetry. There is a good deal of autobiography in Alexander; Goncharov also went to St Petersburg as a youth in pretty much the same spirit, writing in his spare time while employed on trade journals. When Alexander kisses the young woman he has fallen in love with, the scene is described in such a way as to bring a sigh to anyone who has been in love, aged 20, on a summer evening.”It all goes horribly wrong, of course: this is the same old story. What happens to Alexander is shocking. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that the brilliant comedy of the first half is subverted in a way that is almost painful. This mastery of tone is also a sign that the translator, Stephen Pearl, has done his job extremely well.This book made Goncharov famous in Russia. And from half a continent and three lifetimes away he can still make new readers laugh and gasp with recognition over timeless human foibles, so I am glad that he was translated, and I trust you will be, too.”

Details and Specs
ISBN associated with this title: 9781933480404
Item BU0016
PublisherBunim & Bannigan
PublisherBunim & Bannigan
Published on March 30 2017
Language eng
Pages 300
Format Paperback
Dimensions9(in) x 6(in)
Shipping weight494(g)
Ivan Goncharov was born in 1812 in Simbirsk, Russia. After attending boarding school, where he mastered German and French, the Moscow College of Commerce, and Moscow State University, Goncharov worked in the office of the governor of Simbirsk before moving to St Petersburg, where he was occupied as a government translator and private tutor while publishing poems and stories in small private handwritten publications called Almanacs. His first novel was published in 1847.