Reasonable Words: Oblomov

Still engrossed in Oblomov, and have just read a bit where the transcendentally lazy title character learns that there are big changes, including construction of a highway, coming to his ancestral estate, changing the nature of things. He laments:

“Oblomovka was such a quiet spot, away from everything, and now there will be the highroad, the fair! The peasants will take to going to town, tradesmen will be coming to us–we shall be done for! It’s simply dreadful!’

Stoltz laughed.

“Of course it’s dreadful!” Oblomov repeated. “The peasants were right enough, one heard nothing, either good or bad, about them, they did their work and were contented, and now they will be demoralized! They will take to tea and coffee and velvet trousers and leather boots and accordions…no good will come of it.”

Like a lot of the book, Oblomov’s out of touch dismay is played for a laugh, “accordions!”  but, amid the sighs and laments, he’s right: the past pulls irretrievably away, crumbling beneath our feet.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.19.21 AM
Peasants harvesting hay in 1909. From the album “Views along the Mariinskii Canal and river system, Russian Empire”. Early–and vivid–use of color photography I learned about on the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” blog. This is still Oblomov’s world, caught a few years before it would be blown away to bits.

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