Goncharov’s description of Andrey as a little boy brings to life a robust, cheery, fearless little character.   Here he meets Michel, one of two visiting princes who behaves like a school yard bully picking on someone half his size.  This would sicken me if it weren’t for Andrey’s resilient, punchy response.   

As soon as Michel made the acquaintance of little Andrey, he put him in position and began performing wonderful tricks with his fists, hitting Andrey on the nose or in the stomach, and telling him afterwards it was English boxing.  Three days later Andrey, without any special training, smashed his nose for him both in the English and the Russian fashion, merely with the aid of a pair of muscular arms and rude country health, and gained the respect of both young princes.

Source: Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov, trans. David Magarshack (London: Penguin, 1954 (1859)), pp. 157-58

Image credit: Richard Humphreys, ‘The Boxer’ (c. 1778-88), public domain


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