It happens that I started reading a Russian classic a few weeks ago, Goncharov’s Oblomov, first published in 1859.  Then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, making me notice this observation in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Given the level of legend-spinning currently underway, Goncharov’s passing comment has a chilling resonance.  I’m all for legends, but in this case, and particularly when ‘seductive’, they are dangerous both for those who believe them and those who don’t. 

Here’s praying that many can distance themselves from the ‘seductive legends of the old days’ being spun in their name and prove Goncharov wrong.

And to this day the Russian people, amid the stark and commonplace realities of life, prefer to believe in seductive legends of the old days, and it may be a long, long time before they give up this belief.

Source: Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov, trans. David Magarshack (London: Penguin, 1954 (1859)), p. 121

Image credit: portrait of Ivan Goncharov (1812-91), by Ivan Kramskoi (1865), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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