Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov (1812 - 1891)

Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov is one of creators of a classic Russian novel, an extraordinary master of style, fascinating story-teller and a sublime expert on human heart.

Goncharov entered literature field as a mature man. His very first novel, «An Ordinary Story» (1847) enjoyed enormous success and, according to the words of one of the writer's contemporaries, «ran through the whole Russia, from end to end». Soon after «The Common Story» had been published Goncharov conceived two more novels - the future «Oblomov» and «The Precipice», on that he would have been working for long years.

In 1852 the writer set on a round-the-world voyage to the shores of Japan in the capacity of a secretary to Admiral E.V.Putyatin; on return Goncharov published a book of travel notes «The Frigate «Pallada» (1858).

Soon after his return from the voyage Goncharov entered into service to a Petersburg's Censorship Committee in the position of a censor. This job took a lot of time and energy, besides it made him slightly dubious reputation in literary circles. However, in 1857 while being in Marienbade Goncharov in a few months finished his major novel - «Oblomov». The novel was published in the early 1859 in «Fatherland Notes” and the name of its main hero soon became common. As Vladimir Soloviev wrote later, Oblomov is «an All-Russian type <…> that in terms of breadth has no equals in the work of any Russian writer». Ilia Iljich Oblomov still remains probably the best known character of Russian literature in the world.

Immediately after «Oblomov» was published Goncharov started working on his third novel, later to be titled «The Precipice» (1869). Although readers accepted it with enthusiasm that equaled reception of «Oblomov», critics condemned the novel as a lampoon on new generation.

Upset with critical reviews Goncharov distanced himself from literature for nearly ten years and spent his time in a close circle of selected friends. Articles that he had begun writing in the 1870s were never finished and for the most part remained in his writing desk. However, in the late 1870s Goncharov returned to creative activity. During that period of his career he wrote a polemical essay «Literary Evening» and the article «Better Late than Never» - a specific self-commentary to his three novels. In 1881 the writer published a collection «Four Essays» comprising, apart from the above mentioned articles, two more, written in the early 1870s – «A Thousand of Torments» and «Notes about the Personality of Belinsky». Towards the end of his life Goncharov turned to memoir genre and published reminiscences devoted to his studies at Moscow University and his early years of service in his native town of Simbirsk.

Pushkinsky Dom possesses one of the largest collections of Goncharov's creative manuscripts. Autographs of Goncharov were among its first acquisitions and very soon afterwards they started to appear in print. The Manuscript Division preserves the major part of «The Precipice» manuscript, autographs and authorized copies of essays «At Home», «Servants of the Old Times», «Around East Siberia», «From Memoirs and Stories about the Sea Voyage», «The Month of May in Petersburg», articles «Breach of Will», «Ostrovsky's Last Plays» and others. On the pages of hand-written magazines «Snowdrop» and «Moon Nights» that were produced in the literature circle of the Maikovs family we also find some of Goncharov's early works.

Especially valuable is the writer's epistolary heritage. The author of «Oblomov» was a veritable master of epistolary genre. It is known that towards the end of his life in the article «Breach of Will» Goncharov turned to his addressees asking them to destroy his letters. However, more than a thousand of autographs have been preserved; over half of them are in the possession of Pushkinsky Dom. Among these are letters to I.S.Turgenev, F.M.Dostoevsky, M.E.Saltykov-Schedrin, N.A.Nekrasov and others. Goncharov's epistolary exchange with the Great Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich - a poet, who accepted nom-de-plume K.R., was preserved in full and is bound in a separate volume. Among Goncharov's usual correspondents with whom he had exchanged letters for long years, sharing his creative ideas, were A.F.Koni, S.A.Nikitenko, A.N.Maikov.

The Literature Museum is also rich in Goncharov-related relics. First of all one should mention Goncharov's enormous writing desk which the writer left by will to the Literature Fund; according to his words, «it is so large that it could comfortably serve the Committee meetings». Especially interesting is Goncharov's arm-chair that he had purchased in the 1850s from N.A.Nekrasov. The museum also keeps the writer's personal belongings: a cane, an ink-pot, candlesticks, smoking equipment. The museum pride is the largest in this country collection of Goncharov iconography: about 40 portraits and photographs made during his lifetime, many of them with inscriptions.

Goncharov's inscriptions are also preserved on his books that are kept in Pushkinsky Dom library. These are books that the writer presented to his colleagues and friends - Y.P.Polonsky, A.F.Koni, M.E.Saltykov-Schedrin, and P.V.Annekov. A special place in this unique collection belongs to the copies that the writer presented to members of Imperial family many of whom he knew personally. These volumes stand out for their bindings, executed by the best masters of the time with high elegance and splendor.

Goncharov became one of the first writers whose manuscript and memorial heritage was subjected to active study. As early as in 1914 Pushkinsky Dom had published several of his letters, and in 1991 we started working on the edition of his Complete Works in 20 volumes.

A.Y.Balakin