Stephen Pearl's new translation of Goncharov's Obyknovennaya Istoriya will introduce English speakers to a Russian classic that made its author famous and which is just as amusing and fascinating as Goncharov'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. Readers of whatever age and from very 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 Goncharov's genius lies in his ability to make us root for both: for the young foolish romantic nephew who believes in the "greatness of soul and the imperishability of true love " and for his uncle whose 'job ' as he sees it is to " drive all this rubbish from Alexander's head."
Ivan Aleksandrovich Goncharov (1812 - 1891) was a Russian novelist best known for his novels: The Same Old Story (1847) Oblomov (1859) and The Precipice (1869).
In 1847, Goncharov's first novel The Same Old Story followed by Ivan Savvich Podzhabrin (1848), a naturalist psychological sketch. Between 1852 and 1855 Goncharov voyaged to England, Africa, Japan, and back to Russia via Siberia as the secretary of Admiral Putyatin. His travelogue a chronicle of the trip The Frigate Pallada (The Frigate Pallas) was published in 1858. His wildly successful novel Oblomov was published the following year and the main character was compared to Shakespeare's Hamlet who answers "No!" to the question "To be or not to be?". Fyodor Dostoyevsky among others considered Goncharov as a noteworthy author of high stature.
In 1867 Goncharov retired from his post as a government censor and published his last novel The Precipice (1869) about the rivalry between three men who seek the love of a mysterious woman.
"Much as I love Oblomov The Same Old Story holds an even more special place in my heart. I used to wish more people in the English-speaking world would read the novel in a truly good translation and see for themselves what a gem Goncharov's first novel is. Now with this new translation by Stephen Pearl who before gave us an equally excellent translation of Oblomov that is finally a real possibility." - From Galya Diment's Introduction
"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." - Nicholas Lezard The Guardian
"This is the endless repeated tale of how the young lose their saving illusions... From his first clumsy and awkward arrival in St. Petersburg Alexander encounters not only the cold cynicism of his uncle (Pyotr) but also the much warmer and more ironical sympathy of his aunt... It is only very slowly... that we begin to realize that this is not... about what happens to the nephew-it is a wistful story about what happens to the older man... What Goncharov is so brilliant at doing and what Stephen Pearl conveys so well is the slow-paced gently unfolded dialogue in which more seems to be left unsaid than said but which nonetheless leaves both interlocutors changed." - A.N. Wilson