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A Common Story

Constance Garnett
Date Published
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Ivan Gontcharoff is best known for his second novel, Oblomov. One might say, only known, but, while his output was small, he did write two other novels, some short stories and some travel pieces. A Common Story was his first novel, published in 1847. It opens with its hero, Alexandr Fedoritch asleep. Its plot concerns his departure from the countryside to St Petersburg to pursue a bureaucratic career and his mother trying to prevent him, pointing out the superior qualities of the countryside. The title of the novel is a reference to the time-honoured psychological tension between son and mother. Many of the themes Gontcharoff developed more fully in Oblomov are first seen here.


The subtitle of Richard Garnett’s biography (reissued in Faber Finds) of his grandmother, Constance Garnett (1861-1946) is A Heroic Life. It couldn’t be more apt. She remains the most prolific English translator of Russian literature: twelve volumes of Dostoevsky, five of Gogol, six of Herzen (his complete My Past and Thoughts), seventeen of Tchehov (her spelling), five of Tolstoy, eleven…

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