Being lazy is harder than it looks. Turning freelance was meant to be the start of my age of languor. Here it is, I thought, an escape from the relentless itch of the office and time for enjoying some of life itself, hazy philosophizing and walks over the fields.
But I don’t know how. Even when I’m certain I’ve done enough to take a day off – still under the covers with a heap of books in the afternoon, streetlights coming on outside – it all goes wrong. The guilt makes me feel ill, nervous. So I don’t laze at all, I make sure my time is filled and I’m properly dressed and ready for action. Is it Protestant programming or living in a culture founded on the importance of work and career?
To Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, that Don Quixote of idlers and hero of Ivan Goncharov’s eponymous novel, I’m a pitiable figure. Slouching in his dressing-gown, he rails against the crudity of his age:
The perpetual running to and fro, the perpetual play of petty desires, especially greed, people trying to spoil things for others, the tittle-tattle, the gossip, the slights, the way they look you up and down. You listen to what they’re talking about and it makes your head spin.
To be always striving for one thing or another is inhuman, says Oblomov. Even his modest role as a Collegiate Secretary feels like slavery (especially as these Tsarist civil servants appear to have had their own version of the smartphone).
A couple of times he was awakened at night and forced to write these ‘notes’. Several times a courier came and took him from his guests – all on account of these very same ‘notes’. All of this filled him with tremendous terror and boredom. ‘When am I to live? When am I to live?’ he repeated in anguish.
So Oblomov resigns from his job and sticks to his couch. After a while even social invitations make him squirm a
The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.Subscribe now or Sign in