Ivan Ivanovich Lkhovsky (1829-1867) also worked for the Ministry of Finances and was one of Goncharov’s closest friends. Goncharov served in many ways as the mentor for Lkhovsky who had writing ambitions for his own. In 1859 he even followed in Goncharov’s footsteps and took a round-the-world voyage.
Marienbad, 2 August 1857
… around the 25th or 26th I inadvertently opened Oblomov and caught fire: by the 31st this hand had written forty-seven pages! I have edited and finished the first part, written the second, and made quite a dent in the third….
I do not know if I have recovered fully, only that I have around three weeks of intense work left before I finish Oblomov. I’ve had my nose to the grindstone a long time already. The courtly love poem is all done- it took up a lot of time and space. I must seem odd: how could someone suddenly finish in one month something he was unable to finish for years? To this I response that if it hadn’t been for those years nothing would have been written in that month. The fact is that the novel, down to its smallest scenes and details, burst forth all at once-all that was left was to write it down. I wrote as though taking dictation. Really – a lot of it simply appeared, unconsciously: someone invisible sat next to me and told me what to write. For example, in my plan for the novel I had envisioned a passionate woman, but my pencil completely altered this central attribute and filled in the rest accordingly. Thus a different figure emerged…. I worry sometimes that I don’t have a single real-life type in the novel, only ideal people. Is that all right? At the same time, I do not need real types to express my main idea- indeed they would deflect me from my purpose. Or rather I need a huge talent like Gogol’s to rein in both the real and the ideal. My fears that my style is too simple, that I cannot write a la Turgenev, subsided when the whole picture of Oblomov began to come into focus: I realized that the point isn’t my style but the integrity of the whole construction. It was as though a large city came into my view; the reader is placed where he can observe this city in its entirety, and he looks for its edges and center, tries to see how its outskirts relate to the city as a whole, where its towers and parks are located – but does not bother with whether the buildings are of stone or brick, whether the roofing material is smooth, what shape the windows are, etc., etc. This grand fairly tale should make an impression, I think, but what kind and how deep- I cannot yet tell. Perhaps the protagonist is incomplete- one or another side of him not sufficiently developed, a good deal left unsaid- but I am already comfortable even with this. What is the reader for, anyway? Is he really such a moron that he cannot fill in the rest based on the author’s main idea? … The author’s task is to suggest the character’s prevailing disposition; the rest is up to the reader….
I am not flapping my wings about like some rooster, though, crowing about my brilliant success when I do not know on what dunghill I will land …. I’ll probably be so ashamed of it that I’ll have to keep it [the novel] under wraps. Take, for example, the woman Oblomov is in love with, Olga Sergeyevna Illyinskaya: she may be such a hideous outcome of a listless, spent imagination that she ought to be changed completely or gotten rid of altogether. I don’t know myself what to do with her. At first she seemed an icon of simplicity and virtue- but later, it would appear, that image rupture and disintegrated. I don’t know –perhaps that is all very silly. I am at a loss; sometimes I just want to leave right away for Lausanne, or Bern, or Vevey, lock myself up for another month there, then return and tell everyone, “I’ve finished, understand? Finished!” I can already hear your diffident words, can imagine you treating me to delicious, tender praise one teaspoon at a time, Turgenev’s bear hugs, and the tacit, suppressed irritation of those people who hate to see others succeed. But I view this happy scene as a dream unlikely to come true…. And it is terrifying to think how much is left to edit; the only comfort is that editing is not real work but pleasure. How on earth did this happen? How did I- an exhausted, hardened man indifferent to everything, even his own success- suddenly resume a project I had given up on? I could hardly contain my excitement: my head was pounding, Louisa [his maid] would find me in tears, I would pace the floor like a madman, couldn’t feel my legs under me as I ran through the hills and woods. Even when I was young, nothing like this ever happened to me. Alas, however, there is a simple explanation. Marienbad water is terrifically stimulating; this is why they give it to people suffering from high blood pressure only with great discretion and in very small amounts. Others drink six glasses as day, but my doctor has ordered me to take only three. Not long ago I read in Frankel’s book that the water here, among its properties, “disposes one toward intellectual and spiritual activity.” So that’s the secret. Add to that the wonderful air, exercise until five each day, a stable diet, and not a trace of wine or vodka, and you’ll understand how something that didn’t get written in eight years wrote itself in one month ….