I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Pádraig Murphy
Goncharov’s Oblomov was published in 1859. It contrasts the hero, Ilya Oblomov, with “the comrade of his youth, his unchanging friend”, Andrei Stolz. Oblomov is a Russian barin, a member of the landed gentry, who, like many of his class at the time, had become demoralised as a “superfluous man” without a role in society other than to get others to work for him, although, this being the point of the novel, he can’t even manage that. Stolz, although Russianised, is the son of a German immigrant to Russia, who ran a school at which Oblomov had been a pupil. The father is described as “capable and strict, like most Germans”. As adults, Oblomov and Stolz remain friends, even as Oblomov lazes his life away, allergic to change of any kind and unwilling even to get out of bed in the morning. Stolz, on the other hand, prospers, marrying Olga, to whom Oblomov is unwilling to commit himself, and eventually taking over the management of Oblomov’s ramshackle estate and turning it around. He is finally unable to get his friend Ilya to engage with life as he sees it. In the course of one of their confrontations on this, Oblomov says to him: “You and I are of different types. You have wings; you do not merely exist – you also fly. You have gifts and ambition; you do not grow fat; specks do not dance before your eyes … my organism and yours are wholly dissimilar.” At a later stage, Oblomov tells Stolz, after he has married Olga: “In your happiness I should see, as in a mirror, my own bitter, broken life. Yet no life but this do I wish, or have it in my power, to live”. German relations with Russia have a long history, over a thousand years. From the late tenth century the German emperors were intent on evangelising the territories to their east from episcopal sees such as Magdeburg. The regent Olga in Kiev, then the first of Russian cities, was christened as a Greek Orthodox Christian in 955 or 957, but, as if to counterbalance this, invited the Emperor Otto I to send Latin missionaries to Kievan Rus. Although Otto sent Adalbert, who subsequently became Archbishop of Magdeburg, orthodoxy was declared the state religion in 988, as it is said, because the Russians were overwhelmingly impressed with the glories of Constantinople. This was a move that…



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