The Last Giveaway of 2016: Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”


I freed up one bookcase this year by weeding books, and  hope to free up another in the new year.   My resolution is to get all books out of boxes on to shelves.  And for every book that comes into the house, one must go out.

The last giveaway of the year is of a lovely Penguin edition of Mikhail Lermontov’s charming  short novel, A Hero of Our Time  (1840). (We have three copies:  two were recently found in a box.)

I was utterly absorbed in the story of Pechorin, a  Byronic anti-hero described from three points of view:  that of a narrator/writer who takes travel notes, that of an officer who tells spellbinding stories that reveal Pechorin’s character, and finally from Pechorin’s own journal.

In the introduction, the translator Paul Foote writes,

“A Hero of Our Time” is, as the title indicates, an account of the life and character of a man who is typical of our age. In this it continues the tradition of personal studies, initiated in Russia by Pushkin’s ‘novel in verse,’ Eugene Onegin (1823-30), but with antecedents in Western European literature, in which the contemporary young man with his problems and faults is exposed.  The link between Lermontov’s work and Pushkin’s work is evident from a number of similarities…

Onegin and Pechorin are the first in a line of literary heroes characterized in nineteenth-century criticism as ‘superfluous men’ and found in the novels of Turgenev, Herzen and Goncharov that followed in the 1840s-50s.  Their common feature is that they are misfits, men who are aware that they are above the mediocrity of their society and aspire to something better.  They fail–the ‘something’ to which they aspire is too vague to become a practical goal…

If  you would like the Penguin, leave a comment.  I can send it anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.  Only postage costs keep me from sending it overseas!

4 thoughts on “The Last Giveaway of 2016: Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”

  1. I would love to be in your drawing. I’m in a Russian literature challenge for 2017 and it’s high time for me to get back into those adrift and drifting 19th century Russian gentlemen.


  2. Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Teheran has a section on Henry James’s fiction, where she talks about this kind of male character — these Russian novels often characterize women much more stereotypically, not realizing (this is the case with Tolstoy) how much women agonize over how they cannot find choices in life they want or fulfill themselves in society as presently constituted for the majority. She calls these characters in James “nobly-equipped failures,” and suggests it’s a failure that is costly but worth it. That reminds me of Jane Eyre where she says she has treasures in herself that would make conformity too high a price to pay. I’ve not read enough Russian literature, really the only author I know from more than one work beyond Tolstoy (and there I know just the two) is Chekhov. I ought to read more Pushkin. I’ve never read Lermontov .Often the 19th century authors as described by others remind me of what French novelists of the era wrote too.


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