I struggle with Russian classics, maybe because I’m reading them in translation I miss out on the beautiful prose of the original. I wasn’t enamoured with Dostoevsky, neither Crime and Punishment nor The Idiot, I have yet to tackle Tolstoy and this Lermontov left me cold. Of the Russian Classics I’ve only enjoyed Gogol’s Dead Souls and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.
“I had to force myself to read at first, then I forgot myself, carried away by the magical fiction.” (p135)
Pechorin’s experience of Sir Walter Scott’s “Old Morality” was sadly different to my experience of Lermontov’s tale of Pechorin. I had to force myself to get to the end, if it had been a longer book I’d have given up. The book puts together five related stories revolving around our “hero” Pechorin. I was interested because the action was set in the Caucasus. I found the “Byronic” Pechorin immature, the women are mysterious and illogical. Pechorin treats women as an incentive for endless conquests and does not consider them worthy of any particular respect. The mix of mountain horsemen, society women and smugglers seemed a little implausible as though St Petersburg society had been deposited in the Caucasus.
In the novel Pechorin has a duel with Grushinsky like the writer Lermontov and Lermontov’s idol, Pushkin. Both writers were killed in duels.
John Braine advises would be novelists to wait until they reach 30 to have the maturity and experience to write, Lermontov was 24 when he started this book, he was just 26 when he met his death in a duel with his Cadet school friend Martyov. Maybe had he survived he would have written more mature literature.
My rating 2 out of 5