Mikhail Lermontov: A Hero of Our Time

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

August 24, New York: I am buying new copies of many of these books. They were once owned then later lent or lost. Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, for some reason, has never left my library. This slender volume has moved from Florida to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Washington to New York. And this is only the second time I’ve read it. This is my copy. Note the artful additions.

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The first time I read this book I was a freshman in high school. In addition to my idle doodlings over Lermontov’s face, the inside cover is inscribed “Andrew Fitzgerald, Period 2″. The occasional page features deeply faded yellow highlighter.

Whoever had the idea to give this book to teenagers was a genius. Pechorin, the “Hero” of the title, is a feckless dick of a twenty-something. He’s needlessly evil from boredom, toying with the lives and emotions of others for his own amusement. He’s smart, confident, charming, and, again, a total dick. He’s basically a 1990s American teenager.

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“An enthusiast turns me cold as ice…” What a teenage dick.

I don’t know how influential this book was on me directly, but I recognize in Lermontov’s Pechorin a persona I spent many years trying to affect. Distant, mildly amused, disaffected. (Though to be honest, I ended up less Pechorin and more Grushnitsky, the lovelorn twenty-one year old cadet who convinces himself he has an air of mystery because he wears a greatcoat.)

I included this book in this theme, because trying to be a Pechorin occupied so many years of my teens and twenties. Who didn’t want to be a smoldering Byronic Russian exiled to the Caucuses? Oh, what’s that? No one else did? Yeah, well.

Rediscover your teenage side with a trip to the Caucuses, a copy of this book in your valise.

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