Mikhail Lermontov's a Hero of Our Time Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time places a Russian piece of literature in the Western context of literary influences without sacrificing the Russian characteristics of the writing. At the time of its first publishing in Russia the critiques of Lermontov's short stories novel were mostly controversies over the real values of such a literary undertaking. Lermontov's novel, published in the 1830s, a period of confluences in international literature, when the romanticism was slowly dying out and the realism had not yet started to make statements, led to powerful reactions, especially at home.

Lermontov's antihero was in fact creating confusion: many were not able to understand him, others were not willing to see through, while still another part of the readers and critics alike were considering him a threat to the old values they had grown fond of. Buracek, a reputed professor of science and Lermontov's contemporary "considered the novel a product of Western decadent thought and viewed all characters save Maksim Maksimyk as cast in the image of the author himself. Only those, he maintained, in whom the religious spirit is extinct will enjoy this immoral hero of our time, despite the fact that he represents a mere aesthetic and psychological absurdity" (Heier, p. 36). Pechorin was hard to define and slipped through one's fingers every time someone tried to place him into a definite category.

The tile of the novel makes the contemporary reader ask him or herself how relevant is Pechorin in the context of the last past a hundred and seventy years. How relevant is Pechorin for our society and would he fit at all in today's Russia? Since the novel is still widely read, there must be something in its pages that makes the contemporary reader interested in those stories.

The first chapter of the first book, Bella, titled "The Heart of a Russian," introduces the first narrator, an army officer who travels through Georgia. He is getting to know the people and the places there and the indication of his notes on Georgia show that he is interested in the land as well as the people. His first encounter with the Ossetes, hired to take him and his luggage from one point to another across the country is not at all flattering for the latter. His first impressions joined with those of an older and more experienced in Caucasus matters fellow officer are quite against those inhabiting those parts of the Caucasus. The image his fellow officer is depicting is that of beasts impossible to civilize who do not even hold the merit of being fine warriors. These harsh judgments are destined to challenge the contemporary reader. First of all, history carries the image of the whole Russian peasantry in the 1940s as the majority exploited by the minority of land owners. Moreover, about a third of the peasants were serfs, the word defining another form of slavery. Russia, the country with aspirations of an empire never ceased to believe in its rights to rule over peoples that put together formed a…

Sources Used in Document:

Trenin, D. Getting Russia Right. Carnegie Endowment, 2007

Heier, E. The Second Hero of Our Time. Edmund Heier

The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), pp. 35-43

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