34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What heroism is really all about?
Lermontov's book is a brilliant precursor to the great Russian novels of the 19th century. It is principally the story of Pechorin, the hero of the title, a Russian officer posted to the Caucasus. He is, however, not a hero in the classical sense, but rather an ambiguous character. Where traditional heroes are motivated by the desire to do good, Pechorin is motivated by...
Published on 14 July 2004 by Depressaholic
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What heroism is really all about?,
This review is from: A Hero of Our Time (World's Classics) (Paperback)
Lermontov's book is a brilliant precursor to the great Russian novels of the 19th century. It is principally the story of Pechorin, the hero of the title, a Russian officer posted to the Caucasus. He is, however, not a hero in the classical sense, but rather an ambiguous character. Where traditional heroes are motivated by the desire to do good, Pechorin is motivated by the desire to avoid boredom. When he chases women it is not for love, but to give himself a project, regardless of the effects he has on his targets. Although, he arouses the admiration of his fellow officers, they are also repelled by his callousness and lack of morals. He is a great antihero, beginning a tradition that was later followed by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and other Russian authors, with their morally ambiguous protagonists. Lermontov's hero is more classically romantic than those of the other author, but Lermontov stops short of making Pechorin into some sort of Boy's Own hero. The distaste with which the other characters view Pechorin constantly remind the reader that at the heart of his rogueish exterior is a really selfish man, one who we both admire and pity. Although later books have achieved characters like Pechorin with more subtlety, he remains the archetype . I enjoyed reading this book immensely, and, if any of the above intrigues you, suggest that you will as well.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russian Roulette,
As stated in the excellent introduction this book is a portrait not a story: so don't bother reading it if you want a beginning, middle and an end or for that matter any sense of chronology. Nevertheless the engrossing narrative consists of numerous adventures accompanied by painterly descriptions of the landscape, revealed by several narrators. The Byronic hero of the title (Pechorin/Lermontov) offers the reader a nihilistic, possibly misogynistic, Romantic, whose objective narcissisms infects those around him with often devastating consequences (emotional, physical and spiritual). Pechorin often refers to fate, possession, evil and death. His women are submitted to emotional abuse and all around him he only sees mediocrity. Pechorin is bored, aimless, spiteful and fatalistic. He appears to think he is a victim but his actions dictate otherwise. For example, the `frightened' Princess Mary refers to Pechorin as `a dangerous man' and he responds with surprise, `Am I really like a murderer, then?' Princess Mary replies `No, you're worse.' Of course Pechorin, the victim, justifies his behaviour, explaining in a revealing passage (p.106), that since a boy `everyone saw evil traits that I didn't possess.' Cue hatred for a world he wanted to love, manifesting in a confession laced with resentment, jealousy, despair and deceit eventually referring to himself as `a moral cripple.' Similarly Pechorin's emotional coldness and self imposed objectivism are clearly evident at the start of a particularly exciting section (p.134), where he states that `For a long time now I've lived by intellect, not feeling.'
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Byronic tales from wild Russia,
Lermontov is in the line of outsider poets who also wrote novels like Pushkin whom he wrote a poem on,"Death of a Poet",an outspoken denunciation of Russian society,that scorns genius and drove it to its death.The theme of the great individualist who lives by his own codes,amoral,reckless,daring,unable to settle down,a wanderer. Lermontov was arrested and as punishment was posted to a lesser regiment serving in the Caucasus.He was to return to St.Petersburg,celebrated as Pushkin's heir.He wrote this new form of novel involving 5 tales,interlinked and set in the Caucasus.The personal motifs are Perchorin's relationship with women,who fall in love with him and whom he rejects,the social motifs take in his conflicts with a pretentious junior who he kills in a duel and the fact that all people seem to hate him,want him to fall or fail.Above the mediocre herd,a misfit,he is conscious of his superflousness.Byronic,superior,proud and energetic,life is unable to fulfil his expectations.He scorns emotions and his intellect is dominant over his feelings.He rides roughshod over the feelings of other people.His victims, women and men ,are strewn along the way.His predatory instinct,persecutes and destroys people,plays with their affections,people are food to nourish his ego."Bitter medicines and harsh truths are needed now" (Preface).His whole life,he says,has been an attempt to go against heart or reason.Although free from illusions about life,he is subject to the power of emotions,seen in Bela's death,his love for Vera,his pity for Princess Mary and his self-pity.The book set in the Caucasus, a landscape of breath-taking beauty and wild nature, torrents, mountains, ravines, exotic tribes,sea coasts,seem to reflect for him an ideal purity and beauty lacking in human society:'The air is pure,as the kiss of a child,the sun is bright,the sky is blue-what more does one want?What need have we here of passions,desires,regrets?'There are changes of location for each tale and each centres on one main character affected by Pechorin,narrated by himself or by others.He often feels he's the'axe in the hands of fate',but he also claims to act of his own free will.There is a swiftness and economy in the prose,action- packed adventures with no longeurs,a multi-prespectival narrative and the exoticism of the Caucasus to marvel at.He inspired Tolstoy,Turgenev,Chekov and Dostoevsky.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life, death and male introspection in 19thC Dagestan,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Hero of Our Time (Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
On one level this is a fantastic piece of travel writing detailing a young officer's journey from the elegant drawing rooms of Russia's heartland to the wild and lawless Southern Caucasus. However the book also follows the moral journey of the Hero, and allows Lermontov to put the boot into the stale and self serving ruling classes who's banality is nearly as gigantic as his ennui. Whilst the geographical journey takes in crazy characters, wild situations and beautiful places, the moral adventure examines the Hero's alienation not just from his peers but from the rest of humanity. Lermontov's Hero is not simply disgruntled however, he has an alternative, if somewhat manufactured amorality which is in many ways very appealing. All in all an excellent read conbining costume drama, travel writing and philosophical introspection: Like Sartre only well written and interesting.
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars,
Not very inspiring
5.0 out of 5 stars lyrical descriptions of the Caucasus,
This review is from: A Hero of Our Time (Penguin Classics) (Kindle Edition)
The novella describes the progress of Pechorin whose ennui causes him to manipulate all the characters he meets on his wanderings through the Caucasus. The wonderful descriptions of the landscapes are the background for Pechorin's journey through the listless Russian aristocracy, breaking hearts and inducing to murder as he hoes.
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - Helps us focus on Russian interests in the Caucasus and Black sea.,
A Hero of our Time
Mikhail Lermontov Penguin Classics ISBN 978-0 -14 -310563-3
Introduction and translation by Natasha Randall
Superb, 169 pages – read it in one sitting – a must read if you wish to understand the Russian and their nation’s influence on this part of the Asian expanse. Here from the Georgian heights one can view across the Black Sea to the Crimea where currently in 2014 political unrest mounts.
The novel set in the 1830’s harvests the author’s experiences on the frontier lands of the Caucasus. Lermontov introduces his hero – Grigory Alexandrovich Pechorin. To be a hero you need to face danger: danger on the frontier. And there are other dangers - what about danger through a social cut; a duel, danger through a game of gambling? Lermontov’s hero threads a path through dangers web. Sometimes outcomes are written in the sky. Fate or perhaps a little manipulation may be of help.
Research – 9/10 a feast of leads geographical, political and world literature. On the periphery - the duel, Russian army, peoples of the Caucasus and the Rus’ an ancient people represented by the Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Russian peoples and their territories.
Prose – 8/10 thrilling pace.
Politics/History 7/10 Lermontov’s poem ‘Death of a Poet’ brought the author into opposition with Czar Nicholas 1. Restraint rules this novel – the Czar remained vitriolic.
Danger – 10/10 a hero needs danger and the danger here provides at least 5 wows for me.
Chase – 10/10 I could not put this book down which says a great deal for Natasha’s translation and the fact that as Natasha says: ‘his is a feat of narrative, a romping story about a dislikable man who captures your whole attention with his manifold contradictions.’
Humour/Poetry - loved the Circassian Kasbich’s poem.
A truly great book lures the reader back again and again. My research on the femme fatale and Balakirev’s composition on Princess Tamara -who lures travellers to her castle above the River Terek - led me to Lermontov. I was expectant, and wanted to read his description of the river site. In Lermontov’s text he rushes through the gorge: I will spare you from…. any description! Quel surprise!
Damn a failed research lead I thought. Yet the text offered rich alternatives and danger.
And so to the question posed at the start of the novel – how do I make my cart go faster? A leitmotiv for the State perhaps? Well it’s not just the Russian who interferes, meddles and seeks advantage. It’s the outcome, after the manipulation that is important. Beware - the outcome is certain if you play Lermontov’s version of Russian roulette. Quel Danger!
This book has secured a place in my library – I recommend this version of Lermontov’s ‘A Hero of our Time.’
5.0 out of 5 stars Rough around the edges, but overall effect is stunning,
Start here for Russian literature - perhaps try this before going on to the lengthier works. It's where it 'fits' in the country's lexicon. Starting here, or reading it having read some other classics, is a great way to trace the evolution of the Russian novel.
This book is brief, and can feel disjointed, but the effect you're left with is wonderful, penetrative and stimulating. What is the nature of the male psyche? What is a hero? What personal qualities do we value as a society - and why?
To answer the query of another reviewer, this edition is an excellent one to go for, with an illuminating and helpful introduction, and full footnotes to help with Russian/Cossack/tribal terminology.
Great stuff. Highly recommended.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hero of OUR Time,
I first read this book as a 'set text' at Uni but have reread it many times since. It struck me when I first read it that this book reflects a great deal of the apathy and frustration that are the trademarks of the so-called 'Generation X' - the phrase coined by the media to refer to 20-somethings in the late 1990's (my generation). The book was written at the end of the 19th century and Pechorin's feelings and emotions reflected very well the misunderstood angst of Generation X as we approached the end of the 20th century (or perhaps more likely, it reflects a feeling common to many generations of young people?)
The 'Hero' is such an antihero that the title can be perceived as an ironic jibe at the protagonist and those who would consider him 'heroic' but also as a condemnation of an era that can only produce such a man as a 'hero'. Whilst we as readers are to some extent supposed to disapprove of Pechorin's ammorality, I found myself as a disenchanted twenty-something, sympathising with our Hero's dark point of view, enjoying Lermontov's black humour and ruing the fact that Lermontov died too young to amass a great body of work.
Go read it and form your own opinion!
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is more like it,
This is, quite simply, the way a novel should be written, in my opinion. Not that the structure should be a goal in itself, because it is rather unorthodox, but this book has everything a good novel needs. I have read several modern books lately, and they just can't be compared to classic Russian literature, which is the definite apex in literature. This book by Lermontov had a huge influence on many writers, not the least of whom were his own countrymen, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre, or wants to get to know the genre. The foreword and introduction are both well-written and informative, but they should be read after the book itself, as always, in my opinion. This is a great book by a great writer.
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A Hero Of Our Time (Everyman's Library Classics) by Mikhail Lermontov (Hardcover - 4 Jun 1992)