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A Hero of Our Time (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 28 Aug 2003
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"It's high time an up-to-date and idiomatic version of A Hero of Our Time was made available to American readers. Marion Schwartz's translation of Lermontov's classic adventure novel captures all the suppleness and wit of Lermontov's prose, the fine texture of his descriptions and the galloping rhythm of his narrative passages. This is a fine addition to the Modern Library." -- Michael Scammell
Military life in the Caucasus, bandits, duels, romance--at the hands of a passionate adventurer with "a restless imagination, an insatiable heart. That is Pechorin, and also Lermontov. If you have a personal all-time bestseller list, make room for A Hero of our Time. -- Alan Furst
"In Russia Mikhail Lermontov is considered one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century. Marian Schwarz's compelling translation shows us why." -- Peter Constantine"
"Natasha Randall's English, in her new translation, has exactly the right degree of loose velocity. . . . (Nabokov's version, the best-known older translation, is a bit more demure than Randall's, less savage.)"
-James Wood, London Review of Books
-The Boston Globe "One of the most vivid and persuasive portraits of the male ego ever put down on paper."
-Neil LaBute, from the Foreword
About the Author
Mikhail Lermontov was born in 1814 and made several journies to the Caucasus before entering St Petersburg Guards' school where he began writing poetry and autobiographical dramas in prose. He died in a duel in 1841. Influenced by Byron, he is renowned as Russia's one true Romantic poet. Paul Foote was, until his retirement, a University Lecturer in Russian and Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford. He has translated works by Tolstoy and Saltykov-Shchedrin.
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Told in a lively conversational style, which makes it an easy read, this is an excellent introduction to Russian literature - being fairly light in tone - before tackling some of the heavyweights.
Varied between the voice of an anonymous narrator and the journals of the officer himself, it can be a bit rambling and obtuse at times and maybe should be approached as an exercise in existential prose rather than a coherent novel, but it has to be said it stands the test of time well. Worth checking out if you are intrigued by that sort of thing.
Lermontov's story of Pechorin (a 19th Century Russian socialite and army officer) is narrated by Pechorin himself, A former amry colleague of his, and another narrator who inherits Pechorin's Journal. The "story" itself is made up of 5 short stories which don't really follow a specific chronological order and are set in various parts of (old) Southern Russia. Interestingly, Part 2 of the novel is set before part 1 and this has a unique result in that your feelings toward Pechorin at the end of part 1 are totaly different to your feelings towards him by the end of Part 2, and makes you want to re-read part 1 as it "contiunes the stroy" so to speak. Its a very good way to evoke strong feelings towards his character and to make you re-examine them by the end of the book - maybe this format is a "moral" / critique of Russian society of the time too? (the theme of "image" and "initial judgement" are a theme within the book itself)
Lermontov's geographical descrptions within this book, especially within the first part, are some of the best I have ever read and certainly convays the beauty of the region and the setting of the story. Its worth reading the book for these alone. This edition has also been very well translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater, and the text feels "natural" and flows very well in English. There are one or two slight "americanisms" in parts ("realization" is one that stands out for me)but overall he has done an excellent job in translating the novel, and providing explanitory notes, to explain certain french sentences / Russian customs that are short, informative and NOT too frequent (thankfully!).
This edition of a Hero of Our Time comes along with a hefty 35 page introduction,and notes on the text which you need to avoid if you want to enjoy the book as it pretty much ruins any element of surprise in the main novel itself. Why Oxford don't put these "introductions" AFTER The novel and rename them "Analysis" I do not know. However I read the introduction AFTER the novel and it does go some way to explaining the culture and the political and social climate in Russia at the time of initial publication. But again, I REALLY think these introductions need to come after the novel itself.
Also included in this edition is Pushkin's "Journey to Arzrum" which apparently influenced Lermontov's approach to writing his geographical descriptions in the novel. While an interesting read about traveling and the battles during the 1829 Russian - Turkish campaign, I don't really feel it needs to be added to this edition and could very easliy be referenced under "further reading". Both this, and the somewhat over-long introduction, feel like excessive "padding out" to take the book itself to 201 pages (inc. notes)and to be quite honest its not really needed. A short story or some other writings by Lermontov would have been much better to include than Pushkin's short work.
Overall, the 140 pages that are "A hero of our time" are fantastic and well worth reading. The other 61 pages are a bit "hit and miss" but I would certainy recommend this edition. The presentation of the book and the translation itself is simply wonderful.
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I got this novel out of curiosity. I almost didn’t get through it.Read more