Friday, May 1, 2015
22 of 1001 Books: Mikhail Lemontov's A Hero of Our Time
I don't know I will ever be a fan of books romanticizing the superfluous man. Does anyone like Pechorin after reading this? He portrays a distinct type of character in this novel. One that doesn't live by social norms doing whatever he wants. In the wake of doing whatever he wants he leaves the world flipped upside down for some. Women heartbroken and men dead. For the traveler though this book sparks the imagination and wanderlust stirring you to read on with the vivid descriptions of the Caucasus Mountains.
The book takes on an interesting narrative. We begin with a traveler who the story has everything drifted back through. He is traveling through the mountains. We don't ever find out much about him, but instead the tales he hears or reads. Maxim is the second character to appear who meets the traveler, and then begins sharing stories of him of one the most fascinating men he was stationed with, Gregory Pechorin. The main character is ultimately Pechorin. Maxim's part isn't long in the story, but the brevity of it makes it the most compelling until the end.
Pechorin's diary will take up the rest of the story. We learn everything about him bouncing between princesses, and even landing himself in some hot water with the men. Pechorin proves he has no bounds and no obligations. The story revolves around him. He is supposed to be the intriguing and conflicting character the story revolves around.
At the end we finally notice saving graces regarding Pechorin though in two instances and in his reflections. I guess it is up to the reader to decide if this makes his treatment of others in his cynicism worth forgiving him. I like that the end builds ups to a revelation of what he has learned, but I still wasn't sympathetic toward Pechorin.
The writing style is creative for the time of 1840. The most compelling thing about books written before the 1900s is the unique way the authors conveyed the characters they were telling. Whether it's Frankenstein, Bel Ami, or now A Hero of Our Time there is something similarly selfish about the lead male characters they all center the stories around. The era of the 1800s seemed to involve many stories from all around the world of deeply flawed men seeking to find something to make them feel.
The story was originally written in Russian. The setting is in the beautiful Caucasus region with the mountains as a backdrop. I would share a photo, but since I've never been there I'll just link you. The countries making up the region are Iran, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
Many might relate to the story of Pechorin. He isn't inherently bad, and he does eventually learn. Mostly he seems disenchanted, especially growing up in wealth. Thinking of the people he left in his wake though, and the fact everyone is a pawn in his lessons makes him more of a character that feels like baggage than a contribution.
The author is definitely write when he notes in his preface though that Pechorin isn't only an example of the vices of the generation of his time but of the one that still exists today as well.