Published by Penguin Classics on 1839
Genres: Classics - Victorian
Source: Purchased: print book
In its adventurous happenings–its abductions, duels, and sexual intrigues–A Hero of Our Time looks backward to the tales of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron, so beloved by Russian society in the 1820s and ’30s. In the character of its protagonist, Pechorin–the archetypal Russian antihero–Lermontov’s novel looks forward to the subsequent glories of a Russian literature that it helped, in great measure, to make possible.
The description about adventurous happenings, abductions, duels and sexual intrigues makes this book sound far more interesting than it actually is. The “archetypal Russian anti-hero,” Pechorin, is a tedious amalgam of self-absorption lacking in even rudimentary self-awareness, and arrogance untethered from substance.
I actually read a different version. But the cover of this one is so much more perfect than my edition that I had to use it. Because, if I had to come up with a modern equivalent for Pechorin, he is the pretentious, annoying hipster, pretending to be deep and soulful, but really as shallow as a puddle on a hot day. The kind of irritating manipulative assbasket who needs to be unironically beaten to death with his copy of Gravity’s Rainbow before he cuts a swathe of destruction through the lives of other people with twice as much character.
Upon finishing, I was reminded of the men in Fitzergerald’s books (Gatsby, Tom Buchanan, and the relentlessly douchey Dick Diver), whom I universally loathe, and Bungalow 89, a revolting piece of pretentiousness passing for meta-fiction that I somehow stumbled upon in Vice, written (badly) by James Franco. You can find the original here, if you feel like a morning spent retching would be a good use of your time.
If I could Thunderdome him, I’d put him up against Austen’s mistress of manipulation Lady Susan. She’d steal his wallet and roll him for his kidney, leaving him bloody yet somehow still convinced that she is in love with him, and is the most perfect of women.
Conclusion: Skip it and go straight to Tolstoy.