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A Hero of Our Time (Penguin Classics) Revised Edition

89 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140447958
ISBN-10: 0140447954
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Editorial Reviews


"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

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447958
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Knut Oyangen on May 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mikhail Lermontov was a poet by genius, a romantic at heart, yet by the time of his death at 26, he had already become something of a disillusioned realist. This tension between streaks in his personality is expressed openly in "A Hero of Our Time": the novel starts out as a romantic adventure beautified with most exquisite imagery, but is later transformed into a disquieting tale of manipulation and dark deeds.
The setting for this novel (which is really a loosely connected string of short stories) is the wild Caucasian mountains, to which Lermontov himself had been "exiled" to fight against the fierce Chechens. After the death of Pushkin, Lermontov took it upon himself to keep the great poet's legacy alive. The authorities did not take kindly to Lermontov's endeavour, and transferred the young officer to the war zone.
To 19th centrury Russian writers, the experience of the Caucasus and of 'Asiatics' in general was of tremendous value as a gauge of the value of Russian civilization. Juxtaposing Russian high society with the people of the steppes and the mountains became a familiar device in Russian literature, just like American Indians were used to symbolize the natural/unadulterated or the uncivilized/savage in American literature.
However, in "A Hero of Our Time" the officer Pechorin transcends the boundaries between culture and nature. In the early chapters of the book, Pechorin's adventures are described from outside, and seem extraordinary, bizzare, yet captivating. Later on, other stories are recounted in Pechorin's diary, and they draw a different picture of the modern hero: disillusioned, hateful, and profoundly unhappy. Life is a game which he has long mastered, he knows exactly how to play into people's pride, vanity and passion. Yet, at unlikely moments, a stir of long-forgotten emotion briefly produces a vulnerable, human hero with whom we, despite ourselves, are forced to identify...
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on November 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
While out travelling, the narrator - who we can assume is either Lermontov himself, or a fictionalised version thereof - meets an old soldier, Maxim, who is more than happy to share a tale or three of his life. 'Lermontov' is an appreciative listener, taking notes and jotting down places and names. This is why he is travelling, this is why he talks to people: For their stories, theirs lives, their experiences that you 'cannot find in the romances of Russia'. Maxim tells him the story of Grigory Alexandrovich Pechorin, another soldier who once shared his quarters.

The picture he paints is an interesting one. On the one hand, he declares this Pechorin a great friend, but on the other, comments on his lack of emotion and coldness. He is capable of great generosity, and equally great hostility, the choice of which seems more a whim than for any reason. Maxim admires his education, wit and talent with women, but is offended by his lack of accountability.

In the story Maxim tells, he and Pechorin travel to an Asian warchief's home, where Pechorin is infatuated with the leader's young daughter, Bela. Through a series of manipulative events - all arranged by Pechorin, without remorse or even satisfaction - the daughter is kidnapped and the young soldier falls in love. The story ends tragically, though not unexpectedly, and serves to whet our appetites for who this man really is.

As narrated by Maxim, these stories are colorful, eventful, and written with great, broad strokes. Maxim is not a very educated man, and as such he is unable to properly paint the picture of Pechorin. But he has an admirable flair for description, which in his own, simple ways, are very effective.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on December 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This was Lermontov's only novel, published a year before his death in a duel at the age of 27. Although it was written in the late 1830s, it is strikingly modern both in its structure and in its treatment of the hero.
In structure, the book consists of a collection of short stories and novellas rather than a single narrative. These stories, however, are linked in two ways. Firstly, all feature the same protagonist, Grigoriy Pechorin, a young officer serving with the Russian army in the Caucasus. Secondly, they are bound together by a complex framework featuring a single anonymous narrator (not to be identified with Lermontov himself), a traveller in the Caucasus. The first story, Bela, is supposedly told to this narrator by Maksim Maksimych, a brother-officer of Pechorin. The second, Maksim Maksimych, is related by the narrator himself and deals with a meeting between Pechorin and Maksim. The other three, Taman, Princess Mary and The Fatalist, are all told in Pechorin's own words, taken from his journal which has come into the narrator's hands after Pechorin's death.
It is the fourth tale, Princess Mary, which is the longest and the one which lies at the heart of the work. Bela and Taman are adventure stories with an exotic setting (the Caucasus had the same sort of appeal for nineteenth-century Russians as India had for their British contemporaries). Maksim Maksimych is a linking narrative, and the final story, The Fatalist is an unsettling, spooky treatment of the concepts of fate and predestination.
In Princess Mary, the mood changes abruptly from the romantic exoticism of the earlier stories. Pechorin is stationed in a fashionable spa town in the northern Caucasus.
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