A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov

Foreword to Books III, IV, and V

Concerning Pechorin’s Diary

I LEARNED not long ago that Pechorin had died on his way back from Persia. The news afforded me great delight; it gave me the right to print these notes; and I have taken advantage of the opportunity of putting my name at the head of another person’s productions. Heaven grant that my readers may not punish me for such an innocent deception!

I must now give some explanation of the reasons which have induced me to betray to the public the inmost secrets of a man whom I never knew. If I had even been his friend, well and good: the artful indiscretion of the true friend is intelligible to everybody; but I only saw Pechorin once in my life — on the high-road — and, consequently, I cannot cherish towards him that inexplicable hatred, which, hiding its face under the mask of friendship, awaits but the death or misfortune of the beloved object to burst over its head in a storm of reproaches, admonitions, scoffs and regrets.

On reading over these notes, I have become convinced of the sincerity of the man who has so unsparingly exposed to view his own weaknesses and vices. The history of a man’s soul, even the pettiest soul, is hardly less interesting and useful than the history of a whole people; especially when the former is the result of the observations of a mature mind upon itself, and has been written without any egoistical desire of arousing sympathy or astonishment. Rousseau’s Confessions has precisely this defect — he read it to his friends.

And, so, it is nothing but the desire to be useful that has constrained me to print fragments of this diary which fell into my hands by chance. Although I have altered all the proper names, those who are mentioned in it will probably recognise themselves, and, it may be, will find some justification for actions for which they have hitherto blamed a man who has ceased henceforth to have anything in common with this world. We almost always excuse that which we understand.

I have inserted in this book only those portions of the diary which refer to Pechorin’s sojourn in the Caucasus. There still remains in my hands a thick writing-book in which he tells the story of his whole life. Some time or other that, too, will present itself before the tribunal of the world, but, for many and weighty reasons, I do not venture to take such a responsibility upon myself now.

Possibly some readers would like to know my own opinion of Pechorin’s character. My answer is: the title of this book. “But that is malicious irony!” they will say . . . I know not.


Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10