This book is not a novel per se; it is divided into five novellas (“Bela”, “Maxim Maximovich”, and three extracts from Pechorin’s diary-simply brilliant).The first part serves as an introduction to Pechorin’s character. A young officer and Captain Maximovich started talking about the latter’s peculiar friend, Pechorin, whom he had met chat avenue in the Caucases. This young man had met a beautiful princess named Bela that soon became his next challenge. Bela’s brother, Azamat, a whiny, obnoxious teenager, really wanted somebody else’s horse. And Pechorin offered his assistance in exchange for Bela. Yes, a woman for a horse. Charming fella.
Again I was mistaken; the love of a savage is little better than that of your lady of quality, the barbaric ignorance and simplicity of the one weary you as much as the coquetry of the other
Though I do not advise you to do the latter, because the crossing of Mount Krestov (or, as the erudite Gamba calls it, le mont St. Christophe) is worthy of your curiosity. (26)
In conclusion, time went by and Pechorin’s free spirit got bored of Bela. While reading his response to Maximovich when he asked him about the princess I thought: “Finally. A first sign that this book can be amazing”. And it certainly was. A young man with a void in his heart, with needs that were impossible to satisfy, with the thought of death always in his head, couldn’t be around the same people for a long time. He started to feel suffocated and the urge of escaping took over him. Like a Russian Childe Harold, the only option was to get away, to travel. To experience new things so he can reduce that void, to vanish his ennui. This situation is described with such a beautiful, dazzling writing.
(This next passage does not have spoilers, but I hid it because it is quite long and some people might prefer not to read the whole thing-but I just couldn’t quote less without damaging the essence. So, you have been warned.)
I am not saying that I do not love her still; I am grateful to her for a few fairly sweet moments; I would give my life for her-only I am bored with her
Mine is an unfortunate disposition; whether it is the result of my upbringing or whether it is innate-I know not. I only know this, that if I am the cause of unhappiness in others I myself am no less unhappy. Of course, that is a poor consolation to them-only the fact remains that such is the case. In my early youth, from the moment I ceased to be under the guardianship of my relations, I began madly to enjoy all the pleasures which money could buy-and, of course, such pleasures became irksome to me. Then I launched out into the world of fashion-and that, too, soon palled upon me. I fell in love with fashionable beauties and was loved by them, but my imagination and egoism alone were aroused; my heart remained empty. I began to read, to study-but sciences also became utterly wearisome to me. I saw that neither fame nor happiness depends on them in the least, because the happiest people are the uneducated, and fame is good fortune, to attain which you have only to be smart. Then I grew bored. Soon afterwards I was transferred to the Caucasus; and that was the happiest time of my life. I hoped that under the bullets of the Chechenes boredom could not exist-a vain hope! In a month I grew so accustomed to the buzzing of the bullets and to the proximity of death that, to tell the truth, I paid more attention to the gnats-and I became more bored than ever, because I had lost what was almost my last hope. When I saw Bela in my own house; when, for the first time, I held her on my knee and kissed her black locks, I, fool that I was, thought that she was an angel sent to me by sympathetic fate. Whether I am a fool or a villain I know not; but this is certain, I am also most deserving of pity-perhaps more than she. My soul has been spoiled by the world, my imagination is unquiet, my heart insatiable. To me everything is of little moment. I become as easily accustomed to grief as to joy, and my life grows emptier day by day. One expedient only is left to me-travel. (31-32)