I just finished reading A Hero of Our Time again. It’s the book I’ve read the most in my life, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone straight from cover to cover through various translations. Every time I’ve read it for the last eight years, I’ve grown a little more. Certain parts that I may not have understood before become clear and relateable.
One particular passage struck me this time; Vera’s final letter to Pechorin.
For three hours now I have been sitting at the window and awaiting your return…But you are alive, you cannot die! The carriage is almost ready…Farewell, Farewell! I am lost — but what of it? If I could be certain that you will always remember me — I say nothing of loving me, no — only remember…Goodbye! Someone is coming…I have to hide this letter…
I now fully understand Vera’s final wish, having since wished the same thing myself. Yet it’s something I cannot explain, even when I myself share this feeling. Why this need to not be forgotten? Why does remembering mean so much?
Is it the need to know that I am important to someone, even if it was some ephemeral relationship or some personal mistake? Is it so that I can believe that I was so special as to be unforgettable, an egotistical or perhaps insecure shroud to fool myself? Is it to give my life meaning, a sort of purpose to know that I can indelibly change the lives of others? Or maybe it’s to know that the feelings I experience, however bathetic or affected, mean something to someone. I usually pride myself in being able to perfectly understand the feelings I go through, but this idea has left me at a loss. I wonder if others have ever felt the same way. I remember not understanding this desire in myself at the time, but believing that I would eventually.
Now I’m not sure if I ever will.
Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov ?
Yep, translated by Martin Parker this time.