The story of a human soul, even the pettiest of souls, can hardly be less interesting and instructive than the story of a nation…
Many of my earlier entries contain references to Russian Romantic literature, but I’ve never explained my fascination with it. I’ve always identified with ideas of the Byronic hero and Nihilism, whether they were ideals or philosophies I felt drawn to. It was one book that introduced me to these ideas, called A Hero Of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, a Russian poet (in the truest sense of the word) who died in a duel at 26. Whenever I meet someone from Russia, I ask them if they’ve read it, in the hopes that perhaps I can gain some insight into this book from someone who understands the original language. I read it when I was in grade 9, and so much of what the protagonist, Pechorin, made sense to me.
Ah, well! If I must die, I must! The world will lose little, and I am weary enough of it all. I am like a man who yawns at a ball and doesn’t go home to sleep only because his carriage hasn’t come.
During a brief phase, I’d say about year off and on in high school, I was at the very depths of depression and somewhat suicidal, but I could never bring myself to do it. I was just hoping death would take me. It was an easy way out. Not only did I have no reason to live, but my life was quite unpleasant. My best friend had ditched me for the popular crowd, so my time at school was miserable, then I’d come home to an empty life and parents that ignored me.
Ever since, I’ve felt like I’ve been living on borrowed time, waiting for the end to come, when it should have already arrived. That’s why I remain unphazed by the idea that I’m going to die, and accepting of the fact that it’ll happen one day. As Pechorin says near the end of the novel, “After all, nothing worse than death can happen — and death you can’t escape!”
There’s a particular scene in the movie Onegin that captures the spirit of this morbid acceptance. Onegin (played by Ralph Fiennes) has been challenged to a duel that he cannot back out of, lest he be the subject of ridicule, so he accepts. He’s fired upon as he’s walking towards his opponent, and, faced with death, simply closes his eyes. The expression of calm in his face shows that it’s out of reflex, instead of fear.
Continue reading “My Interest In Russian Literature”…