Mikhail Lermontov

Lermontov, Mikhail Yurevich

Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov (mēkhəyēl´ yōōr´yĬvĬch lyĕr´məntŭf), 1814–41, Russian poet and novelist. Given an extensive private education by his wealthy grandmother, Lermontov began writing poetry when he was 14. He first attracted public attention in 1837 with the inflammatory poem "On the Death of the Poet," written to protest the death of Pushkin in a duel. A cavalry officer in the czar's army, he was temporarily banished to the Caucasus, where he had recuperated from illness as a child, and the area's stirring landscape became a prevailing element in his work. Of his early verse, which, like his life, was greatly influenced by Byron, only the lyric "The Angel" (1830) is equal to his later work.

Lermontov's poetic reputation, second in Russia only to Pushkin's, rests upon the lyric and narrative works of his last five years. The Demon (1829–41, tr. 1930), his narrative poem about the love of a fallen angel for a mortal, was used by Anton Rubinstein as the basis of an opera. Mtsyri (1833; tr. The Circassian Boy, 1875) reflects Lermontov's antireligious feeling and idealization of primitive life. His heroic poems include "The Song of the Merchant Kalashnikov" (1837, tr. 1929). Lermontov's partially autobiographical novel A Hero of Our Time (1840, tr. 1958, 1966, 2005) consists of five tales describing aspects of the life of Pechorin, a disenchanted, bored, and doomed young nobleman. The novel is considered a pioneering classic of Russian psychological realism. Lermontov, who had once sought a position in fashionable society, became enormously critical of it. His caustic wit made him numerous enemies, and, like Pushkin, he was killed in a duel.

See biography by J. Lavrin (1959); studies by J. Mersereau (1962), L. Kelly (1977, repr. 1983), B. M. Eikhenbaum (1981), J. G. Garrard (1982), E. Etkind, ed. (1992), R. Reid (1997), V. Golstein (1998), I. Kutik (2004), and D. Powelstock (2005).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Mikhail Lermontov: Selected full-text books and articles

A Hero of Our Time By Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov; Philip Longworth New American Library, 1962
Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time: A Critical Companion By Lewis Bagby Northwestern University Press, 2002
Mikhail Lermontov By John Mersereau; Harry T. Moore Southern Illinois University Press, 1962
Lermontov By Janko Lavrin Hillary House, 1959
Inspiration and Poetry By C. M. Bowra MacMillan, 1955
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "Lermontov"
Russian Writers: Their Lives and Literature By Janko Lavrin D. Van Nostrand, 1954
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "Lermontov"
Russia Discovered: Nineteenth-Century Fiction from Pushkin to Chekhov By Angus Calder Heinemann, 1976
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Literature and Serfdom: Gogol, Lermontov, and Goncharov"
FREE! A Guide to Russian Literature (1820-1917) By Moissaye J. Olgin Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920
Librarian’s tip: "M. J. Lermontov (1814-1841)" begins on p. 25
Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon By Alexander Doty Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Mikhail Lermontov begins on p. 110
Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism By Ewa M. Thompson Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Lermontov's novel "A Hero of Our Time" begins on p. 68
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