Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “The Fatalist”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Fatalist” by Mikhail Lermontov

Card picked: Three of Hearts

From: Selected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976; also available online

Thoughts: “The Fatalist” is the closing section of Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time. I haven’t read the entire five parts yet, but this story is a curious endpoint.

After an evening of gambling, talk among a group of Russian Army officers turns to the question of predestination (as will happen among Russian Army officers after an evening of gambling, I guess). Our narrator, Pechorin, does not believe in predestination. Vulic, a fellow with a passion and no talent for gambling, wagers that Pechorin is wrong. Vulic takes a gun down from the wall and primes it. Anyone who’s heard of Russian roulette knows where this is going, although the gun in question is not a revolver and this is the first instance of such a feat in literature. A moment before Vulic pulls the trigger, Pechorin is absolutely certain Vulic will die that night. I won’t say if he does or not, but the events of that night and the next morning cause Pechorin to become a fatalist:

I prefer to doubt everything; such a disposition does not preclude a resolute character; on the contrary, as far as I’m concerned, I always advance more boldly when I do not know what is awaiting me.

Personally, I’m more like Pechorin’s friend Maxim Maximych (a more prominent character in early parts of A Hero of Our Time): “…in general he does not care for metaphysical discourses.” I’ll make an exception for Lermontov.

About the Author: I know Lermontov’s poetry more than his prose (something I’ll probably say about many of the Russian authors). He sort of stepped in to fill the void after Pushkin’s death and is known as Russia’s great Romantic.

Deal Me In Lunar Extra ~ “The Invisible Girl”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

I was very indecisive when picking my Deal Me in Stories, so I added an extra “Lunar” twist.
For each full moon, I’ll be reading a horror story written by a woman.

“The Invisible Girl” by Mary Shelley

Card picked: A Jack

From: Online at Gutenberg Australia

Thoughts: This is another tale that borrows some gothic tropes, if lightly. Our narrator isn’t the person directly involved in the story, but heard it from an old woman after he seeks refuge in a curious “ruined” tower that has a lovely painting called “The Invisible Girl” in its upper room. Further, this narrator is set in the early 18th century, not in Shelly’s early 19th. Since the old woman is telling a story that happened many years before *that*, we could place the main events of “The Invisible Girl” near the time The Castle of Otranto was written (although the events of Walpole’s novel occur centuries in the past). I wonder if this shifting a story backwards in history is meant to excuse some of the actions of the characters. Sir Peter and his widow sister treat Rosina terribly, but they are people of the past. Surely, people of the present behave more humanely. (Also in the land of Otranto connections I’m probably making up, we also have a heroine with a somewhat Italian sounding name.)

But anyway, the story: Henry, the son of Sir Peter, falls in love with Rosina, an orphan who lives on his father’s estate. Henry and Rosina have grown up together; of course they love each other, but since she has no heredity of note, the couple keep this love secret. All is well until Sir Peter’s sister moves in. She susses out the truth, sends Henry away and besmirches Rosina’s honor. Sir Peter sends her away and she presumably dies in the woods. Sir Peter, we are told, might feel badly about this, but Shelley’s not very convincing when she says so. Henry finds out his love is dead and decides to find her body. Instead, his boat is caught in a nasty storm and is led to safety by a mysterious light in a tower. When he asks nearby folks about it, they tell him the Invisible Girl is responsible. Which of course leads Henry to wonder, is the Invisible Girl the spirit of Rosina?

There’s a twist ending to this tale which I thought was quite nice. Paula Cappa originally posted about this story in October of 2013.

About the Author: Yes, *that* Mary Shelley. She wrote more than Frankenstein. A lot more! This is the first short story I’ve read by her, but it probably won’t be the last.