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.