A Hero of Our Time Foreword

I learned not long ago that Pechorin had died upon returning from Persia. This news made me very glad: it gave me the right to publish these notes, and I took the opportunity to put my name on someone else’s work. God grant that readers won’t punish me for this innocent forgery.

Now I must give some explanation of the motives that have induced me to deliver to the public the secrets of a heart belonging to a person whom I didn’t know. It would be fine if I had been his friend: everyone understands the treacherous indiscretions of a true friend. But I had only seen him once in my life on the highway. Hence I cannot attempt that inexpressible hatred, which, hiding under the guise of friendship, awaits only the death or misfortune of its beloved object to unleash a torrent of reproach, counsel, mockery and pity on its head.

As I read these notes again, I am convinced by the sincerity of this man who so relentlessly displayed his personal weaknesses and defects for all to see. The story of a man’s soul, even the pettiest of souls, is only slightly less intriguing and edifying than the history of an entire people, especially when it is a product of the observations of a ripe mind about itself, and when it is written without the vain desire to excite sympathy or astonishment. Rousseau’s confessions1 have their shortcomings in the fact that he read them to his friends.

So it was only the desire to be of use that made me print excerpts from these diaries, which I came by accidentally. Though I changed all the proper names, those about whom the diaries speak will likely recognize themselves, and perhaps they will find some justification for the behavior of which this man has long been accused—he, who henceforth will partake of nothing in this world of ours. We almost always forgive those we understand.

I have put in this book only that which is related to Pechorin’s sojourn in the Caucasus. In my hands remains another fat book of diaries, where he tells his whole life’s story. At some point, it too will receive the world’s verdict. But presently, I do not dare to assume that responsibility for many important reasons.

Perhaps several readers will want to know my opinion of Pechorin’s character? My reply is the title of this book. “What vicious irony!” they will say. I don’t know.