Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov, who is Russia’s greatest poet after Pushkin, was born in Moscow on the night of 2/3 October 1814. The Pushkin Club celebrates the bicentenary of Lermontov’s birth with an illustrated talk by David Brummell about the poet’s life and work. The evening will include readings of a selection of Lermontov’s best-known poems: they will be recited in Russian by Alla Gelich and in David Brummell’s English translations by Ken Young. Two of the poems will be sung in Russian by Lila Moshtael, and Nadia Giliova wil provide the piano accompaniment.
Lermontov’s short life was a dramatic one, and he lived life intensely. In his talk David Brummell will seek to show how both Lermontov’s poetry and his prose were strongly influenced by his life and personal experiences.
As well as being Russia’s greatest Romantic poet, Lermontov was also a great prose-writer. It was Lermontov who producd the first example of psychological realism in the Russian novel. This was in his brilliant work, “A Hero of Our Time”, which consists of five-inter-linked stories. This was a major breakthrough in Russian literature, the novel of psychological realism being further developed later by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
Lermontov became widely known to the general public in 1837, following his writing of the poem, “The Death of a Poet”. He wrote this poem in honour of Pushkin, following Pushkin’s death in a duel in January 1837. The poem was regarded by the authorities as inflamamtory, and Lermontov was exiled to the Caucasus for several months.
He was exiled to the Caucasus a second time in 1840, after himself being involved in a duel with the son of the French Ambassador. During his second exile, Lermontov saw active service in Chechnya and displayed great bravery in action.
On 15 July 1841, following a trivial incident, Lermontov fought another duel, this time with Nikolai Martynov, an old acquaintance from his Military School days. The duel took place just outside Pyatigorsk, in the Caucasus, and Lermontov – who did not himself fire – was killed on the spot.
He was just 26 years’ old.