5 works by Mikhail Lermontov you should read

1. “The Sail”. Written by an 18-year old Lermontov, “The Sail” turned out to be his most-quoted and popular poem, which creates a metaphor that compares a poet’s restless soul to a stranded sailboat seeking not refuge, but a tempest, “as if in tempests there were peace.”

2.  “Masquerade”. Written in 1835, this verse play tells the story of a nobleman with a gambling habit, devoured by jealousy, who eventually murders his own wife. Lermontov dreamed of seeing the play produced, but it was too passionate to pass the censorship committee.

3. “Death of a Poet”. Written in 1837, in reaction to Aleksander Pushkin’s death, this poem became hugely famous among Petersburg intellectuals and circulated by hand. Labeled “freethought” by the authorities, the poem was the reason for Lermontov’s exile to the Caucasus.

4. “Demon”. Lermontov began working on this poem, considered a masterpiece of European romanticism, when he was only 14, but it wasn’t completed until his return from his first Caucasus exile in 1839. Set in Georgian landscapes, the poem praises love as the living force of nature, which could transform even a demonic creature.

5. “A Hero of Our Time”. Pechorin, the main character of “A Hero of Our Time,” Lermontov’s only novel, is the antihero of Russian dandyism – a handsome and cynical fatalist, he bears certain traits of the author himself. A Byronic image of reckless, rebellious Pechorin and the nonlinear plot structure are key features of this masterpiece that influenced generations of writers.