Recently I learned that Pechorin had died while returning from Persia. This news pleased me very much, for it gave me the right to publish these notes, and I took advantage of the opportunity to sign my name to another man’s work. God forbid that the reader should cast blame on me for such an innocent forgery!
Now I have to explain briefly what it was that prompted me to make public the innermost secrets of a man I never knew. It might’ve been understandable had I been his friend, for the perfidious indiscretion of the true friend is something everyone can understand. But I saw him only once, on my travels, and hence can’t regard him with that inexplicable hatred which, concealed under the mask of friendship, only waits for death or misfortune to overtake the object of affection in order to bring down upon his head a hailstorm of arguments, advice, mockery and sympathy.
Reading over these notes, I became convinced that the man must’ve been sincere in so mercilessly laying bare his own weaknesses and vices. The story of a human soul, even the pettiest of souls, can hardly be less interesting and instructive than the story of a nation, especially if it is the result of the observation of a mature mind and written without the vain desire to evoke compassion or to amaze. One of the defects of Rousseau’s Confessions is that he read them to his friends.
Thus it was purely the desire to do some good that impelled me to publish excerpts from a journal which I just happened to acquire. Though I’ve changed all proper names, those mentioned in it will no doubt recognize themselves and perhaps find justification for deeds they have held against a man who is no longer of this world. For we nearly always forgive that which we understand.
I have included in this book only excerpts bearing on Pechorin’s stay in the Caucasus. This still leaves me with a fat notebook in which he tells the story of his whole life. Some day it too will be submitted to public judgment. Now, however, I dare not take the responsibility upon myself for many important reasons.
Some readers will probably want to know what I think of Pechorin’s character. My reply may be found in the title of this book. “But that is wicked irony!” they’ll say.
I don’t know about that.