Child of the Age or Little Napoleon?: Two Russian Responses to The Red and the Black
This essay examines the reception of Stendhal's Red and the Black in Pushkin's “Queen of Spades” (1833) and Lermontov's unfinished novel, Princess Ligovskaya (1836), particularly with regard to Stendhal's hero, Julien Sorel–the social aspirant, who is at once passionately driven and cunningly disciplined. It focuses on how the reception of Sorel in these two Russian works is contaminated in different ways with a second figure, the romantic archetype of the “child of the age.” If Sorel can be understood as developing in dialectical opposition to the child of the age, Pushkin's Germann appears to reject and undermine this literary historical development. By contrast, Lermontov's attempt to incorporate aspects of the little Napoleon into his novel proves a failure, so he retreats to a more traditional portrait of the child of the age in A Hero of Our Time. In conclusion, the article argues that Lermontov's failure is a more productive moment in the history of the Russian novel than Pushkin's successful, but utterly destructive reply to Stendhal.