The Demon Myth and History in Lermontovís Vadim

Saera Yoon, Indiana University

Lermontovís Vadim is classified as a failed historical novel (Boris Ejxenbaum, Helena Goscilo, to name a few) and accordingly, has seldom attracted critical attention. Yet this unfinished novel (consisting of 27 chapters) provides meaningful reading from two vantage points. First, the novel is Lermontovís attempt to experiment with The Demon in a new genre (very popular in 1830s) when he felt unable to write The Demon in poŤma style. The chronological situation and textual references point to the fact. After seven stanzas in the fourth draft of The Demon (1831), Lermontov stops and reveals (tellingly in prose) his inclination for a more drastic change in format, i.e., from verse to prose: ďI wanted to write this poŤma in verse: but noÖ In prose betterĒ (my emphasis). The next version of The Demon only comes in 1833-34 and the time gap is filled by Vadim in prose. Vadim is the Demon transformed into human terms and in this respect, Lermontov continued searching for a better medium to render his literary myth (see Julian Connolly).

Vadim is a variation of Lermontovís Demon myth bound in history. There are three layers of history in relation to Vadim: personal, familial, and the collective (or national) history, i.e., the Pugachev uprising. This paper analyzes the interaction between the Demon myth inherent in Vadimís characterization and History implemented in the plot. As the best example, I will examine Leromontovís use of the monastery, which is significant in symbolism and plot development each of three times it appears in Vadim. The three monastery scenes present the topos where the mythic, personal (and familial), and (quasi-) national dimensions intersect, collide, and intensify. As with other monasteries in Lermontovís oeuvre, the monastery in Vadim certainly alludes to the one in The Demon (where the Demonís fatal encounter with the nun takes place). Being the mythic and simultaneously realistic topos, the monastery captures the essence of the tension between the myth and history. In doing so, I will argue that History serves as the centrifugal force, dispersing Vadimís demonic power and will that appear to prevail across the broad spectrum (points of view, narration, characterization, plot) of the novel.