Lermontov's poetic reputation, second in Russia only to Pushkin's, rests upon the lyric and narrative works of his last five years. The Demon (1829-41, tr. 1930), his narrative poem about the love of a fallen angel for a mortal, was used by Anton Rubinstein as the basis of an opera. Mtsyri (1833; tr. The Circassian Boy, 1875) reflects Lermontov's antireligious feeling and idealization of primitive life. His heroic poems include "The Song of the Merchant Kalashnikov" (1837, tr. 1929). Lermontov's partially autobiographical novel A Hero of Our Time (1840, tr. 1958, 1966, 2005) consists of five tales describing aspects of the life of Pechorin, a disenchanted, bored, and doomed young nobleman. The novel is considered a pioneering classic of Russian psychological realism. Lermontov, who had once sought a position in fashionable society, became enormously critical of it. His caustic wit made him numerous enemies, and, like Pushkin, he was killed in a duel.
See biography by J. Lavrin (1959); studies by J. Mersereau (1962), L. Kelly (1977, repr. 1983), B. M. Eikhenbaum (1981), J. G. Garrard (1982), E. Etkind, ed. (1992), R. Reid (1997), V. Golstein (1998), I. Kutik (2004), and D. Powelstock (2005).