Driven to his deathbed by an incurable disease, the thirty-year-old impoverished gentleman Chulkaturin decides to write a diary looking back on his short life. After describing his youthful disillusionment and his family's fall from grace and loss of status, the narrative focuses on his love for Lisa, the daughter of a senior civil servant, his rivalry with the dashing Prince N- and his ensuing humiliation. These pages helped establish the archetype of the "superfluous man," a recurring figure in nineteenth-century Russian literature.
First published in 1860, The Diary of a Superfluous Man was initially censored by the authorities as some of its passages were deemed too critical of Russian society. This volume also includes two other masterly novellas from the same period, also touching on the theme of disappointed love: Asya and First Love.