In previous episodes of this guide to the Gothic life, we’ve looked at both how to recognise and how to become a Gothic hero (or villain – there’s no judgement here) in a general sense. Today’s guide is for the connoisseur who has already developed some expertise in Gothic living. Stretch your wings. Explore your horizons. Specialise. Here I offer, to the discerning reader, the brief yet superlative guide to becoming a Russian Gothic Hero.
- You’re going to need some excess ‘spleen’, ideally with a sprinkle of ‘hypochondria’. You’ll also need some vodka. What is spleen? Such an amateur question suggests that you are unsuited to yet attempt the transformation to Russian Gothic hero. Return when you have moved past such troublesome enquiries.
- One of two things is requisite to the Russian Gothic hero. Either you should provide yourself with a tragic background love story or convince yourself that you are too ugly/too soul deformed/too superfluous/too aloof/too insignificant to be loved at all. If you prefer the route of a particular tragic past (rather than a more general air of tragedy), start work on that now. You’ll need to find a partner who is significantly more interested in riches and/or security than your penniless or unreliable self. Make sure to feel incredibly bitter about their sensible choice. Compare every other to their unmatched beauty/sweetness/general awesomeness, inveigh bitterly against the capriciousness of humanity and flirt mercilessly with those who you have no intention of ever loving in the hopes of breaking their hearts of ice. This will prove that everyone else in the world is a dick and not you. Somehow.
- Once provided with spleen and a tragic love story/chip on your shoulder, you will need to leave the world. This may simply be a withdrawal from your usual society into a sort of enforced urban isolation with your cursed painting/haunted new flat/newly nose-less face. It will more usually, however, be linked either to a move to the country to take over inherited estates or because of illness. Another respectable option is exile brought about by the writing of scurrilously libellous poetry.
- Now you need to work on invoking some sort of supernatural encounter. You should, of course, bear in mind that this supernatural encounter could well be anything but and provide yourself with a number of excuses for interpreting it as having completely natural causes. Insomnia, illness, copious quantities of vodka, a descent into madness and vivid dreams are all time-honoured methods of throwing doubt on your own experience.
- There are a number of ways to bring about a supernatural encounter. All of the following have previously proved successful although, once again, the distributor of these guides takes no moral responsibility for any reprehensible decisions taken by their readers. You may choose to: dabble in the occult and the summoning of spirits; search for the root of all evil; purchase a portrait with curiously vivid eyes; find and eliminate an old woman with the reputation for knowing a magical secret to winning cards; wander too far into the forest; seek out a dilapidated house with a terrible past; hang out in graveyards on the watch for vurdalaki; get lost at night; or search the fields for flying monks. These, of course, are only suggestions and you must feel free to follow your own particular path.
- Once you have initiated contact with your supernatural manifestation, abandon everything else in your life and really centre yourself on a philosophical obsession connected to the spirit. You might like to consider the nature of reality, the possibility of salvation through love, the value of art, the meaning of life, the meaninglessness of life and society, or how special you are compared to the common herd. This last thought is actually non-negotiable. Make sure to think at least once a day about how different, unique and superior you are and ideally combine this with a significant measure of self-hatred.
- Your story has a few possible ends. Most of them, however, finish with the total loss of self, mind, money and meaning. Another common option is death by duel or a tragically meaningless death in some sort of freak pig-chasing accident. This is a heroic type which demands real dedication but, in terms of aesthetic at least, the rewards are great. You may also, of course, take the road back to an average life via the medium of hot baths, a rigorously controlled diet of blandness (so as not to inflame your tortured sensibilities) and cossetting. We will try not to judge.
Good luck and we wish you every success with your endeavours. Go, brave souls, into the gloom. Never to return.