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Notes from Underground (1864)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,946124506 (4.07)1 / 320
A predecessor to such monumental works such as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Notes From Underground represents a turning point in Dostoyevsky's writing towards the more political side. In this work we follow the unnamed narrator of the story, who disillusioned by the oppression and corruption of the society in which he lives withdraws from that society into the underground. A dark and politically charged novel, 'Notes From Underground' shows Dostoyevsky at his best.… (more)
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English (110)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (3)  Italian (3)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (124)
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
Okuduğum 4. Dostoyevsky kitabı oldu. Dİğer okuduğum kitaplarına göre çok ince olmasına rağmen beni en az diğerleri kadar etkiledi. ( )
  Tobizume | Jun 9, 2020 |
victim of depression as modern man
  ritaer | Jun 6, 2020 |
I'm sick of feeling like Dostoevsky took all my thoughts, made them 1000 times better, and then wrote them down 150 years ago in a way nobody else ever could. It's getting old.

The Underground man is a complicated figure, at times sympathetic, almost always frustrating, and even occasionally hilarious. His biggest problem (he has quite a few problems) seems to be that he's way too deep in his own head. It's easy to make a connection between the Underground man and Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, which came just two years after Notes from Underground, but I think the idea of taking one's personal philosophy to its extremes is even more evident in The Brothers Karamazov, especially in the middle brother, Ivan. One trait of all three characters is their over-reliance on their own minds and (to varying degrees) an abandonment of all else. The consequences of this are far more dire for Raskolnikov and Ivan Karamazov, but the story of the Underground man is tragic enough in its own way.

Part 1, "Underground," is a real grind. It's very raw and intentionally lacks any literary polish. Dostoevsky could never be accused of brevity, but some of the sentences in "Underground" go on for nearly 20 lines, all of it clearly important but hard to immediately understand. I had to read it twice before I was ready to move on. However, there's a lot of brilliance here. It's a 40-page rant that covers the potential for pleasure in hopelessness, how human consciousness is the root of inertia, the stupidity of a man able to enact revenge, and the incalculable nature of free will. Even his throwaway points, like how civilization breeds versatility rather than civilized behavior and how much sophistication and nuance go in to the moans of a man with a toothache, are fascinating and fantastic.

The key point among these, at least for the Underground man, was on free will. Based on the notes from Pevear and Volokhonsky (who once again knock it out of the park with their translation), the Underground man frequently references the utopian socialism and the rational egoism of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, who was a major influence on figures like Vladimir Lenin and Emma Goldman. He is critiquing Chernyshevsky's idea that a society can be built based around providing people with exactly what they want and formulaically predicting all of human action. The Underground man argues that no matter what system is put in place to tell people exactly what they want and what they should do in order to get what they want, there will always be someone who purposefully breaks from the template just to prove that he is in control of his own life and has free will. While this is a fair point, I think an even stronger indictment of Chernyshevsky's work comes from the life of the Underground man himself as described in Part 2: "Apropos of the Wet Snow."

The Underground man is suffering from an internal war between his thoughts and his impulses (he uses the word 'caprice'). Not only does he make decisions that lead him to suffer, but he also makes decisions that he doesn't even want to make. He requests to go to a dinner party with people he doesn't like to celebrate the success of a man he despises. He immediately regrets his decision and then continues to make things worse in the hours leading up to the dinner and at the dinner itself. There's no logic to any of it. It hurts him. Nobody benefits, especially not the other people involved. So why does he do it? He's able to come up with reasons afterwards, but in the moment, it's just an impulse for him. So the question must be posed to Chernyshevsky (and Lenin and Goldman): How do you predict that kind of behavior? How do you legislate and control decisions that are barely even up to the man making those decisions? Dostoevsky makes this point over and over again throughout his works: Predicting human behavior is impossible, and controlling it even more so.

The second half of Part 2 is painful. You know how it's going to turn out before you read it because the Underground man tells you that his story comes many years before he is writing Part 1, but it's really hard not to hope, at least just a little, that things will turn out better than how they obviously will. The moment the Underground man breaks down into tears and is forced to admit how pitiful his life is just kills me.

Dostoevsky is the best ever. Period. He perfectly rips into social planning 80 years before Hayek did it. He understands human behavior better than Tolstoy. And in an era of Victorian fluff, he was willing to roll around with the filth of the world. The guy did it all. Notes from Underground is the story of a loser, how he came to be that way, and how he cannot help but stay that way. It hurts, and I love it. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
Really exceptional. Not a smooth read, but whew, he has some insightful things to say about consciousness and what it is like to exist as a conscious person in the enlightened/post-enlightenment world ( )
  Kelmanel | Apr 17, 2020 |
Rambling strange thoughts from a very unhappy man. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (642 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dostoevsky, Fyodorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adrian, EsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cansinos Assens, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coulson, JessieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dekker, PietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
FitzLyon, KyrilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garnett, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geier, SwetlanaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginzburg, LeoneContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, JennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ingold, Felix PhilippTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kallama, ValtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lönnqvist, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pacini, GianlorenzoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pacini, GianlorenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polledro, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praag, S. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Randall, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roseen, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Self, WillForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steiner, GeorgeForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Awards and honors
Epigraph
Information from the Polish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Wokół mrok, choć wykol oczy;
Co tu robić? Będzie źle!
Bies nas widać w polu toczy
I kołuje nami we mgle.

Biesy kręcą się szalone,
Jako liście w słotny dzień.
Skąd ich tyle? Dokąd pędzą,
Zawodzące straszną pieśń?
Czy to czart się żeni z jędzą?

(A.Puszkin)
A była tam duża trzoda świń, pasących się na górze. Prosiły go więc (złe duchy) żeby im pozwolił wejść w nie. I pozwolił im. Wtedy złe duchy wyszły z człowieka i weszły w świnie, a trzoda ruszyła pędem po urwistym zboczu do jeziora i utonęła. Na widok tego, co zaszło, pasterze uciekli i rozpowiedzieli to po mieście i po zagrodach. Ludzie wyszli zobaczyć, co się stało. Przyszli do Jezusa i zastali człowieka, z którego wyszły złe duchy, ubranego i przy zdrowych zmysłach, siedzącego u nóg Jezusa. Strach ich ogarnął. A ci, którzy widzieli, opowiedzieli im, w jaki sposób opętany został uzdrowiony.

(Łuk. VIII, 32-36)
Dedication
First words
I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man.
I am a sick man... I am a wicked man.
Quotations
"I wished to stifle with external sensations all that was ceaselessly boiling up inside me."
"...because for a woman it is in love that all resurrection, all salvation from ruin of whatever sort, and all regenerations consists, nor can it reveal itself in anything but this."
"Leave us to ourselves without a book and we'll immediately get confused, lost -- we won't know what to join, what to hold to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise."
At home, I merely used to read. Reading stirred, delighted, and tormented me.
It is impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something.
Last words
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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Nella prima parte, "Il sottosuolo", il protagonista racconta la sua infanzia e la formazione della personalità più nascosta (il sottosuolo per l'appunto). Nella seconda, "A proposito della neve fradicia", ripercorre alcuni episodi della sua vita dove più emerge il "sottosuolo". Segue alcuni compagni di scuola ad una cena, sfoga poi l'amarezza per le offese subite su Liza, una prostituta incontrata in una casa di tolleranza, mostrandole con durezza che cosa l'aspetta nel futuro. Dopo qualche giorno Liza ritorna da lui col desiderio di una vita pura, ma viene trattata con disprezzo e volgarità. Per umiliarla le mette in mano un biglietto da cinque rubli, che poi ritroverà sul suo tavolo quando la donna se ne sarà andata, testimonianza della grande dignità di Liza.
(piopas)
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0451529553, 0141024917, 0141194863

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