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Notes from the Underground

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Book Overview: 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short masterpiece about a ranting, slightly mad civil servant. The stylistic inventiveness, and the insights into the absurdities and weakness of humans seem so fresh and incisive today that if published now (a century and a half later) Notes would be considered an avant-garde post-modernist triumph. In some ways this is a heavy text, laden with conversational philosophizing; but the vividness of the narrator make it a wonderful read, and funny.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Science has succeeded in so far analysing man that we know already that choice and what is called freedom of will is nothing else than--"

Stay, gentlemen, I meant to begin with that myself I confess, I was rather frightened. I was just going to say that the devil only knows what choice depends on, and that perhaps that was a very good thing, but I remembered the teaching of science ... and pulled myself up. And here you have begun upon it. Indeed, if there really is some day discovered a formula for all our desires and caprices--that is, an explanation of what they depend upon, by what laws they arise, how they develop, what they are aiming at in one case and in another and so on, that is a real mathematical formula--then, most likely, man will at once cease to feel desire, indeed, he will be certain to. For who would want to choose by rule? Besides, he will at once be transformed from a human being into an organ-stop or something of the sort; for what . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Madness...This is madness, I tell you!

Or worse, it's philosophy, some sound, some twisted in counterintuitive logic.

In the first part of Notes for Underground the narration reads like the journal of a rambling genius or psychopath. It's difficult to decide. This section had my mind wandering in...more

I did two things after finishing with this book.
- 1)Strengthened my resolve to finish Crime and Punishment and read the rest of Dostoyevsky's works without any inner grumbling.
- 2)Looked up Albert Camus' background and profile on the internet.
Yes Dostoyevsky was one of Camus' influences. If yo...more

I am writing this review because I have just finished and writing is the only thing I can do at this moment. The book has shaken me where reading any other book in the future has come into question. Maybe I should have waited till the heat simmered and collected my thoughts but this too would cou...more

Short, brisk, Scathing and dark as dark can be. I hope you experience some of the uplifting depression this book gave me... It does pull you out in the end but around the middle of the book, it buries you deeper than you ever thought possible.

Dostoyesky's anti-hero is the the first of a long line of existential anti-heroes who followed later in the 20th century. Clearly, here is an utterly loathsome man who is alienated from his brethren by virtue of his own worldview and is victimized by it. In his sublime genius Dostoyevsky sufficie...more

Original Review

Notes from Underground is a small but influential work.

In particular, it is the inspiration for the Howard Devoto (of Magazine fame) song "A Song from under the Floorboards" from "The Correct Use of Soap" (later covered by the solo artist Steven Patrick Morrissey).

The song begins,...more

To all, who would like to read opinion or analysis of “Notes from the Underground”. Stop here. The following is something quite different. The only thing it has to do with the book itself is that the man I’m mentioning is a bit like the protagonist. Self loathing and incapable of real love, but m...more

I scribbled on my notepad, random words, stared at them, struck them and occasionally, tore the page to reveal a new one. The overcast sky was teetering at the rain’s behest and the drowning sun was not of much assistance either. I was wriggling my fingers between the spaces of the black wrought...more

My edition of “Notes from Underground” includes a magisterial foreword by Richard Pevear that gives an extra dimension to the introspective musings of its sardonic anti-hero, bestowing them with the required intellectual authority to reproach the utopian socialism and the aesthetic utilitarianism...more

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