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Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift Editions)


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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New edition edition (February 21, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048627053X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486270531
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

About the Author

With his sympathetic portrayals of the downtrodden of 19th-century Russian society, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) exercised immense influence on modern writers. His novels featured profound philosophical and psychological insights that anticipated the development of psychoanalysis and existentialism.

Customer Reviews

One of my favourite books ever!
Salah
An outstanding example of Dostoyevsky's psychological skills, depicting a character motivated by many contradictory impulses are found in the novel.
fmeursault@yahoo.com
Don't let the world, 'rambling' confuse you, this book is very serious and thought provoking.
David Vidaurre

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1997
Format: Paperback
A seemingly in-depth look into the life of a depressive recluse. The main character gives us many views on everyday people and their actions that should cause us, the reader, to evaluate our own understanding of the people who surround us. (Example: Why people will moan for days before seeing a dentist.)

The writing is absolutely brilliant. Dostoyevsky does not seem to have created this character but instead pulled him from the street. The character was not one dimensional, an attribute that I found personally refreshing . The thoughts and emotions are complex and real and were constantly understated, adding to the impression that the book was written by the character himself, who lacks writing experience needed to capture these feelings.

The main character views himself cut off and removed from society, rejected by all in nearly every way. He has become so obsessed with this notion that he has created this exact situation as a result of searching for justification of this impression. He has in fact created most of his own misery, and only continues to propagate more. Yet he seem himself as miserable and rejected and finds pride in this image. He imagines himself to be pitiful and also to be strong and fiercely independent as a result of his social isolation. He feels he poses a strength of spirit for being able to endure the loneliness and envisions himself as a martyr.

This fuels his ego and he plans heroic acts in order to show the proof of his worth or to win attention and love. He however lacks the courage to complete the monumental self serving tasks he set before himself. Through a strange twist of logic these failures are also seen as something to be admired. It only makes him more pitiful and thus a greater martyr.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Bowden on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
`Notes From The Underground' is a formidable work of philosophy and of psychology, not to mention its worth as a novel. In the space of around one hundred pages, Dostoyevsky manages to expound theories on reason, alienation, suffering, and human inaction. The book's importance and influence on generations of writers cannot be over-emphasised; Sartre and Camus are only two examples of people who have been directly influenced by this book.

The book is presented in two parts. Part one `Underground' is written in the form of the nameless narrator's rambling thoughts on reason and his claim that throughout history, human actions have been anything but influenced by reason. Underground Man's charge is that man values most the freedom to choose to act in opposition to reason's dictates. Dostoyevsky's critique of reason then, although it demands attention and is somewhat difficult to follow, sets the philosophical foundations for the rest of the book.

Part two `A Propos of the Wet Snow' is much easier to read, as the narrator recounts three episodes which happened when he was fifteen years younger and working as a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The first considers an incident in which an army officer insults him and goes on to detail Underground Man's subsequent internal anguish at his inability to commit an act of retribution. The second episode takes place at a farewell dinner for an acquaintance named Zverkov. The narrator is utterly disgusted with the company in which he finds himself but despite this, he is unable - even though he desires it - to make them realise this. The third episode details Underground Man's brief, painful and emotional relationship with a prostitute.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Enamorato on February 1, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will not delve into the brilliant work of nascent existentialism that Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground" represents as there are plenty of reviews who have already done that for me. I do want to help customers in choosing a translation out of the many that are available, as there doesn't seem to be much to guide one through them here.

Perhaps the best translation I've found to date is that by Andrew MacAndrew, available in a Signet Classics edition. MacAndrew's prose has a vigor and modern clarity that truly make this work speak to the reader - the Underground Man truly comes to life as a living, breathing character with a relevance and immediacy.

For all the praise the Pevear/Volokhonsky translations have gotten, I do not think they necessarily surpass the efforts of those who came before them in this particular instance. Although a big fan of their Tolstoy, the Dostoevsky comes off somewhat comparatively muted.

Compare MacAndrew's rendering of the opening words in which the Underground Man introduces himself:

"I'm a sick man... a mean man. There's nothing attractive about me. I think there's something wrong with my liver. But, actually, I don't know a damn thing about my sickness; I'm not even too sure what it is that's ailing me."

To Pevear/Volokhonsky's:
"I am a sick man... I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts. However, I don't know a fig about my sickness and am not sure what it is that hurts me."

Of the two, MacAndrew's Underground Man obviously speaks a more contemporary English. I am aware that this has actually been a criticism of his. In fact, many readers might actually be put off by the brusque and terse take or find it even slightly disturbing.
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