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262 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More with the Mad Genius.........
Quick read? I finished Crime and Punishment and thought I'd zip through Notes like a snack before going on to the Brothers Karamozov, afterall, it's barely over 100 pages. Quick read? Think again.
Imagine being locked in a very small room with a verbose, insane, brilliant, jaded, before-his-times, clerk-come-philosopher....with a wicked sense of humor, and a...
Published on August 13, 2001 by Suzanne E. Anderson

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of this text is not as good as others.
I would recommend the P&V translation of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV as I believe it is better than one by Garnett. Of the translations of NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND I think the P&V version is not so good. I would go with the MacAndrew text.

My mind works in much the same way as does the narrator in NOTES, and I find the word choice in the P&V translation to be...
Published 18 months ago by LogicLover


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262 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More with the Mad Genius........., August 13, 2001
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Quick read? I finished Crime and Punishment and thought I'd zip through Notes like a snack before going on to the Brothers Karamozov, afterall, it's barely over 100 pages. Quick read? Think again.
Imagine being locked in a very small room with a verbose, insane, brilliant, jaded, before-his-times, clerk-come-philosopher....with a wicked sense of humor, and a toothache that's lasted a month. Pleasant company....are you searching for the door yet?
For the first hour, he's going to rant about his philosophy of revenge, the pointlessness of his life, his superiority, his failure, oh yeah, and his tooth. FOr the second half of the book, he's going to tell you a tale, with the title "Apropos of the Wet Snow". Because of course, there's wet snow outside on the ground.
I will leave you with this encouragement. If you can get through this book, you will appreciate Doestoevsky more, understand Crime and Punishment better, and probably enjoy a good laugh more than once.
Notes from the Underground is not light reading, but it is well worth the effort. And the translation by Pevear, including the translators notes at the back, is excellent.
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111 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deep analysis of the human condition, April 27, 2001
By 
Bryan A. Pfleeger (Metairie, Louisiana United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Notes From The Underground is Dostoevsky's grand look at the human condition from the perspective of a man living on the fringes of society. The short novel provides the key to much of the author's later and more fleshed out novels.
Presented in two parts the novel tells the story of the unnamed Undergound Man who is forced into a life of inaction by the reason driven society that he finds himself in.
Part I of the novel is a long monologue to an invisible audience which explains how the Underground Man came into existence. It is a masterpiece of Existentialist fiction and has been the cornerstone for many later writers including Freud and Camus. The ideas expressed in this part of the novel deal with the character's interactions with himself. This is also the mother of all anti-hero literature. Through the Underground Man's speech we identify him as an over sensitive man of great intellegence. We begin to identify with the character and understand him. While this part of the novel is idea laden it presents one of the great characters of modern fiction.
Part II of the novel is much more accessible to today's reader. This part of the novel deals with the Underground Man's interactions with the society around him. It is in this section that we see that he incapable of reacting in a normal way with the persons that he comes into contact with. He is not the rational man of Part I but a person driven to inaction by his own personal circumstances. He is spiteful, mean spirited and incapable of giving or receiving love to or from others.
On the whole this is a very important piece of world literature which deserves a very careful reading. The novel reads like an onion with each new chapter giving us deeper and deeper insight into the character. The modern reader may well grow tired of the writing style of the novel but if one has patience and reads carefully he will be rewarded.
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97 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Slime of His Time, June 19, 2003
By 
Robert S. Newman "Bob Newman" (Marblehead, Massachusetts USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
The first words of this deeply disturbing, but powerful, novel are "I am a sick man....I am a spiteful man." and these may refer equally to the main character and to the author. Dostoevsky has written an amazing portrait of a loner, whose introverted, sick thoughts spill out on the pages in demented brilliance. The novel is a product of European cynicism, nihilism, and inertia, all of which reached a certain height in the paralyzed upper circles of 19th century Russia. Nobody could write such a book without some personal acquaintance with the mean moods of this anti-hero. The main character, who does nothing except hide from the world, is a total misfit, a loser in life at home, at work, and in love---a jerk, a dweeb, a dork, a geek in modern American parlance---yet through Dostoyevsky's clear prose, we see into his wounded soul. "Actually, I hold no brief for suffering, nor am I arguing for well-being." he writes, "I argue for...my own whim and the assurance of my right to it, if need be." He is apart from society, recognizes no social obligation. He argues that suffering is still better than mere consciousness, because it sharpens the awareness of your being, therefore suffering is in man's interest Someone who can argue that is not going to write an average novel. This is in fact not an average novel at all, but a book concerned with the play of ideas, ideas that flash around like comets and meteorites inside Dostoevsky's head. It can no more escape Dostoevsky's brain than a Woody Allen movie can escape Woody Allen.
The plot line of NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND is extremely slim. It concerns an underground man, a man like a rat or a bug, who lives outside, or more likely, underneath the world's gaze. It is a lonely, tortured life lived inside a single skull with almost no contacts with the rest of the world except for a vicious servant. The "action" of the book comes only when the protagonist worms his way into a dinner with former schoolmates. They don't want him, he despises all of them. So, as you can imagine, a good time is had by all. The underground man winds up in a brothel with an innocent, hapless prostitute named Liza. He wishes for some relationship, he immediately abhors the very thought of contact with another person. The result is worse than you can predict, though I will say that it involves "the beneficial nature of insults and hatred".
In the tradition of novels of introspective self-hatred, Dostoevsky's has to be one of the first. I wondered as I read how much Kafka owed him, for after all, the hero here is a cockroach too, only remaining in human form. I realized how much Dostoevsky had influenced the Japanese writers of the 20th century---Tanizaki, Mishima, Soseki, Kawabata, and others. The pages are brilliant, but full of vile stupidity, useless, arid intellectualism, hatred of one's best and love of one's worst qualities, withdrawal from life, and self-loathing. A less American novel would be hard to imagine. But, some of these characteristics are found in almost everyone at some point in their life, unpleasant as that realization may be. I have to give NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND five stars, though I can't say I enjoyed it. It is simply one of the most impressive novels ever written.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Dostoevsky's Best, December 15, 2002
By 
PseudoDionysius (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
First my confession: the first two encounters with this celebrated novella both ended with the book being rudely dismissed across the room near pg. 30. But ahh, the third reading felt positively as if a portable supernova had detonated between my two hands. My duty then as a reviewer is to tell you how you should approach this book and ultimately convince you to read it.
The most important thing you need to know about this book is that it is a POLEMICAL SATIRE. There is a great ideological distance between the narrator and Dostoevsky - in no way does he reflect the author's outlook. This fact is not obvious seeing that even his contemporaries were perplexed and generations of critics stymied. The opponent of Dostoevsky's polemic is the radical socialist Chernyshevsky, whose novel "What is to be Done?" (incidentally, Lenin's favorite novel) is parodied piecemeal throughout the novella. What the underground man represents is the logical extreme of a man who totally embraces Chernyshevsky's "rational egoism" and its socialist program. Chernyshevsky believed that once man is shown the truth through science and reason, the "new man" will inevitably renounce all irrational behavior. He also proposes that a new society be founded on socialist and materialistic principles, where the individual will is subjected for the betterment of humanity. In this book, Dostoyevsky seeks to undermine Chernyshevsky by showing that a strict adherence to this radical thought ends in a terrible cul de sac called the "man from underground". Where it diverges from being a mere satire is the fabulous and tortuous dialogue-monologue of this embittered man.
Although Chernyshevsky's overconfidence in science seems incredibly naïve to us now, this was certainly not the case in the 1860's. For example, the book mentions H.T. Buckle, an ambitious historian who attempted to "promote" history to an analytical science (for the refutation, consult Isaiah Berlin's "Proper Study of Mankind), as a living influence. The underground man, then, stands as nineteenth century's most heartfelt rebellion against this atmosphere of stifling rationality. But why should belief in science lead to rigor? Take the following reasoning offered by the narrator. Someone slaps him and he feels offended. But the "rational" part of him tells him that, according to "natural law" and scientific determinism, the slap is the result of environmental factors. Thus the offender is blameless because "the laws of nature cannot be forgiven" (pg.9). But then what is he to do with the resentment that he feels? This leads him a little later to the following wonderful outburst: "My God, but what do I care about the laws of nature and arithmetic if for some reason these laws and two times two is four are not to my liking?" (pg.14). An entirely logical universe where human action is governed by something "like a table of logarithms" (pg. 24) leads to a false comfort in moral relativism. This still does not mean that the underground man prefers irrationality. He merely points out that what is offensive is precisely the fact that men who would send "all these logarithms to the devil" (pg.25) would attract followers. What this new rational universe lacks is man's freedom of will, and man will have it, the narrator warns, even by losing his reason, "so as to do without reason and still have his own way!" (pg.31).
From the very preface, a dismissive quotation ("Etc., etc., etc.") of Nekrasov's hyperromantic poem, there is a curious inversion of Romanticism that sets the tone for part II. We find, amazingly, that the underground man in his youth was a die-hard romantic! The narrator tells us how he brooded in his youth until he developed an overwhelming urge to "embrace the whole of mankind". Of course, what actually transpired - at the gathering around his schoolfellow Zverkov - is tragicomic: the underground man finds himself shamefully ignored and even insulted. Worse yet, the one truly romantic character, the sympathetic prostitute called Liza, is treated in a most harrowingly heartless manner. So the underground man is merely a romantic gone truly sour. This actually isn't too surprising if you think about it: cynics are romantics. You wouldn't be bitter about something unless you had an ideal in mind.
There's obviously a lot more to this little book. If you're looking for better explanations, what the excellent introduction by Richard Pevear leaves out, the relevant chapter in Joseph Frank's "The Stir of Liberation" will fill in the blanks. This along with Mochulsky's "Dostoevsky" is recommended for further reading.
I'll be blunt as possible: this book is a revolutionary masterpiece, as shocking as Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" and just as daring in composition. Overall, I feel that the book stands less as an advocate for irrationalism but more as a stark warning to romantic utopian fantasies that has a nasty habit of ending in cold murder. You REALLY ought to read this.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Celebration of Freedom and the Irrational., November 9, 2002
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
This short novel has relevance for any individual who chooses to grapple with the onslaught of information that pours forth from various institutions, including modern education and the media. I had read ~Notes from the Underground~ many years ago, and picking it up again proved to be a positive move, philosophically, politically and socially, on a very personal level. The narrator is a 19th century man who has chosen to withdraw from society and rant and rave in a kind of 'neurotic' protest against the ever-prevalent 'rational forces' or normalizing conditions that society is imposing. In brief, his protest is against the popular philosophical view of the time, deterministic materialism. He asks: Is man a free agent? Are his actions and desires his own; or conversely, is he endowed with some Universal nature, where his interests, desires and overall behaviour is predetermined? In his terms, are we "Piano keys", or merely "Organ stops" responding blindly to the 'rational forces' that continually bombard us on a daily basis?
This book is an argument supporting the view that irrationality has its merits. We are in danger of ignoring our own desires in favour of a popular or dominate view. What the underground man is proposing is to be aware of the danger of buying into the proposition that there is a collective 'common good', that all people are essentially the same and desire the same things. He goes on to warn that if the men of 'science' are correct, if our desires and interests are the same, if our behaviour can be recorded on some central data base, where all we have to do to understand how we should behave is by logging onto this data base, what hope does humankind have of experiencing individual needs, creativity, adventure and innovation? According to the underground man, absolutely no hope at all.
The American philosopher, William James, had grappled with the same argument around the same time that this novel was written. He recorded in his diary that his first act of free will was to believe he had free will, and began his new life on that simple but important premise.
Freedom for William James and the underground man is the highest most valuable aspect of our existence. The underground man believed that it was absolutely imperative that we at times go against our 'best interests' even if our free will is an illusion. When considering the barrage of information that continually comes our way, we should attempt to separate the 'wheat from the chaff' according to our desires, beliefs and will - a word of advice from a 19th century 'neurotic'.
It is impossible to illustrate the many facets of this important novel in the limited space provided. Therefore I urge you to open ~Notes from the Underground~ and submerge yourself into the ideas and arguments it proposes we consider.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars find yourself in the Underground Man, February 9, 2005
By 
Zoe (The Circle) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Notes from the Underground is to the human psyche what an X-ray is to the human body. It strips away all the pretense, all the makeup, all the masks we are so accustomed to, exposing the bare, raw flesh of humanity.

In the novel, a nameless man attempts to write a truly honest account of himself and of certain events in his life. He is the Underground Man, as I shall call him, an introspective, overly-conscious, pathetic wretch paralyzed by his own too-clever mind. He knows what he is - a 'sick man' - and what he is not - definable. He doesn't fit in to any category; he doesn't belong anywhere.

The Underground Man has one deep, desperate longing: to be loved. Throughout the book he strives to gain acceptance, affirmation, or even acknowledgement as as human being. Instead, he is ignored, unwanted, treated as merely a presence, not a person. He is desperate to find meaning in a world that, frankly, doesn't care.

At first glance, the actions and thoughts of the Underground Man might strike one as odd, irrational, and even sick. Here is a man apart, we think, an absolute freak. But if we dare to look closer, we make a shocking discovery. We are the Underground Man. He is all of us. We all desire to be loved, wanted, accepted. We want somebody to notice us, to value us. The Underground Man merely takes this desire to an extreme that most of us, at least, dare not.

Notes from the Underground is both a mirror and a flashlight: it shows us what we are, and it brings to light all the things we try to keep in the darkness. "There are . . . things," writes the Underground Man, "which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind." Beware: reading Notes from the Underground may bring some of your secrets to light.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant, July 17, 2000
By 
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Normally I wouldn't add a review to a book that already has 100+ reviews, but someone gave a review that has two very serious mis-conceptions that need to be clarified.
First, the character of the man from underground is exactly the _opposite_ of the Idiot. The Idiot was decidedly _meant_ to represent the alternative to the type of sickness that Dostoevsky presents in the narrator of the _Notes_, and later in Raskolnikov of _Crime and Punishment_ and Ivan K. in _The Brothers Karamazov_ .
In fact, whereas one of the central, first-named characteristics of the underground man is his "un-attractiveness," Dostoevsky meant the Idiot to be a depiction of a "positively beautiful" human being, according to his own letter to his niece. The underground man's painful, paradoxical self-division and hyper-conciousness is exactly _opposite_ of the Idiot's simple "Christ-like" love.
Second, _Notes From Underground_ was published in 1864-- well _after_ he was sent to Siberia in 1849. In fact, alot of the satire in the _Notes_ is directed at the utopianist leanings of the rationalist political manias that Dostoevsky was himself involved in to some extent before his sentencing.
This is the turning-point work, where he largely grew _out_ of the style he had before his exile. If you want an example of early Dostoevsky (pre-exile) _Poor Folk_ is an excellent place to start, and I would also suggest _The Landlady_ as a short novella that shows his early interest in themes (isolation, suffering, etc.) that got their first clear vision in _Notes From Underground_.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where it all started, May 23, 2002
By 
Jesse Meyerson (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Upon reading this book you can instantly see how Dostoyevsky got the foundations for what would become his most celebrated works, notably Crime and Punishment. I am now currently in the middle of my third consecutive reading, and might I mention I only got the book a week ago?
It is a short and (at least for Dostoyevsky) an easy read and very gripping. I found it very difficult to put down. In terms of the first sentence only Albert Camus' The Stranger (Maman died today.) can rival its impact, and from that point until the end, I was utterly amazed. I had never read anything that was able to speak to me so truly, its effect was ineffable. I had read Dostoyevsky before (C&P and various short stories), but this produced a whole new side of him to me, that I instantly took to heart.
A lot of the same ideas and values present in C&P can be found in a diluted form here, and as the introduction states, this was the stepping stone to all his more famous works, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, and of course Crime and Punishment.
Why did this novella have such a profound impact on me? The nameless narrator has this uncanningly human feel. It is so easy to connect with.
Anyone who gets sick and tired of the conformity, yet finds themselves conforming none the less. Anyone who has ever written something for themselves, yet wrote it in the manner such that others would be reading it. Anyone who has ever despised another member of the human race for some aisinine reason they don't even know. Anyone who has ever gone well out of their way for spite. Anyone who simply wishes to be able to go well out of their way for spite (i.e. they, like me, greatly admire George Costanza). Anyone who for whatever reason, has felt that they are inexplicably better than everyone else. Anyone who had something to prove to somebody, but was never able to do it.
If any of those are you, this book will change your life. If they do not apply to you, you will probably love this book amyway because it will give you insight into the human character.
The human character and the psyche are greatly examined here. In fact the narrator alludes to the pyschology of it all when he professes a desire to be thrown out of a window in a bar. Some of his desires reflect idiomatic actions of the time, such as the effect of sticking out one's tongue or delivering a slap. It is easy to understand their significance in 19th century Russia, because Dostoyevsky writes it so well here. You can really feel and relate to what the narrator is feeling and for this reason I believe Dostoyevsky to be one of the greatest story tellers of all time, and this one of his best works.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't overlook this book., March 9, 2001
By 
Alexiel (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Dostoyevsky is one of my favorite authors; that is why it saddens me to see the way people overlook this book in a way they don't with Crime and Punishment, or Brothers Karamazov (or, dare I say, even The Idiot?!)
I will say something that perhaps has not been uttered often about this book: It made me laugh out loud. Probably because the main character of the book had some frighteningly similar thoughts to my own.
This book reads like a window into a man's soul. He is torn apart by absurdist notions, and a desire to remain artistically and intellectual pure, fearing the "taint" of outside ideas.
To put it shortly, this book is like watching a man pacing back and forth in his home, expounding on every little nuance of life that bothers, confounds, baffles, annoys, or perversely amuses him.
This may sound boring; however, it is entertaining and enlightening. Imagine the man doing this raving to be an extremely witty (we're talking wittier than Oscar Wilde or Samuel Johnson -- THAT witty) individual, of great intellectual capacity, strong (often misdirected) passion, and a depth and breadth in reading not seen in today's society (through the necessary constraints of modern society, I would argue; please do not read my comment as a misanthropic statement on the ills of modern society, for I have no such notions) and you find you don't have a book that is boring at all -- you have a book so gripping, so outrageously entertaining, above all else, you don't even realize this fellow (who I imagine in my mind to madly gesticulate) has sucked you into his own demented little "box" of a world. Step inside, especially if you're familiar with Dostoyevsky's other work, or that of Camus or Kafka.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A study of human consciousness, January 19, 2004
This review is from: Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
"So long live the underground. I already carried the underground in my soul." This best epitomizes Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground.
The book is not easy to read let alone to digest. Dostoyevsky again placed some of his favorite arguments in the moth of a character (the 40-year-old underground man) he despised. The underground man self-proclaims to be angry and sick at the very beginning and goes out of his way to offend his readers. The book reads like a delirious man's babbling, in his own shy, wounded, and exorbitant pride. While a novel usually needs a hero, but here Dostoyevsky had purposely collected all the features of an anti-hero: self-contempt, wounded vanity, conceit, and sensitive ego.
Even though the underground man might be extremely egotistical and has no respect for others, Dostoyevsky never meant for him to have any surface appeal. The recurring themes of the narrative revolve around the underground man's alienation from society, which he despises, his bitter sarcasm, and the heightened awareness of self-consciousness. He larks to revenge himself for his humiliation by humiliating others. I don't think Dostoyevsky meant for the underground man to be liked and pitied by the readers. In fact, our anti-hero is inevitably targeted for Dostoyevsky's harsh satire.
The first part of the book (titled The Underground) introduces the anonymous underground man and his outlook on life. The second part (titled A Story of the Falling Sleet) sees how the man with heightened senses of ego and awareness submerges voluptuously into his underground, motivated by many contradictory impulses. Dostoyevsky paints not only a complex portrait of an anonymous personage who lacks surface appeal, but also a society in which people are so unaccustomed to living and the manners of which that they feel a loathing for real life. Notes from Underground is an egocentric man's monologue that is abound with fascinating nuance which reveals itself only upon close reading.
2004 (5)
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Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics)
Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Paperback - August 30, 1994)
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