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on April 16, 2016
_Notes_ is long on thought and character, and short on incident.
In the first (and shorter) part, there are literally _no_ incidents; it consists of a great deal of existential-ish philosophizing and critiquing of society (and of the personality of the narrator, who is never named). Even more, the narrator critiques contemporary scientific utopianism, insisting that, even if human nature were reduced to mathematics, it would still be human nature and perversely inconsiderate of its own best interests; that Man is not a rational animal at all but an emotional animal who demands, above all else, freedom (or its illusion). Man, he says, feels oppressed even by simple mathematics; he wants to be free to declare, when he chooses, that twice two is five.
Determinism, he observes, relieves Man of the burden of guilt; Man, he implies, cannot live without it. Implied but never stated (though apparently it was stated in the original text and removed by Russian censors) is that only through faith in Christ can this paradox be overcome.
The second part consists, basically, of two sequences of events.
In the first, the narrator decides to insult an officer by bumping into him on the street, and eventually does, to no effect.
In the second, he invites himself to a party of farewell for a man he doesn't like, gets drunk and behaves badly, berates a prostitute, and makes an ass of himself in front of his servant.
Really, at the level of plot, that's about it. It doesn't so much end as is cut off, first by the narrator's claim that he will write no more, then by a fictitious editor's claim that he did, indeed, write more, but that there's no point in continuing.
Fortunately, there's a great deal that _isn't_ at the level of plot: deep and detailed analysis of Russian society of the nineteenth century ... which turns out, really, to be analysis not of society, but of the narrator himself, whom we quickly realize is not a reliable or objective speaker. In fact, _Notes_ is a portrait, a portrait of a thoroughly unpleasant and despicable human being; who is, nonetheless, a human being and not some kind of metaphorical cockroach. Even as the narrator demands our despite, Dostoevsky invites us to love him as a perversely damaged image of Christ.