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Notes From Underground
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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.
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Fyodor Dostoyevsky is an incredible author. He seems incredibly complex and, to me, far ahead of this time. As a retired police detective, I feel "Crime And Punishment" is one of the most sophisticated crime novels that I have ever read from any era.

This book is another incredible work. The narrator is an unnamed "unreliable" male. He seems to be a demented misanthrope. The novel essentially consists of his semi cogent rantings.

I have read this work twice. The second time I read this unique work, I read and listened to the work simultaneously on Audiobook. This definitely added to my enjoyment. There were times I actually burst out laughing.

To say that I actually comprehend this work would be an exaggeration. However I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially with Audiobook and I will probably read it a third time, although it will be in the distant future. In the event one wishes to read a modern novel with an unreliable narrator, one might consider "The Dinner" by Herman Koch. One might find these two works Interesting for the purposes of comparing and contrasting. Thank You...
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on May 14, 2017
I'm very glad that this was not the first Dostoyevsky I read. It might have been my last. I loved "The Brothers Karamazov". I suspect this character he developes and never names is adapted to Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov (the main character in "Crime And Punishment") That book I would never have finished if it had not been for "The Brothers Karamazov". "Crime And Punishment" was, for me, very worth while. I hope to read "The Brothers Karamazov" and "Crime And Punishment" one more time. "Notes from the underground" I will not read again. From a literary standpoint it shows Dostoyevsky's brilliance. It is just too dark for me.
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on June 30, 2014
Short but compelling tale. Dostoyevsky proved that you don't need to write a lengthy novel to achieve brilliance in literature. A short tale, but every word is gold and will leave a deep and lasting impression. Dostoyevsky's in your face tale seized me and drew me into the world of this Russian civil servant whose misanthropic nature was a daily nightmare of hiding underground, away from the society he despised and dislike. His aversion and self torture stemmed from his self loathing, poverty being a major reason. I am reminded that my own introverted tendencies could tilt into misanthropy if hatred for society creeps into my motivation for hiding in my apartment. I pray to God that my heart will increase in love and charity even as I enjoy the solitude of my sanctuary. Although Russia is seen as an international aggressor politically, Dostoyevsky reminded the world that Russia has a rich and beautiful literary heritage. So beautiful that one is exhausted after taking the emotional roller coaster ride with Dostoyevsky, yet I am hungering for more like a irrepressible addiction.
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on February 4, 2013
This is a philosophical masterpiece! But, don't expect action, excitement, adventure, or humor. What we have been given is angst, confusion, loneliness, and boredom. This is Dostoyevsky's idea of modern man's modern-day dilemma. A character is portrayed whose sense of detachment is all pervasive and simultaneously, exhausting for the reader. Who are this man's 'notes" written for? They appear to be written for someone 'out there', but, who? Are they in fact written by our man to himself? Is this a pretend dialogue or a lonely monologue? Is it both? His truth seems minimally coherent, while his correspondence with reality, profoundly elusive. The author is asking us to ask ourselves, "Is it better to do nothing? Is conscious inertia beneficial?" Does our man really envy "normal" men? First he says, "Though I have said that I envy normal men, yet, I shall not care to be in his place, though I shall not stop envying him". "It is absolutely no matter whether I am going away or not going away". What is our man's plight really about? Does he know, do we know? Does Dostoyevsky know? Why the creation of such a "characterless" man? Throughout this novel we have the suggestion of rationality. But do we have a real context? Apart from himself, can we say that anything else exists? Meaning has been drained of vitality. Our man appears to be alienated as well as fragmented, self absorbed, and detestable. Things in themselves appear insubstantial, mere fragments of subjectivity. There are echos of other, more recent, books which appear to mirror the characteristics of this modern man's psychosocial dilemma. I'm referring to "The Minimal Self", "The Culture of Narcissism", and "The Master and His Emissary". I'm also reminded of Kekes' concept, "the dissolution of the evaluative dimension of personality" (Kekes, "The Human Condition") and Kernberg's concept of "identity diffusion" (Kernberg, "Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism").
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on August 10, 2017
Very good book about the ramblings, musings and experiences of a bitter, self-destructive man living "underground". Its not Crime and Punishment, its not The Brothers Karamazov, its completely different but also completely Dostoyevsky. I bought the Kindle edition for about a dollar. Overall pleased, but the pictures scattered though out were odd and completely irrelevant to the narrative. Not sure what to make of that, but for the price, I enjoyed it.
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Fragmented story of a man's mental illness and self torture. He wants things he never can allow to happen, sabotages all his possibilities and makes far flung attempts to justify it as (perhaps) being a better way to live.
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on July 4, 2015
This is the first book that I read of Dostoyevsky's works. I really enjoy his work. The translation is also very good with beautiful expressions. Life is hard for everyone I think, since all of us are sinners against God. We all should come back to God with His forgiveness.
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on December 10, 2016
Dostoevsky is known to be a profound descriptor of human soul. this short (for his standard) book is sad to read but makes you thinking about the way human sentiments which were strongly individualistic appear and then change often on the basis of external circumstances that are motivated by social rules which were the ones that caused these sentiments. The sentiments of sadness and self spiritual destruction caused by these events pervades the book and make you thinking even if it causes profound sadness.
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on February 25, 2018
First of all, everybody knows about this book. To write a review of this seems a little strange being as has been reviewed by virtually anybody in that occupation. But, long story short, it's one of the best out there and deserves the hype that it receives. Be patient, most importantly pay attention. You can choose to analyze this novel or simply read it and enjoy the narrative. Highly recommended.
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