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Notes from the Underground Paperback – September 21, 2012
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About the Author
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) was a Russian writer and essayist, best known for his novels Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky's literary works explored human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russian society. Considered by many as a founder or precursor of 20th-century existentialism, Dostoyevsky wrote, with the embittered voice of the anonymous "underground man", Notes from Underground (1864), which was called the "best overture for existentialism ever written" by Walter Kaufmann. Dostoyevsky is often acknowledged by critics as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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...
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.