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0032 | Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Narrated in the first person by a socially disfunctional philosopher, this is a rollercoaster ride on the rails of insecurity. Plagued by fears of how others perceive him, how he perceives himself and, worse, what the point of anything is anyway, the protagonist suffers unbearable agonies of being as he sketches a brief period in his life.

“It’s hardly literature so much as a corrective punishment” he writes and so it seems as he flagellates himself at every turn. Each person he interacts with, from strangers to old friends and even his servant he sees through lenses so contaged by psychoses that you start to wonder if he’s at all schizophrenic.

The next bit is a bit spoiler-ish so click if you want to read more… show

This book reminded me of the protagonists in other novels too. American Pycho, Catcher in the Rye, even Herzog to a certain extent although less so. And, if I looked close enough, it reminded me of the protagonist of my own life too.

I am a sick man. … I am a spiteful man.


the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped

I say that the world may go to pot for me as long as I always get my tea.

Which is better – cheap happiness or exalted suffering?

we are all cripples, every one of us, more or less

we are all privately agreed that [life] is better in books

this is the odd thing that is continually happening: there are continually turning up in life moral and rational persons, sages and lovers of humanity who make it their object to live all their lives as morally and rationally as possible, to be, so to speak, a light to their neighbours simply in order to show them that it is possible to live morally and rationally in this world. And yet we all know that those very people sooner or later have been false to themselves, playing some queer trick, often a most unseemly one.

We, in Russia, have no fools; that is well known. That is what distinguishes us from foreign lands.

with love one can live even without happiness

And no one, no one should know what passes between husband and wife if they love one another. And whatever quarrels there may be between them they ought not to call in their own mother to judge between them and tell tales of one another. They are their own judges.

coxcomb: a conceited dandy who is overly impressed by his own accomplishments
a propos: at an appropriate time
anachronism : a thing out of its time
ribaldry: behavior or language bordering on indelicacy

lofty subtleties a la George Sand: French feminist and writer of the 19th c.
a regular Lovelace: ?? not sure who he’s referring to here… any ideas anyone?

But enough; I don’t want to write more from “Underground”

terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb

7 comments… add one
  • meli 7 June, 2007, 8:22 pm

    I think the really amazing thing about Dostoevsky is the way he delves into good and evil, darkness and light, and never takes the easy way out. The way he writes about the possible corruption of the light makes the times he embraces it more convincing. Most of his books have a character like Liza – sometimes they fail and sometimes the succeed, it’s a battle.

  • Arukiyomi 7 June, 2007, 9:08 pm

    absolutely meli… totally agree with the battle between good and evil. Reminds me a lot of Graham Greene whose writing I adore and also Shusaku Endo’s Silence.

  • Kelly 8 June, 2007, 2:42 am

    That seems a little deep for me right now : )

  • Imani 8 June, 2007, 2:49 am

    I do mean to read Dostoevsky one day, particularly this one as Murakami Haruki has a book by the same name and I want to know about the reference. No clue about the Lovelace, btw.

  • Dewey 12 June, 2007, 4:04 am

    How do you hide spoilers like that? That is so clever. And where did you get that quiz about what you should read next? I need one of those!

    I added this to bookmooch, too.

    How are you doing with the 1001 books? How many have you read now?

  • Raskalnikov 5 December, 2007, 11:02 am

    Anyone feel the presence of the Buddha in the latter part of (Part 1) “Underground”?

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