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Notes from the Underground



Translated by Constance Garnett (1862-1946).

The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation still living. In this fragment, entitled "Underground," this person introduces himself and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owing to which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of this person concerning certain events in his life. --Author's

This is the first book of a series of novels that form Dostoevsky's "second period" works, which includes "Crime and Punishment", "Karamazov Brothers", "The Idiot" and others. Though a short novel compared to the ones mentioned, we can find here the seeds of many subjects Dostoievsky was to develop further in his subsequent works.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first one, the main character - an obscure student whose name is not even mentioned- introduces himself as a sick and spiteful man. He makes a long diatribe against subjects such as free will, rationalism and romanticism. He attempts to explain his ideas of life and the quest of being, relating man with a piano keyboard: man does not want to think of himself as an instrument that can be played by a superior force without having the power to use his will; rather he has to demonstrate he is a human being with an inner and singular self and not just a piece that belongs to a bigger mechanism.

In the second part, this troubled man engages in telling us his difficulties to relate to other people. Here the author brings some characters into the scene, whose principal role is to show the main character's incapability to interact in society. The scene in which he delivers a wordy speech to a young prostitute in a dark cubicle is particularly touching.

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Recent Forum Posts on Notes from the Underground

Does anybody else feel the same way?

Hi all, I'm currently just beginning my journey through the Notes from the Underground, and it's already starting to connect with me in ways I hadn't expected. I just wanted to share an excerpt which made me think of something that has bothered me for quite a while: "With people who know how to revenge themselves and to stand up for themselves in general, how is it done? Why, when they are possessed, let us suppose, by the feeling of revenge, then for the time there is nothing else but that feeling left in their whole being. Such a gentleman simply dashes straight for his object like an infuriated bull with its horns down, and nothing but a wall will stop him." This hit home for me because it is something I have always struggled with. I envy those with single-minded determination. Those who, when they are wronged, will stop at nothing in their quest for justice because it is the only thing they can think about. This is nearly impossible for those that are even a little more...introspective? Reflective? Thoughtful? I'm not too sure of the word. While to be able to be reflective at all is not a bad quality, I long to be able to feel as passionately as these people, to be able to actually act. I'm sorry, this has turned more into long-winded rambling than anything, but did this excerpt strike up anything in you?

Missing Backstory in Apropos...

In part one there's a verse where he says how when writing down his "confessions" that people can't even trust themselves to admit something to themselves, then mentions about leaving something out.... So think I found a backstory that was left out, but hinted at in part two. Missed it the first reading, but upon re reading... Ferfechkin (school mate during Zverkov's farewell) mentions dePOTment instead of department - I had no clue what that meant, but then learned POThouse seems to be russian slang (or translated slang) for whore house. He goes there to meet liza because he apparently was there before and expected to meet Zverkov and the group (mentioning when they were heading out "You want to go there" ) like this place has a very important place in their history but is not explained. Also mentioned is a woman Olympia which Zverkov took and the Underground man seems jealous he got her. So even though it's not told, I can only imagine the Underground man, in his romantic days, fell for this Olympia at this very same whore house he met Liza in the past. She fell for Zverkov's flair and status, but he moved on, because he's a "playa'" and she is after all just a prostitute, and this early moment popped his romantic era bubble. So this is, it seems to be, the main backstory on why there's tension between Zverkov and not your basic "oh he just hates everyone" motif. Zverkov in a sense pushed him over the edge. The Underground man is EMBARRASSED to write this in his notes and won't confess to us the days when he was a romantic, only alludes around it. Liza, he sees, as a REBOOT, a chance to re live that moment in his life. It's the only time he becomes a romantic again. He's trying to win Olympia back from Zverkov. If he can change her, then it's like taking Olympia away from a future Zverkov and won't let Liza break some guy's heart like Olympia probably did to the Underground Man. He is torn about being insulted by her or pitying her but in the end chooses pity - I guess as his "slap" to Zverkov. He has low self esteem and just needed someone "beneath" him for him to have any hope in life. The paragraph about the father and daughter, with the father not thinking her daughter's suitors are worthy, is projection on the Underground's man part as he doesn't deem himself worthy and so, upon learning that Liza has troubled family issues, doesn't have to fear a father figure looking down at him and disapproving. And when he wakes up the next day, his self esteem plummets, and sees he would be a letdown to Liza, which becomes the self fulfilling prophecy. Am I reading this part right? In that Liza is an attempted retribution for Olympia / Zverkov? Never seen this discussed in reviews/interpretations

Notes from the Underground boring?

So I read Crime and Punishment, which I still need to write a blog post for, but for the most part enjoyed. I have tried starting Notes from the Underground. I've tried four times since yesterday and never get beyond the third chapter. Is it just me or is this story painfully boring? Any strategies for reading this story and understanding it? I keep finding myself tuning the story out. I'm not used to this experience because I generally enjoy the books I read.

Notes From Underground & Alienation

Okay, so I'm looking for quotations that will aide me in talking about alienation, from the book Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Any help that you could provide would be excellent. Thanks :) :)

Themes of "Notes from the underground"

Hi all, I will be brief to ensure that I do not look like I am cheating for my ISU project. But I need to choose a book to read on my own that has a common theme with a book I am reading in class, and a movie. My idea here is Frankenstein and then Notes from the Underground, as I am told that Notes is an excellent portrayal of obsession and downfall/insanity (I know that downfall and insanity are different, but I think I will make the point that htey are on the same path... One is just further along than the other, and it depends where you start on that path) .... Before I commit to the book and make it my final choice, I wanted to double check on here: Any opinion? Is this book containing of the theme I am looking for? Note: I do not want much detail here, because I don't want to look like I am cheating. Realistically I just need a yes or a no answer on the topic.... Waste of time? Or good read for my theme? Thanks!

My rant about how good it is

This will become long and tedious but when I read this a few years ago I could hardly believe how amazing it was (still is). Dostoyevsky must have been one of the most insightful and intuitive people at that time. The way his central character thought was incredible. It was contadictory and the book was not afraid to expose the darker side of people's personalities. Also, is this just me or is the book intended to be humorous? My parents thought I was crazy for laughing my way through it but I found it had a wonderful touch of mockery in the way it depicted the main character. I am probably being completely ignorant here but I found some parts of the book hilarious. It seemed that he was using a lot of black humour and the part where he gave the example of a man growing to enjoy his toothache was very witty. Have I misinterpreted it entirely?

similar book

If you liked this story, you´ll might as well enjoy The Fatal Boots by Thackeray, or a short tale by Robert L. Stevenson, A Lodging for the Night, which is comprised in his New Arabian Nights. If I can make as bold as to quote the openning lines of a book still waiting its turn to be read, check them out: "Allow me to introduce myself—first negatively. No landlord is my friend and brother, no chambermaid loves me, no waiter worships me, no boots admires and envies me. No round of beef or tongue or ham is expressly cooked for me, no pigeon-pie is especially made for me, no hotel-advertisement is personally addressed to me, no hotel-room tapestried with great-coats and railway wrappers is set apart for me, no house of public entertainment in the United Kingdom greatly cares for my opinion of its brandy or sherry. When I go upon my journeys, I am not usually rated at a low figure in the bill; when I come home from my journeys, I never get any commission. I know nothing about prices, and should have no idea, if I were put to it, how to wheedle a man into ordering something he doesn’t want." Extract taken from The Uncommercial Traveller by Charles Dickens. Doesn´t it remind you a bit of NFTU? Any more suggestions would be appreciated!

Notes from Underground Online Version

Hi, I am writing a comparative, and I found notes from underground on this website, which is great. But I was wondering how I would go about citing that. I have to have embedded citations in my essay, but I don't know the actual page number from which I get a quote. Any help? Regards, aXis

Notes from Underground; and The Gambler

Hi, I decided to go with you guys and choose Notes from Underground as my second novel to compare to The Stranger by Albert Camus :). Now, I checked at my public library, and unfortunately, they only have "Notes from Underground; and The Gambler", which when checked on amazon is around 320 pages. It says on amazon though that the parts of the novel are separated (Notes from Underground & The Gambler). I just wanted to confirm that this book was exactly the same as the original "Notes from Underground", so I could still compare it to The Stranger? Also, if I decide to do Crime and Punishment, would it be more easily compared to The Stranger then Notes from Underground, or is Notes from Underground the best choice for me? Thanks. Regards, aXis


Amazing! truly genious, describing a madman and an anti-social man in full detail, going so deep as no other writer had gone that deep before.
I just wish they wouldn't cut out the rest of the novel, I'm badly interested what happens after.

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