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Drkshadow03
09-25-2009, 12:04 AM
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.

Desolation
09-25-2009, 12:19 AM
You think it's boring? I thought that the first part was the best thing I've ever read by Dostoevsky.

I'd try to think of it as more of a philosophy book than a conventional story. Although, ironically, Dostoevsky played devil's advocate through the entire book.

Drkshadow03
09-25-2009, 01:09 AM
You think it's boring? I thought that the first part was the best thing I've ever read by Dostoevsky.

I'd try to think of it as more of a philosophy book than a conventional story. Although, ironically, Dostoevsky played devil's advocate through the entire book.

Yeah, I'll probably give it another try tomorrow. What do you think it is about? How did you interpret the story?

Desolation
09-25-2009, 01:31 AM
From what I understand, Dostoevsky's intention was to cast a light on the flaws of nihilism by chronicling the plight of a recluse who has denied the outside world. He was also showing the problems of a life filled with solitude and too much contemplation. I can't help but think that, despite Dostoevsky's supposed opposition to the ideas presented in the book, there are some biographical fragments or thoughts in the narrator.

I got something much different from the book. When reading the book, I felt like I was looking into a mirror. I connected with the narrator, which would explain why I loved the book so much (and I know I'm not the only one).

DanielBenoit
09-25-2009, 01:39 AM
Oh dear. Well, to get you started, maybe you should see the film Taxi Driver, which is inspired by the story, but by no means based on it.

The first part of Notes, concerns the Underground Man discussing his existential philosophy and his disdain for contemporary Russian culture. Part two concerns a story about a certain time in his life.

If you are familiar with Nietzsche's or Sarte's philosophy, then you should get along just fine.

The main themes of this book are lonliness and self-loathing, caused by an overly self-conscious induvidual.

(sorry for my piss poor reply. . .it's 12:38 and I haven't slept in a while)

Jozanny
09-25-2009, 06:49 AM
I never got past the opening pages when I tried years ago; perhaps I should try again. I have an ambivalent--or rather, I am ambivalent towards Dostoevsky's work. The Idiot, in its e-text translation, made me cringe, despite Gladys vigorous defense of it, whereas many future authors owe a great debt to C&P.

For me reading Dostoevsky is like a queasy elevator ride in the World Trade Center. Looking at Jersey on the roof was awe-inspiring, but being dragged back down to street level Manhattan with the tricks on display made me regret my lunch. Russian writers as a whole tend to irk me this way.

papayahed
09-25-2009, 07:31 AM
I had trouble with the first half as well but I was reading it for a class and had to finish. I'm glad I did because the second half is really great. The second half makes up for everything.

Manchegan
09-25-2009, 01:17 PM
I was a little bored with the lack of plot in the begginning too, but his voice was so engaging and bitter and new (to me at least) that it was worth it.

If you really hate the beginning, you could probably skip it. It's all philosophy and character developement until the section titled "apropo of the wet snow."

But then again, if you hate it and you're gonna skip half of it, you might as well read something else! The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (also dostoevsky) is shorter and more profound, methinks.

grotto
09-25-2009, 02:53 PM
Plot? There is a plot?:p

Have you checked out a different translation? Try the Peever. I loved the darkness of this book, it actually made me feel a little better about my self, yet, well, it also gave me a few more things to think about, I think Iím sinking fast!
:eek:

Kafka's Crow
09-27-2009, 05:55 AM
Notes from the Underground boring! Now I have heard it all. It must be the most interesting short novels I have ever read. I found The Death of Ivan Illyich boring. The Old Man and the Sea is also "boring" but not the Notes. I love that book. So much of the 'literature of angst' came out of this book, it is a very important masterpiece.

mal4mac
09-27-2009, 06:38 AM
Have you checked out a different translation? Try the Peever...

Do you mean the the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation? If so, there's a great inspirational overview here:

http://dir.salon.com/story/books/review/2004/05/27/underground/index.html

I love the thorough comparison between translations I wish more reviewers would do this:

"I am a sick man ... I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver." (Coulson)

"I am a sick man ... I am a wicked man. An Unattractive man. I think my liver hurts." (Pevear and Volokhonsky)

Pevear and Volokhonsky shows that Underground Man doesn't trust his own instincts enough to be sure whether his own liver hurts!

"But all the same, I'm firmly convinced that not only a great deal, but every kind, of intellectual activity is a disease." (Coulson)

"But all the same, I am strongly convinced that not only too much consciousness but even any consciousness at all is a sickness." (Pevear and Volokhonsky)

So P&V find something a great deal scarier than anti-intellectualism.

"We are born dead, and moreover we have long ceased to be the sons of living fathers; and we've become more and more contented with our condition ... Soon we shall invent a method of being born from an idea." (Coulson)

"We're stillborn, and we have long ceased to be born of living fathers, and we like this more and more ... soon we'll contrive to be born somehow from an idea." (P&V)

One important aspect of the novel now comes into clearer focus - Dostoevsky, a devout Christian and a political conservative, was not advocating nihilism but mocking it.

grotto
09-27-2009, 09:14 AM
Do you mean the the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation? If so, there's a great inspirational overview here:.

Yes, sorry about that, I was in a hurry to get out the door and never checked what I wrote.

Itís true though, if you canít read it in the original, (which I canít) I have to research translations that speak to me. Some authors we donít have choices with, but fortunately, Dostoyevsky we do.

Notes from the Underground is fascinating to me, I can see how for some it isnít though, but then again, some like over romanticized stories about poor bored rich people having affairs that ramble on in endless description for 800 pages, I donít. To each their own.

Drkshadow03
09-27-2009, 08:18 PM
I love the thorough comparison between translations I wish more reviewers would do this:

"I am a sick man ... I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver." (Coulson)

"I am a sick man ... I am a wicked man. An Unattractive man. I think my liver hurts." (Pevear and Volokhonsky)


I am reading Deborah A. Martinsen's translation as part of a collection of stories:

"I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believed my liver is diseased."

Shatov
10-02-2009, 09:22 PM
Notes is my favourite Dostoevsky because of the tremendous punch it packs in just under 140 pages. I have three copies of the book and I've read it several times now. It's excellent!

James Patrick Scanlan has written an excellent article (http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_ideas/v060/60.3scanlan.html) on the philosophical content of Notes. Anyone fascinated in the first part of the novella should really take a look at it (or, better yet, check out the updated version of the article in Scanlan's most recent study of Dostoevsky: Dostoevsky the Thinker: A Philosophical Study (http://books.google.com/books?id=lbMYxaFTMZAC&lpg=PP1&dq=dostoevsky%20the%20thinker&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false)

There are, of course, some other great books on the Underground Man. The first that comes to mind is Robert Louis Jackson's Dostoevsky's Underground Man in Russian Literature (http://www.amazon.com/Dostoevskys-Underground-Literature-Contributions-Education/dp/0313229325). Rene Girard's Deceit, Desire and the Novel also helped me understand The Underground Man.


All that said, I first picked up Notes about 5-6 years ago. I thought it was so boring I quit somewhere in the second chapter. Two years later I somehow got around to giving the book another go. I've been fascinated with it ever since.


"For me, the whole of Nietzsche is to be found in Notes from the Underground. In this book -- which people do not yet know how to read -- is given to the whole of Europe a foundation for nihilism and anarchism. Nietzsche is cruder than Dostoevsky." - M. Gorky

LukeS.
10-11-2009, 07:06 PM
yeah, you need to get to the Apropos of Wet Snow section for plot.

Also, it isn't so much about "hating the world" and isolation, although that is part of it. It is about a man obstinately insisting that he is free, no matter what. You see, there is a problem with freedom. And that is, that whatever course of action we might take, there is always--presumably--a best thing to do, from the point of view of our own self-interest. That is, if we always act in our own self-interest, then, well, how can we be free? Our actions are dictated by our self-interests!

So the underground man repudiates this, and says "I am free! And to prove it, I will even act against my own self-interests!" to his own detriment.

The thing is, that usually when people talk about freedom, they mean by it the ability to act for one's self-interest!

illiades
10-27-2009, 02:14 AM
My first post, despite reading the forum for long enough, and that, along with me signing up, is because of this thread and that alone.

Boring? Do you know that seeing this made me sit up, sprightly, and reach forward for the laptop in order to quicken the signing up process that i had instantly decided to follow.

Not that your post warrants anything, or that my reply warrants the cause that it is championing, that it is not boring, and not that i am dismissive of the idea that all is subjective and so it is precisely your opinion of it being boring that allows my view of it being spectacular to exist. Not because of anything but precisely because of everything.

Even while writing this i am tempted to delete it all and Lord knows but you do not how much of it i actually have, yet that is very much the point that he, Dostoevsky, is making.
That constant immediate self reflection, the perverse hindsight that manifests itself as foresight, the empathy and the apathy that accompanies it.

I hate you for writing this, i hate myself for hating you, i don't care that you wrote it, i don't care that i don't care and yet i care that i did.
Through everything i read it feels as though Dostoevsky is the only one who ever understood anything and everytime somebody confirms that they find what he says boring, or that they cannot appreciate his point, i become more alienated.

It is the freedom of mind that never stops and eats away at itself.
Everytime that you find a level, a platform, a moment later it is gone and further down you have dropped through the hole in the floor you have just uncovered. And you keep falling.

**

Dinkleberry2010
11-17-2009, 05:53 PM
Modern literature begins with Notes From Underground.

OrphanPip
11-17-2009, 06:24 PM
Modern literature begins with Notes From Underground.

That's a pretty big claim to make about Notes From Underground, first existentialist novel sure, but the beginning of modern literature is a bit extreme.

Lionheart
07-06-2010, 04:02 AM
Notes from the Underground is a trying read if a person has never read Dostoevsky before, I speak this from experience. However once you get into the pain of the protagonist and how helplessly lost that he is, it is a very pleasurable read. When I am stressed or I've an extra amount of entitlement for something I want I recall the thoughts echoed in this book, "No matter how much you try 2+2 is always 4." It doesn't sound like philosophy, yet when you think about the nature of the universe being a very stable thing we fight daily it's subtly brilliant. By the second half, it develops a life of it's own, at least to me. :)

Big Dante
04-20-2011, 07:27 PM
It seemed to be a great, interesting read and the first part of it was the best bit. The messages that Dostoevsky puts forward really make you think before progressing into the character's sad past and the events that show him as the wreck he is.