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Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Ronald Wilks
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Jan 2009 Penguin Classics

Collected here in Penguin Classics are two of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's shorter works, Notes from Underground and The Double, translated by Ronald Wilks with an introduction by Robert Louis Jackson.

Alienated from society and paralysed by a sense of his own insignificance, the anonymous narrator of Dostoyevsky's groundbreaking Notes from Underground tells the story of his tortured life. With bitter irony, he describes his refusal to become a worker in the 'anthill' of society and his gradual withdrawal to an existence 'underground'. The seemingly ordinary world of St Petersburg takes on a nightmarish quality in The Double when a government clerk encounters a man who looks exactly like him - his double, perhaps, or possibly the darker side of his own personality. Like Notes from Underground, this is a masterly tragicomic study of human consciousness.

Ronald Wilks's extraordinary new translation is accompanied here by an introduction by Robert Louis Jackson discussing these pivotal works in the context of Dostoyevsky's life and times. This edition also contains a chronology, bibliography, table of ranks and notes on each work.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was born in Moscow. From 1849-54 he lived in a convict prison, and in later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt. His other works available in Penguin Classics include Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot and Demons.

If you enjoyed Notes from Underground and The Double, you might like Dostoyevsky's Demons, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Notes from Underground, with its mood of intellectual irony and alienation, can be seen as the first modern novel ... That sense of meaninglessness of existence that runs through much of twentieth-century writing - from Conrad and Kafka, to Beckett and beyond - starts in Dostoyevsky's work'

Malcolm Bradbury

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (29 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140455124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140455120
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2.1 x 13.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, the second of a physician's seven children. His mother died in 1837 and his father was murdered a little over two years later. When he left his private boarding school in Moscow he studied from 1838 to 1843 at the Military Engineering College in St Petersburg, graduating with officer's rank. His first story to be published, 'Poor Folk' (1846), was a great success.

In 1849 he was arrested and sentenced to death for participating in the 'Petrashevsky circle'; he was reprieved at the last moment but sentenced to penal servitude, and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison at Omsk, Siberia. In the decade following his return from exile he wrote The Village of Stepanchikovo (1859) and The House of the Dead (1860). Whereas the latter draws heavily on his experiences in prison, the former inhabits a completely different world, shot through with comedy and satire.

In 1861 he began the review Vremya (Time) with his brother; in 1862 and 1863 he went abroad, where he strengthened his anti-European outlook, met Mlle Suslova, who was the model for many of his heroines, and gave way to his passion for gambling. In the following years he fell deeply in debt, but in 1867 he married Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina (his second wife), who helped to rescue him from his financial morass. They lived abroad for four years, then in 1873 he was invited to edit Grazhdanin (The Citizen), to which he contributed his Diary of a Writer. From 1876 the latter was issued separately and had a large circulation. In 1880 he delivered his famous address at the unveiling of Pushkin's memorial in Moscow; he died six months later in 1881. Most of his important works were written after 1864: Notes from Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1865-6), The Gambler (1866), The Idiot (1869), The Devils (1871) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).

Product Description

About the Author

Moscow-born Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) served time in a convict prison for his political alliances, and in his later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt. His novels include The Devils and The Brothers Karamazov.

Ronald Wilks has translated numerous volumes for the Classics, including most recently Chekhov's stories and forthcoming editions of Tolstoy's stories, and Gogol's stories and plays.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative Genius 26 Jan 2010
You get two short novels for the price of one in this fantastic book. Spanning eighteen years you can also see here how Dostoyevsky's writing developed over the years. I know some people don't like reading his stuff, but really it is well worth doing so as he shows some great psychological insight and you can always gain new insights in re-reading his work. Indeed I have been reading and re-reading all his works ever since I was commuting to and from work in my late teens.

Notes From the Underground

Although this is the later of the two pieces this appears first in this book, and it was published shortly before Dostoyevsky started his wonderful 'Crime and Punishment'. The tale has an anonymous narrator who sees himself as cleverer and better than the normal person. Slowly becoming more alienated and lonely he can't seem to understand how others can get on in life, whilst he still stays in the same job with no prospects, indeed he believes people are exaggerating or lying. Being hyper-sensitve he feels every insult - however minor, and tries to provoke arguments that others just simply ignore. Being felt put upon he tries to take it out on those in a lower strata. He does come to some type of epiphany about himself, and his self doubts and self questioning, but he never changes who he is. Quite bleak but also with a trace of deeply black humour running through it, this shows why Dostoyevsky is one of the world's greatest writers.

The Double

This is an early work by Dostoyevsky and is sometimes overlooked in this country as it isn't considered to be one of his later great masterpieces, but don't ignore it because of that. Building upon the German tradition of the Doppelganger, our hapless hero comes face to face with himself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grotesquely truthful 20 Feb 2010
The pain and beauty of paradox in the brutal depictions of shallowness of the unnamed character in Notes and the tortured figure of Golyadkin in The Double. Worth reminding that these are commentaries on a brutal Russian society whose dysfunctions are revealed in the comical servility of the middle class. Dostoyevsky reveals the unspoken worship of Reason with its social attachments that rob people of their own minds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, if uncomfortable... 18 Jan 2011
Dostoyevsky is a ruthless observer of human nature, most of which he appears to have learned from brutal examination of himself. These two novellas, from different periods of his output, have at least this in common. The truth he offers is that one is more concerned about what other people think than any other factor in living a life, and both of Dostoyevsky's heroes are miserable vicitms in this regard. The conduct of the self in public is executed in a tense, brittle and cruel framework, with neither forgiveness nor respite offered in the harsh reality his characters inhabit. Dostoyevsky's world is a disturbing one, and makes for compelling, if uncomfortable, reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars notes from underground and the double 9 Mar 2012
By A. Nim
After reading several of Dostoyevsky's novels I decided to take on Notes from Underground + The Double.

Notes from Underground is absolutely fantastic, per usual Dostoyevsky makes the reader question the human condition of his/her life, allows the reader to see or understand our very existence in a different point of view.
Dostoyevsky allows us to relate to this underground man and his thoughts continue to echo in our minds even after finishing it.
Although the novel was only 100 pages or so, I would say it was the toughest Dostoyevsky piece I've read, I had to research what certain parts of the novel meant from here or there, but it was definitely worth a read.

The Double was one of Dostoyevsky's earlier works.
Coincidentally I was reading Gogol's short novels (which contained Diary of Madman, The Overcoat, etc etc)
Dostoyevsky was highly influenced by Gogol and you can see how The Double has Gogol like influences.

The main character Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin who repeatedly encounters his double who believes he is trying to ruin him shows the paranoia which one can experience but also the anxiety and delusions of existence, whether we are still in our dreams when we wake up or not.
Although story it does rather drag on for a while, unlike Gogol's diary of a madman which is short but the right length

It isn't Dostoyevsky's greatest piece, but you can see how his changes after his exile and false execution.
Overall I would recommend this book to Dostoyevsky fans, mainly because it was rather heavy and allows the reader to see Dostoyevsky's development towards his masterpieces.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Notes From Underground and The Double 11 Aug 2011
By Alex
For anyone who likes Dostoevsky, these are good and well known stories. I did not prefer them to his novels, although they were still very well written and the kind of literature that makes you think. The style is similar to most of his work, discussing his main ideas on subjects, and therefore are interesting. A very good read, though I preferred the novels.
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