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Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – 2 Jan 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc.; New edition edition (2 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048627053X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486270531
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.3 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

With his sympathetic portrayals of the downtrodden of 19th-century Russian society, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) exercised immense influence on modern writers. His novels featured profound philosophical and psychological insights that anticipated the development of psychoanalysis and existentialism.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Bowden VINE VOICE on 14 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
‘Notes From The Underground’ is a formidable work of philosophy and of psychology, not to mention its worth as a novel. In the space of around one hundred pages, Dostoyevsky manages to expound theories on reason, alienation, suffering, and human inaction. The book’s importance and influence on generations of writers cannot be over-emphasised; Sartre and Camus are only two examples of people who have been directly influenced by this book.
The book is presented in two parts. Part one ‘Underground’ is written in the form of the nameless narrator’s rambling thoughts on reason and his claim that throughout history, human actions have been anything but influenced by reason. Underground Man’s charge is that man values most the freedom to choose to act in opposition to reason’s dictates. Dostoyevsky’s critique of reason then, although it demands attention and is somewhat difficult to follow, sets the philosophical foundations for the rest of the book.
Part two ‘A Propos of the Wet Snow’ is much easier to read, as the narrator recounts three episodes which happened when he was fifteen years younger and working as a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The first considers an incident in which an army officer insults him and goes on to detail Underground Man’s subsequent internal anguish at his inability to commit an act of retribution. The second episode takes place at a farewell dinner for an acquaintance named Zverkov. The narrator is utterly disgusted with the company in which he finds himself but despite this, he is unable – even though he desires it - to make them realise this. The third episode details Underground Man’s brief, painful and emotional relationship with a prostitute.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Guardian of the Scales on 22 April 2008
Format: Paperback
This novel( or novella, it's only one hundred pages long in this Dover thrift edition) tells the story of an angry and isolated young man, the narrator, who bears a grudge against society in general and is plagued by feelings of inadequacy alternating with delusions of grandeur. He works as a lowly clerk in the civil service and is without prospects of advancement or friends, therefore he pours all of his frustrations onto the page in a torrent of words that does tell a simple story but also includes much musing on the human condition. The narrator is very convincing, and I couldn't help wondering how much of Dostoyevsky's own personality was in him. This book is very relevant to comtemporary society, as social fragmentation throws up ever more socially discontented people. In fact, what surprised me was that such a character as this existed or could be conceived of in mid-Nineteeenth Century Russia, as I had thought it to be a product of more economically advanced societies. Therein lies the author's genius, I suppose. In any case, this book bears the hallmark of deep and painful self-analysis, and refrains from offering easy answers. Once read, it will not be easily forgotten.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mad Dan on 23 April 2008
Format: Paperback
I don't usually read novels and was worried that "Notes from Underground" would be one of those "books that get recommended because they are difficult to understand and make you sound intelligent". Not at all. This is the best novel I have ever read in my life: a thorough, lucid analysis of what it means to be existentially and ethically nihilistic. Being philosophically-minded (though not educated), I found it very easy to read and literally couldn't put it down.

The nameless anti-hero ("Underground Man") despises the way that humans want to flaunt their arrogance, put on a performance for others, and judge others based on their performances rather than their intellect alone.

The more intelligent you are, the more you realise the deterministic and relativistic nature of life and ethics and the lack of objective knowledge... and the less capable you are of being resolute and certain, or even blaming anyone for their actions. Intellect does not allow you to rise above evolution or "the anthill" of society; it merely constrains you to a life of inaction and inner torment, and the realisation of the limitations of being human.

Human nature is, in many ways, quite despicably egocentric. But, in a deterministic world, revenge and justice are meaningless concepts. Underground Man struggles with this (and the realisation that he is as egocentrically abhorrent as anyone else), and tries to demonstrate his freedom by acting irrationally: to seek a form of personal justice not for its own sake, but purely in order to gain comfort from the humiliation of others. He craves understanding and recognition of his anguish about the futility of life, yet realises that in getting it he will drag others down to his level of despair, rather than pull himself out.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Depressaholic on 7 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
I am a big fan of Dostoyevsky, especially 'Crime and Punishment' and 'The Brothers Karamazov'. This book was one of the first he wrote after his release from prison and it lays out the philosophical position that was to underpin those later books. His whole later career was concerned with the question of morality, of whether it was possible, or desirable, to develop a moral code that differs from that of the surrounding society, particularly when you believe that you are somehow superior to that society.
'Notes...' is split into two parts. The first is a series of short essays written by a profoundly alienated individual in which he discusses his relationship with and views on the people who surround him, and about his difficulty in empathising with or being understood by them. This section really sets out the ideas that were to guide the rest of his career. Unfortunately, I feel that Dostoyevsky is at his best when weaving those ideas into a narrative, and the very explicit way he sets them down here isn't, I think, where his strengths lie. Despite this section being relatively short, I struggled to get into it, and found it fairly turgid to wade through.
The second section is a short story which illustrates his skill as an author much better. It describes a meeting with some people from his past (whom he despises and who despise him), and his inability to 'play the game' with them, to pretend that he cares about the (trivial) concerns they have. It also concerns his relationship with a prostitute who he both feels pity for and is pitied by, but who he cannot help but despise. This is much more in keeping with the style which captivated me in the other books of his I have read, and contains many of the scenarios and motifs that appear in them.
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