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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative Genius, 26 Jan 2010
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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. Is this new person a seperate identity, or is our hero's alter ego come to life? Our hero Mr Golyadkin has been hmiliated and been having a bad time of it, so when his double appears he fixates upon him. The new double Golyadkin slowly starts to insinuate himself into places, taking credit for the originals work etc., but does the double really exist? If you liked 'Fight Club' you will probably enjoy this story.

Both tales show Dostoyevsky's masterful grasp of psychology and the roots of fears that underlie modern living. These two tales aren't just pieces of nineteenth century literature, they breathe and are just as relevant today as they were then, indeed whilst man still lives these two tales will always be relevant. Also underlying both these tales is a deep strain of black humour, after all this greatest of great writers could see what what is darkly black and humourous in normal day to day living. This is well worth a read and you will want to keep coming back to both these stories throughout the years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grotesquely truthful, 20 Feb 2010
By 
S. Gibbs "Steve Gibbs" (Carlisle, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars An analysis of human behaviour, 26 Sep 2014
By 
This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
‘NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND’
In the first section of this novel, the story begins with the ‘underground man’, an anonymous narrator in St. Petersburg, in the 1860’s. He is 40 and is reflecting on his life, in the form of ‘notes’. In them he makes a damning, scathing assault on modern society and this serves as a way of introduction to the central character.

In the story, the character sees all action, all goals; all desires and dreams as completely futile. As such, he does nothing. Indeed, one of the fundamental flaws in the character is his inability to take action. Because any action is a total waste of time. Furthermore, anybody that does take any action, to further one’s career for example, is a fool or a horse. This outlook makes him a bitter and lonely man and this in turn fuels his disillusionment.

The second section of the novel, goes back in time to when the narrator was in his twenties and although he has several interactions with other characters (usually of a confrontational nature), the isolated, disillusioned, and contemptible character we see in the first section starts to surface, giving us an insight as to why he turned out like he did.

Being 40 myself, this made for some scary reading. Not a page-turner of a story but a brilliant psychological study of the human mind, before psychology was even termed.

‘THE DOUBLE’
I first read Saramago’s ‘The Double’ before this version but I suspect he might’ve lifted the concept of an ‘identical’ other from Dostoyevsky. In any case, this novella centres on the mental breakdown of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin and follows his trials and tribulations as a clerk in a Government office.

Like the character in ‘Notes’, Golyadkin Senior is a suspicious, paranoid character, which as we learn is somewhat justifiable as we learn that he is under character assassination from someone or something. Nasty rumours abound for poor Golyadkin Senior and as he lives in a society where reputation counts for a very great deal, he is understandably in distress. This is further compounded upon discovering another person who looks, sounds and has the exact same name as he.

This is a gripping tale of identity and like Saramago’s version, asks what it means to be original, what it means to be morally good and if we do indeed have a double out there, somewhere.

Slow and in small parts, laborious, but overall this was a nice introduction to Dostoyevsky’s work.
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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
By 
Dr. G. SPORTON "groggery1" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Great purchase. Beautiful book. Thank you very much.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cant beat the price, 8 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Far less expensive than bookshops. A great read. Have read it several times and always find new sections that show what a talented writer Dostoyevsky was.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Notes from the Underground, 6 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I am not much a fan of the Double
But Notes from the Underground is one of these books that changes your vision of life and those books are not many.
Also quite a small size book compared to the usual Dostoyevsky, so a very good one to start with if you want to move on to his more famous books
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9 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they don't do em like this anymore, 28 Oct 2005
it's a real pleasure to read literature with guts and invention and vision. it doesn't matter how old it is or which country it comes from. it makes me feel there's hope yet. but we all know that's not true. there is no hope. a few words from the underground can't change anything.
literature's dead.
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Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics)
Notes from Underground and the Double (Penguin Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Paperback - 29 Jan 2009)
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