Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but beware the edition, 13 Mar 2011
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This review is from: Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
Perhaps 'great' is not the choicest word to use when summing up Notes from the Underground. Oftentimes we imagine greatness to equate with granduer, brilliance and the ideal. 'Notes' is not sculpted from marble, rather is eked out from the general detrius of the worst aspects of human nature. Nonetheless, great this book is as a snapshot - it is a mere 91 pages in this edition - of the struggle against what has been come to be known as 'absurdism'; the impossibility to give life meaning and to reconcile with the contradictions of reason, desire and fulfillment.

Despite the bleakness and the cold face of much of the prose there is still a vein of richly dark humour running throughout. 'Notes' is a book best enjoyed - as Dostoevsky well recognizes, enjoyment can be found in suffering, and especially in the vicarious suffering of others - within a day, preferably rainy.

Now, the only reason I decided to actually write the above was as a preamble to the warning in the title. I SUGGEST AVOIDING THE DOVER THRIFT EDITION, as although it is admirably cheap the savings I made, even as a hard up student, couldn't justify the unappealing nature of the physical copy. The cover is laminated, glossy and feels very cheap and unnatural. The pages themselves also seemed a peculiar size and layout. There was nothing especially determinate in the edition which explains my dislike for it but I can say with reasonable certainty that it is the least attractive book I have ever owned. I love old, cheap and second hand books but this time I wish I had paid a few pounds extra for a copy which I would be happy to dig out from the pile on some other occasion.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Apr 2012 22:51:28 BDT
Viper says:
A word on the content of the book and/or translation would, perhaps, be of more value to readers of your review. As it happens, I have seen the Dover edition (translated by Constance Garnett, if I'm correct) and I think your aversion to it is somewhat overstated.

Posted on 3 Apr 2013 12:09:28 BDT
As a former student myself I had a few of the Dover editions and found them unreadable. The copy I had at the time of Kafka's The Trial and Metamorphosis were unreadable and eventually given to the charity shop as new.

Also the name "Constance Garnett" should strike fear into a modern reader. Translating from Russian to English is hard enough without lacing it with the trimmings and verbosity of a Victorian doorstop. Couldn't recommend the Pevear/Volkhonsky (sp, sorry) editions enough. Like a breath of fresh air.

PS, though my words on poor old Constance are harsh, I'm eternally grateful as a fan of Russian literature that she gave our language some truly exceptional novels.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Aug 2013 01:30:56 BDT
L says:
Hi Viper,

I realise you left this comment a year ago, and I haven't checked my abortive attempts at amazon reviews in twice that time but I felt I had to respond. What a silly reply you have made. I did write two paragraphs on the content of the book. Over half the review. I apologise I didn't devote myself to a fully fledged critical essay. I also apologise for not having learned Russian and then read multiple editions of the book so as to satisfy your request for a critique of the translation, faithfulness to the original etc. Must try harder next time.
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