Tyler 's Reviews > Notes From Underground

Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
Apr 18, 08

bookshelves: 19th-century, superb
Recommended for: The Chosen
Read in May, 2003

What would a bottle of vodka say if it could talk?

In this, my favorite book, the volcanic surge of a man's heart takes readers on a roller-coaster ride that yanks from one rant to the next with blinding speed and intense prose over the course of a brief 165 pages.

In it, Dostoyevsky explores the ideas and problems facing people of his day, hence all humanity. The way he does it is exceptional. The book is divided, the first part spinning the common thread of the issues at hand, and the second part weaving this thread into the particular life of the narrator.

Among the issues the book deals with is the question of man's free will. The unexpected implications of the narrator's answer play themselves out as he examines his own life, and in particular, one single event.

In the first part, ideas and musings explode from the narrator across almost every page in a creative impulse of striking depth and lucid presentation checkered, as he writes, by the narrator's obviously disturbed state of mind.

In the second part, the author relates a story that springs the trap implied in the first part. The trenchant prose here pulls in the reader. The first dialog between the narrator and Liza in the second half of this short work, is, by itself, perhaps the most shocking few pages in literature.

I can't recommend the book for everyone. It is too philosophical at turns for some, yet the narrative is too wrenching for others. But the writing is superb, the punch it packs page-per-page outmatches all other, longer classics, and as literature it is second to no other book.

For those who like it, finishing the final page will leave with you the certain glow that you've read an ineffable work of art, tinged by the sad realization that no future author is likely ever to outdo the talent brandished in this compact work of psychological intoxication.
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