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Notes from Underground

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  81,369 ratings  ·  5,216 reviews
Dostoevsky’s most revolutionary novel, Notes from Underground marks the dividing line between nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, and between the visions of self each century embodied. One of the most remarkable characters in literature, the unnamed narrator is a former official who has defiantly withdrawn into an underground existence. In complete retreat from soci ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published September 1994 by Vintage Classics (first published 1864)
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James Spencer No, he's not literally living underground; he's not looking up through the cracks at the rest of the world. I think it is a metaphor for his alienatio…moreNo, he's not literally living underground; he's not looking up through the cracks at the rest of the world. I think it is a metaphor for his alienation from society while existing on the fringes of that society. In other words I agree completely with your understanding of Dostoyevsky's use of the phrase.(less)

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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  81,369 ratings  ·  5,216 reviews

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Nate D
Jan 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who overthink, people who think.
Recommended to Nate D by: dfw
Shelves: russia, read-in-2009
1. Irritated by Underground Man.
2. Amused by Underground Man.
3. Sick of Underground Man.
4. Want to fly to St. Petersburg, travel back in time, and punch Underground Man right in the face.
5. Pity for Underground Man.
6. Horrified by Underground Man.
7. Further reading of Underground Man's monologue almost physically painful. I almost wanted to cover my eyes, but this would have posed problems for reading.
8. Glad to be free of the Underground Man, but glad to have known him, in the end.
oh, dear. this is not a character that it is healthy to relate to, is it?? he is a scootch more pathetic than me, and more articulate, but his pettinesses are mine; his misanthropy is mine, his contradictions and weaknesses... i have to go hide now, i feel dirty and exposed...

come to my blog!
More than anything, this book should make you think. And not about trivial shit either, but about big, important conditions of life and how best to view and react to them. I have "should" italicized in that first sentence for a reason: If you don't give yourself time to think -- if just skim through the book quickly -- then you won't get anything out of it.

It's narrated by a guy living underground, in poverty. You are reading his notes. The first half, his ramblings, thoughts and philosophies o
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Imagine 19th century Russian literature as a loud boisterous party. Here's Pushkin, basking in the center of attention, charming up all the ladies. Here are Chekhov and Gogol at the heart of a passionate intellectual argument. Here's Count Tolstoy, busily serving canapés while rejoicing in the pleasure of work, stopping only to chat about the pleasures of countryside with Turgenev.

But where's Dostoyevsky? Oh, there he is, sitting by himself in a dark corner, dead broke after a high-stakes cards
Bravo, Dostoyevsky! This is the perfect, absolutely accurate and universal portrait of the insecure, self-conscious egomaniac - pitiful and dangerous, on a negative quixotic rampage against himself, society and the laws of nature he despises but cannot change.

There are so many of these angry men (and women), and they don’t speak from the underground anymore. With modern technology, they have conquered the virtual world, spewing out their self-pity and hatred in long, inconsistent, frustrated ti
mark monday
Mar 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommended to mark by: Andrew Schirmer
so I came across this guy at a party that I had known in college, many years ago. I remembered him clearly: that brilliant, pretentious guy with his stories and his sarcasm and his nihilism. our classmates mocked him and so did I, but I enjoyed him too. he was a funny fellow, entirely self-absorbed, smart and well-read and amusingly melodramatic in his comments about the world and his life; he wore his pathos blatantly, like some kind of robe or badge or shield. I always thought that was brave o ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
871. Записки из подполья = Zapiski iz podpol'ia = Letters from the Underworld = Notes from the Underground = Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes from Underground, is an 1864 novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Notes is considered by many to be one of the first existentialist novels. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator, who is a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg.

The first part of the story is told in monologue form,
Glenn Russell
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Dostoevsky leads us into the deepest recesses of human consciousness, a mire of stinky sewers, feted pits and foul-smelling rat holes - novel as existential torment and alienation.

Do you envision a utopia founded on the principals of love and universal brotherhood? If so, beware the underground man. And what is it about the underground? Well, ladies and gentlemen, here are several quotes from the text with my comments:

"I would now like to tell you, gentlemen, whether you do or do not wish to he
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant and penetrating analysis of human nature in all its vainglorious ridiculousness. Dostoyevsky is especially insightful in taking down what I'll loosely call "rationalism"--the belief (somewhat popular then and surprisingly popular now) that people act in a rationally self-interested way, especially if they're made aware of where their self-interest lies. This book should be required reading for nearly every economics department in the US, where such fantasies still rule the d ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novelette Notes from Underground is a conspicuous harbinger of existential novel.
It is like a warning to the future society of hypocritical and conforming featureless worms into which the world is gradually turning these days.
And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth c
Henry Avila
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This the alleged hero hates the world and himself even more, they seem indifferent though, an unknown anti-hero no I take that back the term should be a stupid man who does everything to sabotage his life a masochist maybe ? As examples : the only woman silly enough to love him, Liza a prostitute needing a friend and savior, pours her emotional feelings seeking love but rejected... Can you imagine, the loathsome creature... his childhood a loose word which is quite inacurrate, the orphan's suffe ...more

Shall the world go to hell, or shall I not have my tea? I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.

Thus Spoke Dostoevsky

There were many things for me to get excited about after finishing this novella (It’s a trap!) but the first and an essentially timeworn image which appeared in my mind was that of a small child, sitting in a corner after being rebuked by an elder for giving little or no thought about the world with its countless complexities and contradictions around her.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
im trying to become more of a classics person and ive found that foreign classics, especially russian, is the easiest way to do that. not only do i feel cultured, but the writing style and themes are so interesting - particularly with this book.

if i could rename this book, it would be ‘the impossible rant of a cranky recluse.’ lol. the narrator spends part one of this book rambling about the shortcomings of humanity, how he despises modern society as it is, and his contempt for just about every
Paul Bryant
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Literary Characters React to Notes from the Underground


This Accounts for a Good Deal. It Explains Everything. In Life, you see, we can't all, and some of us don't. Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush. This book is telling everybody “We can look for the North Pole, or we can play 'Here we go gathering Nuts in May' with the end part of an ants' nest. It's all the same to me." Amusing in a quiet way, but not really helpful.


Help, help! A hexistentialist! A horrible
J.L.   Sutton
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors.

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As an undergrad, I did my honors thesis on Dostoevsky and suffering using Notes from Underground, Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, The Devils and The Idiot. To increase my suffering, I also took Russian my senior year!

I've probably read Notes five or six times. It is a quick read, but I get something different from it every time (and at every period in my life) that I read it. This text is Existentialism writ large, but it's had power for
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-lit
I found Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground to be quite a different work from his other works. Dostoevsky's writing style adopted in this novella and the dominating existentialism has much to contribute to this difference.

The novella is of two parts. The first part consists of a bitter rambling of an unnamed narrator who is called the "underground man" (he is understood to be a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg). This bitter rambling extends to Petersburg society and civilization
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I burrowed anxiously into Fyodor Dostoevsky’s underground rant when I was eighteen, I was suddenly mushrooming in stature far beyond my pay scale.

How do you explain it to your senior year preppie-ish friends that you’re suddenly beyond them? You’re like Alice in the rabbit hole. I had been a bullied suburban kid, and now I was being harried by absurd abstractions.

And justifying it - by labelling it smart - but sotto voce, so no one heard me.

All my life, you see, my thoughts and emotions ha
Amalia Gavea
“I love, I can only love the one I've left behind, stained with my blood when, ungrateful wretch that I am, I extinguished myself and shot myself through the heart. But never, never have I ceased to love that one, and even on the night I parted from him I loved him perhaps more poignantly than ever. We can truly love only with suffering and through suffering! We know not how to love otherwise. We know no other love. I want suffering in order to love. I want and thirst this very minute to kiss ...more
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never be fooled by book size when it comes to Dostoevsky! This novella was just under 100 pages long so I figured it would take me just a couple of hours to read. I was obviously wrong but I enjoyed the read. The prose is extremely dense so I had to read it slower than I read other books. The protagonist was fascinating (peculiar, even) and I enjoyed reading his introspective thoughts about different issues. I will definitely be re-reading this one.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first met the Russian on the loading docks. Filling trailers with freight out in the weather, in the humid heat and then again in the freezing cold was not a career, not a job anyone especially wanted, it was a job to fill in the gaps, work that paid a wage and filled a need as necessary as the empty trailers that backed into the dock one after the other.

I had seen him in the break room, out on the picnic tables - always alone. He scribbled incessantly in an old thesis book, would pause long m
MJ Nicholls

“ . . . we’ve all grown unaccustomed to life, we’re all lame, each of us more or less. We’ve even grown so unaccustomed that at times we feel a sort of loathing for real “living life,” and therefore cannot bear to be reminded of it. For we’ve reached a point where we regard real “living life” almost as labor, almost as service, and we all agree in ourselves that it’s better from a book. And why do we sometimes fuss about, why these caprices, these demands of ours? We ourselves don’t know why
From a dingy basement apartment in 19th century St. Petersburg, our unnamed narrator regales us with his views of life and of humanity. His opinions are born of bitterness and despair, and from a curious mix of vanity and self-loathing. He is a former Government official who has come into a small inheritance, enough to allow him to give up work, and, in the apt terminology of this translation, to “settle” into his flat. In Part I of the book he outlines his philosophy, a nihilistic rejection of ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I once read somewhere: "during the 19th century, the Prussians were turning their writers into philosophers, while the Russians were turning their philosophers into writers."

I think that pretty much sums of Dostoyevsky
Leonard Gaya
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is something about the narrator, the “anti-hero” of The Underground that wildly reminds me of Don Quixote. Here is an insignificant middle-aged man, a cultivated man who mostly lives through books, a miserable man who essentially feels out of place and degraded, “insulted, crushed and ridiculed” in a cruel rat race, a lonely man who always seeks to put himself in the most awkward situations (as if to confirm his belief that the whole world is indeed plotting against him), finally a man una ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone paying attention
When I read it at the height of my existential angst college days, I felt I had never identified with a character so strongly. I don't underline books, this might be the only one, I underlined about 90% of it.
Shivam Chaturvedi
You see, this man Dostoyevsky calls you witness to a killing, a killing that he himself intends to perform. You are apprehensive, frightened even, but you walk in nevertheless. There in front of you lies this despondent figure of a man whom this convener intends to slaughter. Settled in rather uncomfortably, you prepare for the death blow to fall. But it doesn't; the victim is not shown the mercy of an easy execution.

Instead Dostoyevsky strangles him, squeezes the very life out of him. And he do
Steven Godin
Master Russian Dostoevsky has probably written one of the best short novels of all time with this 1864 study of a solitary man. From the darkness of an underground dwelling, a former civil servant, and the unreliable narrator is intoxicated with spite for the outside world and writes an embittered monologue narrated from his St Petersburg basement. The lower this alienated antihero sinks, the loftier his intellectual pontifications, critiquing contemporary philosophies on rationalism and free wi ...more
Sara Alaee
Obsessive, sick, horrific, painful… Did I like it?!...Should I like it?!...
Dostoyevsky depicts one of the most disturbing and unsettling images of a human being in this book. I don’t get it!… Not that I don’t get what he says. I do!… It’s just that I don’t want to see the world through a lens of despair that presents a disillusioned version of reality. “If the heightened consciousness showers one with agony and self-loathing, frustration and humiliation, then what is ignorance!?” I clearly don’t
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Have you ever tried thinking of a really hard-to-grasp topic only to reach some kind of a barrier in your mind? It's like, you can only reach a certain point of thought and if you try to think beyond that, your stream of thoughts either goes in a wrong direction or just completely vanishes.
Well, somehow, Dostoyevsky is able to reach beyond the barrier and he's even able to present it through this dark glimpse of life and suffering that is oh so relatable.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a man. I am forty. I am sick. My soul is sick. My thought is sick. My conscience is sick. My desires are suppressed. I am undesirable. I am unchangeable. I am unrecognizable. I am nothing. I am a typical man. I fell in love twice. I fell in love because of ennuie. I am not social. I inhabit my literary world. I hate my stupid friends. I suffer.

And, indeed, I will ask on my own account here, an idle question: which is better—cheap happiness or exalted sufferings? Well, which is better?

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Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. His debut, the epistolary novella Poor Folk (1846), made his name. In 1849 he was arrested for involvement with the politically subversive 'Petrashevsky circle' and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison in Omsk, Siberia. From this experience came The House of the Dead (1860-2). In 1860 he began the journal Vremya (Time). Already married, ...more

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