Ben's Reviews > Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
Dec 30, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: russian-lit

With an oppressive intellect stumbling toward wisdom's faint glimmer, a man afflicted with a malignant mass of consciousness writes of his inescapable suffering. Who is this man? Who are the "gentlemen" he writes to? And if the theater of discourse wages in the confines of The Underground, his mind, how can he seriously entertain it while suffering an awareness of it?

Instinctively, he is a man no different by nature or impulse than the gentlemen to whom he writes or the unintended public who reads his diatribe. He is a man bound by the indestructible laws of nature and emotion from which reason cannot free him. Within a culture that deifies enlightenment as the saving grace of man's disadvantage, he rages with the awareness that reason brings, enlightening not man but the folly of his passionate impulses. Unfortunately, this awareness does not bring peace but heralds the coming of a metaphysical world war that slaughters the simple justifications which appease man's most illogical pursuits. The acutely-conscious man suffers an infection of inaction and a bitter toiling within the soul.

Imagine the Garden of Eden - man's paradise in which nature caters to his every advantage. Of course, free will amounts to the downfall of paradise and, by reason, man has journeyed like a phoenix through hundreds of forms of civilization chasing his escaped paradise. But the conscious man maintains that free will epitomizes his ultimate advantage, on the alter of which all other advantages - prosperity, peace, economic wealth, bought by the power of enlightenment and the shiny glint of reason, will bleed in sacrifice. Man will loosen his hold on all this in order to exercise his free will; even if it means choosing against these advantages. Even if it promises sorrow and suffering, conflict and discord. But the conscious man will dance under the burden of his suffering if he freely chooses it.

And how will this man behave in relation to others? If nature designed man as an interdependent species, what more can a conscious man do but rage against such a dictation and choose solitude and the power to oppress his dictator. And thus drums the violent war machine and hums the domestic brawl, the vile spit of language and the caprice of the conman. No love will twist the fist of choice and reason, no peace will dwell in one who reasons through his emotions.

So I ask, as Dostoyevsky asks, which is better? The blissful ignorance of the direct man of action - comforted by his illogical sense of justice which propels his revenge, encouraging his advantage - or the infectious illness of consciousness uncovering the reasonable loathing of man's eternal binding to a nature which he cannot deny? Which is better - "cheap happiness or exalted suffering?"
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Reading Progress

December 30, 2010 – Shelved
July 23, 2011 – Started Reading
July 23, 2011 –
page 9
9.38% "After reading, re-reading sections, taking notes and writing passages for two and a half hours, I'm on page 9. Yea, Big D!"
July 24, 2011 –
page 38
39.58% "Dostoyevsky's brilliant ideas notwithstanding, people too often fail to praise him for his command of literary devices."
July 26, 2011 – Shelved as: russian-lit
July 26, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Christina (new)

Christina How are you finding Notes so far? I found the vacillation and neurosis at that level to be only something FD could muster. (In a good way)

message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Christina wrote: "How are you finding Notes so far? I found the vacillation and neurosis at that level to be only something FD could muster. (In a good way)"

Diggin' it. And yes, it reeks of Dostoyevskyism. But I think he has a point regarding the burden carried by acutely-conscious people versus direct men of action. Our civilization, now, here in America, does not exalt those with high intellect unless it produces fruit through some applicable science. Our culture generally affords opportunities to those direct people who find no need to further their consciousness or intellect. Society does not encourage it.

On the other hand, the writer's mentality leads to hypocrisy, in my opinion, when it comes to relating to other people. The same free will which he enjoys and often brings him to choose against his own advantage could very well plague others. But his intellect blinds him to such a possibility. Also, as exemplified by his relationship to his servant, his intellect blinds him to the nature, or causes him to feel anger towards the nature, of social existence and the necessity of social interdependence.

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