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Notes from Underground
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1001 book reviews > Notes from the Underground, by Dostoevsky

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Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 424 comments A ~40yr-old man philosophizes about conformity, identity, and society in general, and then tells a story about his experiences just prior to his being sent 'underground'. He seems to be both bipolar and an Aspie, and struggles with his manic phase as he is also trying to figure out how and why other people fit in easily and are accepted in society while he must struggle to do the same. He tries dressing differently, asserting himself into social circles with people he vaguely knows, and spending the night with a prostitute, and each experiment just complicates his life without making him any more accepted as just a normal guy. And of course, he knows he is really better than all of them anyway, so his failures just prove how exceptional he really is.
Of course, when Dostoevsky was writing there was no Dr. Asperger yet, and no Aspergers diagnosis, so while he was no doubt writing from his own experiences of himself and/or people he knew, he would not have thought he was writing about the inner life of someone with this brain type(Aspergers/High-functioning Autism). I always find books like this interesting not just for the story, but also for what they show about past eras, that these mental disorders and neurotypes existed in the past too, and that they were just interpreted differently before psychology created the labels we know now. (So, there is not really such an 'epidemic' of autism; we simply are recognizing the wider range of people in the Autistic Spectrum.)
I liked seeing how this book compared with Dostoevsky's others, too. Some of the scenes and ideas from this book crop up again in other books, in other contexts. And,I liked that this book was fairly short. So, I gave this book a full 5 stars on Goodreads.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3829 comments Mod
Read 2017
Possibly the first existential novel (novella). The unnamed writer, 40 years old, tells us he is writing to no one but argues that man must choose (free will) and will choose not to live by logic and in fact will choose against logic. The second part, gives us the background of the writer and how he ended up underground. Then the very end, we learn that even this has been edited and we the reader do not know what is the truth. Rating 3.43.


message 3: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1304 comments This is a strange little book. In contrast to my last Russian read, Turgenev's Torrents of Spring, which was all plot and a story that zinged along, this was a difficult read and not at all enjoyable, although it was exceptionally thought-provoking. The first section comprises the ramblings of a misanthropic, depressed and hyper naval gazer, who is addressing an imaginary audience, who he says does not exist. The underground is a metaphor for the way he views the world - peering up through the cracks in the floorboards. He analyses human motivation and scoffs at the idea of the rational man, epitomised in The Crystal Palace; aesthetic ideas which make him miserable, and decides that there is pleasure in suffering. The most notable thing about these notes is that he is inconsistent and contradictory. His is not a persuasive argument for his premises. The second section explains how he came to be such a misery. It is set 16 years prior to the first section, when he was 24. He is working as a clerk in a menial position, not commensurate with his self-defined abilities. He may be an intellectual but he has zero emotional intelligence. He perceives slights and obsesses about them. An officer brushes past him thoughtlessly and he endlessly plots revenge, even sprucing up his wardrobe to enact his plan. He forces himself on old acquaintances from school who are hosting a farewell party, where he gets drunk and insults them. He follows them to a brothel and then lectures the prostitute he has hired about the stupidity of her lifestyle. He gives her his address, but is appalled when she turns up a few days later while he is arguing with his servant about not paying him. He realises that when she absorbs his harangue about despising her, that she actually feels sorry for him. So there is more plot in the second part, cleverly titled Apropos of the Wet Snow, but not a lot. It is snowing for all of the action in this section. Finally the unnamed narrator addresses the reader he says does not exist saying "I have merely carried to an extreme in my life what you have not dared to carry even halfway", which leaves the reader with considerable food for thought.


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