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Notes from Underground
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Archive Member Fav Reads > 2019 April: Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Apr 02, 2019 04:19PM) (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of Book Nerd's Favorite Reads!

Notes from Underground (pre-reform Russian: Записки изъ подполья; post-reform Russian: Записки из подполья, tr. Zapíski iz podpólʹya), also translated as Notes from the Underground or Letters from the Underworld, is an 1864 novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Notes is considered by many to be one of the first existentialist novels.

Underground Man's consciousness with his obsession with an officer who has once disrespected him in a pub. This officer frequently passes by him on the street, seemingly without noticing his existence. He sees the officer on the street and thinks of ways to take revenge, eventually borrowing money to buy a higher class overcoat and bumping into the officer to assert his equality. To the Underground Man's surprise, however, the officer does not seem to notice that it even happened. (136 pages)


message 2: by Eugene (new) - added it

Eugene Galt (eugenegalt) | 659 comments I read excerpts of this in Russian class in undergrad and found the Underground Man's obsession with the officer to be morbidly fascinating. Nowadays, I don't have nearly enough confidence in my Russian to try to tackle it except in translation.


message 3: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)


message 4: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Notes from Underground: The basic idea of the philosophy is that individuals form the basis of philosophical thinking, and each individual is responsible for endowing life with meaning. Now we can all think of a few existentialist works off the tops of our heads – for example The Trial, The Stranger, or Waiting for Godot, but Dostoevsky started it all off in 1864 with Notes from Underground.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments Eugene wrote: "I read excerpts of this in Russian class in undergrad and found the Underground Man's obsession with the officer to be morbidly fascinating. Nowadays, I don't have nearly enough confidence in my Ru..."

Euegene, I too studied Russian in undergrad. But I graduated 30 years ago and it is mostly all gone now, unfortunately.


message 6: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 984 comments Mod
Just started reading. I find it quite different from other Dostoevsky works.


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 37 comments This was one of my favorite books when I was in college. If I have time this month, I’ll read it again.


message 8: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Piyangie, Ive only read one so not sure I would be able to tell. I do hope you and Susan enjoy the read.


Book Nerd (book_nerd_1) | 379 comments Oh cool, I've been pretty busy and just noticed this. Yeah, I love this book. I really identify with the alienated narrator.

The incident with the officer is just one part of the story. It's filled with the inner thoughts and ranting and raving of someone who "thinks too much". I think most people could stand to think a lot more but whatever.

Here are some of my favorite quotes(in English):

I tell you solemnly I have tried many times to become an insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness - a real through-going illness.

I will explain, the enjoyment was just from the too intense consciousness of one’s own degradation; it was from feeling oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, but that it could not be otherwise; that there was no escape for you; that you could never become a different man; that even if time and faith were still left to you to change into something different, you would most likely not wish to change; or if you did wish to, even then you would do nothing; because perhaps to reality there was nothing for you to change into.

but in despair there are the most intense enjoyments, especially when one is acutely conscious of the hopelessness of one’s position

Merciful Heavens! What do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four? Of course I cannot break through the wall by battering my head against it if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.

Can a man of perception respect himself at all?

And what if it so happens that a man’s advantage, sometimes, not only may, but even must, consist to his desiring in certain cases what is harmful to himself and not advantageous?

that is that man everywhere and at all time, who ever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage dictated. And one may choose what is contrary to one’s own interests, and sometimes one positively ought (that is my idea).

I never have been a coward at heart, though I have always been a coward in action.

Anything but the foremost place I could not conceive for myself, and for that very reason I quite contentedly occupied the lowest reality. Either to be a hero or to grovel in the mud - there was nothing between.

which is better-cheap happiness or exalted suffering?

Come, try, give any one of us, for instance, a little more independence, untie our hands, widen the sphere of our activity, relax the control and we…yes, I assure you…we should be begging to be under control again.



message 10: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8246 comments Mod
Thank you for the quotes, Book Nerd. I read the book a while ago and they help refresh my memory.


message 11: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Thank you Book Nerd the quotes are enticing.


message 12: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 984 comments Mod
Just finish the read. At present I'm not very clear of how I feel about it. Certainly it was not a pleasant read if I judge it by the contents. But Dostoevsky has deeply dwelled on human mind exposing a very ugly type of it. His effort is highly creditable.


message 13: by Mark (last edited Sep 30, 2019 04:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark André I read this last year and thought it quite a hoot! I mean that ironically. It is a rather grim tale. But once you have been injured by this author, permanently, as I have a couple of times, your skin gets thicker, and you learn to sneer right back at all his monsters, shouting, as you run, you won’t get me again, Fyodor. - )


message 14: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Haha! Never thought of it that way, Mark!


message 15: by Mark (last edited Oct 07, 2019 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark André I mean it in all sincerity, Lesle. Specifically it was the chapter marked “Rebellion” in Brothers Karamazov where Ivan tells a story to Alyosha about a drunken pheasant mercilessly and with malice and cruelty senselessly beating his overworked, overloaded horse for the amusement of his drunken friends. I abhor cruelty to animals and when I read this scene it upset me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. I hated the author for taking me there: mentally and emotionally. But I do also love and respected the author’s courage to depict the darkest aspects of human nature. I have read somewhere that it was based upon a true life scene witnessed by the author as a boy.


message 16: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
I as well have a hard time with cruelty to animals of any domestication or not. It really bothers me when people do this for what appears like they do for no reason or even fun.


message 17: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark André My feeling with Dostoyevsky is that he put the scene in the book on purpose. And he put it there to hurt people. And it does. And he wrote it so well, so forcefully, that it hurts a lot. And I guess the worst part of all is that I went back and read it a second time: knowing it would hurt me again. Strange how art can be.


message 18: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5584 comments Mod
Reading for the second time I think I would have found myself skipping those pages.


message 19: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark André Exactly! That’s my question. Why did the mean man make me go there a second time, and suffer again?


message 20: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8246 comments Mod
Now I need to read this book again, since I don't remember what episode you are talking about.


message 21: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark André The Brothers Karamazov

Part II;
Book V, Pro And Contra;
Chapter IV, Rebellion.


message 22: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - added it

Rosemarie | 8246 comments Mod
Thanks, Mark.


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Books mentioned in this topic

Notes from the Underground (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Fyodor Dostoevsky (other topics)