Book #55: Notes From Underground

I didn’t enjoy Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground nearly as much as I expected.

Dostoevsky is one of those literary names that I always associate with greatness. I assume that anything of his is going to be mind-blowingly good. I found that that is not necessarily always the case.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy Notes From Underground because I read part of it while sitting in a cafe in Vienna with freezing, soaking wet feet after I’d been walking around for 5 hours. I read the rest in my hostel when I couldn’t sleep.

But basically, Notes From Underground is the story of a bitter, misanthropic man. He thinks too much, longs to be important and intellectual, but instead he’s filled with self-loathing and spite. So, Notes From Underground is pretty much his thoughts. And his thoughts are mostly rants about philosophy, the sublime, modern society (modern for him, so 1860s St. Petersburg), and everything else. Basically, the dude’s a cynic.

He claims that every man who is well-educated should, in the end, be just as miserable as he is. Although he’s basically resigned himself to being miserable and maligned, he wants to change his life, but whines about how nothing can ever change. He will never become anything, because he’s stagnating.

I wish I could say more about the book itself and my thoughts on it, but I just didn’t like it. I will say, though, that I think I’d be willing to give it another go. I just don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to want to interact with this type of book. It does seem like the sort of thing I’d enjoy in a different time and place, though.

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Drowned and the Saved

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Did you dislike the novel because you disliked the narrator? Or did you dislike the novel because of the disconnected plot and relative lack of character development?

    I believe that Dostoevsky’s intent is to present a character so despicable that the reader will disregard the narrator’s philosophy. However, the text does provide some interesting themes to consider. One example is the free will vs. determinism debate, which has been contentious from time immemorial. The narrator proposes a unique interpretation of this philosophical dilemma. He believes that he can prove that he possesses free will by deliberately performing actions which are injurious to his own health and social status.

    Is this a demonstration of free will? Or is he merely acting according to an external force directing him to behave in a perverse manner? I don’t know, but I enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the quality work :)

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comment! Interesting questions.

      I think you’re right about Dostoevsky’s intention. I definitely disregarded the narrator’s philosophy (for the most part). I think that’s what made me dislike the book. The narrator was so awful and his philosophy was so obviously ridiculous to me that it made me wonder why I’d even bother reading the book. Sometimes I have trouble reading pages of something when I know I’m going to completely disregard it. Then again, most of the time I don’t. Mostly, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for this sort of thing. Another time, and I might have had a great time with it.

      Reply

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