Book Review: Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This is a novel about a man who lives in an “underground.” It’s a metaphorical “underground.” The character is using it to describe his psychological, or existential, condition.

The book basically consists of the character’s monologue. It’s divided into two parts. Part one is called “Underground” and part two is called “On the occasion of wet snow.”

Frankly, I didn’t understand part one. I didn’t understand what the character was saying. He was rambling on and on about many things, and it’s hard to see what his point is. He seems to be talking about what basically is wrong with modern man. He talks a bit about man’s virtues and then he talks about his defects. He also seems to be talking about free will and determinism. That’s all I’ve picked up from him, so I’m basically lost when I “listened” to his monologue.

Part two is much more interesting. It’s a pleasure to read. But he can also get annoying and irritating. He can get on your nerves sometimes. He’s a very disagreeable sort of fellow. He’s conflicted, offensive, critical, and thinking too much about many things at once. He has a lot of issues in his life, probably because of his very unhappy childhood. But strangely, there are a few things about him that I can relate with. For instance, I’m kind of a loner myself. It started in my high school years. And I can identify with his loneliness, with his feelings of isolation and sadness, and the sense that other people don’t like you and think that you’re weird. I was moved by that scene in the book where he was hungry for company, and he sought out his former classmate, Simonov, and he found him with his other old classmates, and he found himself not welcomed.

I also found it very interesting the character’s change of tone somewhere in part two of the book. In part one, and in most parts of the book actually, he was very cynical and pessimistic, and hateful, and overly-critical. But his good qualities surfaced when he was talking to Liza in that brothel. I was moved by how he sought to move her heart so that she may realize that she’s killing herself and throwing away her life and soul by working in that dark place. His speech was very touching. But I also found it very funny when he hurried to leave the place as Liza started to cry! Actually, there are several amusing scenes in the book. The character is quite hilarious. For example, the scene where he was quarreling with his servant!

I was beginning to love the story until I got to the part where he drove Liza away with his tirade! This guy is simply mad. Confessions of a drama king! It could have ended as a beautiful love story. It didn’t. He was simply too disagreeable, offensive, mean, rude, cynical, and more. He has too many issues. I’ve concluded from that that he really deserves his fate. I mean, he is responsible for his condition. He brought himself to the rut he is in, this “underground” he’s writing from. And honestly, I think he chooses to remain there. He could’ve chosen a different, happier life. He could’ve chosen love over self-centeredness, selfishness and egotism. But he decides to remain in his underground. I suspect that he derives some sort of pleasure from being lonely and miserable!

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Date Read: August – September, 2011

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  1. Ha! Awesome book review, this is! And to one of my favorite books! I cannot but comment about this, ha ha! I even want to explain what Part 1 was all about. Well, it’s really a political satire, however, very subliminal. Regardless of that, and none of Russia’s politics is any concern to me, but what draws me so much to this book is how Dosto swam deeply through the topic of ‘individualism,’ of ‘freedom,’ and, you’re right, the light and shades of civilization.

    I might add, my good sir, that you read quite very interesting books. \m/

  2. Thank you kaayo, bai! Yup, I enjoyed reading this book, and wouldn’t mind reading it again. The protagonist (or anti-hero hehehe) is at times very amusing.

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