Notes from Underground.

At home, to begin with, I mainly used to read. I wished to stifle with external sensations all that was ceaselessly boiling up inside me. And among external sensations the only one possible for me was reading. Reading was, of course, a great help- it stirred, delighted, and tormented me. But at times it bored me terribly. I still wanted to move about, and so I’d suddenly sink into some murky, subterranean, vile debauch- not a great, but a measly little debauch. There were measly little passions in me, sharp, burning, because of my permanent, morbid irritability. I was given to hysterical outbursts, with tears and convulsions. Apart from reading I had nowhere to turn- that is, there was nothing I could then respect in my surroundings, nothing I would be drawn to. What’s more, anguish kept boiling up; a hysterical thrist for contradictions, contrasts, would appear, and so I’d set out on debauchery. It is not at all to justify myself that I’ve been doing all this talking… But no! that’s a lie! I precisely wanted to justify myself. I make this little note for myself, gentlemen. I don’t want to lie. I’ve given my word.

Fyodor Dostoevsky – Notes from Underground

I spent my weekend reading this novel first in Borders then on a bench by the beach in a park in Plymouth. There were some statements that I could completely relate to, and (most) others I couldn’t. But still I could identify other people in those statements. I found the narrator’s character ridiculous and amusing at the same time.

I have a degree in English and I’ve taken many literature classes, but despite that I’m not one to normally go out and seek a classic novel to read. I tend to have a hard time focussing and picking up on the intent of the novel. I’d like to, however, make this some sort of regular feature here and in my life.  I always want to know what makes a classic just that, and why many other people think it is so amazing. So feel free to suggest ones, I’ll let you know if I’ve already read them. But I’m much more inclined to read a classic that has been suggested to me.

Have you read Notes from Underground? What did you think about it?

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6 thoughts on “Notes from Underground.

  1. Hey Melanie. It’s Chris Morrill. I have a WordPress, too! I’ve never read that one, but I read Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”. I suggest you start with THAT. It contains some of the most beautiful prose ever written. If you don’t fall in love with both Alexei and Dmitri in some way by the end of the novel, than I must have read it wrong.

    I unfortunately read the Constance Garnett translation without realizing it is inferior. BUT, this gives me an excuse to read it again in a whole new way.

    “In 1990 Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky released a new translation which won a PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize in 1991 and garnered positive reviews from The New York Times Book Review and the Dostoevsky scholar Joseph Frank, who praised it for being the most faithful to Dostoevsky’s original Russian.[11] “

    • Hey Chris! I will definitely check out The Brothers Karamazov. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to remember to look for the right translation, though. This gives me an excuse to go looking at Borders today. I think I’m addicted… Let me know if you ever read Notes from Underground, I’m looking for opinions!

  2. I haven’t read Notes from Underground, although one of my residents did recommend it to me a few years ago. It was so cute, he came to me shortly after move-in and said, “My roommates are illiterate neanderthals, who can I talk to about books?”

    On the topic of classic novels, I tried to have a one-woman Jane Austen book club over the summer. I, um, have only finished 3 of them to date because I kept alternating a Jane with a new book. It’s been fun, though. My favorite so far has been Northanger Abbey.

    • Illiterate neanderthals… that is hilarious and it sounds really cute. I bet it’s a great feeling to know you can talk to your RA about books. I used to joke around with my RA and tell him that my room mate had fleas.

      I’ve never read Jane Austen. I feel like I probably should. But really. I don’t know why I haven’t. I have one of her books, though.

  3. He was a good kid, but we never really got to talk much. His roommates were truly awful and he moved out a couple of weeks into the semester. Luckily, he found a good group of friends.

    Jane Austen is one of those writers everyone should at least attempt. There are 6 books to choose from, so you’re bound to find something you like. Everyone’s big criticism of her work is along the lines of, “Oh, she’s like chick-flicks on paper, who wants to read that?” But take the time to put her work in the context of *when* she was writing, and it’s actually very funny, subversive work. That, I think, is the key to Austen.

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