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Notes From Underground: 150th Anniversary Edition [Mass Market Paperback]

Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Andrew R. MacAndrew , Ben Marcus
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 7 2011 0451529553 978-0451529558 Reissue
A collection of powerful stories by one of the masters of Russian literature, illustrating the author's thoughts on political philosophy, religion and above all, humanity.


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About the Author

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), one of nineteenth-century Russia’s greatest novelists, spent four years in a convict prison in Siberia, after which he was obliged to enlist in the army. In later years his penchant for gambling sent him deeply into debt. Most of his important works were written after 1864, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, all available from Penguin Classics.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars so great March 22 2008
By elfdart TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
this is one of the best books i've read to date. its about a man and his failure to connect with the world around him. the novel is spilt up into two parts. chronologically the first part happened after the second part so is essentially the underground man reflecting on his past, by a theoretical means. the first part of the book is a philosophy on life and people, and the second part is the manifestation of what he was talking about in the first part.
the underground man is an interesting character because throughout the novel he liberally depreciates himself and celebrates his own misery. he says that he is doomed to be miserable because of his intelligence, because he has the capacity to critically observe the world, and yet because of this very fact he says that he can never be an insect. this reminds me of a quote from Nietzsche 'even a man who despises himself respects himself as one who despises'. but overall, this over critical approach to living hinders the underground man so that he is quite passive throughout the novel, despite his words, which i suppose could be considered an action of sorts. and it's because of this passivity that he fails at connecting with others, isolating himself with his thoughts. now it could be argued that his refusal to act is an expression of his utilizing his freedoms. he acts in a way that is not accepted by society, which is why he is so isolated, but by isolating himself, he is demonstrating that he has the capacity to exercise free thought and action, to not blindly follow the status quo. his outcast status is the ultimate freedom, and yet he's so miserable, which would tie into the intelligence bit.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Note on Translations... Feb. 1 2008
By Enamorato - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I will not delve into the brilliant work of nascent existentialism that Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground" represents as there are plenty of reviews who have already done that for me. I do want to help customers in choosing a translation out of the many that are available, as there doesn't seem to be much to guide one through them here.

Perhaps the best translation I've found to date is that by Andrew MacAndrew, available in a Signet Classics edition. MacAndrew's prose has a vigor and modern clarity that truly make this work speak to the reader - the Underground Man truly comes to life as a living, breathing character with a relevance and immediacy.

For all the praise the Pevear/Volokhonsky translations have gotten, I do not think they necessarily surpass the efforts of those who came before them in this particular instance. Although a big fan of their Tolstoy, the Dostoevsky comes off somewhat comparatively muted.

Compare MacAndrew's rendering of the opening words in which the Underground Man introduces himself:

"I'm a sick man... a mean man. There's nothing attractive about me. I think there's something wrong with my liver. But, actually, I don't know a damn thing about my sickness; I'm not even too sure what it is that's ailing me."

To Pevear/Volokhonsky's:
"I am a sick man... I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts. However, I don't know a fig about my sickness and am not sure what it is that hurts me."

Of the two, MacAndrew's Underground Man obviously speaks a more contemporary English. I am aware that this has actually been a criticism of his. In fact, many readers might actually be put off by the brusque and terse take or find it even slightly disturbing. Purists will also doubtless find much to annoy them about MacAndrew's more interpretive (as opposed to literal) approach to translation. The Pevear/Volokhonsky actually appeared in 1993, about 30 years after MacAndrew's. There's nothing particularly wrong with their version. It has a stately, nuanced charm and is apparently much truer to Dostoevsky's original in the literal sense (to the point of translating his flaws and idiosyncrasies). But personally, as a reader, I just got much more out of reading the MacAndrew translation. You immediately get a taste of the angst of this character from MacAndrew's terse, flippant diction.

Two others to take note of: The classic Constance Garrett translation can still be found in a cheap Barnes and Noble Classics edition, along with a good selection of Dostoevsky's shorter works. Garnett's haphazard, hasty, and somewhat reckless method of translation has been much criticised, as has her quaintly Victorian diction. Mirra Ginsberg's translation in the Bantam Classics series matches the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation almost word-for-word, although I find the wording where she deviates to actually be better overall.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Time in History: The Alienated Anti-Hero June 6 2005
By Turhan Uludag - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The incable of love, a man in the undergound questions the validity the objective reality and the norms of normal morality. Rages against the positivist notions of social order - and claims himself that "he couldn't even make an insect of himself". In Notes from Underground, Dostoyevsky plunges into the depths of the human soul to discover selfish and evil tendencies that was already inherent in the human mind and brings this out very generously in the book. "I am a sick man. I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man" perhaps gives us an idea of the personity of this man, and essentially about some of us that exist in the world.

A great book by a great author; if you are interested in reading about a guy who throws into question the validity of positivism, moral order, and human kindness, this would be a great book to read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts slowly, but finishes strong Sept. 24 2007
By Sean K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
" . . . it's hardly literature so much as a corrective punishment."

While reading Part I of "Notes from Underground," you'll undoubtedly get the same feeling. The first third of the novel is a practice in rambling conjecture, as the protagonist of the novel, the "Underground Man", espouses his thoughts and beliefs on his miserable and embittered life. However, Part II picks up interest as Dostoyevsky presents a short, yet powerful, story of this castaway and how he become so alienated from "real" life.

Without a doubt, the protagonist is a haughty, arrogant erudite who feels himself superior to others. Set in 1860s St. Petersburg, the protagonist immerses himself in Romantic literature and comes to view the world through these unrealistic novels. Yet, in practice he fails to act upon any of the noble ideals set forth in the novels and comes to despise himself. His self-loathing and self-pity manifests itself into a vile existence, where self-delusion and an active imagination takes the place of real social interaction in the outside world. Although the protagonist later derides a prostitute on her doomed existence, it is he who is doomed to an early death with no mourners at his funeral.

While the first part of the novel is a droll treatise on his twisted philosophy, the second part details the protagonist's pitiful attempts at maintain dignity and self-worth. Although he thinks highly of himself, his delusions of grandeur are quickly squashed by those who do not care about his existence, such as an officer who barely notices him as he pushes him out of the way everyday.

Perhaps most disturbing is the protagonist's stance on love. To him, love is not about a mutual respect and caring for each other, but is merely a sadomasochistic game of power and domination. To him, being loved means allowing another to tyrannize and control yourself. The loving relationship must include a domineering partner and a submissive partner. Indeed, the protagonist is incapable of real love and quickly repels any hope of love.

Overall, "Notes From Underground" delivers a poignant psychological case study of an individual far removed from society, who despises everyone and thinks there is a cabal of conspirators to subjugate him to his poverty-stricken existence. Written almost 150 years ago, this novel is still relevant today. Most of us, myself included, have certain qualities of the "Underground Man" espoused in this novel, as it is hard not to become alienated and hardened in modern society. Once again, if you can slug your way through the tedious Part I, you are rewarded in the end.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Powerful May 18 2006
By King Elessar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I just finished reading this text, and I must say this is one of the most powerful books I have had the privelege of reading. Dostoyevsky penetrates the depths of individuals who are alienated from and yet envious of society. I have never read anything as remarkbly accurate as this text is in representing this complex, torturous situation.

This text will alter your perception and change your way of thinking, creating an epiphanic experience that is spiritually enlightening and ultimately rewarding.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars so good April 30 2008
By elfdart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
this is one of the best books i've read to date. its about a man and his failure to connect with the world around him. the novel is spilt up into two parts. chronologically the first part happened after the second part so is essentially the underground man reflecting on his past, by a theoretical means. the first part of the book is a philosophy on life and people, and the second part is the manifestation of what he was talking about in the first part.
the underground man is an interesting character because throughout the novel he liberally depreciates himself and celebrates his own misery. he says that he is doomed to be miserable because of his intelligence, because he has the capacity to critically observe the world, and yet because of this very fact he says that he can never be an insect. this reminds me of a quote from Nietzsche 'even a man who despises himself respects himself as one who despises'. but overall, this over critical approach to living hinders the underground man so that he is quite passive throughout the novel, despite his words, which i suppose could be considered an action of sorts. and it's because of this passivity that he fails at connecting with others, isolating himself with his thoughts. now it could be argued that his refusal to act is an expression of his utilizing his freedoms. he acts in a way that is not accepted by society, which is why he is so isolated, but by isolating himself, he is demonstrating that he has the capacity to exercise free thought and action, to not blindly follow the status quo. his outcast status is the ultimate freedom, and yet he's so miserable, which would tie into the intelligence bit. and all of this would leave him going in circles in his thoughts, making them all sound paradoxical because if he does or doesn't he's screwed kind of thing, so he's passive.
but it's good. i liked the theory a bit more than the story manifesting the theory, partially because it gets rid of the trappings and gets right down to the concepts, so less digging on my part, though the digging can be fun i'll admit. i'm in something of a dystopian phase right now and revel in all like material, so this book came to me at a great time. i recommend it to everyone. its a great read and gives you something to think about.
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