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Notes from the Underground Paperback – Jun 20 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Watchmaker Publishing (June 20 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781603863490
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603863490
  • ASIN: 1603863494
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #351,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'Hilarious yet disturbing' Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Dostoevsky's most revolutionary novel," Notes from Underground marks the dividing line between 19th- and 20th- century fiction, and between the visions of self each century embodied. One of the most remarkable characters in literature, the unnamed narrator is a former official who has defiantly withdrawn into an underground existence. In full retreat from society, he scrawls a passionate, obsessive, self-contradictory narrative that serves as a devastating attack on social utopianism and an assertion of man's essentially irrational nature.
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose Dostoevsky translations have become the standard, give us a brilliantly faithful edition of this classic novel, conveying all the tragedy and tormented comedy of the original. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Another Dostoyevsky classic
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is hard to down-play a classic (i.e., something I read in junior college), but taking a step into the hero's mind is not worth the walk. Internal monologues about abstract concepts such as awareness just don't make it in these days of fast-action, plot (I know, I know, plot is the evil conspiracy of the author and society to dictate what we think), and narrative.

I may be only one, but I found this book very difficult to pick up and very easy to put down.
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Great Book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9dafd99c) out of 5 stars 196 reviews
67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d9548dc) out of 5 stars Story and toughts of a self made social outcast. Jan. 17 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
A seemingly in-depth look into the life of a depressive recluse. The main character gives us many views on everyday people and their actions that should cause us, the reader, to evaluate our own understanding of the people who surround us. (Example: Why people will moan for days before seeing a dentist.)

The writing is absolutely brilliant. Dostoyevsky does not seem to have created this character but instead pulled him from the street. The character was not one dimensional, an attribute that I found personally refreshing . The thoughts and emotions are complex and real and were constantly understated, adding to the impression that the book was written by the character himself, who lacks writing experience needed to capture these feelings.

The main character views himself cut off and removed from society, rejected by all in nearly every way. He has become so obsessed with this notion that he has created this exact situation as a result of searching for justification of this impression. He has in fact created most of his own misery, and only continues to propagate more. Yet he seem himself as miserable and rejected and finds pride in this image. He imagines himself to be pitiful and also to be strong and fiercely independent as a result of his social isolation. He feels he poses a strength of spirit for being able to endure the loneliness and envisions himself as a martyr.

This fuels his ego and he plans heroic acts in order to show the proof of his worth or to win attention and love. He however lacks the courage to complete the monumental self serving tasks he set before himself. Through a strange twist of logic these failures are also seen as something to be admired. It only makes him more pitiful and thus a greater martyr. When these failures are personally humiliating he retreats within in himself. Hating everyone and again fortifying his independence, claiming that all who depend on others are weak. Only to re-emerge more hungry for the affections of a companion.

An emotional ebbing between pride of independence and ability to bravely endure the suffering quickly switching to the opposite pole of resenting people in general. Sustaining himself on the imagined praises or pity that he thinks would be lavished upon him if he were to be seen by others as he sees himself.

A terribly tragic tale that emphasis the importance of perspective and removing one's self from a problem in order to perhaps gain a helpful assessment of it. The ideas and emotions presented give a haunting impression. The book should be read slowly and turned over in ones mind again and again.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d954d44) out of 5 stars A Note on Translations... Feb. 1 2008
By Enamorato - Published on
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.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d954d68) out of 5 stars "Which is better - cheap happiness or exalted suffering?" March 15 2006
By M. S. Bowden - Published on
Format: Paperback
`Notes From The Underground' is a formidable work of philosophy and of psychology, not to mention its worth as a novel. In the space of around one hundred pages, Dostoyevsky manages to expound theories on reason, alienation, suffering, and human inaction. The book's importance and influence on generations of writers cannot be over-emphasised; Sartre and Camus are only two examples of people who have been directly influenced by this book.

The book is presented in two parts. Part one `Underground' is written in the form of the nameless narrator's rambling thoughts on reason and his claim that throughout history, human actions have been anything but influenced by reason. Underground Man's charge is that man values most the freedom to choose to act in opposition to reason's dictates. Dostoyevsky's critique of reason then, although it demands attention and is somewhat difficult to follow, sets the philosophical foundations for the rest of the book.

Part two `A Propos of the Wet Snow' is much easier to read, as the narrator recounts three episodes which happened when he was fifteen years younger and working as a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The first considers an incident in which an army officer insults him and goes on to detail Underground Man's subsequent internal anguish at his inability to commit an act of retribution. The second episode takes place at a farewell dinner for an acquaintance named Zverkov. The narrator is utterly disgusted with the company in which he finds himself but despite this, he is unable - even though he desires it - to make them realise this. The third episode details Underground Man's brief, painful and emotional relationship with a prostitute.

Dostoyevsky is refreshing in this book thanks not only to his incredibly powerful prose, but also for the intense but subtle way in which the stories reflect and indeed embody his philosophical theories. This dark and pessimistic portrayal of the nature of man may not sit very comfortably with many readers, however the ideas expressed in `Notes From The Underground' are as relevant and worthy of deliberation now as I am sure they were in 1864.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d95609c) out of 5 stars Brilliant insights into psychology and philosophy May 7 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read Notes from Underground twice--once when I was fairly new to Dostoevsky and Russian literature in general, and once after reading many of his other novels and learning a bit about the intellectual and literary climate of Russia in the 1860s from other sources as well. Both times I was deeply impressed, though for different reasons. On the first reading, Notes was simply a very moving, often disturbing psychological portrait of, as is revealed in the first two sentences, a sick and spiteful man. That Dostoevsky could produce this work over 35 years before Freud's heyday was, and still is, extremely impressive to me. What I did not realize on the first reading was the historical importance of the work. For some time, some Russian liberals had been dreaming of creating a utopian state, and more recently the increasing popularity of nihilism (and in particular the critic Chernyshevsky) had led to hopes that the exact laws of human action could be deduced and a rational utopia set up accordingly. Dostoevsky's underground man is a stinging condemnation of this idea, as his behavior shows that individuals do not naturally act according to the best interests of either society or themselves. Though the novel's merits certainly stand alone, it's worth reading a bit about the historical context in which it was written in order to get a better idea of its impact.
A few words about the other works in this edition: Dostoevsky wrote White Nights while in his 20s, before his Siberian exile and while he still held an interest in the Utopian ideas he would later condemn. It's a story of a young man and a young woman, both socially isolated, who happen to meet one night and, over the course of the next three nights, fall in love, with, unsurprisingly, a maudlin ending. The book dragged a bit at first, but I found the second half of it very touching and, though a fairly immature work, it was definitely worth my time.
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man was the last short story Dostoevsky wrote, and contains a very clear version of his notion of the necessity of suffering for love and redemption, expressed through a man who dreams of travelling to another planet identical to earth in which suffering doesn't exist. It's not a really great work, but it's a quick and pleasant read.
The volume also contains three short excerpts from The House of the Dead (the book based on Dostoevsky's imprisonment)--two of them dealing with prisoners' tales of the murders that got them imprisoned, and one a discussion of corporal punishment. The excerpts are fairly interesting, but if this sort of thing fascinates you you're better off getting the whole work, which is published by Penguin Classics.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d954ef4) out of 5 stars Paradox...conflict... Irony..Good work June 5 2008
By Medusa - Published on
Format: Paperback
Even though Doetoevsky's underground man perceives himself as a deep, conscious, brilliant man, he still knows that he is skeptical of every thought or feeling he might have. He tries to convince himself of being smarter than any body he encounters, but in reality he has a deep feeling of inferiority that ultimately manages to isolate him from people and society.
The underground man never had any experiences of love or emotional relationship, thus he relies in his youth on literature and drama where he gets high expectations of ideal relationships and morals. However, real life interactions and relationships traumatize him with reality that he doesn't know how to accept.

In his forties, the underground man doesn't crave human interactions or attention any more, or have passionate ideas about any thing like he did in his youth, and he knows no other way than anger and bitterness to deal with people. Even though his intimidating way of dealing with people brings him humiliation and pain, he still enjoys thinking that he is practicing his free will. Ironically, the humiliation he brings down on himself is empowering and satisfying to the underground man. As long as he has choice and free will, he is still alive and active like others, regardless of the consequences of the choices he makes.

Whether Dostoevsky wrote notes from Underground as a scream against rationalism and utopianism, or if he was symbolizing his own alienation from the modern Russian society, he just did a great job. Every detail in the book is worth reading.

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