By the time Dostoevsky was 40, he had spent four years in prison and a further four years in the army as punishment for his part in a political conspiracy. His health was broken. He was gaunt, fervid, anxiety-ridden, and close to bankruptcy. It was in this state he wrote
Notes from the Underground, a masterpiece of the psychology of theoutsider.
The book, published in 1864, marks a turning point in Dostoevsky's writing: it announces the moral, political, and social ideas that he will further examine in Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. The book opens with a tormented soul crying out, "I am a sick man...I am a spiteful man." This is the cry of an alienated individual who has become one of the greatest anti-heroes in all literature.