Published in 1864, Notes from Underground is considered the author's first masterpiece - the book in which he "became" Dostoevsky - and is seen as the source of all his later works. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose acclaimed translations of The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment have become the standard versions in English, now give us a superb new rendering of this early classic.
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Dostoyevsky writes in a way that really evokes true emotion in you! This is just the beginning of his work though. In all of his work he does this. You really feel for the characters, even the worst of them. He incorporates his faith (not as much in this work as in his other work), his life experiences, his personal wisdom, and extremely honest portrayals of humanity - at times you cringe because it’s like he is describing you. At least it was that way for me. I think he’s really showing how humans can, and most likely do, have conflicting natures within themselves. And we all tend to find ourselves offended and spiteful for no clear reason. Acting contrary to reason and logic. Working not to our own advantage but sometimes the opposite for reasons we don’t know. But at the same time longing for love and to give love - be reconciled. I thought the novel was really delightful in both parts. The first being extremely thought provoking. The second part being hilarious and dark and just absolutely beautiful at points.
I give this 4 stars instead of 5 for a few reasons:
1. You have to be willing to research and try to understand this novel. It’s not a light read. Though, it’s not so muddled with complicated words and phrases that it’s tedious or irritating to read, it’s just not something you can understand without knowing the context, the references, Russian society in the mid to late 1800s, the philosophies and authors of that time and place in history, etc. I love this kind of thing so it was great for me. But some people will not get what he’s trying to say or mock or refer to and not want to look stuff up on the web and… yeah. You’ll probably hate it. You don’t have to be some genius or anything - when he’s speaking about humanity and our nature and habits and problems, we’re obviously all humans and get what its like being human. Dostoyevsky is pretty frank and explains himself. But it’s very contextual and if you don’t want to read up on it a little or really full on try to comprehend this wonderful novel, then you won’t have fun.
2. He has a lot of very long and sometimes complex sentences with a million commas separating things. I had to re-read sentences or whole paragraphs sometimes because I’d get lost in all the commas. Isn’t a big deal, it appears to be his writing style in general. It’s just easier to get confused or lost, so if you hate having to re-read or just hate all those commas - this aint for ya. He kind of rambles on at points and maybe the translation is bad, maybe I just don’t get some bit Russian culture, whatever it is, it just gets plain confusing.
3. Lastly, it doesn’t have much of a “point”, there’s no obvious climax and no real conclusion. It is mostly Dostoyevsky’s personal commentary on what fads and ideas and philosophies and literature are floating around at that time, as well as human nature, and then a painful and beautiful and hilarious anecdote, also very much about human nature.
If you’re not deterred by any of this, then you’re gonna love it.
Highly recommend it!
I consider this one of my favourite books of all time! Highly recommend if you're looking for something really different from anything else! It awakens a side of you that in the end you feel compassion and comparison to the character even admiration! If you want raw emotions this book is the supreme.
One of the most honest portrayals of human existence I've ever read. This is a work of high genius. It's relevance will never fade.