Notes From The Underground by Fyoder Dostoevsky

Notes From The Underground by Fyoder Dostoevsky interesting, hard to follow, and the dialog rambles. It resembles the string of consciousness style of Faulkner. If comparing Underground to James Joyce’s Ulysses is unflattering to one of the two books then Dostoevsky would be the one to take offense. (opinion from the reviewer)


Fyoder Dostoevsky thought that men lived in an indifferent and hostile world and through their own choices defined the meaning of their lives. His book, “Notes From Underground”, is presented to us by an anonymous narrator who by presenting his thoughts to us investigates the truths he feels are important.

The thoughts of the narrator seem like an endless stream of consciousness often leaving us wondering if he really has a point to make? He tries to assure us saying “everything that can be said about him, and more particularly about him, he already knows………He has overheard it all, anticipated it all, invented it all.” This leaves us realizing that even if he is sure of himself, he is using his on dialog to investigate or maybe really invent a variety of truths and were still left wondering what the point is.

The novel begins with the narrator telling us “I am a sick man……..I am a wicked man.”  He adds to this his declaration that he is “sufficiently educated not to be superstitious, but I am.” We also learn that he is also a minor civil servant living in nineteenth-century St. Petersburg, Russia and he has withdrawn into what he calls the “underground” in total alienation and isolation from society.

The "underground", or mind of the narrator, is full of fears and desires. He approaches many of his concerns as a psychologist commenting on industrialism, utopianism, western markets, the grip of science and technology on truth".

When this book was written Russia was beginning to absorb the ideas and culture of Western Europe at an accelerated pace and the Underground Man is responding rejecting the new thoughts and feeling man’s free will needs defending.  Or perhaps it was just a license to ramble on about everything.


“How can a man of consciousness have the slightest respect for himself”

“I've never been a coward at heart, although I've always been a coward in action;”

“an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything.”

“I swear to you gentlemen, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness.”

“To love is to suffer and there can be no love otherwise.”