Notes From Underground

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

"I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too."

Finished: 27 April 2024

I would like to preface this by saying that despite the short length, I could not finish this book. I have tried to read it a couple times in the past and this time I decided it's just not for me. I don't have any in-depth critique to give about this work, but I still wanted to give my personal feelings about it.

The narrator is a miserable man who is "confessing" how terrible of a person he is. The entire book he insists upon a million reasons for why he is the way he is. His nihilism is genuinely unbearable, and I couldn't take it anymore by the second part of the book.

Reading analysis about this book from other people it seems like it was a rejection certain philisophies from Dostoevsky's time, but I didn't have any contextual understanding to pick up on that. As a modern reader it felt like listening to that one friend who's every problem is caused by themselves. Perhaps with a fresh understanding of what influenced the writing I might have enjoyed this book more.

As it stands, I feel like I get what it's saying and appreciate it for that. Otherwise, it was utterly joyless to read. I fear an unfortunate number of people just take all the things this narrator says at face value and completely relate to it. If this is you, please get in contact with a therapist!

If you're looking for a Dostoevsky to start with I would recommend some of his short stories, especially White Nights. His writing style is wonderful, and often very romantic in a way that feels far more poignant and profound than in Notes From Underground. I'm certain he is an extremely popular author for a reason, but I couldn't stand this one.

Also for a far more interesting (in my opinion) disection of self-hatred and isolation see: No Longer Human

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