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View Full Version : TTBC January 2014: Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Falselogic
01-02-2014, 09:24 AM
I've read Notes from the Underground before but I don't remember the details very much and I think I'm confusing it with the The Grand Inquisitor chapter from the Brothers Karamozov (which is must read too)

Anyway, the book is one of the earliest forms of existential literature and Dostoevsky is a fantastic writer!

The book can be found free on-line.

Dig in!

Violentvixen
01-02-2014, 10:56 AM
And my library has it! Sweet! I'm not sure if I've ever read a full book of his before, might have just been selections. Looking forward to this!

Grignr
01-02-2014, 04:54 PM
There's also a Pevear and Volokhonsky translation in paperback (http://www.amazon.com/Underground-Vintage-Classics-Fyodor-Dostoevsky/dp/067973452X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1388710288&sr=8-1) and Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/Underground-Vintage-Classics-Fyodor-Dostoevsky-ebook/dp/B004IK8PRS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1388710288) editions.

My Primed paperback came in - it's surprisingly thin! The black-and-white cover matches that of the Crime & Punishment paperback - maybe if I collect them all, it'll make a picture!

Falselogic
01-13-2014, 03:37 PM
Oh man, this books reminds me why I love existential writing...

Evil Dead Junkie
01-17-2014, 03:33 PM
Reading the P&V translation and came across this interesting bit in the intro...

There is however, one tradition of mistranslation attached to Notesthat raises something more than a question of "mere tone" The second entence of the book Ya zloy chelovek, has most often been rendered "I am a spiteful man,"...the translation of zloy as "spiteful" instead of "wicked is not inevitable, nor is it a matter of nuance. It speaks for that habit of substituting the psychological for the moral, of interpreting a spiritual condition as a kind of behavior, which has so bedeviled our century, not least in its efforts to understand Dostoevsky.

I know some criticize P&V but that insight alone shows me why they're the only translators I care to read when it comes to Dostoevsky.

Grignr
01-17-2014, 06:08 PM
I finished Notes and immediately started in on Crime & Punishment, which begins with dramatizing the enlightened self interest/obstinate human urges viewpoints of Notes.

Part I of Notes, with the narrator talking about being smarter than everyone, not looking people in the eye, internalizing everything too much, fetishizing his pains and becoming unable to make decisions due to overthinking struck me as very autism spectrum.

Part II is like a sequence of petulant David Sedaris anecdotes.

Evil Dead Junkie
01-25-2014, 08:02 PM
So yeah, I define myself as a Catholic Existentialist so I liked the first part. Kind of surprised by how many of the ideas I had already encountered in Burgess and (in somewhat jollier fashion) Chesterton, (not to mention The World's End) though on reflection it was kind of like, "Well duh."

Not entirely sure what to make of the second part, though I think Grignr's comparison to Sedaris is apt. It makes more sense as a comedy of social discomfort than as philosophy. (Humor is notoriously hard to translate, but it didn't exactly strike me as "Haha funny" as say Gogol occasionally does). P&V write about it as being a satire of the "redeemed prostitute" narratives so popular at the time, but it seemed less of a satire on the idea itself as much as a satire in the sense that the Underground Man is way too pathetic to fill the role of redeemer. Which I suppose is satire, just not the kind I was expecting.

All and all I'm glad I read it. It ain't Karamazov but what is?

Falselogic
01-30-2014, 12:17 PM
Took me all month but I finally finished the first section... I think one of the reasons I'm drawn to existentialism, outside of its philosophical allurements, is because what I read "sounds" pretty much like my inner dialogue a lot of the time.

Reading the first part just sounds like Im reading my diary...

Falselogic
02-03-2014, 02:19 PM
Discussion is open so lets here it everyone who read the book.

Thoughts, complaints? Translation issues? If this is your first Dostoevsky book will you be reading more?

What do you think of the Writer from the Underground's philosophy? His morals? His complaints about the culture around him?

Pajaro Pete
02-03-2014, 11:42 PM
my copy hasn't even arrived yet :(

Issun
02-09-2014, 09:55 PM
I read this last month and I didn't even realize this was going on until just now.

I haven't read any Sedaris, so I don't know if the comparison is apt, but it's also reminiscent of most Woody Allen movies. There's also a vague outline here that would become my favorite of all Dostoevsky's characters: Ippolit Terentiev from The Idiot.

Violentvixen
02-20-2014, 08:14 AM
Just finished it. That was incredibly different from most things I read!

Part I of Notes, with the narrator talking about being smarter than everyone, not looking people in the eye, internalizing everything too much, fetishizing his pains and becoming unable to make decisions due to overthinking struck me as very autism spectrum.

Funny, but the whole time I was reading it I felt like this could be someone's weird blog or something. It has the exact tone which you're describing here. One of the most striking points was in the argument with Liza when she says he talks like a book. The multiple pages without broken text really made the point that this guy is raving.

I don't know the history of autism much, it either didn't exist or was almost never diagnosed when this was published, right?

Part II is like a sequence of petulant David Sedaris anecdotes.

I love David Sedaris so maybe this is why I preferred the second bit.

Finally, I love this passage:

You believe in a palace of crystal that can never be destroyed--a palace at which one will not be able to put out one's tongue or make a long nose on the sly. And perhaps that is just why I am afraid of this edifice, that it is of crystal and can never be destroyed and that one cannot put one's tongue out at it even on the sly.

You see, if it were not a palace, but a hen-house, I might creep into it to avoid getting wet, and yet I would not call the hen-house a palace out of gratitude to it for keeping me dry. You laugh and say that in such circumstances a hen-house is as good as a mansion. Yes, I answer, if one had to live simply to keep out of the rain.

Falselogic
03-03-2014, 01:49 PM
Thanks to everyone who participated! I heartily encourage you to pick up Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov if you get a chance to!