Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1864)

In the book Notes From Underground, the term underground refers to an emotional place where people live.  The narrator of the story is a representative of a type of people who are full of thoughts and feelings but spend most of their life not expressing them.  Those thoughts well up and take hold of them.  They do not interact with their fellow man as they wish they could, but instead evolve elaborate scenarios of both real and imagined wrongs and triumphant ideas for expression and retribution.

That could sum up the entire book, but this isn't something we want to sum up.  Notes from Underground is not the sort of book to be glossed over and stuck back on a shelf.  Dostoyevsky's writings are brimming with ideas, thoughts, truisms, and interesting factoids on life.  But there's a devil of a time to pull meaning out of most of this book.  It's a rambling discourse on God knows what, for parts of it.

The book is divided into parts.  For a good chunk of it, there's no story line, he is just rambling (I know, I keep using that word).  The next part he has a few stories of some incidents in his life.  They are fantastically interesting and revealing.  I had to read them over and over again.  Then I had to shake my head at how this poor fellow acts and feels.  It's both laughable and heartbreaking.  He's an idiot (the narrator).  No doubt, he's a fool.  But at the same time he is a heroic every-man.  You cringe at what he does, but then you feel for him.

In the end, I don't think the narrator could possibly have done and said in real life some of the things he did and said in the story.  To do that would demonstrate a greater propensity for expression than he actually had in order to be the kind of person he is drawn to be.  (By drawn, I mean drawn as a character by the author, Dostoyevsky).  In other words, it didn't feel realistic.

However, that doesn't matter.  That the narrator doesn't feel realistic is fine.  That in no way hinders you from feeling for him and cringing from him.

Okay, enough of this.  I'm going to read it again and come back with more info.  Wish me luck.  If I'm not back in two days, call for help and send someone in after me.  Have them bring smelling sauce and copy of 50 Shades of Grey to pull me back down to earth.

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