Notes from the Underground
Translated by Constance Garnett (1862-1946).
The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation still living. In this fragment, entitled "Underground," this person introduces himself and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owing to which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of this person concerning certain events in his life. --Author's
This is the first book of a series of novels that form Dostoevsky's "second period" works, which includes "Crime and Punishment", "Karamazov Brothers", "The Idiot" and others. Though a short novel compared to the ones mentioned, we can find here the seeds of many subjects Dostoievsky was to develop further in his subsequent works.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first one, the main character - an obscure student whose name is not even mentioned- introduces himself as a sick and spiteful man. He makes a long diatribe against subjects such as free will, rationalism and romanticism. He attempts to explain his ideas of life and the quest of being, relating man with a piano keyboard: man does not want to think of himself as an instrument that can be played by a superior force without having the power to use his will; rather he has to demonstrate he is a human being with an inner and singular self and not just a piece that belongs to a bigger mechanism.
In the second part, this troubled man engages in telling us his difficulties to relate to other people. Here the author brings some characters into the scene, whose principal role is to show the main character's incapability to interact in society. The scene in which he delivers a wordy speech to a young prostitute in a dark cubicle is particularly touching.
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