Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Notes From Underground (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Brilliant writing within a story I did not enjoy


Title: Notes From Underground (original title:
Записки из подполья)

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky (RUS)
Translation: Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky
Genre: Fiction / Classic / Translated
First published: 1864
Edition: Paperback, published by Vintage Classics in 2021

The apology and confession of a minor mid-19th-century Russian official, Notes from Underground is a half-desperate, half-mocking political critique and a powerful, at times absurdly comical, account of man’s breakaway from society and descent ‘underground’


At first I started reading this novel a few pages at a time and I had a lot of trouble getting into it. Truth be told, the narrator is an awful person and his poison permeates every page. After a while I came to realise that in this skillful crafting of this vile character lay this novel’s brilliance.

If I was purely to judge this novel on the writing, it would get top marks. It was very well done and I hated the main character, who is basically having an existential crisis, almost as much as he hated himself. His self loathing and the way he speaks about the people around him made me feel dirty and unpleasant. It really shows an awful side of humanity and the worst thing is that a bit of this man is inside each of us.

In the end, although I admire the writing and what the author did with this novel, I cannot say I truly enjoyed it. Maybe I wanted a bit more from it in the end. Maybe I wanted to have a conclusion to these endless inner workings of his man’s mind, but it never really comes.

I am glad I read this and it certainly was unlike anything I have read, but I have come to realise I really don’t enjoy being in the mind of a misery guts all that much.

I think I would pick up something else by Dostoevsky in the future in the hope it would show the same brilliant writing with just slightly less revolting characters.

5 out of 7 stars