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Literature / Notes from Underground

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"...what is man without desire, without will, and without wishes if not a stop in an organ pipe?"

Notes from Underground is an 1864 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky about an unnamed social outcast living in St. Petersburg. Depressed by the city and his own inadequacy, this mysterious Underground Man begins to write a rambling, philosophical journal — the Notes from Underground.

The novel's divided into two parts: first, the notes ("Underground"), and second, an account of the humiliating events which led to his self-imposed seclusion ("Apropos to Wet Snow").


Deals with themes of existentialism (it is considered one of the first existentialist novels), free will, and the modern disconnect from others.

This work provides examples of

  • Anti-Hero: The character calls himself exactly that ("антигерой" in Russian).
  • Author Tract: Noticeably averted — the author's opinions fell just about opposite of the Underground Man's. Dostoevsky was actually using the character as an example of what he saw as the degradation of the human condition.
  • Big Ham: The thing with a lot of Dostoevsky's characters is that they work on extremes. They may not always be in your face bombastic and they may not be loud, but they take whatever trait they have to (or past) its logical extreme to the point of ridiculous, and it serves a purpose.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Debatable on the "heart of gold" part, but he does seem to regret everything he's done.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The narrator is really terrible at making friends, partly because he's abrasive and rude, and partly because he has major social anxiety.

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