Jan 12, ISBN One of the most remarkable characters in literature, the unnamed narrator is a former official who has defiantly withdrawn into an underground existence. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose Dostoevsky translations have become the standard, give us a brilliantly faithful edition of this classic novel, conveying all the tragedy and tormented comedy of the original. And so, from underground, emerge the passionate confessions of a suffering man; the brutal self-examination of a tormented soul; the bristling scorn and iconoclasm of alienated individual who has become one of the greatest antiheroes in all literature.
And it remains to this day one of the most searingly honest and universal testaments to human despair ever penned. He was born in Moscow in Read An Excerpt. Hardcover —.
With the ant-heap the respectable race of ants began and with the ant- heap they will probably end, which does the greatest credit to their perseverance and good sense. But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like a chess player, loves the process of the game, not the end of it.
And who knows there is no saying with certainty , perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, in other words, in life itself, and not in the thing to be attained, which must always be expressed as a formula, as positive as twice two makes four, and such positiveness is not life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death.
Anyway, man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty, and I am afraid of it now. Granted that man does nothing but seek that mathematical certainty, he traverses oceans, sacrifices his life in the quest, but to succeed, really to find it, dreads, I assure you. He feels that when he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for. When workmen have finished their work they do at least receive their pay, they go to the tavern, then they are taken to the police-station — and there is occupation for a week.
But where can man go? Anyway, one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he has attained such objects. He loves the process of attaining, but does not quite like to have attained, and that, of course, is very absurd. In fact, man is a comical creature; there seems to be a kind of jest in it all.
Notes From Underground
But yet mathematical certainty is after all, something insufferable. Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.
Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that only the normal and the positive — in other words, only what is conducive to welfare — is for the advantage of man? Is not reason in error as regards advantage? It was a glamorous structure built on the foundation of infallible, indestructible logic. The Underground Man hates the crystal palace. He even says that it frightens him. Consider the following passage:. Reason and knowledge can never form the entirety of human society, because they do not form the entirety of human nature.
Very Bad Wizards Episode Notes From Underground (Pt. 1)
Dostoevsky does not see the value of generalizing human nature with philosophical theories. Rather, he is interested in first-person observations of human nature. In a world obsessed with analyzing human beings, each analysis fails to describe real human experiences. Scientific theories miss something vital about human nature: the wackiness, the pettiness, the stubbornness—all traits of creatures whose motivations cannot be fully described in terms of practical benefit, or economic cause and effect.
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The end of Notes from Underground was censored and never recovered. It is easy to get our hopes up.
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Maybe he could fall in love and be redeemed. Maybe the Underground Man could be a hero, his story one of romance and redemption. I am convinced that were this the case, Dostoevsky would be guilty of hypocrisy. We like to forget that real life does not have fairytale endings, crystal palaces, and machine-like societies. The intellectual elite often do the same thing, giving credence to their childish fantasies with scientific terms and philosophical theories.
The tension between ideology and experience can be difficult to accept.