I wasn’t expecting to like this half as much as I did. To be honest, I picked it up on a whim – not because it sounded interesting, but because Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a seminal and influential writer and this, Notes From [The] Underground, seemed like the most accessible entry point. I didn’t expect this translation to be quite so funny, readable, or emotionally charged.
Much of the short but philosophical first section, ‘Underground’, was lost on me. I dipped in and out, fleetingly bored, engaged and awed, in turns. There were some incredible observations in here, but I feel more effort was required on my part to get the most out of it. At any rate, I ploughed through it easily enough. It was a fitting precursor to the longer second section, ‘Apropos of the Wet Snow’, which, amusingly, chronologically pre-dates the first section.
‘Apropos of the Wet Snow’ – also known as The Actual Narrative – was outstanding! Witty, enlightening and tragic, Dostoyevsky proves masterful at writing characterisation. The Underground Man is the original misanthropist. It’s compelling, the way he adamantly resists his own nature. Swelling with pride and resentment, The Underground Man struck me as someone desperate to connect, yet pathologically unable to do so. He was compelling and tragic and was really what appealed to me most about this book.
Next stop: Crime and Punishment!