• P D Dawson

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Book Review / Essay)



Book Review / Short Essay

I think it's fair to say that Dostoyevsky doesn't often write characters that we can fall in love with, yet paradoxically we can't hate them either, even though at times we detest their actions which have manifested from their often eschewed beliefs. Notes from Underground has a central character who is obstinant and overly confident that his beliefs are the only truths, and to give one example of such truths: people do not always act in the best interests of their species as a whole. No one can deny that this is most likely true, but we can respect the fact Dostoyevsky's characters never censor their beliefs and therefore tell it like it is, or even sometimes on the edge of madness: tell it like it isn't.

It's hard for the reader to know where they stand in his books, for usually, the commanding characters are often ones we can easily relate to, through which we see the justices and injustices of the world they occupy, but Dostoyevsky denies us these bracing comforts and instead makes us feel uneasy. Perhaps that is part of his brilliance as a writer, for to catch a glimpse of one of his characters saving graces, or better moods, fills us with joy, it is a carrot that we hold onto for dear life and I do believe that gives it a deeper place in our hearts. Life is ostensively not lived with the perfect outlines we find in most books, and so the raw edge shown by Dostoyevsky stands out as a key component in his literary genius.

Notes from Underground isn't exactly a thrill ride from start to finish, but it is littered with truths that make reading it almost essential. Countless times I found myself comparing the beliefs of this anonymous man from the book and could apply it to the modern day world we live in, and how little society has changed, of how the ruling class still functions and the countless idiosyncrasies that still rule both the idiots that rule and the idiots that don't. That may seem harsh, but the book certainly doesn't censor anything, and at the end of the day, truth is truth, but you don't have to like it.

Also, is it right that one should feel alienated by a character, but at the same time be saddened by the hardships and cruelty manufactured for them? When we see those of a higher standing looking down on the central character and ridiculing him for his mediocrity and poor wealth, is it not universal that we should feel a disservice has been done to all mankind, for, after all, death brings about an equal footing to us all in the end and no one is left in the corner pondering over their exclusion from that particular club.

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