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Notes from underground
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881.
Publication Information:
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, [1995]

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4 audio discs (5 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
"The passionate confessions of a suffering man; the painful self-examination of a tormented soul; the bristling scorn of a lonely individual who has become one of the greatest anti-heroes in all literature."
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Notes from Underground

Author Notes

One of the most powerful and significant authors in all modern fiction, Fyodor Dostoevsky was the son of a harsh and domineering army surgeon who was murdered by his own serfs (slaves), an event that was extremely important in shaping Dostoevsky's view of social and economic issues. He studied to be an engineer and began work as a draftsman. However, his first novel, Poor Folk (1846), was so well received that he abandoned engineering for writing.

In 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested for being a part of a revolutionary group that owned an illegal printing press. He was sentenced to be executed, but the sentence was changed at the last minute, and he was sent to a prison camp in Siberia instead. By the time he was released in 1854, he had become a devout believer in both Christianity and Russia - although not in its ruler, the Czar.

During the 1860's, Dostoevsky's personal life was in constant turmoil as the result of financial problems, a gambling addiction, and the deaths of his wife and brother. His second marriage in 1887 provided him with a stable home life and personal contentment, and during the years that followed he produced his great novels: Crime and Punishment (1886), the story of Rodya Raskolnikov, who kills two old women in the belief that he is beyond the bounds of good and evil; The Idiots (1868), the story of an epileptic who tragically affects the lives of those around him; The Possessed (1872), the story of the effect of revolutionary thought on the members of one Russian community; A Raw Youth (1875), which focuses on the disintegration and decay of family relationships and life; and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), which centers on the murder of Fyodor Karamazov and the effect the murder has on each of his four sons. These works have placed Dostoevsky in the front rank of the world's great novelists. Dostoevsky was an innovator, bringing new depth and meaning to the psychological novel and combining realism and philosophical speculation in his complex studies of the human condition.

(Bowker Author Biography)



PART ONE UNDERGROUND* I I AM a sick man. . . . I am a spiteful man. An unattractive man. I think that my liver hurts. But actually, I don't know a damn thing about my illness. I am not even sure what it is that hurts. I am not in treatment and never have been, although I respect both medicine and doctors. Besides, I am superstitious in the extreme; well, at least to the extent of respecting medicine. (I am sufficiently educated not to be superstitious, but I am.) No, sir, I refuse to see a doctor simply out of spite. Now, that is something that you probably will fail to understand. Well, I understand it. Naturally, I will not be able to explain to you precisely whom I will injure in this instance by my spite. I know perfectly well that I am certainly not giving the doctors a "dirty deal" by not seeking treatment. I know better than anyone that I will only harm myself by this, and no one else. And yet, if I don't seek a cure, it is out of spite. My liver hurts? Good, let it hurt still more! I have been living like this for a long time-about twenty years. Now I am forty. I used to be in the civil service; today I am not. I was a mean official. I was rude, and found pleasure in it. After all, I took no bribes, and so I had to recompense myself at least by this. (A poor joke, but I will not cross it out. I wrote it, thinking it would be extremely witty; but now I see that it was only a vile little attempt at showing off, and just for that I'll let it stand!) When petitioners came to my desk seeking information, I gnashed my teeth at them, and gloated insatiably whenever I succeeded in distressing them. I almost always succeeded. Most of them were timid folk: naturally-petitioners. But there were also some fops, and among these I particularly detested a certain officer. He absolutely refused to submit and clattered revoltingly with his sword. I battled him over that sword for a year and a half. And finally I got the best of him. He stopped clattering. This, however, happened long ago, when I was still a young man. But do you know, gentlemen, what was the main thing about my spite? Why, the whole point, the vilest part of it, was that I was constantly and shamefully aware, even at moments of the most violent spleen, that I was not at all a spiteful, no, not even an embittered, man. That I was merely frightening sparrows to no purpose, diverting myself. I might be foaming at the mouth, but bring me a doll, give me some tea, with a bit of sugar, and I'd most likely calm down. Indeed, I would be deeply touched, my very heart would melt, though later I'd surely gnash my teeth at myself and suffer from insomnia for months. That's how it is with me. I lied just now when I said that I had been a mean official. I lied out of sheer spite. I was merely fooling around, both with the petitioners and with the officer, but in reality I could never have become malicious. I was aware at every moment of many, many altogether contrary elements. I felt them swarming inside me, those contrary elements. I knew that they had swarmed inside me all my life, begging to be let out, but I never, never allowed them to come out, just for spite. They tormented me to the point of shame, they drove me to convulsions-I was so sick and tired of them in the end. Sick and tired! But perhaps you think, dear sirs, that I am now repenting of something before you, asking your forgiveness for something? . . . Indeed, I am quite certain that you think so. But then, I assure you it doesn't make the slightest difference to me if you do. . . . I could not become malicious. In fact, I could not become anything: neither bad nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything; that only a fool can become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent nineteenth-century man must be, is morally bound to be, an essentially characterless creature; and a man of character, a man of action-an essentially limited creature. This is my conviction at the age of forty. I am forty now, and forty years-why, it is all of a lifetime, it is the deepest old age. Living past forty is indecent, vulgar, immoral! Now answer me, sincerely, honestly, who lives past forty? I'll tell you who does: fools and scoundrels. I will say this right to the face of all those venerable old men, all those silver-haired, sweet-smelling old men! I have a right to say it, because I will live to sixty myself. To seventy! To eighty! . . . Wait, let me catch my breath. . . . You might be imagining, gentlemen, that I am trying to amuse you, to make you laugh? Wrong again. I am not at all the jolly character you think I am, or may perhaps think I am. But then, if, irritated by all this prattle (and I feel it already, I feel you are irritated), you'll take it into your heads to ask me what I am, I'll answer you: I am a certain collegiate assessor. I worked in order to eat (but solely for that reason), and when a distant relation left me six thousand rubles in his will last year, I immediately retired and settled down in my corner. I had lived here previously as well, but now I've settled down in this corner. My room is dismal, squalid, at the very edge of town. My servant is a peasant woman, old, stupid, vicious out of stupidity, and she always has a foul smell about her besides. I am told that the Petersburg climate is becoming bad for me, that with my niggling means it's too expensive to live in Petersburg. I know all that, I know it better than all those wise, experienced counselors and head-shakers. But I stay on in Petersburg; I shall not leave Petersburg! I shall not leave because. . . . Ah, but what difference does it make whether I leave or don't leave. To go on, however-what can a decent man talk about with the greatest pleasure? Answer: about himself. Well, then, I too shall talk about myself. -- From the Paperback edition. Excerpted from Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.