I often wonder when I read a book that has been translated if it has remained true to its author’s intent and if the author would really give it his blessing. Anyhow, I’m digressing here, but this translation business has always made me wonder, yet not quite enough to want to learn the language of origin.
I’ve often been asked while reading what the book is about. In the case of Notes from Underground, it would be a rather difficult question to answer. Rather, it is the observations, and sometimes rantings of a bitter man alienated from society in a self-imposed existence.
The unnamed narrator is an extremely bitter man who has intentionally isolated himself from those around him. The book opens with him describing himself as a sick and wicked man. He believes himself superior to most, however, he also realizes that those very same people have the ability to make him feel inferior which becomes his lifelong struggle. A very sad and self-loathing individual who fears rather than embraces life, and should be a reminder to us all of the darkness within that should be reflected upon and considered only a part of the whole of our beings.
Liza is a prostitute the underground man meets and attempts to convince her to change her lifestyle. She is young and somewhat naive and is gullible to men who promise to rescue her. When she shows up at the rundown apartment of the underground man, she is treated terribly when he reacts out of embarrassment over his home. Liza shows unexpected understanding and grace, which, unfortunately, only angers the underground man further. She is the woman you hope will prevail.
An Officer is a man who unintentionally humiliates the underground man in a bar when he literally picks him up and puts him back down when he is blocking his way. This man is totally unaware of the obsessed stranger who stalks him for years hoping to exact his revenge. A comical character most can relate to as being totally oblivious to having offended someone.
I’m sure I’d enjoy the company of this independent man. There are many things I’d want to discuss; his time in prison, his last-minute stay of execution, life in 19th century Russia, and, of course, his ability to capture man’s self-doubts on paper so adroitly.
My rating for Notes from Underground is a 9 out of 10.
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