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Notes From Underground : Popular Penguins : 1st Edition - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes From Underground : Popular Penguins

1st Edition

Paperback

Published: 28th June 2010
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Alienated from society and paralysed by a sense of his own insignificance, the anonymous narrator of Dostoyevsky's groundbreaking Notes from Underground tells the story of his tortured life. With bitter irony, he describes his refusal to become a worker in the 'anthill' of society and his gradual withdrawal to an existence 'underground'.

About The Author

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, the second of a physician's seven children. His mother died in 1837 and his father was murdered a little over two years later. When he left his private boarding school in Moscow he studied from 1838 to 1843 at the Military Engineering College in St Petersburg, graduating with officer's rank. His first story to be published, 'Poor Folk' (1846), was a great success.

In 1849 he was arrested and sentenced to death for participating in the 'Petrashevsky circle'; he was reprieved at the last moment but sentenced to penal servitude, and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison at Omsk, Siberia. In the decade following his return from exile he wrote The Village of Stepanchikovo (1859) and The House of the Dead (1860). Whereas the latter draws heavily on his experiences in prison, the former inhabits a completely different world, shot through with comedy and satire.

In 1861 he began the review Vremya (Time) with his brother; in 1862 and 1863 he went abroad, where he strengthened his anti-European outlook, met Mlle Suslova, who was the model for many of his heroines, and gave way to his passion for gambling. In the following years he fell deeply in debt, but in 1867 he married Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina (his second wife), who helped to rescue him from his financial morass. They lived abroad for four years, then in 1873 he was invited to edit Grazhdanin (The Citizen), to which he contributed his Diary of a Writer. From 1876 the latter was issued separately and had a large circulation. In 1880 he delivered his famous address at the unveiling of Pushkin's memorial in Moscow; he died six months later in 1881. Most of his important works were written after 1864: Notes from Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1865-6), The Gambler (1866), The Idiot (1869), The Devils (1871) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).

The Underground

I am a sick man . . . I am an angry man. I am an un­attractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver. But I don't understand the least thing about my illness, and I don't know for certain what part of me is affected. I am not having any treatment for it, and never have had although I have a great respect for medi­cine and for doctors. I'm besides extremely superstitious, if only in having such respect for medicine. (I am well educated enough not to be superstitious, but supersti­tious I am.) No, I refuse treatment out of spite. That is something you will probably not understand. Well, I understand it. I can't of course explain who my spite is directed against in this matter; I know perfectly well that I can't 'score off' the doctors in any way by not consulting them; I know better than anybody that I am harming nobody but myself. All the same, if I don't have treatment, it is out of spite. Is my liver out of order? – let it get worse!

I have been living like this for a long time now – about twenty years. I am forty. I once used to work in the government service but I don't now. I was a bad civil servant. I was rude, and I enjoyed being rude. After all, I didn't take bribes, so I had to have some compen­sation. (A poor witticism; but I won't cross it out. When I wrote it down, I thought it would seem very pointed: now, when I see that I was simply trying to be clever and cynical, I shall leave it in on purpose.) When people used to come to the desk where I sat, asking for infor­mation, I snarled at them, and was hugely delighted when I succeeded in hurting somebody's feelings. I almost always did succeed. They were mostly timid people – you know what people looking for favours are like. But among the swaggerers there was one officer I simply couldn't stand. He absolutely refused to be intim­idated, and he made a disgusting clatter with his sword. I carried on a campaign against him for eighteen months over that sword. I won in the end. He stopped making a clatter with it. This, however, was when I was still young. But do you know what was the real point of my bad temper? The main point, and the supreme nasti­ness, lay in the fact that even at my moments of greatest spleen, I was constantly and shamefully aware that not only was I not seething with fury, I was not even angry; I was simply scaring sparrows for my own amusement. I might be foaming at the mouth, but bring me some sort of toy to play with, or a nice sweet cup of tea, and I would calm down and even be stirred to the depths, although I would probably turn on myself afterwards, and suffer from insomnia for months. That was always my way.

I was lying when I said just now that I was a bad civil servant. I was lying out of spite. I was simply playing a game with the officer and my other callers; in reality I never could make myself malevolent. I was always conscious of many elements showing the directly opposite tendency. I felt them positively swarming inside me, these elements. I knew they had swarmed there all my life, asking to be let out, but I wouldn't let them out, I wouldn't, I wouldn't. They tormented me shame­fully; they drove me into convulsions and – in the end they bored me, oh, how they bored me! You think that now I'm making some sort of confession to you, asking your forgiveness, don't you? . . . I'm sure you do . . . But I assure you it's all the same to me if you do think so.

Not only couldn't I make myself malevolent, I couldn't make myself anything: neither good nor bad, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now I go on living in my corner and irri­tating myself with the spiteful and worthless consola­tion that a wise man can't seriously make himself anything, only a fool makes himself anything. Yes, a man of the nineteenth century ought, indeed is morally bound, to be essentially without character; a man of character, a man who acts, is essentially limited. Such is my forty-year-old conviction. I am forty now, and forty years is a lifetime; it is extreme old age. To go on living after forty is unseemly, disgusting, immoral! Who goes on living after forty? give me a sincere and honest answer! I'll tell you: fools and rogues. I'll tell all the old men that to their faces, all those venerable elders, those silver-haired, fragrant old men. I'll tell the whole world! I have the right to talk like this, because I'm going to live to be sixty. Seventy! Eighty! . . . Stop, let me get my breath back . . . !

You probably think I'm trying to amuse you. You're wrong there too. I'm not such a cheerful fellow as you think, or as you perhaps think; if, however, annoyed by all this chatter (and I can feel you are annoyed), you ask me positively who I am – I answer, I am a Collegiate Assessor. I joined the civil service in order to earn my bread (and for no other reason), and when last year a distant relative left me six thousand roubles in his will, I retired immediately and settled down in my little corner. I lived in this same corner even before that but now I've settled down in it. My room is mean and shabby, on the outskirts of the town. My servant is a peasant woman, old, crabbed, and stupid, and what's more, she always smells bad. I am told that the climate of St Petersburg is bad for me, and that, with my insignificant means, it costs too much to live here. I know all that, a lot better than all my extremely wise and experienced advisers and head-shakers. But I shall stay here; I will not leave St Petersburg! I won't go away because . . . Oh, after all, it doesn't matter in the least whether I go away or I don't.

However: what can a decent, respectable man talk about with the greatest pleasure?

Answer: himself.

Well, so I too will talk about myself.

ISBN: 9780141194868
ISBN-10: 0141194863
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 160
Published: 28th June 2010
Dimensions (cm): 18.1 x 11.2
Weight (kg): 18.0