This is a depressing book that basically says “life sucks.” It describes how all humans are limited by a “wall” that places torturous constraints on existence. For example, a mere toothache can upend your life and make you a slave to the pain, to no inherent fault of your own.
To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is vulgar, immoral. Who does live beyond forty? … sincerely and honestly I will tell you who do: fools and worthless fellows.
The author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, differs from Mark Twain in saying that men do the opposite of what’s in their best interests for random and illogical reasons (Twain believes that actions that may seem disadvantageous on the surface actually benefits the man in some way). He does this in a babbling, stream-of-consciousness style that, while I’m sure was impressive in 1864, will frustrate the modern reader. He prefers massive paragraphs that have many words but say painfully little.
I did not understand that she was hiding her feelings under irony, that this is usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded, and that their pride makes them refuse to surrender till the last moment and shrink from giving expression to their feelings before you.
The best way to describe this book is a man undergoing a nervous breakdown angrily sharing his grievances. While the author has been commended by such luminaries as Sartre and Nietzsche while being credited with writing the first existential novel, the hands of time has decreased enjoyment that you could get from this type of classic.
…which is better—cheap happiness or exalted sufferings?
Read More: “Notes From The Underground” on Amazon (free Kindle edition)