Don't use this book to determine whether or not you like Dostoevsky's writing. Notes from the Underground
is rather for the reader who has read the better-known works and wishes to further explore his thought on a variety of subjects. In this short novel, the author displays his unique ability to set forth the ideas of an anti-hero, for whom the reader feels little or no sympathy, and to challenge the reader to consider the man's philosophy of life and to measure his own against it. Subjects considered are as diverse as the discomfort of asking for a loan; ''Saint Petersburg, the most abstract and intentional city in the world;'' intellectual activity as a disease leading to inertia; love as tyranny; the course of a prostitute's life; and vengeance. The twentieth century is rooted in the philosophies of the nineteenth and, therefore, this book with its discussions is still pertinent. In a particularly cogent comment, the anti-hero opines, ''At least, if civilization has not made man more bloodthirsty, it has certainly made him viler in his thirst for blood than he was before. Before, he saw justice in bloodshed and massacred, if he had to, with a quiet conscience; now, although we consider bloodshed an abomination, we engage in it more than ever. Which is worse?'' Notes is laced with such observations -- undertake the reading of it with courage in hand!
An Eighth Day View:
Dostoevsky's Underground Man is a composite of the tormented clerk and the frustrated dreamer of his earlier stories, but his "Notes from the Underground" is a precursor of his great later novels and their central concern with the nature of free will. Initially musing on his "sickness" and the detested notion of self-interest, the maladjusted and willful Underground Man turns to a series of incidents from years earlier. Scornful of others and of himself, he recounts a party he attended at which, unwelcome, he got drunk and acted scandalously, the visit to a brothel that ensued, and the chance arrival there of love--love which, of course, by his very nature he cannot accept, and so debases. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the greatest, most influential prose writers of all time.